The Rule of Two

There are several rules of nature that govern (my) life, from what I have observed. Some are fairly normal ones, for example, I do believe that the First Rule of Success is that there is a certain power in believing whether something will come true or not, that does affect whether said thing actually comes true, as long as I’ve done my best to make it come true anyway. Put another way, if I try my best but don’t really believe that it will succeed anyway, it has a larger chance of failing.

Others are odder, for example, the Worry Rule states that the more I worry about a bad outcome of something that is up in the air, and the more stress that I get from it, the lower the chance that that bad end will actually happen. This then turns stress into a planning exercise for contingencies for the worst-case scenarios, and the act of believing that stressing over the worst-case scenarios leads to them not happening also feeds in to the first rule of success. This might all sound like hocus-pocus, but I believe they each up the chance of success of an event by up to about 10% each for me, and having the correct positive mindset does definitely passively affect many small things around me.

But not all rules are necessarily things that affect success chance. One thing I’ve noticed with several of my life events that I have aimed for, is that there is a certain Rule of Two thing going on. The first time I try for, apply for, or aim for something, it often seems to fail, sometimes spectacularly. Yet if I try again for a second time, it will work out in a better way than if it had succeeded the first time. In a way it’s very similar to a “one door closes, another door opens” philosophy, with a dash of fate thrown in (I trust fate to lead me down the right path, in general) and a mental note that I might occasionally want to be really wary when something actually does succeed the first time, because maybe if I let it go and try to catch it again, the second time will be even better.

But you didn’t come to this blog for self-help tips. Why was all this important to write? This is because of the events that have happened in the last month and a bit, after my last blog post. The Rule of Two has been out in force since then, and has helped me clear up a few things. Let me show you what I mean!

The date set by my University to declare my initial choice and make my application was Jan 27 2021. While I had been doing research and mulling my choices for a long time, I formally opened an application on Jan 17th. I had to list my top 3 choices, and at the time I actually listed Waseda, Sophia, and Hokkaido in that order, with a note that Waseda and Sophia were basically neck to neck (choice 1A and 1B) and I couldn’t choose between them, and wondering if any other student had already applied to one of the two so that I could pick the other one, or if they had any more recent Student Feedback forms (apparently the office didn’t, though). In the end, despite a number of misgivings about housing and the course lottery system, I only listed Waseda over Sophia due to one reason, and that was the LGBTQ Support Guide on their website, and thus the indication that they would be perhaps more minority-friendly. I still made clear they were basically both top choices for me though.

Then this horrifying email came in from the University of Alberta International (UAI)’s Exchange Coordinator:

Dear Jessica:

Your application for Waseda University – Exchange was not approved. The Exchange Coordinator listed the following reason: Sorry, Jessica!  I can’t send you on exchange to any of the schools or programs in Japan that you’ve selected.  They all require at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA and yours is 2.1.  If interested, I could probably send you to Hokkaido’s JLCSP program (not HUSTEP).  Please let me know if you’d like to discuss other options by contacting me directly at <snip>

Thanks,

X

Wait, what?

Firstly, the reason my GPA shows as 2.1 is because I had done really badly in my first stint at the University under the Faculty of Science, from 2002-2005. It’s 2021 now. That’s basically punishing a fresh University student for their kindergarten grades. Besides that, I’d transferred out and back in since then and everything from before’s been recalculated as transfer credit, not GPA.

(Interesting sidenote: I had floated the idea of going abroad for Fall 2020-Winter 2021, but I could not due to a technicality — instead of re-enrolling right into my new Faculty, the Faculty of Arts, in 2019, I had enrolled into Open Studies because I thought — wrongly, but no one I consulted saw fit to tell me otherwise — that all students returning from a Required To Withdraw (RTW) had to go through Open Studies like those in the University’s Fresh Start Program. But I was not in that program, so I could have enrolled directly using my NAIT grades or just the sheer length of time off. Open Studies only allows students to be part time (maximum of two courses), whereas being a full-time student in the semester prior to going abroad is a requirement for the semester/year-long Study Abroad program. So this meant that I did not meet the eligibility for going abroad in 2020-2021. I looked into taking a course from another college as my 3rd course, but UAI wouldn’t allow that to count either. This was frustrating at the time, but also a blessing in disguise since COV19 then hit in March 2020 and all exchange programs were cancelled. See the Rule of Two above!)

