Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Applying for Accommodation

If you're new, please read this post first: Initial Steps to Studying Abroad and/or watch this video: How to Study Abroad: Introduction and Options

3 weeks, Turkey 2012

So you're going to be studying abroad... for a whole year (either in one place, or split between two places) and it's time to think about where you are going to live, how you are going to apply and how you will pay for it all. As usual, I will split this section into Bilateral and ISEP and for extra information, I will add my own personal experience at the bottom. The posts will also be split up by pictures of past places I have lived/stayed in to add a little extra insight into what travel life is like on a day-to-day basis - enjoy.

2 months, Italy 2013


As with everything to do with the Bilateral Exchange option, the accommodation available and how you go about applying/paying for it varies according to where you are going to be studying. My only tips therefore are to look at this as early as possible and to complete the following steps:

  1. Work out what your budget is (E.g. what can you afford to pay out weekly, monthly, termly, yearly for your accommodation and still have enough money left for food, travel and entertainment?)
  2. Work out what is important to you (E.g. single room, roommate, bills included etc.)
  3. What can you therefore afford in the host country? As in; what are your accommodation options according to what you want and what is available in the area. 
  4. How will you pay for this accommodation? (E.g. where is the money coming from?)
  5. When will you need to pay for this accommodation? (E.g. is there a deposit? Is is paid monthly or termly? Will you have to pay in £, $ or something else?)
  6. Who is responsible for your accommodation? (E.g. is it owned by the host university or a private landlord? - what are the risks regarding this?
  7. Have any previous students gone down this accommodation route? (This might help you either organise it or be prepared properly for your arrival).

Please also keep in mind that Student Finance is available as normal to help you with your accommodation fees, e.g. through a maintenance loan, so try to make sure that you can pay your rent once this has come through and not before. This will save you a hell of a lot of stress!

2 weeks, Switzerland 2013


The ISEP Exchange accommodation option however is similar to that of first year at the University of Chester. At the moment, you pay £4,700 to the University of Chester for both accommodation and food.

This means that, when you get to your host institution, you are already placed into assigned accommodation and you will have a set amount of food per week. This does however vary from place to place so please make sure that you research what exactly you get from your chosen host institution before applying there. For a detailed account of my experience, read the next section carefully. 

1 night, Noosa, Australia 2013

My Own Experience

Prior to Application Submission
Whilst researching my different options and compiling my preference list, I researched the accommodation available at each place that I was interested in.

Here is the information I came across on the ISEP website for a few of the sites I was interested in:

  • Northern Arizona University - 
    "Students are housed in double-occupancy rooms in one of the residence halls located on campus. A single room may be available upon student request (based on availability) but an extra charge will apply. Single room availability is limited. Students receive a meal plan for 19 meals per week at the university’s dining halls."

  • Southern Illinois University at Carbondale - 
    "Students are housed on campus in double occupancy rooms and receive a full meal plan. Married students can be accommodated in on-campus apartments, but are responsible for any additional expenses. Most students will be housed on the Global community floor, Neely Hall on East Campus."

  • University of North Texas - 
    "ISEP students are housed in double-occupancy residence hall rooms in Standard Halls on campus and receive a meal plan for 20 meals per week."

  • Westminster College, Utah - 
    "Undergraduate students are housed in apartment-style (single) rooms in residence halls on-campus. Graduate students live in a house or double apartment adjacent to campus. Students receive a plan for 21 meals per week at the college’s dining hall."

Something to take note of; I noticed that some Universities offered things like: an american roommate, an international house, a host family, a shared flat, dorm rooms etc. so please make sure that you understand what these things mean and make sure that you would be comfortable living like that for an entire year. This could potentially make or break your day-to-day life so consider your options carefully.

Another difference is that some universities have far more information available on the ISEP website than others. Please therefore take a look at each university's actual website as well thus getting a better understanding of what is available.

2 nights, Whitsundays, Australia 2013

On Acceptance of Host Institution
A few days after I accepted my place at NAU, they emailed me explaining how to go about specifically applying to their accommodation. They explained that although it was paid for by ISEP I did not get automatically placed and I still needed to apply in the same way as every student.

Simply put, I followed the instructions given to me and so should you. Saying that however, I did inquire about a few things that they didn't seem to offer, such as non-international housing. For me, I don't want to live in an international house if I am going to America, I want to live in the accommodation that the standard American students live in too. This comes from having done the whole International-living thing during my Gap Year and thus only meeting 3 Australians whilst in Australia. I don't really want a repeat of this whilst at NAU. 

2 nights, Magnetic Island, Australia 2013

Awaiting the Results
I am thus still waiting on my accommodation confirmation even though other international NAU students I have spoken to have already been accepted into the I-House. This kind of makes me hope that I have been placed else-where but I guess only time will tell!

