Here is an overview of the student exchange application process that I will be following up until early next year when I step on to that plane destined for Japan…hopefully :) . With that said, it has been written in the context of  a student studying at the University of Western Australia, so your own application process may be a little different to what you see below. Nonetheless, I hope it at least provides a guide to students thinking about applying regarding what they have to look forward to before going, and some tips to help make what can sometimes seem like a torturous process a little bit easier.

1. First and foremost, you should try and start planning your exchange experience as early as possible. UWA recommends at least six to nine months ahead of time in order to avoid hassles and stress later on, and to ensure you are fully prepared. In my case, this step involved attending a “Student Exchange Fair” held at least once a year at UWA, where I picked up some leaflets/information, and spoke to Japanese students from some universities that UWA exchange students can attend in Japan. This was a lot of help, as I was able to ask a lot of questions in a casual setting, which was really helpful when it came to choosing what universities I would like to attend on exchange. A few weeks later I attended an information lecture which talked specifically about exchange for students in the faculty of Arts at UWA, and a few weeks after that I attended an information session which was focussed solely on exchange to Japan. The former was helpful in giving an overview of the whole process and how exchange could fit into a student’s degree, and the latter was particularly helpful in giving specific information about the application process for students applying to go to Japan. In addition to this, the latter also involved students who had just returned from exchange in Japan talking about their experiences, which was really interesting in the sense that it provided individual perspectives that you probably wouldn’t get in exchange promotional material, information leaflets etc. With that said, if you can, I would recommend going to both of these information sessions if you are a UWA student, or if not, similar information sessions/lectures at your own university – the information they provide will help a lot with the rest of the application process.

2. Apply for student exchange using your university’s online application system; at UWA it is called HERMES. If it is a physical application at your University, and it is as long as the one on HERMES (my application had over 9000 words), all I can say is – good luck :O. The types of information you will probably need to provide are:
- Personal details
- Exchange program choice, including your choice of 3 Universities you would like to attend (ranked in order of preference).
- Statement Of Purpose << Click for some tips and to view mine.
- Proposed study plan for your host universities
- Contact details of two academic referees, who will be contacted via email and asked to write a reference for you.
- Financial Statement (for scholarship assessment)
- Self-reflection Worksheet, including questions about the universities you have chosen, their location, and some general questions.
* DO NOT LEAVE THIS UNTIL THE ‘LAST MINUTE’! For me, this section of the application took the longest amount of time and effort…at some points it seemed never-ending.
* At UWA, after the deadline for this application has passed, a physical declaration must also be handed in to the Study Abroad Office.

3. Obtain approval from each faculty you study within + the Japanese language coordinator. This involves getting your “study plan” for exchange approved by members of each faculty you study within. For example, because my degree involves studying within Commerce and Arts faculties, I had to get my “study plan” approved by both Commerce and Arts, even though I will only be studying units for the Arts part of my degree on exchange. I assume that most, if not all, universities will only let students go on exchange if their study abroad will count towards their degree back home. For more information about this step and my experience with it, see this blog post.

4. Notification of acceptance into the exchange program. At UWA, you will be notified of your acceptance by UWA into the Exchange Program in April for applications submitted in December and September for applications submitted in June.

5. Successful applicants complete and submit an application for the host university. At UWA, the host university generally notifies applicants of the outcome within six to eight weeks (usually May/June for fall start, or October/November for winter/spring start).

6. Notification of acceptance from the host university.

7. Organise your passport, visas and plane tickets.  While throughout the application you have probably been told to be patient and take your time, this is the time when things should be done quickly and with excitement because you are nearly in Japan!

8. Attend any compulsory pre-departure information sessions and say your goodbyes.
You made it!