And secondly, I’ve been in touch with that Exchange Coordinator, and UAI’s office in general, since April of 2019, and had shown them my transcripts a couple times and asked if it was okay because I have a complex transcript. Would my earlier grades be counted against me? I’ve always been told the answer was no, only the grades since my re-enrolment would count. We had also exchanged many emails since November because I had actually put in a half-complete, tentative application for Sophia before I had done any of the research, and he had been helping me with parts of the process knowing full well I was considering at least Sophia. Why wouldn’t you have told me about this requirement a little earlier than 10 days before the deadline?

Anyway, this was due to the term “cumulative GPA” in the application, which apparently not only differs from “GPA” in general but also differs from the U of A/Faculty of Art’s official definition of GPA, which only counts the courses from my re-enrollment onwards. I reached out to him in a panic, and proposed a solution — it seemed that this was partially based on assumptions of what Waseda and Sophia mean, so would he allow me to reach out to the schools directly with my transcript and ask them if I had a chance? He accepted, except that it had to be done through him and not from me. I drafted the email though, and sent it to (only) Sophia and Waseda through him. These were my emails, and the subsequent replies from the two Universities:

Hello, and thank you for taking time out of your day to answer my email!

I am writing to you with X’s help to find out if Waseda would be willing to take me as an international exchange student from the University of Alberta, if I meet all the other requirements, because my grade transcript is really complex. I am hoping to apply to the SILS program for the Fall 2021-Winter 2022 year, to further my study and proficiency of the Japanese language and culture.

I am an older student, and 15-20 years ago I was at the University of Alberta where I failed and was Required To Withdraw (RTW) from the University due to poor grades. After that, I went to other universities in Edmonton to study, where I did well (4.0 GPA in a full year), and then I went to work full-time for 11 years, before transferring back to the University of Alberta to try to finish my degree.

Because I came back to the University of Alberta after the RTW 15 years earlier, my official GPA at the University is now around 3.5, from the 8 courses I have taken since transferring back, as they don’t count the courses from before the RTW. This will be 11 courses after this semester, so I do qualify for Study Abroad programs through the University of Alberta.

However, my transcript shows both my old courses and my new courses, and we are not sure if Waseda would count the GPA from before my fresh start or not, which was really bad (it would be around 2.1 if you count in all the courses from 15-20 years ago), especially since I was with another University in between the two programs.

Would you please be able to inform me if I have a chance of applying to Waseda based on this information or not? I would really like to study here and hope that I have done enough to prove my diligence, however ultimately I am not sure if I pass Waseda‘s requirements or not.

Thank you very much for your time!
Jessica

Hello, and thank you for taking time out of your day to answer my email!

I am writing to you with X’s help to find out if Sophia would be willing to take me as an international exchange student from the University of Alberta, if I meet all the other requirements, because my grade transcript is really complex. I am hoping to apply to the FLA program (Comparative Culture) for the Fall 2021-Winter 2022 year, to further my study and proficiency of the Japanese language and culture, although I have not decided whether to apply for the intensive JLP track yet or not.

I am an older student, and 15-20 years ago I was at the University of Alberta where I failed and was Required To Withdraw (RTW) from the University due to poor grades. After that, I went to other universities in Edmonton to study, where I did well (4.0 GPA in a full year), and then I went to work full-time for 11 years, before transferring back to the University of Alberta to try to finish my degree.

Because I came back to the University of Alberta after the RTW 15 years earlier, my official GPA at the University is now around 3.5, from the 8 courses I have taken since transferring back, as they don’t count the courses from before the RTW. This will be 11 courses after this semester, so I do qualify for Study Abroad programs through the University of Alberta.

However, my transcript shows both my old courses and my new courses, and we are not sure if Sophia would count the GPA from before my fresh start or not, which was really bad (it would be around 2.1 if you count in all the courses from 15-20 years ago), especially since I was with another University in between the two programs.

Would you please be able to inform me if I have a chance of applying to Sophia based on this information or not? I would really like to study here and hope that I have done enough to prove my diligence, however ultimately I am not sure if I pass Sophia’s requirements or not.