3 weeks, Cairns, Australia 2013

So, to recap, please make sure that no matter where you go or where you live that it is within your budget and that it is a place you could be happy at for an extended period of time. If you succeed in these two elements, your day-to-day life will be much more comfortable than if you don't.

Hope that helps,

Lucy xxo

3 nights, Berlin 2012
The next post in the series: Coming Soon!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Breakfast in Chester

If you find yourself in Chester at breakfast, hungry and confused about where to go, take a look at these suggestions below. I have eaten at all of these places, alone, as a pair or even with a group of friends so no matter who you are, who you're with or where you're from, you should be able to find something that takes your fancy.

Wake up happy!

Go Cute

Mad Hatters Tea Room

49 Bridge Street Row East, Chester, Cheshire CH1 1NW, United Kingdom

This is an Alice in Wonderland themed gem up on the rows of Chester's city center. It's small, popular and delicious. My favorite breakfast dish here is their Eggs Benedict but so far, I have never been disappointed by anything on their menu.

As well as having quirky decorations, adorable tea cups and being very gay-friendly, Mad Hatters offer baking and decorating courses! I am yet to try these but they look amazing and going from the array of cakes they have on offer, I would say they know what they are doing!

Go American

Hanky Panky Pancakes

20 Commonhall Street, Chester CH1 2BJ, United Kingdom

This is an All-American themed pancake house where the girls even wear 1950's hair turbans. It's a little hidden but it's well worth hunting it down. My favorite breakfast dish is their Crispy Bacon Pancakes although I do prefer asking for 2 extra pieces of bacon and a poached egg on top.

Their official website is linked above but it is a little empty at the moment (as it's very new) so here is the link to their Facebook page instead.

Go Continental 

Gerrards Bakery

120 Northgate Street, Chester, CH1 2HT, United Kingdom

Alternatively, if it's a nice day and you fancy a picnic in any one of Chester's many pretty corners, head to "Gerrards" to pick up some fresh bread and then pop into the store almost-next-door (The Cheese Shop) and buy yourself something to put into your bread.

To add to that even more, if you follow the road even further than The Cheese Shop, there is a little fresh produce store where you can buy yourself some fancy lemonade to go with your breakfast!

Whatever you choose, I hope you enjoy your stay here in Chester,

Lucy xxo

Friday, 5 June 2015

Acquiring a Visa

If you're new, please read this post first: Initial Steps to Studying Abroad and/or watch this video: How to Study Abroad: Introduction and Options

Tip 1: get a folder and keep everything important in one place.

Since I am going to study in the United States and therefore have the experience of applying to a J-1 Visa myself (the visa you require for a study abroad exchange in the USA) this post will be specifically for this visa only. However, for those of you applying for a different visa, here are a few links to consider:

  • Australia - follow the 'Study in Australia' link.
  • New Zealand - I couldn't see a 'Student' section anywhere so please ask the Coordinator for help on this one.
  • Canada - the friendliest official website I've ever seen!
  • Europe -  most of you wont need a visa for Europe but here's some information you might want to read just in case.
  • Other world - here is a website for global visa requirements!

I'll be a Visa Expert by the end of this blog post!

So now I come to you fresh from my visa interview (yesterday) and am happily able to announce my positive outcome. My visa should be with me, along with my passport, in about a week! Wahoo!

When you accept your host institution through ISEP, they will send you the first document you need in order to apply for your visa (the DS-2019 form) and a helpful list of things you need to acquire. I'm going to regurgitate that into my own words and add a few more useful hints, tips and more importantly, website links that took me the longest to find!

Either way;- Good luck!

So what is a J-1 Visa and how do I get one?

"A J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange. All applicants must meet eligibility criteria and be sponsored either by a private sector or government program." 

So for ISEP applicants, you are sponsored by ISEP not the host institution that has accepted you. So for me, that means Northern Arizona University (NAU) is my host institution but ISEP is my sponsor, and I will be in the Unites States as a Non-Immigrant Exchange Visitor. 

"The Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa category is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs." Click here for more J-1 specific information.

In order to obtain a J-1 visa, you must complete several online forms, pay two fees and own a valid passport before then applying for a visa interview. For the specifics, please continue reading.

Remember that you are an EXCHANGE VISITOR!

Tip 2: don't make my mistake and apply for the wrong visa!

J-1 is for Exchange Visitors (YOU WANT THIS ONE)
... F-1 is for Students (YOU DON'T WANT THIS ONE)

So what do I need in order to apply for my visa in the first place? 

In short, you will need the following documents:

  • Passport (valid for at least 6 months past the program end date).
    So for me, it needed to be valid at least until November 2016!
  • Original DS-2019 form, signed by ISEP and yourself.
    I signed mine at my interview but you should really do it before.
  • SEVIS I-901 Fee (You need to make this payment ASAP).
    Make sure you keep the receipt extra safe as you will need it later.
  • DS-160 Form (including a 2x2 inch passport-like photograph)
    This is where you need to pay extra attention and tick the J-1 Exchange Visitors box.
  • MRV Visa Fee (You need to make this payment before you can apply for your appointment).
    This fee is non-transferable and non-refundable so make sure all of your information is correct before paying for it.
Okay.. and how do I get all of these things?

