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.

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.

An Unforgettable Exchange in Exeter

Jasmine B. Bachelor of Journalism / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Exeter, England (Semester 1, 2016)

It feels incredibly surreal now, thinking back to my semester spent abroad in England. Ever since I had heard about the unique opportunity to study on exchange, I knew it was something I had to be a part of. I’m pleased to report that the experience was even more remarkable then I had imagined. Between the international friendships made, exploring European cities, and getting to be a part of another culture, there really wasn’t a dull moment!

Host University: The University of Exeter

Above: Reed Hall, on the University of Exeter campus

University Campus

I spent my semester abroad in the Southeast of England, in the picturesque county of Devon. I studied at the University of Exeter (where J.K. Rowling graduated from, for the Harry Potter fans), using my electives from my Law degree to experience a range of disciplines, including: Philosophy, Sociology, Politics and Law. It gave me a great taste of their teaching methods, as well as enabling me to engage with a range of students. The campus itself is beautiful, built on the top of a hill overlooking the city of Exeter. It’s size and student intake is significantly lesser in size to QUT, which was fun to experience, as you often find yourself running into familiar faces around campus. The university hosts a combination of modern and heritage buildings, which cover a lot of great facilities including: student medical centre, pub, sporting halls, eateries, libraries and even a theatre.

Accommodation

 

James Owen Court University Residences

I undertook my exchange in the second semester of their academic year, which meant there were only a limited number of campus-run accommodation on offer. However, those planning on studying here in the first semester would have a larger choice of accommodation options (including catered, self-catered, ensuite and studio). My accommodation, as pictured above, was at ‘James Owen Court’ which was a 20-minute walk from the main campus and was located in the centre of the city. The location worked out perfectly, as I only spent two days at the University, so the other days I could spend enjoying cream teas and shopping in the city! It was a self-catered facility, where I shared a kitchen between seven other roommates. The rooms were ensuite, and a laundromat was available on the premises.

It was my first time living out of home, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the independence. I arrived in Exeter alone, but met a huge group of international students along the way, who all quickly grew to be close friends.

International Students Group

Exeter Cathedral Square

Host Country: England (Exeter) The cost of living in England is quite high, especially if you’re living in bigger cities such as London. However, Exeter was quite affordable, and there were a range of places to eat and shop at a more affordable price (I would strongly recommend the local hangout, ‘The Old Firehouse’ which apparently inspired the Leaky Cauldron from the Harry Potter series). When it comes to travelling, there’s some great ways to get around Europe on a budget. One weekend I flew with a friend to Dublin for the low cost of 8 pounds (approximately $16 dollars). So, if researched right, travelling can be very inexpensive! I even secured a paid internship whilst living in Exeter, which helped offset some of the costs and gave me an even better insight into the city and the locals. The great thing about England is that you speak the same language, and hold a lot of the same cultural views, so there really isn’t any culture shock to be experienced – apart from the constant rain, that is!

All in all, exchange was an unforgettable experience, and there wasn’t a single moment I didn’t enjoy. Exchange presents an incredible opportunity to challenge yourself, step out of your comfort zone and develop your independence and awareness of different cultures.

A few extra snaps from my travels in Europe:

Copenhagen, Denmark

Cinque Terre, Italy

Paris, France

“100% Worth It” – University of Leeds Exchange

Natasha L., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Media and Communication
University of Leeds, England (Semester 1, 2016)

I was extremely nervous to begin my university exchange experience. I am quite a shy person and was unsure about how I would make friends, live away from home and navigate myself around a new city. However, going on exchange was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

The University of Leeds is located in the northern region of England called Yorkshire and is known for it’s impressive school of communications as well as an amazing student union and social environment. I chose to study here because of the vast opportunities to get involved in university life and immerse myself in the entire exchange experience. Despite some initial fears, tears and freak-outs, I definitely settled in a lot more quickly than expected and made professional and personal connections that will last.

