Claudia - Imperial College London

B Engineering/Commerce
Semester 2, 2019
My experience at ICL exceeded my expectations.

Academic experience

I attended Imperial College in the Fall Semester, Semester 2 at UQ.  I completed four modules at Imperial, which were the equivalent of three 4th Year Civil Engineering electives at UQ. The courses I completed were, Traffic Engineering, Water & Wastewater Engineering, Structural Design and Transport & Environmental Impacts and Safety.  It was a useful choice undertaking my electives whilst on exchange, as I could choose from a range of the courses on offer at Imperial.  These electives were often run by several lecturers, who would teach a specific topic of their interest, allowing you to learn from some of the best in the field! 

The teaching system was quite similar, with the only difference being the lack of tutorial sessions in some of the courses I chose.  Instead there were blocks of three hours for each course, which could be all lectures or include a tutorial session, depending on the course you chose.  Lectures are also recorded.
The only difference I felt was the fact that classes end a week prior to Christmas and exams are held from around 6th of January to the end of January.  This means you have a lot more time to study and a longer exam period. Each course typically has at least one piece of coursework, usually an essay or report.  Past exams are used to study off and the only challenging aspect of exams is that you may need to memorise formulas as none are open book.

It was incredibly easy to enrol, the ladies in charge of the administration are lovely and always there to help you out.  All students choose their fourth year courses prior to the academic year commencing, so if there are enough students also interested in a course you are assured to get your chosen subjects.  You can also change courses easily whilst you are there.

Personal experience

The highlight of my experience were the incredibly interesting and intelligent people I met.  Over half of the full-time cohort are international students, so you will meet people from all over Europe and the world.  The university and my classes were significantly smaller, allowing you to meet everyone in your class and feel a part of the cohort.  The civil engineering society organised many events for the students from pub crawls to civil engineering site visits and an Easter Tour.

Imperial has over 400 societies and this is where majority of socialising occurs.  I was able to test out a few of the societies including Jiu Jitsu, cheerleading, musical theatre and dance, but there are many more including a society for every type of sport you could think of.  

I spent my days off and weekends exploring London, I never got bored or ran out of things to do.  From weekend markets, to museum trips, there was always something to do or an event on.  The Erasmus (Exchange society) also offers trips and events for exchange students.

Imperial also offers a 'Horizons' Program.  This means you can learn a Language or topic of interest for absolutely free, with weekly classes and even get assessed on it for extra credit.  Take advantage of this opportunity and you will always find a native speaker to help you out and practice with.


I lived in college halls across the road from the campus at Beit Hall, right next to the Royal Albert Hall,  just below Hyde Park and 10m from the university pub. Halls are assigned to first year students and exchange students, with a few senior students also, however most first year students are already 19 by the time they attend university, so the age difference wasn’t noticeable. I highly recommend staying in the halls for community and convenience.  Halls organise weekly social events, some do trips across Europe and it’s a good way to meet people and be able to partake in uni events.  

College accommodation isn’t guaranteed for exchange students staying less than a year and so they advise you to find alternate housing.  I took the risk and got a spot in the halls and most of my friends in the same situation did also.  Private housing is easy to find, just allocate time before the semester to look around as it can’t usually be organised from home.


London can be very expensive, typically double compared to Brisbane, particularly for eating out, the daily coffee and taking public transport.  Whilst London is expensive, it also means a lot of shops, from food to clothing have great student discounts. You can save a lot by not getting takeaway and buying groceries, which you can cheaply and easily get delivered to your door!
The tube can also be expensive so look into rail discounts. Since I lived across the road from uni, I only got the railcard which allowed me to get 1/3 off off-peak tube rides and national rail trips.  If you travel daily definitely get a monthly pass with a student discount.

Rent at the college halls is some of the cheapest accommodation for the location.  I lived in Beit Hall at South Kensington, in a double room with ensuite for 150 pounds per week. It typically costs double for your own room. Kitchens in halls can be shared from 6 people up to around 20.


The only challenge I was faced with was being overwhelmed with choices of things to do each day.  There’s never a boring day in London!

Professional Development

I particularly learnt how to be accepting and welcoming of different cultures, also how to overcome language barriers and be patient and understanding of others.  This is especially important for professionals working in an international environment.


The highlights of my exchange experience are;
-    Living in South Kensington and witnessing the daily crowds of tourists and school students visiting the museums.
-    Christmas in London means Christmas light switch on events.
-    There is always something to do - musicals, plays, free museums,  concerts and sporting events
-    Where I lived was next to the Royal Albert Hall, where many awards ceremonies such as the BAFTAs are held. This meant I was able to see celebrities walk the red carpet from my bedroom!

Top tips

Be willing to make friends from other countries! I knew of only one other Australian at Imperial, so this is the time to make international friends and even test out your language skills if you have any.

Flights out of London aren’t too cheap, so if you’re planning trips within Europe you’ll have to book at least a month ahead.  Although, don’t feel obliged to travel, there’s so much to do just within the city.  If you book the Eurostar over a month in advance, you can get the cheapest prices for trains to Amsterdam and Paris.

Stay for the year if you can! The rest of fourth year civil engineering is a research project, if you have the choice, I would definitely stay.  Easter break is when most of the societies go for trips around Europe, and you get to enjoy London as spring comes around, and attend the Civil Engineering Yearly Tour.