If you do not have one, you need to get one as soon as possible. If you have one but it runs out before the specified time, you need to renew it ASAP as well. To do either, follow these links: Renew or Replace or Apply.

Original DS-2019 Form
This form is extremely important so keep it safe and neat. You will need it throughout your exchange, not only during your visa application! If you were to loose it, you must ask for a new one from ISEP but this can take a very long time.

SEVIS I-901 Fee
This fee is currently $180 and can be paid and submitted through this website. The fee may be different according to your own personal situation so please be prepared for this. Make sure that this is also for a J-1 visa and not any of the other options. Keep the receipt safe.

DS-160 Form
This form is where I accidentally put F-1 instead of J-1 so please be aware of that, and don't make the same mistake! It can be completed here and you are required to fill out a rather long application, including lots of seriously grim questions such as "have you ever committed genocide?". You are also required to add a photograph which took me a rather long time because of the weird way in which they have set it up. Basically, the photo zooms in automatically and wont let you zoom out so you have to take a photo from further away than you might originally think; hope that helps.

MRV Visa Fee
This is the one which took us the longest to find and was the most confusing. Everywhere spoke about the (currently) $160 fee, but nowhere told you how to pay! It turns out that you can do it over the phone by ringing this number 020 3608 6998 if you are ringing from the United Kingdom, otherwise follow this link. Alternatively, you can pay it online, instructions for phone and online here, once you get to the payment page in your visa interview application (details to follow).

Me - originally looking for all of the links above.

So how do I set up a Visa interview?  

As I mentioned before, there is an online visa appointment application! We originally tried to do it over the phone but they just told us to go here. You need to set up an account and make sure you remember your password. You can apply for more than one person, even if you aren't related, from the same account.

The application asks for your details, your confirmation numbers from the list of documents above and it asks you for your MRV payment or a confirmation number from the phone-payment option. There will be a drop down menu for you to select both a location for the interview (we chose London) and for an appointment date and time. My suggestion is always to choose the earliest date with a mid-day sort of time to it. This will hopefully mean that you can get to London in time for your interview (we left Chester at 6.29 am for an 11.30 am appointment) as well as also getting back from London in time for bed (especially if like me, you have Work Based Learning the next day!).

Right at the end of your application, you can also pay extra (about £18.00) to have your passport delivered to your front door instead of having to go to a collection point. In my opinion, this is well worth the money as I want my passport back as soon as possible! This is not possible to change, once you submit your application so think carefully and double check everything before you accept!

Tip 3: remember to write down all of your confirmation codes, PIN numbers,
the time, date and address of your appointment and all in one secure place!

So what do I need to bring to my actual interview? 

In short, you will need the following documents:
  • Passport (valid for at least 6 months past the program end date).
    You will have to leave this at the Embassy so keep this in mind when booking any other travel, e.g. summer holidays, or for me; going home!
  • Original DS-2019 form, signed by ISEP and yourself.Copies are not accepted so do not loose this form.
  • SEVIS I-901 Payment ReceiptI printed this one out twice so I would still have a copy when they took it from me.
  • DS-160 Form (printed in colour)
    This is what they look at when you first arrive so have it near the front of your documents.
  • Appointment Instructions (received on completion of appointment application)
    They also ask to see this when you first arrive.
  • MRV Visa Payment Receipt
    I also printed this one out twice.
  • J-1 Objections Letter (as provided by ISEP in your acceptance pack)
    I didn't actually get asked for this, but you are required to bring it.
  • Acceptance Letter from Host Site (provided by ISEP)
    I didn't get asked for this either but it's useful to have to prove that you are telling the truth.
  • Proof of Funding (Bank Statement, Student Finance or other similar)
    You need to show that you can support yourself whilst at your placement. Do not therefore bring a Bank Statement where you are into an overdraft. At best, bring an overall statement of what is in each bank you have open. If you have some savings, prove it. (Even if those savings aren't actually for this particular experience).
  • Proof of ISEP Health Insurance Enrollment
    I didn't get asked for this either, but it's useful to prove that you will be looked after whilst on placement and that you have thought about the fact that the NHS is not in your host location.
Tip 4: dress smart for your interview but wear comfortable shoes.

I also brought with me:
  • Proof of my Current Address
    In the form of another bank statement letter and my invitation to vote.
  • Proof of my intent to return to England (and therefore leave the USA)
    I just brought along my 4 year enrollment acceptance letter from the University of Chester.
  • Two passport photographs
    I had these spare and thought it a good idea - just in case!
  • Receipt for my return to home address passport  payment
    Just in case they try to tell me that I haven't paid!
  • All of my other documents (Basically my whole folder)
    These documents were everything that I have about my host institution and the placement year in general. I thought this would be good if they asked lots of questions.
Tip 5: eat and go to the toilet before you arrive but also bring a snack.

