An Adventure in England

Jack T., Bachelor of Business and Engineering
Oxford Brookes University, England (Semester 1, 2017)

My time abroad as part of QUT’s semester exchange program was one of the best experiences of my life. Studying at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, United Kingdom, I spent my time between making friends, studying hard and travelling around Europe. Leaving in early September, I arrived in England during a heatwave which was in stark contrast to the expected chilly temperatures the country is renowned for.

After staying first in London I made my way to Oxford to settle in, attend O-week and explore the world famous city. As the semester kicked off, I began travelling through both the United Kingdom and Western Europe. In total, I visited over 10 countries, ranging from the rural coastal towns of Portugal and the snow capped mountains of Switzerland to alpha cities such as Paris, Berlin, Madrid, and Rome. When in Oxford, I spent my time between exploring the city with my roommates, dining in at local iconic British pubs and taking day tours to nearby sites such as Stonehenge and Oxford University.

The main reason to be in Oxford was to study. Oxford Brookes University was a fantastic, modern university with a huge variety of international students. The university was very helpful in setting myself up and made all the exchange students feel at home. The subjects were both interesting and challenging, however I still made sure I had plenty of time to explore and travel as well. By the end of the teaching period, I was able to pass all my subjects with high distinctions and leave on a positive note.

My favorite moments of the trip were the opportunity to travel so quickly to so many countries, all with different cultures, geography, and landmarks. One day you could be at the top of the Eiffel Tower or riding down the canals of Amsterdam. The next day you could be back in Oxford, studying in library’s which were used in Harry Potter films. It was such an unreal experience which I never believed I could achieve until I arrived at QUT. The biggest challenge of the trip would’ve been the regular planning of travelling essentially nonstop for five months which eventually can have a mental and physical toll. At one point, I arrived back home from Portugal at 4am when I had an exam at 9am. Fortunately I survived and passed the subject. Another challenge would be living completely independently. For a person who still lives at home, the responsibility of having to wash clothes, cook dinner, and maintain a clean house was a difficult, eye opening, but rewarding experience. I certainly have a lot more respect for the parents now!

Overall the experience was a once in a life time opportunity which I will never forget. It allowed myself to develop personally, professionally, and academically. I have made lifelong friends who I’m still in contact with and memories which would seem like fantasy to myself only a few years ago. I would highly recommend a semester exchange for anyone considering applying. Trust me you won’t regret it!

A Different Style of Education: Sheffield Halllam University

Chloe R., Bachelor of Journalism
Sheffield Hallam University, England (Semester 2, 2016)

SHU’s City Campus is like that of QUT’s Kelvin Grove Campus. There are multiple university buildings, some close together and others a small walk away. Sprinkled among them are cafes, pubs and cute boutique shops.

The facilities at SHU are identical to those at QUT, although there are several differences between the two university’s educational systems.

For starters, students don’t get to choose their own timetable. Classes are assigned to students at the beginning of the semester and there’s a general expectation that students should mould their life outside of university (such as work, family and extracurricular activities) around those times. Because of this, classes are often spread apart. For example, you might have a tutorial from 9am to 11am and then another tutorial from 5pm to 7pm.

Lectures are one-hour long and tutorials are two-hours long.Lectures are a lot more intimate at SHU than they are at QUT. There are about 40 students per lecture, and the lectures are often held in a small classroom. During most lectures, the lecturer will take attendance. Attendance doesn’t have any influence over your grade, but if the lecturer notices you’re not attending for an extended period (around three weeks, I’ve been told), then they’ll contact you to see if you’re alright.

 

Tutorials at SHU are around the same size as those at QUT (around 15 people). However, unlike QUT, tutorials at SHU are a lot more practise-based. For example, in one of my units, we often spent half the tutorial (one hour) learning from our tutor and the other half (one hour) writing content based on that week’s prompts. Likewise, in another unit, we spent half the tutorial (one hour) learning about new photographic techniques, and the other half (one hour) in the streets of Sheffield, aspiring to replicate those given techniques.

