Eloise - University of Nottingham

B Social Work
Semester 2, 2018
In order to get somewhere you've never been before, you'll probably have to do something you've never done before.

Academic experience

Beginning study at a new University in a foreign country was an exciting experience. I studied two social work subjects and one public policy subject, all three on which were to contribute to my degree in Australia. Enrolment was a challenging experience, as I was limited in what subjects would be approved by my faculty at UQ. My advice is that it's never too early to start looking for subjects to be approved, and it's never too late to try and make an idea work. 

Something that really motivated me in my studies while I was on exchange was knowing that I was there because I had chosen to be there. I have found that it can be easy for me to fall into the rhythm of uni that I become more focused on meeting deadlines than I do on enjoying the learning experience. My time on exchange reminded me of why I am at University, and helped to foster a deeper passion for learning within my degree.

Classes were very interesting, as I was always learning more about the similarities and differences between social work in Australia and in England. I understood more about the influence of the political context on social issues, and have come back to Australia with a new perspective of experiencing the world.  

The University offered a range of clubs and societies, from Quiddich teams and Medieval societies, to cave climbing and mountaineering clubs. The opportunities were endless.

Personal experience

I met some amazing people, whether I knew them for a day, a week, or several months. It's incredible the experiences and connections you can make with people when you have all the time in the world. Arriving in a new city and having the whole day to yourself can either feel overwhelming or liberating: it's up to you what you do with that time.

My closest friends on exchange were my housemates. We all came from different countries around the world, and yet we all got along so well. I also met some amazing people in the courses that I was studying. These people are not only my friends, but I am sure they will also become international contacts for me as I develop my career over time.

Accommodation

I lived off-campus in self-catered University accommodation. I shared a flat with 5 other housemates from all over the world who were also in Nottingham to study for the semester. These people turned out to be my closest friends during my exchange. 

I chose to go with University accommodation as I knew that they guaranteed housing for international students so long as they applied by a certain date. As a personal preference I was more interested in spending my time travelling rather than looking for a place to stay, particularly with such a short time frame. This was something that worked for me, and I heard good things about the catered accommodation offered by the University as well.

Costs

Budgeting is a difficult topic to discuss, as there will be many costs that cannot be predicted. I found the OS-HELP loan to be very helpful as it provided a safety net for me during my travels. I would recommend saving $10,000 as a minimum, without including any financial assistance through UQ or Government loans. Calculate airfares, rent and any other definite travel expenses to get an idea of your base expenses. Then you can start to think about what you'll be able to afford on groceries and other living expenses. I found that buying a local sim was much more affordable and reliable than using an international sim from Australia. 

Whenever I arrive in a new country, one of the first things I do is find an atm to withdraw money in the local currency. I find this to be one of the most convenient ways of handling local currency, as it means I don't have to carry multiple currencies in my wallet for all the countries I intend to visit. I am usually only charged a maximum of $2 from my bank for making an international withdrawal of money from an atm. With that in mind, it is important to use an atm which claims to have free cash withdrawals, so that you know that the atm itself won't charge you extra for withdrawing cash. 

Travel credit cards are my preference for travel, as well as having some local currency cash on me when I first arrive in a new country. I also always bring my Australian card with me as a back up.

I was able to find information about the cost of student accommodation on the University website. Make sure that when you are looking up accommodation that you check whether there are limitations on what is available for exchange students. 

We had to supply our kitchen with cooking utensils and crockery. We found most items that we needed in the many secondhand stores around the city. I recommend going to the smaller shops first, as they tend to have better prices than the bigger chain thrift stores. For anything that was remaining, there were some cheap household items stores around the city, but we decided to get most of what we still needed from the local IKEA. 

Grocery shopping was relatively affordable. There was a Lidl, Aldi, Tesco and Coop all within 15 minutes walking distance from my house. The coop was the most expensive of these options, but I still found it's prices to be affordable, and its range of produce available was more consistent than the other stores. For buying things in bulk such as toilet paper and general kitchen items, Aldi and Lidl were the places to go. 

It's worth looking into what deals and discounts are available to students for transport in the country you're in. There were special discounts on bus fares, as well as student deals on train tickets. I found that it was always worth looking into a range of ways to get to a different city to find the best price. Sometimes trains were cheaper, sometimes buses and coaches were cheaper, it was always worth doing the research.

Challenge

The biggest challenge I experienced during my time on exchange was balancing my studyload with my travel interests. We had a one month break over christmas, which was then followed by the University exam period. It was really difficult for me to get back into studying after I travelled for three weeks over Christmas, and I found that I had lost a lot of motivation to focus on assessment when I also had to think about moving out at the end of the semester. My advice is to try and get as many tasks done before the Christmas break as possible, so that you're final weeks on exchange can be enjoyable rather than stressful.

Professional Development

The most significant attribute I developed during my exchange was a growth in my independent study. By studying in a foreign country, I was out of my depth in understanding the context of my learning. Everything was UK-oriented, and so my first few weeks were filled with following up on policies, politicians, concepts and theories that I had not come across in Australia. This was a challenging but rewarding experience, as it was the first time I had really constructed my own learning in such a way. These habits have stuck with me and I now am more motivated to do independent research than I was previously.

Highlight

Every day was a highlight ;)

Top tips

Don't give up. Sometimes organising an exchange can feel like you keep coming up against a brick wall (at least that was my experience). That wall will break, you just have to stick it out.