At the actual interview (from my experience)
On arrival, there was a queue outside the building that we joined after having our documents checked. We were dressed smarter than most people but it made me feel better prepared. A man asked us to put belts, phones, and anything else metal on us into a plastic bag. The queue moved at average speed and before we knew it, out documents where checked again, our bags were scanned similar to the way they do it at airports and we were told to walk around and in to the main building.

Here we were greeted by a reception desk who checked us in and gave us a unique number. A short walk from the reception brought us to an airport-style waiting lounge except with a huge screen on one end calling out numbers with a nerve-racking 'ding' noise. The screen also had useful information about the process to come. 

We waited for about 1 hour and 30 minutes before my number was called up (Simon was called up about 10 minutes later). The man was friendly and asked to see my documents. After scanning my finger tips, he told me to sit back down and wait for my number again.

We waited another 2 hours before our numbers were called again (Simon was called about 30 minutes after me this time). This time I had to go further down the corridor to a new selection of booths (the interview stations are laid out like a bank, with glass windows). There, the man asked me a few questions such as "tell me about your placement", "what are you studying" and "how are you funding this exchange" before telling me that my visa was approved and that I should expect it in a week.

It all happened a hell of a lot faster than I expected it to, but I suspect that we got lucky. I have heard that some people get questioned for hours, so I guess that's why you have to bring all of the different sets of paperwork. 

So now what?

Now you have to wait for your passport, along with your visa, to be sent back to you. For me, that took less than a week but obviously you might not get that lucky so my advice is, while you should still be looking at flights etc. I wouldn't book any until you have all of your documents back.

I will be posting about the best way to book flights soon so if you are worried about that, just stay tuned! There is now a link on the right hand side to follow this blog so feel free to click that. Also there are links above for my YouTube channel, my official Lucy's Locations Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

See you soon,

Lucy xxo

The next post in this series: Applying for Accommodation!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Acceptance of Host Institutions

If you're new, please read this post first: Initial Steps to Studying Abroad and/or watch this video: How to Study Abroad: Introduction and Options

If you are looking to apply to a Study Abroad Experience, please read these two posts first: The Overall Application Process and Individual Applications

Acceptance of placement can cause:
Extreme happiness or
Extreme what-have-I-done emotions


You have successfully submitted your application and you are now awaiting your acceptance, or better yet, you already have your acceptance letter but are now wondering what is next! (Alternatively, you are reading this in advance and are a well researched kind of person - go you.)

It's time to sit down and  really reflect on
what you want from your Study Abroad Experience!

So what is next?

For Bilateral Applicants:
For Bilateral Applicants, the whole process is pretty simple. You apply, they say yes or no and then you get on with organising the final pieces of your experience, e.g. acquiring a visa and a flight. 

Basically, once your chosen host institution accepts your application, you are put into contact with the Exchange Coordinator on their side. You then work together with them to sort out the rest of the pre-departure processes necessary in order for you to arrive at your host institution. This therefore results in the University of Chester Exchange Coordinator becoming your second call for help, not your first. 

Get ready to make some awesome memories!

For ISEP Applicants:
For ISEP Applicants, the process has a few more separated steps. 

First, your application is sent to ISEP itself and they decide where they would like to place you, i.e. they pick the best fit from your preference list. You then receive a preliminary placement letter telling you which place they have chosen for you. This does NOT mean that you are going there!

Second, your application is sent by ISEP to the chosen host institution. The institution itself then has the chance to accept or decline you. You then receive a host institution acceptance letter. THIS is the letter you must wait for as a final acceptance. 

Third and lastly, you as the applicant now get to accept your placement. If you have done your application process properly, you should be 100% happy to sign that acceptance letter no matter where they placed you. If you are not happy with the placement they have assigned you, then your only option is to withdraw and loose your application fee and the chance to study abroad. DO NOT be that person.

You should be THIIIIIIIIIS ready to accept your placement!

Along with your signed acceptance letter, you must pay the ISEP Insurance fees through their website: link here. This will mean that you are covered for a variety of things whilst on your placement, however, this insurance does not cover everything. Please read all of their information on the website properly and decide for yourself whether you need extra insurance or not. If you wish to travel before or after your ISEP placement, you will also need to research your own insurance. 

This application acceptance is extremely important to complete as quickly as possible, especially if you are applying to study in the US. As they will only send your DS 2019 (the first form which you need to apply to your visa) once you have accepted your placement. The time taken for you to sign the contract, send it back and for them to send you the visa form is all time and money wasted since you shouldn't book flights until you have your visa. For other countries, you are likely to need your placement congratulations letter in order to prove that you are in fact going to be studying in their country, so haste at this stage is generally important no matter where you have applied.