I found the tutors at SHU to be a lot more compassionate than those at QUT. Each of my SHU tutors: made a conscious effort to learn everyone’s name; often made rounds during classes to chat one-on-one with students and see how they were faring with both the coursework and life; stressed the fact that they were there to help and that no question was too idiotic; and posted times that they were free during the week so that students could pop in for a chat.

In addition, tutors at SHU are able (and often more than happy) to accept student drafts. Drafting is not compulsory at SHU, nor is it expected, but the option is available to all students (one which I took advantage of on multiple occasions).

SHU units had a lot fewer assignments due per semester than that of QUT units. For each SHU class, I had just two assignments due (a total of six for the semester). This was both good and bad. Good, in that I had fewer assignments to do, and could therefore spend more time perfecting the given assignments or traveling abroad. Bad, because it meant that each assignment was worth a lot of my overall grade and that I was often tempted to procrastinate.

The grading structure at SHU (as with all English universities) is a lot less harsh than those of Australian universities (such as QUT). To get a First (the English equivalent of a High Distinction), you must score a mark of 70%+. At QUT, a 65% to 74% mark gets you a Credit; a 75% to 84% mark gets you a Distinction; and you must score a mark of 85%+ to get a High Distinction.

Overall, I found that the less harsh grading structure, coupled with fewer assignments and the option for assignments to be drafted, made for a much more stress-free and rewarding educational environment than that of QUT.

 

 

 

Quintessentially British

Katherine Thelander
Bath Spa University, England (Semester 1, 2016)

Going on exchange is a chance to see the world and at first I found that England, apart from the weather, was no different to Australia. It took a mere twelve months for the United Kingdom to change my mind, to convince me that there was more to it beyond cloudy skies and posh accents. I now present to you my findings, my discoveries of the most quintessential ingredients that make up Britain. 

  1. Double deckers are ridiculous forms of transport.

There is nothing sillier than two double-decker buses facing off on the narrow road leading to Bath Spa University. Nothing more tense than them sliding past with inches between them, two tiers of students anxiously watching the debacle. Staying in a residence hall meant that my only connection to town was via this long and winding road, and this was altogether far too much effort. Why leave campus when all I needed – friends, food, and (ugh) class – was within walking distance. In Australia we’re used to commuting into uni but in Bath I could leave for class minutes before it started. The university is much smaller than QUT but that was a good thing for me – it meant my classes were small and focused groups, and it meant that you formed close connections with people who had the same interests. Living on campus and having my friends within easy reach is one of the things I’ll miss the most from my exchange experience (and I admit, the double deckers were pretty adorable too).

  1. Europe is a stone’s throw (almost literally).

We’ve learned to balk at the idea of booking flights, knowing that a vacation’s feasibility hangs on the whimsy of Jetstar and Virgin. Well worry no more – once you get over the initial flights to England you’re treated to flights cheaper than Australian intercontinental travel. Travelling Europe is appealing because vastly different cultures are close together in a small space, so you get a high concentration of ‘culture’ for a relatively small amount of money. More bang for your buck. It’s common for Australian travellers to string these countries together, embarking on months-long journeys so they’re not wasting the flight over, but living in Europe removes that worry. Exchange gives you the chance to take your time with travel, to not worry so much about increasing your ‘countries visited’ tally. Europe is also the perfect playground for beginner solo travellers (which I was and still am), so go get lost.

  1. Quaint rhymes with England (figuratively speaking).

Ah, England. Not an unfamiliar country. We’ve seen ‘Love Actually’, we’ve seen ‘Harry Potter’, we’re pretty sure we know exactly what England’s about. You know, it’s not that far off. London’s cool and all, but in my year in the UK I grew to adore the tiny towns that dot the countryside. Bath is the culmination of the English dream to me, the dream of retiring to a town with easy access to scones and spas. The buildings are stone, the roofs are thatch, and there are sheep on my campus. I never would have thought of Brisbane as a big city until coming to England, but now ensconced in town-living I realised what I’ve been missing. A friend in Oxford showed me one of the colleges of Oxford University, with two distinct stone walls. The first one, the inner one, was built in the 1200s, and the outer one was built in the 1600s. We stood between the two and were struck by the fact that our country was younger than the difference between them. I ruined this moment somewhat by smacking the 1200s wall, but it was a reminder that England is old, almost unfathomably old, and that there’s so much history to discover for yourself.

