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.

A Very British Christmas and NYE

CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS

In the weeks leading up to the designated Christmas break there wasn’t too much for me to do study wise so I spent a lot of the time in the house or at the pub keeping warm and dry. It was early December and the Christmas spirit was definitely around Swansea, with a lot of decorations throughout the town and the university. Students were buzzing with the idea of heading home to see their families for three weeks. Before the housemates broke up for Christmas we decided to have a pub crawl dressed in Christmas jumpers. We kicked off at midday and started at the local carvery to line the stomachs with a tradtional British pub feed.

xmas

At the carvery with House 35

From that we continued on to a variety of local pubs stopping for a couple of pints at each. After 6 solid hours of drinking we had made it half way to Wind St. and decided to call it a day and head back to the house for more drinking games!

the house

The Squad

CHRISTMAS

Christmas isn’t a huge deal for my family back home but the small amount of homesickness set in once people in the house and village left to go home. The village turned into a ghost town like it was in the first day. Adding to this the weather was pretty miserable, single digit degree days along with the constant drizzle really dampened the morale. Luckily enough for me my friend offered to have me at her family’s house over the Christmas period. I spent a couple more nights around London experiencing some of the famous London Christmas things. After that it was to the area of south east England known as Kent which was about 30mins by train. This was truly the English countryside with green hills for as long as the eyes could see. Trips to Knole Park and Canterbury truly highlighted the beauty of the smaller English areas and definitely had the Christmas spirit about it.

green

An ancient burial site in Kent

knole

Knole Park

deer

Feeding the wildlife in Knole Park

canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral


PART I: Starting Life in Swansea
PART II: Life in Swanse

PART III: During Semester in Swansea
PART IV: A Very British Christmas & NYE

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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