You don't want anything stopping you 
from seeing that out-of-plane-window view!

For Failed Applicants:
First of all, before you get scared, this is extremely unlikely. For one, any issues which could stop you from being accepted will normally show up before you have even finished your application process. Second, if you are an ISEP Applicant, it is ISEP's responsibility to find you an alternative suitable placement so an outright no is almost impossible. For Bilateral Applicants, the Chester Coordinator will approach an alternative Bilateral Partner on your behalf if you wish to do so. 

If you withdraw from the application at any stage after submitting your application, unfortunately you do loose your non-refundable application fee but I repeat myself, the chances of getting no host institution to accept your placement is extremely unlikely.

Now go get excited-
You're going to go explore a whole new country!

Lots of Love,

Lucy xxo

The next post in the series: Acquiring a Visa

Monday, 1 June 2015

ISEP Application

If you're new, please read this post first: Initial Steps to Studying Abroad and/or watch this video: How to Study Abroad: Introduction and Options

The following post is relevant to those wishing to become ISEP students only. For the Bilateral Application click here and for the University of Chester Application, click here.

3, 2, 1 - LET'S GO!

To apply to any ISEP institutions, you must first create a log in address on the ISEP website itself. You will then have 5 categories to fill out: Participant Profile, Host Request List, Course Request List, Documentation and Coordinator References - which already shows you roughly what information you need to be able to compile your application.

The Participant Profile consists of 5 other subheadings. 'Biographical Information' asks for things such as your name, your home institution (University of Chester) and place of birth, as well as a few other easily filled out details. 'Dependents' asks basically if you would be going on your own or with a partner/child. 'Emergency Contact' asks for just that - someone who you would want to be contacted first, if something unfortunate happened to you whilst abroad. 'Academic Information' asks for your current course details along with a statement of intent, as in, if you want to study abroad for the full year or if you would like to partake in a split semester programme. Lastly, 'Terms & Conditions' gives you a list of things that you should read carefully before ticking the box stating that you agree. Some terms to highlight and to take seriously are:

  • I will take part in all aspects of the program, including orientation and evaluation.
  • I will purchase ISEP health insurance for the full period of my program.
  • My placement may be terminated by ISEP or by my host institution if I fail to remain enrolled full time at my host institution, fail to maintain minimum academic standards as defined by my home or host institution, or am found by ISEP or the host institution to be in violation of laws or regulations of my host country or institution.
  • If I withdraw from the program anytime after accepting the placement, or if my placement is terminated after I arrive at my host institution:
    a) I may still be obligated to pay the full program fee at the discretion of my home institution in collaboration and agreement with ISEP and my host institution.
    b) I will forfeit my right to receive benefits as an ISEP participant and must reimburse my host institution for any money advanced to me to cover benefits after the date of my withdrawal or termination.
    c) I will still be obligated to pay the application fee

Not reading T&C's can result in sudden "oh-maaaaan" realisations.

Once you have ticked the box, you will be taken to the next stage: Host Site Request List. This page has a handy little 'Instructions' tab at the top to help you but basically, you find the host institutions you have researched and put them in order. As well as a list in preferential order (with number 1 being your most preferred choice) you are asked to fill out a description of how the 'site matches your goals', this should be done academically, geographically and personally! So, for example, for Northern Arizona University, my first choice (and placed institution), I wrote the following:

"NAU was one of the first Universities on my list and has remained there since due to its brilliant range of interesting and relevant academic courses. Not only can I continue my studies of the general tourism industry but I can also broaden my studies further into other fields. On a personal level, NAU offers a great array of sports, especially in American Football, which I am interested in from an Events Management point of view. NAU is located in a great geographical place (Grand Canyon)."

You only have a certain word count and you should hit the three general topics so my advice is to write one sentence on each. It it advised to show that you have researched each university properly in this paragraph as well. To give you a second example, here is what I wrote for the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (my 5th and final choice):

"UoNC, Greensboro offers many of the courses that I am interested in for furthering my studies both for Tourism and Events Management and for my other interests in life, such as Broadcasting/Cinema & Theatre. UoNC, G also has a large Basketball following present. Geographically, Greensboro has been rated by a national survey as the nation's second most attractive place to live, based on climate, health, transportation, crime rate and prosperity."

In the end, I only chose 5 different host institutions that I wished to go to, this is a reasonably low number, however my first choice and several others on my list had an "excellent chance" of acceptance, so this was generally okay. When choosing yours, try to have some variation on the chance of placement scale but always remember that you could end up at ANY ONE of those on your list, so DO NOT apply to one that you are not 100% happy with. It might be important to note, that there are only 10 spaces on the application form, so you have the ability to choose 10 different universities around the world that you could attend, but no more (this might help aid you in reducing the amount of universities you research in the preparation phases). If you are applying for a split semester, then you can apply to 10 universities for each semester, leaving you with 20 in total.