I can talk about my experience on exchange and everything I learned, but that doesn’t cover what’s possible. Every exchange is different because everybody is trying to answer a question they’re asking themselves. I don’t know if I found that answer while I was abroad, but I’ve gotten a whole lot closer. If you have a question, if there’s something you need to find out about yourself, then exchange is the time to ask it.

 

My Short but Sweet Time in the United Kingdom

Su Jin Lim, Masters of Business

Short-term program: University of Exeter ‘International Summer School’

England (June/July 2018)

It had always been a lifelong dream of mine to study in the UK; therefore when I saw QUT’s Global Exchange Portal advertising the International Summer School Program at the University of Exeter, I knew I had to do it.

In order to make full use of my winter break, I made the choice to extend my trip and arrive 2 weeks before summer school began. In that time span, I took the opportunity to sight see around London and the beautiful Welsh countryside. I had the opportunity of visiting, Highgate Cemetery (The burial place of Karl Marx), shopping along Oxford Street, and most importantly going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden (It would have been blasphemous for me not to do so!). I spent one week in Wales with my relatives at their smallholdings estate up in Lampeter. Over there we drove around to different places and visited historical sites and museums.

One of the “must-have” shots for anyone who visits the Harry Potter studios.

I then returned to Convent Garden in London where my summer school program began. By this time, London was experiencing one of the worst heat waves, which really was equivalent to a typical Brissie Summer, except it was a lot more humid. We were scheduled to stay in London for the next 4 days for sightseeing. The summer school coordinators planned the trip such that we had plenty of leisure time to explore the city on our own. Luckily for me, I managed to meet friends on the first day of the program, they became my travel buddies throughout the trip. During our stay in London, we were taken to see iconic places such as Tower Bridge, House of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, and the British Museum. The most memorable part of the trip was having the opportunity to watch Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale” at the Globe Theatre just like how people used to watch it back in the day (i.e. standing up for the whole play!). Never have I ever cried and laughed so hard watching a play, the acting and the whole experience of it was honestly quite moving.

Waiting for the play to begin at the Globe Theatre.

Bright and early on our last day in London, we boarded our buses for the 4 ½ hour journey to Exeter. The moment we arrived in Exeter, we were greeted with typical British weather which quite ironically I found to be quite warm and welcoming. I think it was because it was the English weather I was expecting to experience rather than the warm sticky weather. We were all assigned rooms at the on campus accommodation at the University of Exeter. Each of us had our own ensuite toilets, a bed, and a large desk. I technically shared a “flat” with 5 other students and we all had access to a common kitchen. Meals were not catered for, which allowed us full freedom to plan all our meals. Quick tip: I highly recommend you try eating-in when you can; it gives you the opportunity to learn how to cook for yourself but to also to learn the cuisine of other international students cooking in the flat as well. My accommodation was a 10 minute walk to campus and all its facilities which was really convenient for us.    

The Iconic University of Exeter “Rock”.

Class picture on our last day of class with our two module facilitators (Standing on the far left and right).

I enrolled for the “Adapting Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to Improve Accessibility to Psychological Therapies” module at summer school. Classes were 4 hours a day, in 2 hour blocks. Despite the intensity of our classes, I thoroughly enjoyed them as it was highly interactive and very much hands on. I only had 12 other students in my class which gave us the opportunity to really bond with one another and having sessions better tailored to our needs. The assessments for our course were broken down into two parts. Firstly, we had to design a psycho-education leaflet tailored towards international students from a specific country/region. Secondly, we had to give a 30 minute presentation explaining our target sample, design of our leaflet, and how we worked together as a group. 

Visiting the underground tunnels of Exeter.

The town of Bath.

