Exchange at Cardiff University

Jasmin C., Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Creative Industries
Cardiff University, United Kingdom (Semester 2, 2017)

Cardiff, the capital of Wales, is a beautiful, old, tiny city with the friendliest people. In the middle of the city centre sits the medieval Cardiff Castle, one of the first things I saw upon arriving. I was so amazed by this castle, sitting right in the town centre amongst the modern shops. Little did I know it would be the first of MANY castles I would see during my time in the UK. Just across from the castle, my favourite store in the entire city; the Welsh cake shop. Absolutely scrumptious. As well as this, the shops in the city are great, lots of art, vintage and old record stores.

Just a few minutes walk from the city centre is Cardiff University. Unlike QUT, Cardiff University does not really have a campus. The buildings are spread out around the city, which wasn’t really a problem because the city is so small anyway. The tutorial and lecture situation was pretty similar to QUT, however most of my lectures were not recorded (yikes) and powerpoint slides were not always uploaded onto blackboard, which meant attendance was pretty crucial. As well as this, unlike QUT where most of my subjects required multiple assessments, all of my Cardiff University subjects had huge (5000 words) 100% assignments due at the end of the semester.

There are many student accommodations around the city. The one I stayed in was called Talybont South, located 20 mins away from the city centre and within proximity to the university buildings. Luckily for me most of my classes were held in the building that was only a 5 minute walk away, however the furtherest buildings were a 20-30 minute walk away. Talybont South was known for being the nosiest of all the student accommodations, it didn’t bother me much but if you’re a light sleeper I would suggest trying for one of the other student accommodations.

I stayed in an ensuite dorm with a kitchen I shared with 7 other people. My roommates were made up of 6 UK locals (4 Welsh, 2 English) and one other exchange student from the USA. Within 24 hours of living together we all became the best of friends. It was great being able to live with locals as I definitely would not have been able to learn and do as much as I did without them. One highlight was being able to spend New Years Eve with one of my roommates and her family in her home in Swansea. In fact, the highlight of my entire exchange was just being able to get to know and hang out with incredible people I never would have been able to meet if it was not for this experience.

There are lots of things to in Cardiff. As I mentioned before, the castle and the shops are great. As well as this there is Cardiff Bay, National Museum Cardiff, and lots of parks and gorgeous greenery, just to name a few. However if you’re wanting to leave the city there are so many places you can go. In Wales you have Swansea, which is only a 40 minute train ride away and lots of tiny, adorable Welsh towns to explore, my favourite being Laugharne (pronounced Larn). Bristol and Bath are only 1 hour away and if you want to go to bigger cities London and Birmingham are only 2 hours away on the train.

Tips and advice! Tip number 1: $$$!! You’ll have to buy a lot of things upon arrival, pillows, sheets, duvet, cutlery, plates etc. Definitely budget each week, you don’t want to have to miss out on doing anything or travelling somewhere due to lack of funds. Cost of living in Cardiff was pretty similar to Brisbane. Other advice would just be to try and stay as calm and positive as possible. You will definitely have a few struggles. Fortunately for me, my only struggles were that the classes I had planned on taking were unavailable which led me having to find other classes to take and the process took a while so I ended up being a few weeks behind in my classes. However, the tutors were very helpful in helping me catch up and it all turned out fine. As well as this, I was lucky that I got along with my roommates and they really made me feel at home, and so I didn’t get homesick at all. Finally, make the most of your time!!! I couldn’t believe how fast the time went. My only regret was that I only stayed a semester and not a whole year!

Welsh Semester Abroad

Morton, G. Bachelor of Business

Cardiff University (Semester 2, 2016)

Student exchange was an eye opening experience for me. I attended Cardiff University in Wales, which encouraged me to travel around Europe 3 months prior to arriving in Cardiff and continue to visit surrounding domestic and international cities during my study. The academic opportunity granted me access to different resources and professors which enhanced my learning skills and made me adapt to new teaching techniques and software programs. I enjoyed experiencing the ways of teaching from another country and seeing what new habits I could use back in Brisbane to help me develop further at QUT. Wales was a brilliant location that allowed me to travel to 40 different cities in close proximity to where I was prepared to live for 4 months. I definitely did not want to take this for granted and so I recommend to save a lot of money and make the most of your time abroad in terms of using it as an opportunity to see the greater world as well. Not only living on the other side of the world, but living out of home as well forced me to manage my money and budget ahead which is a skill that I will constantly work on.I am sure I will return one day to revisit the town I called home and see the friends I made. I found meeting other Australian’s overseas to be such an asset to my travels and there are people that I know I will forever be in contact with. You and likeminded travelers are all there for the same reason and you find that to be such a strong foundation to a guaranteed blossoming friendship. But do not underestimate the great opportunity it is to also meet people who grew up in a different country and culture to you! Now that I have returned home I realise all the small things I took for granted before I travelled. The white sand beaches we have such easy access to, the vibrant sun that we can eat our breakfast underneath every day and the internationally attractive city. The UK has a lot to offer, but darker, colder and shorter days do make you appreciate the pristine summer of Australia.I have no regrets from my exchange and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I am not the same person as I was before I left and I feel as though I have matured and grown completely from the experience. It will be something I never forget and I can’t wait to return one day soon.

Experience as much as you can

Picture1I experienced some culture shock, but not as badly as I expected. The first couple of days I kept questioning whether coming on exchange was the right thing to do, was worried that my housemates were too rowdy for me and would spend a lot of time alone. Once I got to know them, though, I got over it and began to enjoy my time a lot more. I didn’t really have any issues with safety, I just used the same amount of caution I use in Brisbane and never ran into any issues. The only other challenge I had to deal with was not being able to do the one subject I really needed to do, but that was more of an annoyance that I sorted out quickly.

