Exchange Planning

Hoi,

I’ve spent just over two months in Europe by now and thought I’d reflect on the initial phases of this Coordinated International Experience. Here are the topics for today:

1) Degree scheduling and Preparation

2) Picking a Destination

1) Degree Scheduling and Preparation (see also: Kirsten Meng’s excellent CIE post)
CIE offers a unique set of services for Applied Science students, ensuring a smooth exchange. The APSC faculty have done an incredible amount of legwork to vet schools and their respective courses for equivalency. This means you’ll get to pick from a list of pre-approved courses and not worry about manually applying for transfer credits later. These courses typical apply to your technical elective requirements, opening up those respective semesters when you get home.

Fun fact: this kind of commitment to the undergraduate experience is what brought me to UBC MECH in the first place. I was fortunate enough to connect with Dr. Peter Cripton for an informational interview before choosing Applied Science for my second degree.

CIE can be done in a few slots within your degree schedule, but for me the most streamlined option was to schedule my exchange directly after MECH3.5. As a co-op student, that meant sacrificing a work term and replacing the income with a giant money pit. Fortunately, this pit spits out unique learning experiences and chocolate (the chocolate here, oh man). I wanted to graduate in 2019 and the Co-op office was gracious enough to waive the last work term requirement for CIE students. Other perks include reducing MECH4 by 9 credits and gaining access to course topics not offered at UBC or even in Canada. ETH Zurich in particular emphasizes entrepreneurial spirit and interdisciplinary projects; I’d highly recommend taking project courses if possible. Fundamental courses will likely be similar across the world, but each region will have unique perspectives on innovation, design, and other more-subjective areas of engineering. Take a look at the MAVT department at ETH for an example of the ongoing research and student projects happening here.

2) Picking a Destination

I first heard of ETH Zurich during my first co-op term at Verathon Medical. One particular project led me to work done by a UBC alum working at the Disney Labs in Zurich. As one does, I fell down the YouTube rabbit hole, and couldn’t believe some of the projects produced through ETH. It turns out there was a time when Switzerland was behind the rest of the world technologically, and the country’s catch-up mentality has propelled them to fund world-class technical institutes. When I discovered the ETH FSAE team, AMZ Racing, and their world-record setting FormulaE vehicle, I was hooked.

If you’re unsure, look at the course lists offered at each institution and get a sense for their specialties. Look at the country and culture too. Where do you want to invest your valuable time and energy? What kind of leisure activities resonate with you? What new things do you want to try? Personally, I made sure to list every free weekend I’d have during my semester abroad and created a list of activities with as many or more entries. I wanted to sacrifice sleep to absorb as much as possible from my exchange. Switzerland is an incredible melting pot of cultures and coming from a mixed upbringing, I never quite fit in a singular community; the same sort of uprooted diversity in Zurich resonated strongly with me. A short bus ride to cheap flights around Europe didn’t hurt either. I’ll write about some of the interesting people I’ve met during these travels in another post.

Sidenote: Despite situating in the center of Europe, Zurich is an expensive hub for flights around the continent (check travel websites for quotes out of Zurich versus Milan or Stuttgart; mein Gott!).

The next few posts will talk about packing and moving, first steps in Switzerland (there are many), budgeting (!), and chasing opportunity during your time abroad.

I might post a supplemental note on the ridiculous lengths I took to bring my bike to Europe. It was a great exercise in MECH3.5 design work and may help those looking to keep costs down. I probably saved about $1000 CDN all told.

Tschuss for now!
Jason

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