Meggan - University of Surrey

B Business Management/International Hotel & Tourism Management
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

Courses are called "modules" at Surrey. I studied three tourism/hospitality courses and one business course. My courses were a mixture of first, second and third year courses. 

The courses I took:

1. MAN1079: Understanding Service Delivery (this one I found a bit boring, because it is a first year course but I am a fourth year student)
2. MAN3094: Hotel Revenue Management (this one was definitely my favourite, the class was much more practical than strictly theoretical which is the teaching style I prefer)
3. MAN2089: Business Finance 
4. MAN3092: International Hospitality Operations Management 

I thought my classes at Surrey were pretty similar to classes at UQ, the main difference was smaller class sizes at Surrey. Three of my courses were offered in a three-hour seminar, and one in a two-hour lecture and one-hour tutorial. I actually preferred to have a three-hour class once per week than having two separate classes for the same course. Some lectures at Surrey get recorded and some do not. Some classes are compulsory and others are not, it just depends on your program and which courses you are taking.

I was scheduled to have classes four days per week. Surrey is different from UQ because there is no sign-on, you cannot pick your four courses or which tutorial and lecture times you want - staff at Surrey do this for you and there is not much flexibility to change unless you have a timetable clash. This is something I did not know beforehand but I wish I did, because you could have classes five days per week which leaves very little time for traveling on weekends. 

There were some academic differences which I found confusing, such as Surrey has a strict word count policy, there is no +/-10%. You need to get 40% not 50% to pass your courses. Around 70% is still considered to be quite a good grade at Surrey. I found overall there was less assessment than at UQ. For each of my courses, I only had a total of two pieces of assessment - a combination of exams, individual assignments and group assignments. 

The vast majority of students in my classes were either British students or international (not exchange) students, mostly from other European countries and some from Asia.

Personal experience

This was my second, consecutive exchange - I spent the previous year on exchange near Paris, France. I did not travel as much during this semester as I did during my previous exchange. During the semester, I visited  France a few times, where I had some friends from my previous exchange. I spent Christmas day in London with my friend, I flew to Vienna, Austria to spend New Years' with another friend. After my exchange was over, I spent three weeks in Moscow, Russia with some friends, before returning to Australia. Other countries I visited during the semester: Northern Ireland, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Lithuania and Poland.

I met some interesting and diverse people at Surrey, which was a very beneficial experience. I learned that English and Australian cultures are a lot more different than I thought they were, and there are a lot more differences between British English and Australian English than I realised.  I also learned a lot more about the English language from getting to know international students who have English as a second or third language. I paid to take a Beginner Russian class on Wednesday evenings, which I really enjoyed. 

During my exchange, I learned to be more patient, to be more financially responsible, how to live with very different people and how to adapt to new surroundings. I was also very focused on my health and making sure I ate well and I started going to the gym regularly for the first time. I noticed a huge difference in how much better I felt when I took good care of myself.

Accommodation

I lived on campus in Cathedral Court. I applied to the university for housing and I was offered my first preference - a room in Band C. Rent is charged weekly not monthly, although I had to pay my rent in three separate installments rather than paying it each week. My rent was £100/week, which is actually cheaper than trying to find a room for rent off campus. It can also be very competitive and Surrey students usually have to secure a room/flat months in advance. Guildford actually has the second highest rent in the UK, after London. So in my opinion, the best option is to apply to the university for housing. 

My flatmates were two other Australian exchange students, two international students and one British student. Priority for on-campus housing is usually given to first-year students and exchange students, so most likely you will be living with some students who have just turned 18. Housing is usually mixed (male and female together in one flat), unless you specifically request same-sex accommodation.

I had my own bedroom (with a sink inside), and shared two toilet rooms, two shower rooms and a kitchen with five other students. A cleaner cleaned the common areas a couple times a week, and another person came to empty the garbage every weekday. This is a huge help and it's also very nice having toilet paper provided instead of having to arrange it with your roommates. If you choose to have a private bathroom and/or kitchen, you will be responsible for cleaning it. 

If you are arriving in UQ's Semester 2 (September/October), you will most likely be moving in to an empty flat and all your flatmates should arrive approximately the same time as you, or a few days later. If you are arriving in UQ's Semester 1 (January/February), this is the middle of the academic year in the UK, so you will likely be moving into a flat that people are already living in. Things like dishes, glasses, cutlery, pots and pans, dish soap, hand soap, bedding etc are not supplied for you, you will need to purchase these yourself or with your flatmates. If you are arriving in UQ's Semester 1, your flatmates will probably already have kitchen supplies and might share them with you if they are nice.   

 If you want to live as close to campus as possible, choose the Stag Hill Campus options as your top preferences - Hazel Farm might be a bit cheaper but it is much further and you will have to take a bus to get to your classes. The location of my flat was very convenient, yet it was a bit off to the side so it was also quiet. It was no more than a five minute walk to all of my classes from my flat. It was a 15-20 minute walk to the gym (Surrey Sports Park - which you will have to purchase a membership for if you wish to use it), a 10-15 minute walk to the supermarket (Tesco Superstore), a 15-20 minute walk into the town center of Guildford.

Costs

My rent was £100/week, which included utilities, internet, etc. I paid £120 for a four-month membership to the gym (the Surrey Sports Park which has a gym, swimming pool, climbing wall, steam room, sauna, as well as lots of classes). I kept my sim card from my prevopuis exchange which was €20/month for unlimited calls, texts and 20GB data valid for the whole of the EU/EEA/Schengen Area (although the UK may no longer participate in the free data roaming scheme if Brexit happens). 

I do not drink much or eat out, which saved me lots of money. Some groceries are cheaper than in Australia, some are more expensive. I only took public transport in Guildford about three times, I saved money by walking almost everywhere, which I actually enjoyed. I did not buy a rail pass, but instead bought a coachcard for National Express, which cost £12 for 12 months and gives 1/3 off coach/bus fares. I caught the coach into London instead of taking the train, I also took the coach to Stansted and Luton Airports a number of times which is where a lot of low cost airlines fly from. I saved quite a bit of money with the coachcard.  

How much you will need really depends on who you are and what your habits are. Definitely bring as much as possible, and you will probably spend a lot more than you think you will. Make sure you check if you are eligible for Centerlink and the OS-HELP loans, because they are a big help.

I have a Citibank Plus Transaction Account which is a huge help, because Citibank do not charge ATM fees and give a much better exchange rate than travel cards do. You also don't need to tell Citibank you are going overseas, and in case you do need a new card, they can mail them overseas. ATMs in the EU usually do not charge ATM fees, no matter which bank you use.

Challenge

I genuinely loved getting to live in Europe. I loved simple things such as getting to walk instead of drive everywhere and living in a flat rather than a house.  I think the biggest challenge for me will be moving back to Australia and having reverse-culture shock. Aside from that, the biggest challenge was trying to balance studying and learning with traveling.

Professional Development

This exchange helped improve my communication skills, as well as my ability to adapt to change. After graduation, I wish to move abroad and having prior experience living abroad is very beneficial.

Highlight

Getting to spend Christmas in London, New Years in Vienna and three weeks in Moscow, Russia at the end of my exchange, all with some of my favourite people I have ever met.

Top tips

Doing an exchange is 100% worth it, but it will be some of the worst time of your life as well as the best. You will most likely have a lot of ups and downs, but it is a huge learning and growth opportunity and it will all be worth it. Travel as much as you can (but not every weekend - you will be exhausted), although the people you meet can be much more important and meaningful than the places you might go.