Cassandra, T., Bachelor of Public Health
University of Birmingham, England (Semester 1, 2017)
Going on exchange was easily the best decision of my life. Not only did I make incredible life long friends but I also experienced life as a local in a country so far away from home. It is difficult to summarise such an amazing experience that was both as amazing as I expected and even more.
I spent semester 1, 2017 at the University of Birmingham in England. I had visited the country a couple of times before with my family and had fallen in love with the rich history, traditions and culture. After receiving an email from the QUT study abroad and exchange office advertising the exchange program I thought why not give it a shot.
I was really nervous before arriving at my uni hall as I had never lived anywhere but Brisbane or with anyone but my family. At UoB most of the first years and exchange students live in the Vale. It is a group of residence halls run by the university and has a small community feel. I lived in Mason with 5 other girls all sharing a kitchen and common area. I opted to cook myself instead of having the meal plan. I also had my own private room and bathroom, providing a place to study and call everyone back home.
All my flat mates were very welcoming and we all instantly clicked. The people I lived with became my closest friends and we did everything together, becoming the envy of other flats that didn’t get along so well with their flat mates. I never once felt alone or isolated as my support network of both international and British friends were always there. During the Easter break I was fortunate enough to stay with some of my friends at their homes in Rochester and Scunthorpe, where I was treated to traditional English pub meals and a classic Sunday dinner, which is actually a roast lunch. We still speak just about every day, the time zones may be difficult but with so many forms of social media it makes staying in contact really easy.
Getting to and from uni was a lot easier than my one-hour bus ride to QUT, it was only a leisurely 15min walk to the main campus from my uni hall. The main campus was particularly beautiful with many old historic buildings mixed with new state of the art buildings like the new fancy library. In the centre of the campus is Old Joe, the largest free standing clock tower in Europe. Legend has it that if you walk underneath while it chimes you will fail your degree. The Great Hall where I completed one exam looked like it was straight out of Harry Potter. During the spring the campus and the Vale, where I lived, had daffodils and other pretty flowers blooming everywhere.
The curriculum set up is slightly different to QUT with most students taking 6 units per semester, the option to take 4 or 5 units per semester is available however this means some units are weighted more heavily meaning more work. Although, the workload was still manageable and I still found time to hang out with friends. I was there for 2 semesters, the spring/summer semesters, as they have 3 semesters per year. The first semester is only 11 weeks long and is the main teaching period. Following that, there is a month long break over Easter, the perfect time to travel and see the rest of the UK and Europe. The contact hours are slightly more than what I’m accustomed to at QUT with around 2 or 3 lectures a week and a tutorial, seminar or practical. However, they were usually only 1 hour long.
With the U.K. being a lot smaller in geographical size than Australia it was easy to go on day trips or overnight trips on the weekends to different cities. As Birmingham is only a 2-hour train ride to London, I had many day trips there exploring the city. I also saw many lovely quaint old towns and historical castles such as, Warwick Castle, Nottingham and Nottingham castle, the Cadbury factory, Edinburgh, Oxford, and Blenheim Palace. Train tickets are also super cheap if you buy a 16-25 year old rail pass. I can’t recommend it enough, if you plan on taking trains it is definitely worth the money. Because of this we were able to buy 7 pound return trips to London, bargain! Plane tickets were also cheap if you buy them well in advance and only take carry on luggage. Because of this I was able to travel through Europe during the month break between the semesters. I was lucky enough to visit, Malaga in Spain, Dublin for St Patrick’s Day, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm, Berlin, Paris, Iceland, Venice and Rome. It is really difficult to pick my favourite place but Iceland was definitely amazing. The landscapes and natural beauty are unlike anything I had ever seen before.
Why you should go on exchange
I couldn’t recommend going on an exchange enough. This experience QUT has provided me with has made me come out of my shell and realise my aspirations for life. I have learnt life lessons that wouldn’t be taught in a classroom. It may sound cheesy but Birmingham will always be my second home.
The QUT exchange program has really opened my eyes to a world of possibilities and adventures right outside my doorstep. It truly was an experience of a lifetime.