During the two weekends we had at Exeter, we made it a point to do as much sightseeing as we could. We took day trips to the town of Bath (a UNESCO World Heritage site), St. Ives, and we were even adventurous enough to cycle 44km to visit the nearby port town of Exmouth. All of these places were truly amazing and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Overall, I will say that the International School Program at the University of Exeter was amazing such that it allowed you time to learn and having enough time to sightsee, it was really a rewarding experience. Not only did I get the opportunity to visit the beautiful places the UK had to offer, but I was also able to form lifelong friendships with students from all other the globe. To anyone reading this and is interested on going to the UK, I highly recommend applying for this program. You will not regret it, I definitely didn’t J

Everlasting Memories Made at Cambridge

Sabrina Catania, Bachelor of Science

Short-term program: AIM Overseas ‘Cambridge Sciences Summer Program’

England (July 2018)

Life on campus was in itself an amazing experience. All the academics, although kind of intimidating to approach because of how intelligent they were, were so nice and ready to answer any of your questions. This programme brought people from all different organisations to give lectures such as the Gurdon institute and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) which was a major highlight for me. I was unbelievably lucky to be able to visit the BAS twice while I was at Cambridge and has completely influenced my future plans to work overseas.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS)

Queens College.

Making friends from all over the world.

I stayed on campus at Queens’ College where I was in a single Ensuite room. Breakfast and dinner were also provided for me, which was held in dining halls within Queens’. Breakfast was held buffet style which was amazing! Hash browns, bacon, fresh fruit every morning! There was also a different dinner every night with spectacular desserts to end the night with.  I did have to scout around for my own lunch every day, which I was actually happy about as it gave me the chance to taste test food from all over the city.

The view from my room.

Travelling from Heathrow Airport to Cambridge University was a massive culture shock for me. It definitely made me feel out of depth and overwhelmed. I think this was more to do with this trip being my first time travelling alone and to such a far place from home. Luckily, I made friends at the airports on both my trips from and to Australia. I think having an open mind and being open to the idea of meeting new people adds a lot to your experience overseas. However, once I reached Cambridge, everything kind of fell into place and it was so easy to fall in love with the city. England isn’t too different from Australia, so the cultural aspects weren’t much of a shock for me, however not hearing your normal Aussie accent everywhere was a bit weird.

Here I got to go on a beautiful Punting tour that takes you through the heart of Cambridge University along River Cam.

Here I got to go on a beautiful Punting tour that takes you through the heart of Cambridge University along River Cam.

King’s College Chapel, Cambridge

What was also great about this short-term trip was the amazing people that also were attending the same programme as me. So, although there were people from all over the world, I still got to meet so many people from Australia. It was this group of girls that made me feel at home in this foreign country and we are even now planning a trip to meet up. I also became friends with people from America, Pakistan, Hungary and so many other places. So, I think a main highlight of my trip was the friends I made and the everlasting memories that they helped me create.

The famous Mathematical Bridge which is luckily enough located in Queens’ College.

Charles Darwin statue at Christ College, Cambridge.

I think it should most definitely be noted however, how beautiful Cambridge actually is!

A Short Summer Spent Studying at Cambridge

Laura Spenceley, Bachelor of Science/Laws

Short-term program: AIM Overseas ‘Cambridge Sciences Summer Program’

England (July 2018)

Not long after my semester one exams this year, I headed to the United Kingdom for a 2-week short-term exchange program at Cambridge University. This program not only met but exceeded every expectation I had – including the surprisingly very hot English Summer.

Life in Cambridge and England

Prior to the program beginning on Sunday the 8th of July, I flew to London (Stansted) and arrived in Cambridge on Friday afternoon. I then had two (very hot) days to explore a beautiful city and get to know the university and some of its colleges prior to my program.

Arriving at Selwyn college

As a student city, Cambridge is very accessible and easy to get around. It was a short half-hour train journey from the Stansted airport, but once you are in Cambridge it is very easy to navigate on foot. Most students and residents of Cambridge prefer cycling as a mode of transport. Considering that the city of Cambridge is mostly comprised of the University itself, Wi-Fi is easily accessible everywhere you go. This was definitely a bonus while travelling and made getting around quite easy.

