Exchange Cheat Sheet: 3 Tips to Manage Exchange Applications

Note: Some of this information will only be useful for those going on exchange in the USA.

To my schoolmates in NTU who have received their allocation after Round 1 in GEM Explorer, congratulations! You’ll now embark on the tedious journey of securing subjects, finding housing, getting study visas, planning your trips, and spending money.

For my exchange experience, I visited the United States. More specifically, I was allocated to the University of Maryland.

I suppose I don’t intend for this piece of writing to list tips on how to get the most out of your exchange experience; nor would it be a piece of writing about how to manage your finances (because those have already been written before). I’ll tell you about tips and tools that I’ve found useful during the application process to, hopefully, make the process as stress-free as possible.

Ready? Let’s go!

1. Scan in all your documents into your laptop

You’ll be bombarded with forms to fill, documents to sign, insurance, bills, so on and so forth. Do your future self a favour by organising everything in a folder and scan in all documents so that you can do everything digitally.

These documents that you should have a digital copy (in PDF), includes:

General Documents

Identification CardPassport Photo (Last page)Passport Signature (1st page)
Personal Digital SignatureParent’s Digital Signature

(Just in case)

Degree Audit/Transcript
Converted GPA TranscriptInsurance CertificateInsurance Claims Form
Insured ItineraryImmunization RecordNTU Indemnity Form
Flight E-tickets


J-1 Visa Related Documents

Personal Funding DocumentsSponsor Funding DocumentsEmbassy Appointment Confirmation
CGI Reference NumberCGI MRV ReceiptDS-160
SEVIS I901 ConfirmationI-94 (Required from you after entering US borders)


Host University Related Documents

Admissions Application FormProposed Courses FormHousing Agreements

This list is not meant to be exhaustive because different Universities will have different forms to fill. My advice will be to keep a digital copy of all documents that you’re required to sign.

Also, keep all travelling documents, including plane tickets and luggage tags. It’ll be useful if you need to claim anything.

2. Keep a secure Excel

Suddenly, you’ll be required to make 10 new accounts and come up with 10 new and uniquely complex, minimum 8-letter password that requires at least 1 capital letter, 1 symbol, 1 number, and a secret handshake.

Dude, I ain’t got the brain power to memorize all that. And just to be safe, since you will be using a lot of public Wi-Fi while on the road, I won’t trust any browser or auto-fills to memorize my passwords.

So, you make your own password reference, and it’s as easy as a 1, 2, 3:

How to lock

Step 1: Fill in the Excel.

Fill in the Excel

Step 2: Highlight the Username and Password columns, Right-click, and select “Hide”.


Step 3: It’s gone.


Step 4: Go to the tab “Review” and click on “Protect Sheet”. Set your own password in the Pop-up Window.


Step 5: Pat yourself on the back because now all you only have one password to memorize.

How to unlock:

Step 1: Go back to the tab “Review”, select “Unprotect Sheet”, and enter your password.

unprotect sheet

Step 2: Right-click on the thin line between Column A and Column D and select “Unhide”. You’ll have to “Unhide” twice – once for revealing Column B and once for Column C.


Step 3: Tadaa.


You’re welcome. Likes and Facebook shares will be much appreciated.

3. Know your contacts

Contact 1. Your Host Uni Coordinator

This is the person whom you’ll most likely be in contact with most of the time. Don’t be paiseh. I’ve written so many emails questioning (read: kiasi) and clarifying (read: kiasu) the long and convoluted process of visa, housing, courses, and orientation applications. While I can’t speak for all, my coordinator was extremely efficient despite the time difference.

But, if you’re looking for immediate answers, then the following contacts, Google, and the NTU GEM Explorer pages are your best bet.

Contact 2. Your Kind Seniors

Some of us do not have an extensive network in school and NTU is not going to punish you for that. For some of us who have finished our exchange programme, we’ve given NTU the permission to share our contact with the next batch of juniors, who will be going to the same host uni, upon their request. So, please do write to whomever the GEM Coordinator of your school is and ask for that information. I’m sure your seniors will be more than willing to impart some of their host uni specific experience and resources with you.

Contact 3. Your Fellow Batchmates

Sometimes, it’s just nice to be blur together.

I’m sure there are more tips that can help you in planning your trip, but you can easily Google that, can’t you? Ok, I do for you.

For easy & transport planning:Wanderu
For air ticket comparison:SkyScanner
For cheap accommodation:Airbnb and (for hostels)
For easy trip itinerary planning:Inspirock
For cheap & trust-worthy travel insurance:NTU TravelSure Insurance


Good luck and Stay Safe.


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