Walking around and learning the city of Leeds proved to be exceptionally easy from my accommodation, basically following one main street the entire way. I enjoyed exploring the city centre after uni and shopping at the local Kirkgate markets, going to grab a bite from the Corn Exchange or just admiring the old, intricate architecture on most buildings. Despite the fact that many compare Australia to England, I definitely felt that there were many differences and going to Leeds did pushed me to become more confident in new environments.

Staying in “Devonshire Halls” student residence for my exchange was one of the best decisions I had made. A range of exchange students had all chosen this accommodation and we were able to hang out, study and walk the 20 minutes to university together most days. I chose to be self catered but had the opportunity to meet people at special dinners, in the laundry room or at social events that the accommodation put on with live music and free food included!

I found that the cost of living in Leeds was similar to that of Brisbane, but that travelling around Europe in between did take up a huge portion of my savings. I travelled to more than 14 countries in my time away and found that I did need to always budget for more than I needed due to traveling mistakes or slip ups (i.e. missing a flight, booking a flight for the wrong month, booking a flight for the wrong city etc etc).  Many of my friends had the same issue and we all decided that over estimating your budget is a lot more beneficial to prevent stressful situations. I would encourage students to take $10,000 – $12,000 AUD per semester. In saying this, it is easy to stick to a budget when living in Leeds to due the ability to walk everywhere and the general cheap cost of living.

Exchange was an unforgettable experience that helped me grow and develop as a young adult. I gained confidence in social and professional situations and learnt how to handle myself independently when stressed. I made friends that will definitely last a lifetime and was able to meet and connect with people from all over the world. Although pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be daunting, I believe that going on exchange is 100% worth it and it will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

My Exchange Adventure

Mackenzie G, Bachelor of Industrial Design
Aston University, Birmingham, England (Semester 1, 2016)

One of the many trips around the UK. This time a weekend in Scotland with people from all around the world.

My Experience
Do you fancy seeing the world? Feel like shaking things up? Want to make uni a lot more fun? If this sounds like you then go sign up for student exchange!
Student exchange is an opportunity to live and study overseas. You get to meet people from all parts of the globe, see places you never would and have the time of your life all while completing your studies.

Earlier this year I flew over to Birmingham, England to complete my first semester of third year industrial design at Aston University. For four months I lived and studied abroad in a country I’ve never been to. There I learnt about product design, made worldwide friends and had an absolutely great time all the while completing my studies.
Aston University was my uni of choice for its industry backed reputation and central location.

Although the content they taught was more on the engineering side, they provided knowledge that I would likely not learn elsewhere. Submitting assignments, sitting exams and general university life was not so different to how we do it here which made adapting to their system a breeze.

Similarly studying in an English speaking country was not a problem at all. The accents and weather were the biggest difference initially but were soon overcome. So no intense culture shock here compared to the more foreign locations available. That said if you want to take it easy, Canada, USA and the UK are more comfortable options should English be your native language.

Life abroad at university is fun. Aston accommodates foreign exchange students very well with regular events and trips around the country. The majority of exchange students hung out together and with people from all over Europe, South America and just about everywhere else we felt a great sense of community exploring and learning together as foreigners.

For me I chose not to work and relied upon loans and savings to keep myself financially supported. So not needing a job meant I had more time to study and even more time to explore the UK and just have fun. With my crew of international students we visited most major UK cities, Liverpool, Manchester, London, Edinburgh, Dublin and so on. Unique to the English semester is a three week mid semester holiday. Being so close to France and in the middle of winter that meant skiing was up for grabs. So my mid semester break consisted of a week-long ski trip with the uni and two weeks of hot, beautiful sun in the Canary Islands. Luckily for me it wasn’t all about studying. Maybe your university has something similar. You can make your student exchange custom made for whatever interests you! Something not thought about often when considering student exchange.

The Application Process
Getting sorted for a student exchange is no easy task. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back. A lot of research and hard work is required but the effort is worth the reward. A lot of the time my effort was independent simply because there were questions that only I could find the answers to… mostly specific university queries. Although it was difficult my motivation kept the ball rolling, something we tend to forget when going through this process.

The opportunity to work alongside students from different cultures on the other side of the world is worth every ounce of effort.

