Tallis - University of Exeter

B Arts/Science
Semester 1, 2019
Studying on the other side of the world changed my life and gave me a new perspective on who I am. It was the best thing I've ever done.

Academic experience

I was at the minor University of Exeter campus in Penryn, Cornwall, which is known for its biological science program. I studied four courses - Symbioses in Marine Systems, Marine Ecology, Marine Spatial Ecology, and Science in Society. I found them all incredibly interesting - so much so that for the first time in my degree there wasn't one subject where I wasn't excited to go to lectures. I also had so much more time than I'd ever had before - each course (or module, as they call them at UoE) had max two classes a week, with occasional weeks where there was a long practical or field trip. The courses were also different to any available at UQ, which meant I felt like I was really learning something I wouldn't be learning back home. The second- and third-year courses are much more relaxed than first year courses - my 'heaviest' subject only had 8 lectures through the entire semester, and the final assessment is based more on an essay answer than regurgitating knowledge, which I liked. The downside is you are expected to read external sources and reference them in your exams, which sounds scary but is actually so much easier than I thought it would be. The student support is also really good - I always knew who to go to with an issue, and if I didn't, I knew I could ask any of the support areas and they would tell me who could help me. I don't remember much of the enrolment process - I just remember it was pretty easy, and I didn't have any issues registering once I'd received my official acceptance.

Personal experience

I know it's a cliché, but I made wonderful friends who I know I will keep in touch with. It was also my first time travelling by myself, and I went from being nervous as I stepped onto that plane in Brisbane to knowing I could pretty much conquer anything - whether it was travelling through a country where the only words I shared with the locals were 'yes' and 'no', or walking around Scotland and Germany at 1am, or doing my own shopping, washing, cooking, and cleaning (although the cleaning part sometimes got forgotten). I learnt to budget, and also how to cook things like parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, and brussels sprouts. I also spent two and a half weeks with a British family on their farm in Somerset (through the WWOOF organisation), where I learnt to grow squash, silverbeet, and eggplants, and cook turnips. That was a wonderful experience, and I strongly suggest anyone who is in a position to spend several weeks doing something they've never done before, like living on a farm, to do so.


I lived on campus. There were positives and negatives to that - I loved the community, as several of my exchange friends and also my British friends lived on campus, and it was a two-minute walk to any of their flats. I also loved the proximity to classes - very different to the hour commute in Brisbane I had. However, living on campus makes you feel like you never leave uni - there's no 'separate' space you can escape to when you can literally see the campus from your window. A shared room, which is what I had at first, is a similar price to anything you'll find in the town, but a single room, which I switched to half-way through, is significantly more expensive. I mainly chose campus accommodation because I didn't want the bus commute, not knowing the area, but the bus from Falmouth (the nearest town) is only ten minutes, or an hour's walk. It does cost a pound each way, but that's relatively cheap. However, the university was very helpful when I was struggling with accommodation (you have to click 'erasmus' when choosing, not 'international student', otherwise it won't let you have a room for only 1 semester). I would suggest, if you have the money, I really enjoyed living on campus - it gives you the university experience we don't get so much in Brisbane. I liked having a tea at the campus coffee shop at 7pm with my friends, or going to the library at 9pm to study.


I usually managed to keep to between 85 and 100 pounds/week, plus rent. Food was the main bulk of that, and would have been more expensive if I hadn't stuck to buying veg only from the superstore, and any lentils/pasta/nuts I needed at the bulk food store, un-rap. The bus only cost me max 10 pounds/week (that's five trips into Falmouth), and I rarely ate out except for lunch. At the uni cafeteria during the week they have 'budget bowls', which are 1.99 pounds and useful for eating cheap. While travelling around Europe and the UK I kept things cheap by staying at hostels with a kitchen, and making my own breakfast and dinner. I also recommend to book travel a while in advance, for the best train/bus tickets. If travelling around the UK, the National Express Coach card is about 12 pounds and gives you a third off all coach travel, so it's definitely worth it.


Challenges included finding the time to go shopping and not cooking the same thing every night; and remembering to do my washing, otherwise I would be stuck with a whole bunch of wet clothes and nothing to wear (tip: the driers on campus don't work with too many clothes in them, so don't waste your money and come up with a drying system in your flat, like hanging clothes on the electric towel rail).

Professional Development

I had many different assignments to what I was used to - an opinion essay (yes, in a science class!), an oral presentation, a multimedia document - all of which developed my skills in science communication and thinking, rather than just science. I also took part in the Grand Challenges week - highly recommend - where they give you a week, in groups, to come up with an innovative solution to a global issue. My group member and I came up with a proposal for making fisheries and aquaculture more sustainable in the UK. This really inspired me and helped hone my skills in communication, presenting, thinking - and also talking about business and economics, neither of which I knew anything about previously.


Making friends! Given the small size of the campus, I was unsure if I was going to make many, but I met the most wonderful people, whether they were other exchange students or locals.

Top tips

Just do everything. Take the opportunity without a part-time job or long commute to get involved with anything you may not have had the time to get involved with back home. I joined the netball society and realised how much I'd missed netball, and met amazing people through that. My friend and I went to an ABBA pub crawl and that was how I met some of my best friends on exchange. If you're not sure - for example, should you message an exchange student you spoke to for a minute the other day and see if she wants to catch up - just do it. I met two great friends that way, and if I'd been too worried to make the first move I would never have done so. Exchange is too short for anxieties.