Thank you very much for your time!
Jessica

Greetings from Sophia University!
 
Thank you for forwarding the message, X!
 
Hello Jessica,
We understand your situation, but to make sure, would you please send us a scanned copy of your current transcript?
We would like to check your transcript in advance before replying to your inquiry.
 
Thank you!
Y
Hello Y,
 
Thank you very much for taking your time to read my letter. I have attached my latest unofficial transcript as requested (I have an official paper one that is being mailed to me and on the way right now because my Winter grades were only recently released).
 
Sincerely appreciated,
Jessica
Hello Jessica,
 
Thank you for your reply!
We checked your transcript.
Would you please ask your home university to write an official letter explaining your situation and requesting us to consider your grades obtained after your re-enrollment so that we will not count your grades obtained before RTW?
You can send the letter to us together with other application documents during the application period.
 
Thank you!
Y

<snip>

I could not say for sure without seeing her transcript, but according to the SILS office, 

it may be difficult to consider the situation. 

SILS is very popular among our partners and highly competitive, 

Moreover, actually our university adopts a similar GPA system to yours

and old grades would be represented as well even if students withdrew and then returned again. 

 

What I can say now is that your student may be able to apply for School of Commerce 

if she show her interests in it. 

Or, here are the fee-paying programs that are also open to the students who are not from our partner university based on our bilateral agreement.

She may be able to apply for the following programs:

 

Japanese Language Program (JLP)

http://www.waseda.jp/inst/cjl/en/applicants/launch/

<snip>

Short-Term Japanese Program

https://www.waseda.jp/inst/cjl/en/applicants/s-term/

Program period: 3 weeks / 6 weeks

<snip>

Best regards,

Z

Now, again, even though Waseda was sent the letter first, and I had listed Waseda over Sophia in the first initial page of the application that got rejected, the two schools were still both #1 to me and the letter was both drafted by me and sent out by my UAI coordinator a mere two hours after the first rejection email.

I was still waffling hard, as there were aspects of Waseda’s offering that didn’t feel right (housing, lottery system, lack of student feedback), whereas Sophia’s offering was nearly perfect but had a smaller number of class (Waseda has those specialized Japanese classes! ..that exchange students don’t really seem to have room to take anyway 🙁 ) and club choices overall due to being a smaller school. This series of exchanges above though both far and away cemented Sophia as my #1 choice, as well as permanently put Waseda out of my top 3 choices entirely. Not only did Sophia reply more positively, giving me a feeling that they wanted me (how nice!), and showing flexibility and not sticking to a “by the book” reply that made absolutely no logical sense, but they also did it right away (4:20 pm in Edmonton is 8:20 am in Japan) and not one and a half days later.

Once Sophia’s replies came in, I told my coordinator that I had finally settled for one school over the other and would start up the quest to get those letters. Even though Waseda’s reply hadn’t arrived yet, and I would still wait respectfully for that before officially re-starting my application with Sophia as my #1, Sophia’s efficiency and reason was so on point that Waseda basically stood no chance unless they gave me an unconditional yes, which would even then only have given them a second-place spot.

Around this time, something I had read a few days prior on Reddit about how the Study Abroad experience should be focused on language and immersion more so than the English language classes, also started to sink in hard. I was lucky, then, that my Waseda app hadn’t been locked in, because Sophia’s intensive Japanese program (16.5h/week) beats out Waseda’s (10.5h/week) quite significantly. I realized that while the Waseda package had one or two really strong positive factors, it also had one or two really strong negative factors, and they were things that I couldn’t really afford to worry about as an exchange student. Both my heart and the drama had aligned to point toward Sophia as the right path by the afternoon of Jan 18, and I set forth down this road.

By the by, although the first couple hours of that day consisted of stress that I didn’t need to have, I think this actually saved my application as well, because if I had not known about this issue and UAI had blindly submitted my application to Sophia without the supporting letters, my application would certainly have had been rejected. I also obtained two letters, one from my coordinator (which I helped write, since it just needed to be an explanation of the U of A’s system on official paperhead), and one from my faculty (because I had emailed them about a different issue and asked about this at the same time.) The two letters are listed here:

I am writing this letter in support of Jessica Tan’s application for exchange to Sophia University.