Yeaaahhh - Math!
Once you have submitted your preference list, the Course Request List will be made available to you. Here, each university that you have previously submitted appears with several boxes underneath. The boxes are there for you to enter the 'Course Number', 'Course Name' and 'Other Information' so yes, you are expected to have researched down to the individual course code of the modules you wish to partake on, at each university to which you apply!

For me, the problem was that I wanted to study almost everything available. This meant that my 'Other Information' was full of other course codes that were similar to the submitted ones. It is important to note that you are not applying to study these modules, you are only giving ISEP an indication of what you would like to study (remember that they choose your host institution by the best academic fit for you, so this part is especially important to them!). Below is one example of the course codes I submitted for Northern Arizona University:

ENV 377Global SustainabilityAlso: ANT 102, ANT 301, ENV 495, FOR 222, FOR 255,GSP 240, GSP 241, GSP 371, PRM 300, HA 284

Can I study... ALL of the modules?

Once you have completed this list, you can move onto the Documentation section of the application. This is where you will have to complete 6 sections and where most of the stuff you compiled in your first few steps of applying to the Study Abroad Experience come in handy. First, a 'Language Proficiency' test will need to be taken if your first language is not the same as the language spoken at the host institution, luckily, I did not need to do this. I am told however that, this changes from institution to institution so ask before applying I guess.

Second, a 'Personal Statement', much like when you applied through UCAS for the University of Chester, will need to be submitted. At the top of this page, there is a handy little 'Instructions' tab again, but basically here is the exact advise I was given when I was applying:

1)      Personal Statement
a.       ATBQ – Answer The Bloody Question
This is a mnemonic my geography teacher used to use, and it works.
The Personal Statement question is as follows:
ISEP is unique because it offers the opportunity for full immersion in the host culture. However, it is your responsibility to make the most of this experience. Introduce yourself and explain your academic goals for studying abroad and for integrating into the host culture. What specific situations from your past (i.e., coursework, job experience, travel, intercultural experience) have helped you prepare to accomplish these goals?  
This can be broken down into 4 broad areas for you to deal with in turn. You have 300-500 words to aim for, ergo ca. 100 words for each area (roughly). These areas are as follows:
                                                               i.      Introduce yourself – who are you, where are you from, what background, what kind of personality are you etc.
                                                             ii.      What are your academic goals for studying abroad – are you hoping to do specific courses, can these not be done at Chester, are you looking to diversify your portfolio of subjects studied at degree level etc.
                                                            iii.      What are your goals for integrating into the host culture – do you intend to get involved with extra-curricular activities / sports teams / student groups, do you plan to live with / near locals as locals do, do you have any specific intentions in mind e.g. make friends with a local bar owner (that genuinely was one of mine, and I succeeded J ), do you hope to leave your mark somehow (not arson if at all possible…) etc.
                                                           iv.      What experiences from your past have helped to prepare you for these goals – do / have you ever lived overseas, have you ever travelled for an extended period, have you ever had dealings with someone in a similar situation to what you will be, have you been mentally and/or emotionally challenged / pushed to your limits etc.
You can apportion the word count to each of these areas as you see fit, but it is often a good idea to get as much down for each point as you can before then culling what you feel is either superfluous or not as illustrative as other things.
The key message you want to get across here is abundantly apparent willingness to immerse yourself in the experience.

Hello my name is Lucy,
and I've been interested in travel since I was
thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis big!

Third, your 'Academic References' must be submitted by your Personal Academic Tutor (PAT). This is done by submitted your PAT's email address into the system and them filling out a form about you. You can tick a box here, which basically means that you wont read the information given about you before it is given. This results in some indication for ISEP that the information is correct and not biased, giving you a better chance of acceptance. However, there is also the option to send the email yourself and therefore for you to read the reference before it is sent. Handy for those of you with curious minds.

The fourth step is simple, 'Passport', requires you simply to submit a scanned in copy of your current Indication Page of your passport. Luckily, this step can be skipped if you are still applying to get your passport by simply ticking the box that states "Passport application is in progress"- you will however obviously have to submit this later.

At the 'Transcript' stage, you are required to submit your official transcript from first year (as in, the results you got). This can be acquired by going into the front office where you might change your course on campus and asking politely for a print out. It's advised here, to state that you only wish to see already-released results so that they don't think you're trying to get your marks ahead of schedule. I believe it is possible to also hold this stage until further notice, please contact the Study Abroad Office if you are having issues with this step.

Lastly, the 'Additional Information' page can be used for bulking out your application to one particular site or if you have anything else that you wish for ISEP to know about you. It is basically a page for you to state anything that you didn't know where else it should be put. I didn't have any use for this page, so I can't really help you out more than that! But it can be left blank, so if you can't think of anything, there probably isn't anything that you need to submit!