Finances
A common concern is money and to how fund such an extravagant adventure. Fortunately there are awesome financial assistance options available from QUT. The OS help loan and the mobility grant made my venture possible. Applying for and receiving these are nothing short of easy. With a minimum of $8000 AUD available anything from your own pocket would only be for an extended holiday!
When it comes to budgeting research is key. Finding everyday living costs is essential especially if you’re thinking of living in the UK, Switzerland or any other expensive locations. The small things really add up.

As far as accommodation goes share houses are the best option. Cheap and entertaining they’re nothing short of fun. My house was intensely multicultural which furthered my travel education but also provided another social circle. Comparatively the on campus accommodation at Aston is rather pricey but more student orientated. Again research is key here.

The appropriate visa will make returning to your host country a breeze. This allowed me to skip between the UK and France with ease.

Visas
Before leaving Australia ensure you have the appropriate visa and ensure your passport meets federal requirements. Ensure in advance so you’re not caught rushing around last minute.

The study visa for the UK was a frustratingly slippery slope. Students who have studied there offered mixed advice and the visa website was just as helpful. Trying to save a few hundred dollars by not getting one is risky business but its best to play it safe. Upon entering the country I was told this wasn’t required but soon after relieved by my enrolling member of staff as she reassured me this was a necessary requirement of the university. Nothing too special with passports, just make sure there is plenty of time left on it before it expires.

Customise Your Experience
One aspect not discussed enough is how you can revolve your exchange around what you want to do. My initial idea was basically studying overseas and seeing the sights. However you can leave home well before semester starts and get into some travelling, complete your semester then top it off with a couple more months of travel. Or do like I did and compete in heaps of skateboard races around Europe! It might sound like a holiday but there is a lot to learn when you’re not at uni.

Once the semester concluded I travelled through Europe and attended many skateboard races. A long time dream now accomplished. (I’m in the grey suit).

If I Could Do It Again
I would be extra adventurous. I would try out a non-English speaking country, somewhere that teaches classes in English but with a culture greatly different to Australia. Unknown to me was how much of the European population spoke English. Knowing this I would have jumped in the deep end for a totally foreign experience.

Luke’s Lancaster Life

Luke Barnes, Bachelor of Business/Laws                                                                  Lancaster University, England (Semester 1, 2017)

Lancaster University is in a beautiful location in the picturesque north of England. It was just a quick 2-hour train trip up from London Euston, a trip I made many times over the 3 months I stayed in Lancaster. It has great facilities, with over 12 different colleges, all which provide living space on campus and of course their own bar. All are perfect for an afternoon game of pool, darts and any other game of your choice. It is a proud university town, even once you get to the train station it loudly proclaims that it is the home of Lancaster University.

The on-campus accommodation was everything you could have asked, however the bathroom was slightly cramped. Despite this, the on-campus facilities were amazing. The University had everything you needed, with two small general stores, and plenty of takeout options. There were also numerous cafes for the coffee starved brain of any student; although just don’t expect it to be quite up to the Australian standard!

The cultural shock of going to England was pretty much non-existent, I think some of the Southern English found it more shocking to be up North than I found it halfway across the world. With the amazing transportation system a train ride could take you  almost anywhere in a short amount of time. Once in London, the tube also takes you wherever you need to be, in a matter of minutes.

Living in England made living away from home very easy. Although there are times you can still become a little home sick, when you think about how far away you are from your family. It also took me a while to adjust to the amount of daylight in the UK. In Summer it is still light until 10pm, and in Winter the sun sets by 4pm, which can be difficult.

Overall, the trip was unforgettable and there were many highlights throughout. On one occasion, my flat mates and I decided to hold a ‘good old Aussie BBQ’. I thought it would be a great idea to show my fellow international residents what it was like. We had one Cypriot, a Bulgarian and two English men along with myself, an Australian. The only thing that we did not consider was the fact that the temperature was only a little over freezing. In the blistering cold conditions, I like to think at least the food was good enough to get across what the essence of an Aussie BBQ is like…

As everyone says, exchange is an incredible experience. If you have the opportunity, grasp it with both hands – you will not regret it.

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!