Please note that her transcript contains her academic grades and records from two different periods of study at the University of Alberta (UAlberta).

She was a student in UAlberta’s Faculty of Science from 2002-2005, and in Winter 2005 she was “required to withdraw” from the University due to her grades. This is reflected on her student record. She then transferred her credits and was accepted to a program at another university in Edmonton, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).  (As part of her application package for Sophia University, she is also including her NAIT transcript to verify that a program at another University was taken between her two UAlberta admissions.)

In Spring 2019, Jessica re-enrolled at UAlberta for Open Studies courses while also working full time at the University. She was then admitted into the Faculty of Arts in Fall 2020. On September 01, 2020, as seen on her transcript, all her previous work was recalculated and transferred back as credits for her current program. She was then placed into the East Asian Studies major as a third-year student.

In addition, as per the official, UAlberta process for GPA calculations used by Jessica’s current UAlberta faculty (i.e., the Faculty of Arts), if a student is required to withdraw and subsequently allowed to continue, the GPA will only be calculated from the term in which readmission or continuation is granted (and this would only happen once per student).

Due to these reasons, and due to the 14-year break between her two admissions at UAlberta, I would like to kindly request that Sophia University only consider the grades that Jessica has received from her recent re-enrollment forward when calculating her GPA for the purpose of admission to Sophia University’s exchange program. 

Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at X should you have further questions or require more information.

Sincerely,

On behalf of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta, I write this letter of support for Ms.
Jessica Tan’s exchange application.

Ms. Tan is currently enrolled in our 4-year Bachelor of Arts program with an East Asian Studies
major. Ms. Tan started her studies in the Faculty of Science in 2002; due to her academic results
in the 2004/2005 cycle Ms. Tan was required to withdraw from her program.

Ms. Tan took courses as a part time student in our Open Studies program in 2019 and 2020; she
achieved a high GPA for the courses taken in Open Studies and was admitted to the Faculty of
Arts’ Bachelor degree in Fall 2020. Her past performance in the Faculty of Science does not
preclude Ms. Tan from being a successful student in the Faculty of Arts.

Ms. Tan’s GPA over the last 2 years of studies (8 courses, or 24 credits) is 3.5. The University of
Alberta uses the 4.0 GPA scale. University of Alberta students need to meet a GPA requirement
in order to qualify for a study exchange; Ms. Tan’s recent academic results are excellent, and
the Faculty of Arts hopes that your institution will accept Ms. Tan as an exchange student.

The language of instruction at the University of Alberta is English; all lectures, coursework and
exams are conducted principally in English (except for language acquisition courses).

If you have any questions regarding the information discussed in this letter, please do not
hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

So anyway, that was an interesting sidetrack that caused me a severe amount of stress for a couple days, but saved me a potential heartbreak later on. After respectfully waiting for Waseda’s reply, I formally changed my top 3 choices to Sophia, Hokkaido, and then Chiba. Over the next few weeks, I received these emails:

Dear Jessica Tan,

Your initial eligibility for the Sophia University – Exchange Exchange program has been confirmed, you can now proceed with the application and complete the pre-nomination steps.

Thank you,

Education Abroad

Hello Jessica,

Your application for the Sophia University – Exchange has been submitted pending faculty endorsement (if applicable).

The Exchange Programs Coordinator will follow up with you to let you know if your application can proceed sometime shortly after the application deadline.

Thank you,
X

Dear Exchange Applicants,
 
You’re receiving this email because Steps #1-3 of your exchange application are complete or complete enough to allow me to consider you for an exchange nomination to one of our partner institutions around the world.
 
Before proceeding further, however, I’ll give you a PANDEMIC UPDATE:  
  • Given the ongoing suspension of all university travel (for students and staff) plus the latest updates from Global Affairs Canada, University of Alberta International anticipates that a resumption of travel will not occur before August 15 2021 at the earliest.  This will clearly have an effect on exchange program applications.   Please note that this includes programs with suggested or required dates for students to be present for orientation, on-campus housing move-in, and/or the start of classes before August 15.
  • Happily, however, your exchange programs have start dates happening on or after August 15 and can proceed for the time being. We will send you a further update by early June. 
  • In the meantime, please avoid making financial commitments related to your exchange until you know for certain that it can proceed.  I will have more to say about financial commitments in light of the pandemic with my next email to you.
Speaking of my next email to you, I will follow up with you sometime within the next 2 – 4 weeks regarding the status of your application.  I have to very carefully process somewhere between 100 – 200 applications so it might take me a bit of time to get to your application.  
 
