University of Westminster Exchange- Go west (or north, south, east…) and discover!

Alexander Aikman- Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Creative Industries

University of Westminster, England (Semester 1, 2019)

Watch a vlog about my exchange experience here (https://youtu.be/zSIpYb5KQ-I), or  read on below instead! 

UK, England, London. The University of Westminster is located in central London. The campus is compact and modern in its layout. One of the best parts about university life for me was playing rugby for Westminster. Joining a sports team was a great way to connect with people and I would highly recommend it for anyone going on exchange.

As expected, the cost of rent and groceries within London was steep. However, there are a lot of discounts on offer for students including a discounted travel card for the tube and bus services. There were also a lot of free attractions to be taken advantage of during my exchange. These included the British Museum, Borough and Camden Markets as well as Hyde Park to name a few.

Another one of London’s perks is the travel. Trains from London go across the UK allowing for easy exploration across the country on weekends. Better still were the cheap flights across Europe. I spent much of my free time travelling to other countries. Every holiday and long weekend I would travel somewhere new. Travelling to Norway with friends from Uni and travelling solo across southern Europe were true highlights of my trip. And I would encourage anyone to try travelling both in a group and on your own.

The exchange program is an opportunity to try new experiences. The best advice I can offer is explore as much as you can. Travel to someplace different. Meet new people from other countries and experience their culture. Finally, if you’re going to a big city such as London, then be travel smart. A healthy dose of paranoia and scepticism will save you a lot of grief. But above all, make your exchange memorable.

 

The best experience and memories I will never forget in England

Kate Thamm, Bachelor of Laws (honours)/Bachelor of Business, Nottingham Trent University England, Semester 1, 2019

I have always considered myself a friendly person but I struggle initially with large social settings especially when I do not know anyone. From that, it is clear why I was apprehensive as to whether exchange was something that I would enjoy or if I would end up spending 6 months alone on the other side of the world. But  I can jump ahead and say whole heartedly, exchange was the best thing I have ever done.

Before leaving, one of my friends reassured me and asked me if I have ever heard anyone say that they didn’t enjoy exchange? And she was right. I was lucky enough to get a spot in accommodation on campus, having my own small room and a bathroom (more like a caravan bathroom) but hey, it did the job! I lived in a hallway that had 24 rooms, sharing one large kitchen and one common room which had tables, chairs and two small couches. The entire third floor of our accommodation was purely international students which ended up being one of my favourite aspects of my exchange. It took a lot of self-pep-talks to venture out of my room and a few weeks before I found some people I really connected with, but after that the days just got better and better.

I have an extreme love to travel and I managed to find a group of friends who shared this passion – this led to a few amazing opportunities to travel with my new found friends, first to Ireland then to Greece!

Nottingham itself is a small town and feels like it is largely run by the students at the two universities it has. This created a very lively culture and most evening there was a party happening somewhere and the accompanying music could be heard. Basically the clubbing scene in Nottingham is beyond anything I have ever seen. Any day of the week (but Sunday) there is a club you could go to and it will be packed! My personal favourite day was Wednesdays, where all NTU student groups/unions/clubs or any friendship groups picked a theme for the night and committed to that theme, wearing their unified costumes to the clubs. In the six months I was there I saw it all. VS angels, people dressed as vegetables, as thugs (which we did do one of the nights) you name it! It’s a real right of passage for any NTU students and makes you feel like one of them.

Nottingham also has some beautiful parks, Wollaton park being one of them, where you can see real deer and the mansion of Bruce Wayne from the Batman movies! Not to mention the famous Sherwood forest where Robin Hood roamed. Nottingham is a beautiful city and was the perfect location for a 6 month exchange.

The university itself was also amazing. I was lucky enough to have all of my classes at the city campus which meant everything was in walking distance. The Clifton campus is about a 20 minute bus ride and located quite far from the city. From the stories I heard, even if you have classes at Clifton, I would strongly recommend still getting accommodation at the city campus as I know some of the exchange students at Clifton felt isolated – and missed out on the ease of being able to walk anywhere you want.

Day trip to London with my new friends

The statue of Robin Hood

Got to experience an English football match where Nottingham’s team was playing

Trip to Ireland

Some of us went on a day trip to Wales and hiked through Snowdonia – this was an organised trip by a company called CityLife Nottingham. They run a number of day trips/weekend trips/extended trips, open to any students and for a reasonable price! It is a great way to see more of England and the UK in general without the hassle of having to organise transport youself.

I would recommend exchange to anyone I see and could not be more thankful for my experiences abroad. I have made lifelong friends and memories I will never forget.

London, Tehran, and Back

Holly C., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
A Legal internship at Lawyers Without Borders, United Kingdom, October 2019

 

Hello! I’m Holly, a Law and Business student passionate about advancing human rights.

Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) seemed like the perfect home for my International Legal Placement. Like all other LWOB outlets, the London office is dedicated to protecting marginalised persons across the globe through advocacy and legal aid. LWOB’s purpose is simple: support organisations that provide justice for those who cannot access it.

I joined LWOB on board as a legal researcher; I was promptly tasked with researching and creating a memo for marginalised Iranians who have had their personal property confiscated on account of human rights violations.

Over the course of this internship, I canvassed legal precedent in other Islamic Republics, investigated societal and political constructs that perpetuated such violations, and provided advice as to how non-governmental organisations could assist victims in recovering assets.

Throughout law school, we are constantly asked ‘why’ we do what we do. But we are infrequently asked ‘for whom?’.