Arriving at Selwyn college

After 2 weeks at Cambridge, I spent a few days in London and the rest of the week travelling around France to make the most of my trip to the other side of the world – which was quite a relaxing end to a whole lot of learning at the University.

The Summer Program

One of the program highlights would have to be the experience of life at a Cambridge college. While in Australia most students live at home and commute to uni, at a University almost 200 years older than QUT with 31 historical colleges to choose from, students live on campus during term time and either walk or cycle to classes. At Selwyn College, I stayed in a private room which overlooked Old Court and the dining Hall where we had meals each morning and night. This was a quick 5-minute walk to the where all of the Summer courses teaching was held at Sidgwick site (next-door).

The view of Old Court from my accommodation in a college room.

The academic program was run over the course of 2 weeks, with 4 science lectures per day between 9am and 9pm. During these hours, we had morning plenary (core) lectures and evening talks which were each run by a different Cambridge lecturer or subject specialist, as well as 2 elected courses per week. I am glad these gave me the opportunity to study things I probably wouldn’t study at home as part of my science degree, such as learning about Polar Research and Autism Research based in Cambridge. Evening talks included topics such as a mathematician on the Enigma Machine, and the engineering behind the ‘Dambusters’ bouncing bomb during World War 2.

Cambridge University Museum of Zoology.

The University Library

Outside of the classroom, my chosen courses involved two visits to the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, the University museums (Museum of Zoology, Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, and Fitzwilliam Museum). The Summer Program also included a piano recital one night in St. John’s College, a reception for the 95th anniversary of the Program at the beautiful Queens’ College and went on a traditional ‘punt’ on the River Cam over the weekend with some of the other students I met on the course. Our final night as Cambridge students was marked by a formal closing dinner in the dining hall, with the presentation of certificates.

Dining Hall at Selwyn College

Finishing the course.

Aston-ishing England

Annabel Boersen, Bachelor of Business – International
Aston University, England (Semester 2, 2017 through Semester 1, 2018)

I absolutely loved my time on exchange at Aston University in Birmingham, UK. There were so many highlights of my trip both academic and cultural: including meeting Orlando Bloom!

I chose to go to Aston University as part of my BS08 Second Degree program, and to be honest, I hadn’t really researched too much on the location of the University before I arrived. I was surprised to find that it was right on the edge of Birmingham city centre (it took 20 mins to walk to the other side of the city). This meant that everything you needed was within walking distance! The city of Birmingham also has fantastic transport options to travel around the UK and Europe (multiple train and coach stations, and an international airport as well!). I went to Bratislava, Frankfurt, Dublin, and more with cheap flights from Birmingham. I also made an effort to see as much of the UK as possible. I went north to Edinburgh, did a narrow boat adventure into Wales, and even did a 7-day walking holiday along the Cornish Coastal Path (in Cornwall), just to name a few things. I definitely recommend that you take advantage of the central location of Birmingham to get around the UK in your time there.

Since I was at Aston for a full year exchange, I was able to secure accommodation on campus. This was awesome because it was only a 5-minute walk to any class. There was also a supermarket and gym on campus which meant that in winter if it was raining or snowing, you could still get to everything very easily. I lived in a female only 7 bedroom flat. I shared a kitchen with 6 other girls, and we each had our own room and bathroom. I

One of the highlights of my entire exchange was celebrating Christmas at Disneyland Paris with my sister, who had come out to visit over the Christmas break. It was so magical especially when it snowed, and is something that I won’t ever forget. Another highlight was the people that I met while I was there. Because my exchange went for a whole year, I took part in many activities, joined the university dance society and even found a casual job at a 5* hotel in the city centre. I met people not only from all around the UK, but from all around the world. I also connected with eight other Australians who were doing the same program as me and we went to all the classes together, which was great because it meant that I knew people who were going through the same experience and if we had any questions or issues, we could figure them out together. Another highlight was looking out my window and seeing it snow on campus (it snowed multiple times on my exchange, even through April)!