To complicate matters further, you have applied to exchanges that are oversubscribed so I might not be able to send you to your first choice exchange school.  Please start considering an exchange at the second or third choice options you’ve listed in your Horizons applications.  
 
<snip>

Finally, while I have your attention, I can mention that there’s still time to apply for funding to help subsidize your exchange.  The next deadline for applications for the Education Abroad Individual Award, for example, is February 1.  If you have any questions about our funding, please send them directly to my colleague, V, at <snip>.
 
Thanks,
X

Dear Jessica Tan,

Congratulations! You’ve been nominated for the Sophia University – Exchange program with the University of Alberta – Education Abroad Program for the Fall 2021 + Winter 2022 term. 

Please log in to the system to view your nomination details and submit additional documents. You can log-in at the following link: <snip>

Thank you,

Hi Jessica,
 
Please be sure to read this entire email as soon as possible.  Also, it contains important information to which you will likely need to refer again so please keep it easily accessible for future reference.  
Congratulations! Your nomination for an exchange to Sophia University for the equivalent of our 2021/22 school year (2 consecutive terms) has started.
 
Before I describe the remaining work / next steps related to your application, I need to provide you with this PANDEMIC UPDATE:  
  • Given the ongoing suspension of all university travel (for students and staff) plus the latest updates from Global Affairs Canada, University of Alberta International anticipates that a resumption of travel will not occur before August 15 2021 at the earliest.  This will clearly have an effect on exchange program applications.   Please note that this includes programs with suggested or required dates for students to be present for orientation, on-campus housing move-in, and/or the start of classes before August 15.
  • Happily, however, your exchange program has a start date happening on or after August 15 and can proceed for the time being.  We will send you a further update by early June.  In the meantime, as will be explained later in this message, please avoid making financial commitments related to your exchange until you know for certain that it can proceed.
And now I can tell you more about the remaining work / next steps related to your application … 

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea for you to complete all remaining tasks for your exchange sooner rather than later.

Please make note of the following DEADLINES:

By Friday, February 12:

  • Accept your nomination in Horizons (a “post-nomination” task).
  • Upload a scan of your passport identification page to Horizons (a “post-nomination” task).  If you need to renew your passport then please wait and only do this task once you have the new passport.
  • Complete the Accommodations task in Horizons (a “post-nomination” task)
  • FOR UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS ONLY:  Complete the Transfer Credit task in Horizons (a “post-nomination” task)
  • Pay the $250 nomination fee in Horizons.  Please be aware that if you do not pay the nomination fee by the deadline indicated above and there is a waiting list of students wanting to go to the same exchange destination then you could lose your spot on the exchange and it would be given to a student on the waiting list.

As soon as possible:

  • Determine whether or not you need any study permits, visas or other immigration documents to go to your exchange destination by viewing the website of the relevant embassy or other consular authority in Canada that represents the country in which your exchange destination is located or by calling the embassy or other consular authority directly. You will need to find out what you need to do and if you’ll need to make any in-person visits to the nearest embassy or consulate.  To be clear, you are only collecting information at this point in time.  You should NOT act on any study permit, visa or other immigration requirements UNTIL you have a letter of acceptance from Sophia University or unless they direct you to start doing so.  Also, you’ll need to eventually double check what you think you have to do before you start doing it because it’s not uncommon for immigration requirements to change from one day to the next and without warning.
  • Check your passport.  When will it expire?  Once you know the exact dates of your exchange make sure that your passport is good for at least 6 months beyond the last date you plan to be outside of Canada at the end of your exchange (or longer if the government of the host country requires it).  If it isn’t then make sure to renew it as soon as the Government of Canada (or your home country if you’re not a Canadian citizen) will allow you to do so!
  • Check the start and end months that we advertise for your exchange on our website.  To find this information, look in the “When can I go?” section for the page dedicated to your exchange program.  We don’t advertise specific dates but are you willing and able to start your exchange at the beginning of the start month indicated and to stay until the end of the end month indicated?  If not, please be sure to contact me right away so that we can discuss other options for you. 
  • Speak with one of my International Student Services (ISS) Advisor colleagues if you are an international student.  They can help you to find out if there is anything you need to do, while still in Canada before leaving for your exchange, to maintain and/or renew any Canadian immigration documents (like study permits, visas, etc.) that you might have so that you’ll have no problems when coming back to Canada at the end of your exchange.  You can contact them at  <snip>.
  • If necessary, find out if you are eligible to use student loans from a Canadian provincial government to help subsidize your exchange.  Please contact Student Connect in the Office of the Registrar to find out more.  