This internship was an immense challenge and privilege. I felt honoured to be assisting individuals who had faced adversity that we cannot fathom in the West; yet, I was daunted at the responsibility of playing a part in shaping their future.  The fact that these people had already endured so much only increased the pressure. I was amazed at how the staff at LWOB worked so tirelessly for their clients in a resource-constrained and high-pressure environment.

Amidst a backdrop of a cold, grey and busy London, our decisions at a desktop dictated the outcomes of people’s livelihoods, homes and property on the other side of the world.

In many ways, my days looked like that of any other law student. However, rather than researching contract law precedent, I was scouring cases for rulings on governmental victimisation of LGBTIQ communities; rather than accessing Austlii, I was downloading a VPN to search Iranian, Iraqi and Pakistani legal databases.

This experience no doubt developed fundamental legal research capabilities. More importantly, though, I built a tolerance for risk, learning invaluable problem-solving techniques in situations that were rife with legal uncertainty. I learnt how to make decisions about what course of advice to include in my task memo. This, in turn, fostered my ability to discern reason from irrational fear in high-pressure situations.

More broadly, I was exposed to a novel culture, language and social structure. In this way, I developed an appreciation of the complexities in navigating to cross cultural communication during delicate legal proceedings.

Finally, I learnt the importance of ensuring all material is appropriate for the client in question. The humanitarian and legal aid sector has a reputation in some parts of the world for generating solutions without consulting those who will be most affected – that is, solving the problem from a Western perspective which fails to appreciate local customs and norms. As such, the advice provided for this groups must differ greatly if it is to be effective. Cases such as these demonstrated the crucial importance of always keeping the client front and centre, even when they are more than 5000 kilometres away.

My placement at LWOB in London was formative, both personally and professionally. Yet, development did not come in the way I expected. This internship was a valuable stepping stone towards a career within humanitarian law. Yet, it also illustrated the limitations of providing aid within the legal system. If we are to achieve meaningful improvements in access to justice for marginalised groups, I am now of the firm belief that legal professionals must engage in structural and political reform within the countries from where their clients originate.

A semester at Leeds

It was quite late in my degree by the time I decided to do a student exchange, but I’m so glad I did because it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! I chose the University of Leeds due to its academic reputation and atmosphere.

Culture

Before arriving in Leeds, I didn’t think there would be much of a cultural difference between England and Australia. But after living there for six months, and immersing myself in the community, I definitely noticed a few stark cultural differences. From simple things like what’s available at supermarkets, to how the locals interact with you and each other – sometimes their English accents are so difficult to understand it sounds like they’re speaking another language!

The University

Within the university, there was such great community spirit with a seemingly endless number of clubs and societies for literally any activity you could imagine! In terms of study, I found Leeds to have a reasonably similar teaching style to QUT. However, Leeds was very strict and rule-abiding about a lot of things. Attendance for tutorials was compulsory and recorded, so if you missed more than two or three classes you were contacted by the unit coordinator. They also took down lecture attendance! Lectures were sometimes recorded (depending on the subject) but the slides were always available online.

Travel

The UK is a fantastic base for easy and cheap travel throughout Europe. There is a small airport at Leeds but I preferred to use Manchester airport (1 hour train away) because flights from there were usually cheaper and more regular. My main mode of transportation throughout the UK however was buses. Although they do take a bit longer, they’re so much cheaper and I didn’t find them too uncomfortable! Transportation is something to consider early on though, because if you’re planning on catching trains then it’s definitely worth investing in a discounted rail pass from the beginning.

Accommodation

I stayed in student-based accommodation at Mary Morris House – a student apartment block in a nearby suburb of Headingley. There were frequent buses to the city but I usually just walked for 30 mins. Headingley was a lovely suburb to live in though – it mostly consisted of students and the main street was primarily full of pubs and op-shops! In terms of cost of living, it was quite similar to Brisbane, slightly more expensive due to the exchange rate at the time but very doable to stick to a limited budget for day-to-day living.

Leeds

Yorkshire is such a beautiful part of England- from York itself to surrounding towns; the country is full of such rich history. As an architectural design student, I was just in love with the ancient buildings and gorgeous streetscapes as well as the landscape in the nearby moors. Leeds is such a massive student city and has so many international exchange students who are always looking to make friends and have a good time. The city is full of gorgeous old buildings and there are always activities on a daily basis!

Overall, this experience was even better than I’d hoped for! Meeting so many incredible friends and travelling so frequently, I loved every minute of it and would absolutely recommend doing an exchange!

London Living

Alexander Aikman., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries

University of Westminster, United Kingdom (Semester 1, 2019)

The University of Westminster is located in central London. The campus is compact and modern in its layout. One of the best parts about university life for me was playing rugby for Westminster. Joining a sports team was a great way to connect with people and I would highly recommend it for anyone going on exchange.

As expected, the cost of rent and groceries within London was steep. However, there are a lot of discounts on offer for students. Including a discounted travel card for the tube and bus services. There were also a lot of free attractions to be taken advantage of during my exchange. These included the British Museum, Borough and Camden Markets as well as Hyde Park to name a few.

Another one of London’s perks is the travel. Trains from London go across the UK. Allowing for easy exploration across the country on weekends. Better still were the cheap flights across Europe. I spent much of my free time travelling to other countries. Every holiday and long weekend I would travel somewhere new. Travelling to Norway with friends from Uni and travelling solo across southern Europe were true highlights of my trip. And I would encourage anyone to try travelling both in a group and on your own.

The exchange program is an opportunity to try new experiences. The best advice I can offer is explore as much as you can. Travel to someplace different. Meet new people from other countries and experience their culture. Finally, if you’re going to a big city such as London, then be travel smart. A healthy dose of paranoia and scepticism will save you a lot of grief. But above all, make your exchange memorable.