There are more exchange students at Penn than ever before, though some of them have found it difficult to achieve their professional goals on campus without the resources that typical undergraduate students are given access to.
In the last two years alone, the number of exchange students has risen from 192 to approximately 230, making Penn's exchange program the largest of any Ivy League institution, said Penn Abroad Director Nigel Cossar.
Penn's exchange program has its roots as far back as 1939, though it was only in the late 1980s that the University began increasing their documentation of the program. Study options at universities in English-speaking countries, such as King's College London in the United Kingdom and the University of Sydney in Australia, have become much more popular over the years, Cossar said.
Cossar added that Penn takes every step to ensure that the transition to Penn for exchange students is as seamless as possible. This year, however, some exchange students have complained that they were not given access to Handshake, an online tool used by many students at Penn to access information for job recruitment events and deadlines.
Wharton junior Nicholas Chang, an exchange student from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said not having access to Handshake has made his transition difficult, especially because he was planning on looking for jobs in the Asia-Pacific area.
“Since I don’t have Handshake, and I don’t know too many people here, it’s even harder for me to know which events are going on.” Chang said. “Not a lot of people are applying for jobs in the Asia-Pacific, so it’s even harder for me to ask for people for these kinds of events.”
Chang said he visited Career Services during the first week of school to complain about not having access to Handshake, but nearly a month later, still has not received a response on when exchange students will be granted access to the platform. On-campus recruiting started at the beginning of the semester.
“We just got the list of exchange students a couple of days ago,” Director of Career Services Patricia Rose wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian on Sept. 15. “They will all be uploaded into Handshake by next week.”
Wharton junior Kartik Shastri, an exchange student from the University of Sydney, already has a job lined up in Sydney. He said not having access to Handshake has not posed additional problems for him, though he has had to edit the resumes of some of his peers who are nervous about recruitment without Handshake.
He added that exchange students are in a particularly difficult situation because it can also be difficult to communicate with their home universities when it comes to job recruitment.
Another common concern among exchange students at Penn is the cost of their stint here. Students participating in the bilateral exchange — whether for a single semester or for the entire year — pay the tuition fees for their home university. At Penn, however, the cost of living on campus and of participating in a dining plan — both of which exchange students are required to pay for — are not included in their tuition. Rather, it's an additional cost on top of their school fees, which they pay to their home university.
Engineering senior Gustav Bredell, an exchange student from ETH Zurich, said living on campus has made his Penn experience more “vibrant,” but it is also more expensive than living off campus in Zurich. He said he was also required to purchase a meal plan, the least expensive of which costs $1,200, even though he is accustomed to cooking for himself in Zurich.
Nonetheless, Bredell said he chose to come to Penn because he knew multiple people from ETH Zurich who had high reviews of the University. Cossar said these relationships with international universities, such as ETH Zurich, are important for the expansion of the exchange student program.