Every day, starting now, until you have returned to Canada from your exchange:

  • Check your ualberta.ca email account at least once every day in the event that anyone from Sophia University or UAlberta needs to contact you.  For example, we may need you to act quickly to complete or fix something related to your exchange application or we may have to get in touch with you in the event of an emergency. 
  • Continue to do your best in all of your courses both at UAlberta and at your exchange destination.  This will be important because 1) your exchange destination and your UAlberta faculty could cancel your exchange at any time before you start it should your UAlberta grades deteriorate and 2) all faculties at UAlberta will require that you achieve a minimum grade (which could be different based on your faculty) on courses taken at your exchange destination if you hope to receive UAlberta transfer credit for them.

By sometime in April:

  • Complete all Pre-Departure eClass modules before the start of the Pre-Departure Orientation mentioned below.  Go to <snip> to access the modules.  If you are prompted to enter a self-enrollment key, enter <snip>.  Enter your CCID and password if prompted to do so.  You will be directed to the online pre-departure course homepage.  You are required to complete all modules and quizzes and, in the “While You’re Abroad” section, the Risk Management Plan.  (Please note that the “Risk Management Plan” just mentioned is different from the “Risk Management Agreement” that is one of the “post-nomination” tasks you’ll need to complete in Horizons.)
  • For future access go to the UAlberta homepage (www.ualberta.ca), select eClass at the top of the page, select external courses, click continue and then enter your information.
  • If you have any questions about the Pre-Departure eClass modules or experience difficulties with them, please contact my colleague, V, at <snip>
  • You may have to attend an in-person or online Pre-Departure Orientation on a Saturday in April. You will need to plan to participate for the whole day.  The location, date, start time and format (i.e., online vs in-person) will be communicated to you sometime in the future. 

By Tuesday, May 11:

  • Complete all remaining “post-nomination” tasks listed in your online Horizons exchange application with the exception, for the time being, of the Risk Management Agreement and the Confirmation of Health Travel Insurance document.  Those documents will need to be updated before you can start work on them.  I’ll let you know once they are and you will then need to complete them as well and by the same deadline as the other “post-nomination” tasks.   
After receiving the instructions for your exchange institution’s part of your application:
  • Starting soon there will be 2 parts to your exchange application, the UAlberta part (which you’ve already started) and the Sophia University part (which may start sometime soon).  This email mainly addresses what you are required to do for the UAlberta part of your exchange application.  
  • Sophia University will also require you to complete various tasks for their part once they contact you directly or once I contact you on their behalf.  
  • Please be sure to carefully read and follow all instructions for the Sophia University part of your exchange application once they are sent to you and do all necessary work by any deadlines communicated.  Make sure to do everything asked by Sophia University even if you had to do the same or similar things for the UAlberta part of your exchange application.
  • What I say in this section also applies to housing.  If you want on-campus housing at Sophia University (assuming it’s offered) be sure to apply for it as soon as they instruct you to do so because sometimes spaces are limited and they disappear quickly.
  • Please note that we will need to get notice from Sophia that they will only consider your GPA after your RTW.  In the meantime, however, let’s assume that all will be well so please continue to work on both parts of your application.