My main advice to future exchange students is to be prepared. Be prepared to miss people from back home and make sure you have a skype account. Be prepared to get questioned quite a bit about coming into the UK, it feels scary at the time, but just stay calm and they will let you in. Also, don’t waste any opportunity on exchange. If someone asks if you want to do something or go somewhere, provided it’s not illegal, just say yes. Take the opportunity to experience as much as you can because it will be over before you know it.

Overall, I think exchange has irrevocably changed me as a person. I am much more confident in who I am and the kinds of people I want to have around me. I made lifelong friends I can’t wait to visit. I’m also much more independent than I was which made moving back in with my parents a little bit of a downer because I’m ready to take the next step in my life. Professionally, my exchange solidified my desire to move and work in the UK and a drive to work hard and get there. I would wholeheartedly recommend the Student Exchange Program to every student that asked.

A tiny little house…

In Swansea, I studied ‘Youth Justice’, ‘Criminalisation of Sex’ and ‘Crime, Drugs and Alcohol’. I was amazed by the fact, especially in the youth justice module, that the lecturer was actually involved in developing a new youth justice system and most of the articles we read for the subject were written by him. Comparing Swansea to QUT, however, QUT comes out on top.

I enjoy having lecture slides available for download before a lecture so I can print them out and this does not happen at Swansea. It took about a week for slides to go up on blackboard on average. Also, I do not believe blackboard is used to its full potential like it is used at QUT. The level of work, however, was similar to my experience at QUT. The exception to this is that two of my modules only had one piece of assessment for each, which I thought was quite odd.

With regards to accommodation, my perception changed quite a lot. I stayed at Hendrefoelan Student Village and at first I was horrified that this tiny little house, with my tiny little room and a tiny little kitchen was to be my home with another 9 people for the next 5 months. However, after meeting my new house mates and getting comfortable, I came to love my little slice of heaven.

Power, water and internet were all included in the rent so we never had to worry about that. We shared two bathrooms and all had sinks in our rooms; though the water looked a little funky every now and again. Every second day someone would come and take out the garbage and every second week cleaners would clean the bathrooms and kitchens, provided there were no dirty dishes in the sink. While the accommodation took some getting used to and could have been better for the price I paid, I would never change it because that house gave me some of the best memories of my life.

I budgeted $15000 for this trip, including for holidays, and came back with just $60, which I think was completely worth it. Accommodation is a lot more expensive, so too is certain foods. However, prepaid phone plans are much cheaper and a lot better value than in Australia. I mainly used a Travelforex travel card which I found to be really good as it doesn’t charge you for converting money and only charges you $2 to withdraw money. The only drawback with this is that you have to Bpay money onto the account and if you’re like me and forget to check the card regularly, you might be low on money until the Bpay goes through.

Best university in UK – voted by students!

My reason for choosing Swansea University is twofold; the fact it is in the UK and that the modules paired well with my QUT subjects. Upon arrival, I was warmly greeted by Study Abroad staff at Heathrow Airport which I was very grateful for as I was quite nervous. They also helped me carry my bags to my new home. Swansea University, in general, looked quite Celtic with lush green grounds and vines growing on the building walls, which I loved.

Swansea itself is both beautiful and slightly ugly at the same time. It has an amazing beach running alongside the main road which you can see from lecture room windows (I found myself gazing out the window a lot) and cute little towns like Mumbles. On the other hand, the industrial nature of Swansea can make the town look a little scary in places, but they are easily avoided. Wales, as a whole, is a spectacular place to live with small towns where everyone knows each other and green landscapes galore.

Swansea University’s facilities are quite good, but I must admit QUT are a lot more technologically savvy than my exchange counterpart. I found enrolling quite challenging and annoying at Swansea University, an issue I have never had at QUT. That being said, overall the facilities at Swansea University are more than adequate, they just need a little more modernising.

The key strengths of Swansea University are how welcoming the first two weeks are as well as its research and real world applications of lectures. It is well known for being the best university in the UK voted for by students. However, it is also well known for being a good university for engineering, especially with the new engineering campus opening in September.

During Semester in Swansea

DURING THE SEMESTER

Throughout the semester Swansea University offered a variety of day trips aimed towards international and exchange students to help experience the British culture. On top of that there are the many sport teams, clubs and societies that provide plenty to do during the week and on the weekend. Along with the university based trips I went on there was weekends away to other areas of the UK and Ireland that were both cheap and didn’t impact much on my studies. Not only that there were trivia nights at the Wonky Sheep (The Student Village’s pub), Halloween, Wind St. Wednesdays.

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Life In Swansea

LIFE IN SWANSEA

When I first got to Swansea I was getting around in shorts with an occasional jumper at night. Before getting to Swansea everyone kept telling me to bring two things, a coat and an umbrella… My first couple of weeks these two ‘essentials’ were gathering dust in my room so I was under the impression that everyone was just pulling my leg. All the locals kept reminding me that this is abnormally warm and dry for this time of year. The nights felt like a warm winter’s evening so it wasn’t a shock by any stretch. Swansea is one of the UK’s wettest places and I soon found out although it was raining often it was never to the extent of a Queensland afternoon thunderstorm despite the claims of ‘heavy rain’. Read more

Starting Life in Swansea

MY FIRST DAY IN SWANSEA

I had been travelling around Europe (England, Spain, Portgual & Turkey) for a month prior to arriving at Swansea University in September 2014. I arrived a day early and thankfully my room at my student village accomdation was open and my housemate was able to let me in and after the 3 hour train ride from London I was able to start unpacking my stuff and settle in for the next 4 months.

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