I would also like to state: dear ISEP,
Did you know that I am awesome at inflatable guitar?

You are now through to the last step of your ISEP application! The Coordinator Reference page and luckily for you, this page requires you to do nothing but prompt the Study Abroad Office to take a look at your completed application.

Your ISEP coordinator will submit a reference for you. When the reference has been completed, it will update your progress meter.

At some stage here, your application will suddenly have an extra button. This button allows you to take your application out of the draft setting and submit it to ISEP. I personally wouldn't do this until you are told to, by the ISEP coordinator here in Chester, but when you do, I wish you the very best of luck and I hope you are placed at a great host institution (though of course, if you've done it right, none of those on your list are bad choices).


Lucy xxo

Bilateral Application

If you're new, please read this post first: Initial Steps to Studying Abroad and/or watch this video: How to Study Abroad: Introduction and Options

First off, ya'll better appreciate the research that I have just put into this particular blog post, haha. I didn't apply to my Study Abroad Experience through Bilateral so had no idea before today how it all works. I started my day therefore with 35 attachments in 8 different emails and have since put that information into an Excel Spreadsheet.

Maybe the Leaning Tower of Pisa is just really tired..

So anyway -

As I've mentioned before, each Bilateral Exchange is a direct swap of students (with no middle man). This therefore naturally results in each Bilateral Host Institution having it's own application process. Now, since these change regularly, I am not going to tell you how to apply to each one currently available (as that might not apply to those of you reading this in the future!). I am instead going to give you an over-view of things the individual Host Institution Applications have in common and somethings to be generally prepared for.

This is what prepared looks like!

Personal Applications

As with any application, you will need to state your basic information, such as your name, date of birth and address etc. etc. (Some will ask for a permanent address as well as a current address so be prepared for that). You will also more than likely need to nominate an emergency contact person and submit your passport details.

For those of you that have a first language other than English, you are more than likely required to submit a Language Proficiency Test. Typically, the most widely accepted of those are TOEFL and IELTS test results.

Along with this, everyone will need to submit an up-to-date University of Chester Transcript and state your intentions as to which courses you wish to study at your host institution. More thank likely, you will also have to submit some form or another of a personal statement. These can vary from 300 words to 2 pages depending on the institution itself. It is important then to remember that you are applying to one specific university, so target your statement to and about them - why do you want to study there in particular? What will you bring to them?

Lastly, you will be asked to submit a Medical History Report but  more on that later, under the Vaccinations subheading!

Snuggle on in and get ready for a load more information..

Accommodation and Food

The offered accommodation and food situation will vary drastically from placement to placement, so you should ask yourself:

  • Will your accommodation be on campus?
  • Is there the possibility to join a Host Family?
  • Can I move in early? Will there be extra charges?
  • Will the accommodation be available over the holidays?
  • Is food included in my accommodation or is it separate?
  • What meal plans are available?
  • What if I don't like the food?
  • Will I have the facilities to cook for myself?
  • Will I have a roommate?
  • How much does it all cost?

As well as these 10 questions, you should consider researching what your options are if you don't like your accommodation once you get there and if you can change roommates etc. or not. Most housing applications ask you a few questions such as if you are a smoker, how neat and tidy you are and if you like to wake up early or not. Answer these truthfully but also remember that your roommate will be determined by these questions.

Are you prepared to experience communal living?

Health Insurance

It is compulsory to get health insurance for all of the different host institutions I have looked at today. This is mainly because of the type of visa required to study abroad in different countries and the host generally wants to ensure that you are covered whilst studying abroad.

Most institutions also require you to buy their health insurance and will not accept an alternative. This is actually a reasonably good thing as you can rest assured that you've got the right one without putting in much research. If your choice doesn't demand their own, make sure you research that all of the necessary aspects are covered.

For example, for one institution that I looked at, they allowed any health insurance to be submitted, as long as it satisfies the U.S. Department of State’s requirements outlined below:

  • Medical Benefits: $100,000 
  • Repatriation of Remains: $25,000 
  • Medical Evacuation: $50,000 
  • Deductible per Accident or Illness: $500 

It is therefore up to you to double check with your host institution what it is that they require from you as an applicant.

You don't want to end up like me,
sick in bed for a week and worrying about medical bills!

Statement of Financial Support

A Statement of Financial Support is required in order to enter most countries. It is also required therefore from your host institution. This will mostly be asked for before you can apply for your visa, so be prepared with it as early as possible.

This statement tends to either be a simple bank statement showing that you will have sufficient funds, or there will be a host specific form to fill out which might ask you for a little more detail on where this money is coming from, e.g. savings, sponsor or parents.

You can get Student Finance as normal and this generally suffices as proof of sufficient funds. A quick tip: sort out your Student Finance as early as possible to reduce your own stress levels!

The fun you can have with $3.00
For full video - click here!