In terms of units, lectures and tutorials, the UK system, although similar, is quite different in some aspects. For example; attendance at all lectures and tutorials was recorded, timetables were assigned and not chosen, and some of our units that went for the entire year only had one piece of assessment (a 100% exam). In the first semester I studied five units and in the second I studied seven. This resulted in me having four 100% exams, two 80% exams, and one assignment all in the final examination period. But as hard as it sounds, I found it realistic and was not overwhelmed at all. It was also very interesting as all my lecturers came from different cultural backgrounds. I loved how cultural the whole experience turned out to be, despite me still being in an English speaking country!

I loved the whole experience and would totally recommend others to take part in an exchange to Aston University. If I could do it again, I would!

Find a real winter in the UK

Tayla B
Bachelor of Creative Industries
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

 

My experience living in England for six months studying at SHU was incredible. I had never been to England or Europe before, but having many friends living there I knew what to expect, but nothing could prepare me for the weather. I arrived in winter to freezing temperatures and I think the thing I struggled with if anything was the lack of sunlight. Once every two weeks during winter you would get a sunny day, which is nothing like I am used to growing up in Australia.

It’s colder than you might think!

Other than the lack of Vitamin D, my experience was one I will never forget. I made such an amazing group of friends, all international students, from countries all over Europe, America, Australia which made for an interesting collection of people. I was living in the city in student accommodation, which made it easy to access everything by walking and was studying in the city so class was only a 10 min walk from my house.

 

The university was super accommodating to international students and had weekly activities for us and organized trips over the country to make sure we had plenty of opportunities to meet new people. This is how I made majority of my friends, and was the best thing the university did for us.

Making friends while on exchange is the best experience

There wasn’t a lot of culture shock as it was an English speaking country, but the Brits have their own slang words that took some time to get used to!

It was a struggle to accommodate to the idea that I wasn’t on holiday the whole time- I was living there- and that it was okay to not be busy the whole time or always doing something.

The main thing that drove me to pick England was the ease of being able to travel all over the country by train and how close it was to be able to go to Europe. I spent my 22nd birthday in Paris and it was the most magical thing I could’ve ever imagined. My exchange experience was the greatest thing I have done with my education and can’t recommend it enough for anyone thinking about it.

Leeds Survival Guide, Part 4: Travel

I’m now one week away from travelling back to Australia and I realise that I’ve picked up a lot of great advice in regards to travelling while studying in the UK. Take it from someone who spent her birthday in Paris, Christmas in Amsterdam and New Year’s in Edinburgh, I have done my fair share of travelling, and I have the pen collection to prove it:

From York, Manchester, Lincoln, Wales, Durham, Paris, Lake District, London, Tenerife, Amsterdam, all the way to Scotland

So, here are some of the top travel tips that I have learned so far.

Read more

Discover the UK’s picturesque countryside

Jordan W
(BCI student Majoring in Drama, Minors in Scenography and Literature)
Leeds University, UK

 

The landscape is stunning in England, if you’re a painter or creative type it will make your mind wonder. I was fortunate enough in my weekend explorations of the England countryside to come across an exhibition holding some of Francis Bacon’s most famous work on tour.

You’ll meet so many friends while on exchange. I will give some advice, you will notice on your return home that you will have more international student friends than English students, as they tend to stick to their own crowd (usually). This is not necessarily bad, it was my own personal experience and made friends with plenty of non-student English friends.

So, you’re probably wondering about Europe. Do it. It’s one of the best things. In the middle of Semester 2 (which is our Semester 1 at QUT), there is a month break in the middle to study, I suggest do some study then take some time off to travel to Europe, it is at a very good time in March / April where the tourists have not yet arrived, but it is not blisteringly cold like Winter – it is just right.

Nothing is more rewarding than travelling

A highlight I would suggest is to do Italy – it is magnificent, you will not regret – climbing Mount Vesuvius was indeed my favourite as it snowed while I was at the top.

However, transport and travelling to other places is quite expensive due to the class system on trains which interlink England. I suggest using the National Express bus service that allows extremely cheap tickets around the U.K. – it takes longer to your destination point but it saves you money.

By the end, you will wish you could never leave – but that’s okay because at the end you would have made connections and can meet up with those friends again, traveling and searching the world together.