After Uploading your Host Acceptance Letter to your online Horizons Exchange Application AND once you know that your exchange will be permitted to proceed:  

  • The “host acceptance letter” is the letter, email or other type of notice that you’ll get from Sophia University that tells you that your application for exchange has been accepted by them (and you won’t get it until after you’ve completed their part of your exchange application).  The remaining bulleted points in this section tell you what you need to do after you’ve received your host acceptance letter and uploaded it to the spot reserved for it in your Horizons exchange application AND once you know that your exchange will be permitted to proceed.
  • Drop ALL UAlberta courses in which you may already be enrolled during the period of your exchange (including online UAlberta courses that you are hoping to take while on exchange – you can re-enroll in them at a later date, after I enroll you in the appropriate EXCH course, but you will need to recruit the assistance of a student advisor in your faculty to do so).
  • Pay all outstanding fines or fees on your account (e.g., library fines, parking tickets, etc.)
  • Register your travel information in UGo. If you have any questions about UGo,  please contact my colleague, V, at <snip>
  • If you are a Canadian citizen, register your travel information with the Government of Canada
  • If you are not a Canadian citizen you need to register with any similar registry in your country of citizenship.
  • There *may* be additional, pandemic-related documents that you will need to fill out.  If there are, Markus or I will be in touch to provide them to you.  

To participate in an exchange, I will need to register you in either EXCH 800 (Full Year exchange) or EXCH 801 (Fall Term or Winter Term exchange).

Please note that I’ll be unable to enrol you in the appropriate EXCH course until you complete everything described above.

 

EXCH Course Payment Deadline and Details:

  • You will NOT be paying tuition to your exchange destination.
  • You will need to pay UAlberta for tuition for your EXCH course by the payment deadline.  The payment deadline has not yet been confirmed (it is usually around the end of September for Fall Term and Full Year EXCH courses) but, when it is (probably sometime in March), it will be viewable in the Academic Schedule part of the U of A’s Academic Calendar for 2021/22. 
  • The tuition for EXCH courses is set at 15 credits per term, at your regular UAlberta tuition rate (regardless of the number of courses you end up taking while on exchange).  
  • Some exchange destinations will sometimes allow UAlberta students to negotiate an end date for the exchange earlier from what would normally be expected (e.g., some schools with fall term exchanges ending in January or February will sometimes allow our students to complete the exchange in December instead). Feel free to ask the exchange destination for an earlier end date if you wish but, until you hear otherwise, you should make your exchange plans assuming that your exchange destination will say NO to your request.  ALSO, if you successfully negotiate an earlier end date to your exchange then you MUST tell me about it as soon as possible and BEFORE I enroll you in an EXCH course at UAlberta.  
 

WARNING about Expenses Related to your Exchange:

  • With 3 exceptions, you are strongly encouraged NOT to pay for or commit to major expenses like flights or accommodations until you have received your host acceptance letter AND until you have received confirmation from UAlberta that the situation with the pandemic has sufficiently stabilized or improved to allow your in-person exchange plans to proceed.
  • The 3 exceptions are 1) expenses that Sophia University directs you to pay for or commit to before issuing the host acceptance letter, 2) your nomination fee and 3) any required renewal of your passport.

Scholarship Applications:

  • If you’ve applied for a scholarship through the Education Abroad Program and you have any questions about it then please send them to

Your “Back-up” Plan:

  • While waiting to get an acceptance letter from Sophia University it’s probably a good idea for you to go ahead and still enroll in UAlberta courses for the period of your exchange for a number of reasons including:
  1. In the rare event that you don’t get accepted for an exchange then you won’t have missed the chance to enroll in high-demand courses that could fill up quickly and there wouldn’t be any delay to your expected graduation date.
  2. In the rare event that something unexpected and bad starts to happen at the exchange destination and has no end in sight OR if the situation with the pandemic does not stabilize or improve then we could easily cancel or change your exchange plans and you’d have an easier transition back to UAlberta.
  3. Some health insurance plans require that you demonstrate full-time student status before I can enroll you in an EXCH course (EXCH courses confer full-time student status to you at UAlberta while you’re on exchange).
  • To be clear, you’ll eventually need to drop out of your UAlberta courses during the period of your exchange to allow me to enroll you in the appropriate EXCH course but, in the meantime, please go ahead and enroll in them now (or as soon as you can) for the reasons listed above.
 

You are very welcome to email me should you have any questions about the post-nomination process.  We could also set up online meetings to have face-to-face conversations if you like.   Please understand, however, that this is my busiest time of year <snip> so my response time might, unfortunately, not be good.  I will need to triage my responses to emails and I apologize, in advance, for any resulting delays you may experience.