As previously mentioned, you are likely to be asked for a Medical History Report. This will most likely be concentrated on your previous vaccinations. The most common to be asked about are as follows:

  • Tuberculosis Screening
  • Tetanus Diptheria
  • Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR)
  • Varicella (Chicken Pox)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Meningitis

As well as this, you might be asked if you have any allergies or disabilities that your host institution should be aware of this. Obviously please consult your doctor about any of this information required from you. 

After working with 6 dogs and 24 horses,
I realised that I was allergic to fur - whoops!

I realise that this is not as detailed as the ISEP Application blog post, but unfortunately, due to the differences in each host institution, you will have to find out the specifics for yourself!

Good luck and I hope this helps even the tiniest bit,

Lucy xxo

University of Chester Application

If you're new, please read this post first: Initial Steps to Studying Abroad and/or watch this video: How to Study Abroad: Introduction and Options.

Before applying to ISEP or Bilateral, you must submit your Chester Study Abroad form to the Study Abroad Office. This is a new procedure that I did not have to go through but here is my understanding of it, and I hope it helps you in your application.

Are you ready to get your head wrapped around this?

As a University of Chester student, you have two options; you can either study abroad as your second year or in an additional third year. You must decide this before applying to anything at all, so if you are unsure, watch this video or re-read this post. Once you have, follow the below subheadings to help you with your individual application process:

WB5007 - Study Abroad as your Second Year
(or the International Exchange Module - Full Academic Year)

If you choose this option, you will have two forms to fill out.

The first will ask you for your personal details (as seen on your passport), a photograph of yourself (used later for recognition at things like the airport for pick up) and for you to write 300-500 words on yourself and why you want the "International Exchange Module - Full Academic Year" experience.

Your personal profile should tell your potential host institution a little about who you are; where are you from? What do you study? What made you interested in the Study Abroad Experience? What do you hope to gain from this experience? For this particular route, you should also explain how studying abroad will impact on your future career goals and especially how it will help (and not hinder) you in your final year at the University of Chester.

Think of it as a little bit of an interview on paper, so try to sell yourself as a perfect candidate for this travel opportunity. Will you make a good international ambassador for the University of Chester? Why? What could you bring to the table?

The second form is very specific to the WB5007 route choice. This form is called a Mapping Document and you need to fill it out with the modules you would normally take at the University of Chester in your second year compared to those that you wish to undertake in your year abroad. They obviously need to be as similar as possible and this form is there to help you to establish that.

Before submitting the Mapping Document, you also need to have each mapped module approved by your Personal Academic Tutor (PAT) and your Head of Department (HoD). There is space on the sheet for both your PAT and your HoD to sign their approval. On top of both signing the sheet, you must acquire a general reference from each and attach it to your application in order to progress.

Your only option now is to complete the Bilateral Application process, here.

And that's the end of that.

WB5008 - Study Abroad in an Additional Third Year
(or the Study Abroad Experience)

If you choose this option, you only have one form to fill out.

The form will ask you for your personal details (as seen on your passport), a photograph of yourself (used later for recognition at things like the airport for pick up) and for you to write 300-500 words on yourself and why you want the Study Abroad Experience.

Your personal profile should tell your potential host institution a little about who you are; where are you from? What do you study? What made you interested in the Study Abroad Experience? What do you hope to gain from this experience? For this particular route, you should also explain how studying abroad will impact on your future career goals and especially how you intend to come back to the University of Chester for your fourth year. How will an extra year of studying affect your degree?

Think of it as a little bit of an interview on paper, so try to sell yourself as a perfect candidate for this travel opportunity. Will you make a good international ambassador for the University of Chester? Why? What could you bring to the table?

To complete your form, you must also attach a reference from your Personal Academic Tutor (PAT) and your Head of Department in order to progress onto the next stage. Through this option, you can now either apply to an ISEP Exchange, here, or a Bilateral Exchange, here.

Now go have a snack - you've earned it!

I hope that helps,

Lucy xxo

Individual Applications

If you're new, please read this post first: Initial Steps to Studying Abroad and/or watch this video: How to Study Abroad: Introduction and Options

If you are looking for an overall explanation and list of deadlines to meet, please read: The Overall Application Process. The following blog posts on the other hand, will be looking at the actual applications that you must submit. To study abroad, you must complete the University of Chester Application first, this is so that the Study Abroad Office can assess if you are an appropriate candidate to be sending abroad as a representative of the university itself. Once you have been accepted onto this, you will then have to complete (or copy and paste into it) a host-specific application. This will be one of two options; an ISEP Application or a Bilateral Application. Follow the links below to help you find which one is relevant to you:

University of Chester Application

Bilateral Application

Jumping over ALL of the hurdles.

I thought it might be most convenient to you all, if you only had to read the posts relevant to yourself.

Much love,

Lucy xxo

The next post in the series: Acceptance of Host Institutions