Finally, although I will nominate you for exchange, please understand that Sophia University makes the final decision about your exchange application.  They may accept it or decline it.

I’m thrilled to be helping you to go out on an exchange and, once again, congratulations on having your exchange application accepted for nomination!

Sincerely,
X

Dear JESSICA TAN,

Greetings from Sophia University!

You are nominated to our exchange program at Sophia University in .

You can access the online application portal using your log-in information below:
https://scs.cl.sophia.ac.jp/campussa/

Username: <snip>
Password: <snip>

Application Instructions:
https://www.sophia.ac.jp/eng/admissions/exchangeprograms/application_info/u9gsah0000011ypr-att/forStudents_OnlineApplicationProcedure.pdf

The following completed application materials should be sent via email during  – April, 10 2021.

(1) Application form (2 pages to be downloaded after online submission)
(2) Letter of academic recommendation (form provided) 
(3) Official academic transcript(s)
(4) List of courses currently enrolled (if not listed on the transcript)
(5) Valid IELTS/ TOEIC/ TOEFL (ITP or iBT) results for English-taught program applicants
(6) JLPT test report (N1) for Japanese-taught program applicants
(7) Certificate of health (form provided)
(8) Digital color
photograph (length 4cm × width 3cm *exact size)
(9) Photocopy of passport

Please send scanned copies of all application documents by e-mail to <snip> with the title “Application for Exchange Program (Home Institution/ Student’s Name).
We will check all the documents once and give feedback for each student in order to advise about missing information and documents so that they can correct and complete application documents.

(For students who are nominated to “German-Japanese Exchange Program” only)
Finden Sie die Bewerbungskriterien unter:
https://dept.sophia.ac.jp/fs/dj-austausch/bewerbungvisum/bewerbung/


Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Sincerely,

(There are many other emails, especially my award application ones, that I am not showing here. Those are the important ones, timeline-wise)

Success! Now, this is me passing only the first of 3 possible failure points, which was a rejection from my home University. Sophia could still very well reject me, and even if they accept, the pandemic or other politics could get in the way (the Japan Summer Olympics are still up in the air, for example, and that could bring chaos) of either Canada or Japan permitting international travel. And if everything is online, I likely won’t do the exchange anyway because I’d rather my exchange year be an in-person experience, since I would have to sacrifice my current full-time job for it, plus our time zones are too far apart for online classes to be reasonably feasible.

There was also a line in the emails above that made me furrow my brows a bit, and that’s in the Update re: status email, where it goes:

To complicate matters further, you have applied to exchanges that are oversubscribed so I might not be able to send you to your first choice exchange school. Please start considering an exchange at the second or third choice options you’ve listed in your Horizons applications. 

I’m not sure if this is a form letter that everyone gets, or if there is a different form letter that you get if you were the only applicant to a certain school. But this made me worry for that entire week and a half between that email and the acceptance ones, because I had already tried to deal with this issue earlier (and was told not to worry whether other students were applying or not, and to just continue my application!), but also because the reference letters that I had already secured, and the effort I had put in for them, were pointed toward Sophia and the reply that they gave me. What would it mean if i suddenly had to apply to another school instead? How would that even work? Thankfully I never had to find out. Nor do I know if I bumped someone else off to their secondary spot, in which case I’d have felt some guilt since I’m this old already.

Anyway, the Rule of Two came into play here because my first application (Waseda with Sophia as the 1A option) was rejected, but this turned out to be a good thing in the end and probably actually saved my application. It was also the second time I had applied to Sophia, counting the first time back in November before I had done any research, but I withdrew that one myself to write blog entries instead.

In addition, while I am going to make a follow-up post soon cataloguing the application documents, the Rule of Two also reared its head right after this, as one of the items that Sophia requires is a reference letter from a professor, lecturer, or instructor at my host institution, and.. my first choice for this letter (my most recent Japanese instructor) actually rejected my request. This initially left a really bad taste in my mouth — what sort of Japanese instructor tries to hamstring you from going to Japan to learn Japanese better? Did I really need this additional stress inflicted upon me? My second choice accepted though, and perhaps this was a better choice in the long run, though this is still playing out in real time.

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