Matthew - University of Bristol

B Arts/Information Technology
Semester 2, 2019
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

Academic experience

Whilst on exchange at the University of Bristol my full-time study equivalent was to undertake 3 courses. These were British Politics, Russian Politics and Economic Principles. It was a fantastic opportunity to study British politics as it was the time of the Brexit debacle as well as the 2019 general election. The courses themselves typically had a smaller class size than that of UQ and the contacts and tutorials were taught by the course lecturer rather than a post graduate student. The enrolment process was all handled by the Global experiences team in the UK.

Personal experience

My time abroad can be divided into two distinct periods, the first being solo travel and the second being the exchange experience. In total I travelled to 28 different countries most of which being before I started at the University of Bristol. I imagined that I would be spending much of my social time with other international students while at Bristol but instead I made some of the closest friendships of my life with a group of English students who were thus able to show me the best parts of their country. My only classes were on Monday-Wednesday so I had a four-day weekend every week, where I could comfortably work out a travel/study life that was good for me. Bristol being in a central place in Southern England enabled easy travel to London and Wales however I created my favourite memories in Bristol with the lifelong friends that I found.


I lived in college halls and in Bristol this is typically reserved for first years/international students, due to the English education system I found myself to be about the same age as British first years, so I fit in well. The college I stayed at provide two cooked meals every day. On weekdays this was breakfast and dinner, and on the weekends, it was a late breakfast and lunch. The food quality was diverse and excellent – I had no complaints. Bathrooms were shared between hallways, but it worked out that I was never waiting to use a shower as there were plenty.

A few nights a week could get noisy if you were trying to sleep or study, but I made sure that I had left these nights as a time where I myself could socialise. I was in a single bedroom provided with cupboards, a sink, a desk, a chair and a single bed – I wasn’t really in need of much else. However, the smaller hallway kitchens only had a microwave and a kettle, so you had to be inventive if you wanted to cook a pleasant meal for yourself. (Many stories there). Bristol is partly a university town which meant that the Uni and any shops or restaurants that I needed to visit were all within a 10-15-minute walk.


(I will leave out my prior months of solo travel for this) For a semester of accommodation at the college it came to about $6500 which I payed for with an OS-Help loan which I would highly advise other people doing. Bristol itself was a relatively cheap city compared with other places in the UK with many student discounts available. Where meals weren’t provided, I made sandwiches and microwavable meals with prices very comparable to Brisbane. Bristol has an airport where very cheap flights can be booked to close destinations around Europe. (A return flight to Dublin only costs about $40). However British railway is notoriously expensive with a return trip to London costing nearly $90, where possible I caught coaches across the country with an overnight ride to Edinburgh being about $30.


If you come to expect that while travelling things don’t always go to plan you will be able to deal with 90% of the problems that come your way. I can’t recall any times where I felt at a loss or needed help with something. Social isolation can be something that occurs when solo travelling or being a foreigner in a strange place, but people are most of the time happy to help you out and interested in your story.

Professional Development

I really took this opportunity to try out new things, while at the Uni I joined a martial arts group where I made some great friends and I did subjects that are not really offered at UQ to broaden my knowledge. I think that I learned the most about dealing with all kinds of people and I believe that my social and teamworking skills developed significantly. I am much more confident in myself and in the past where I could sometimes be hesitant to approach and have a chat with strangers, that is no longer the case.


Aside from all the travelling experiences I would say that my highlight of the experience is quite personal. Our group did a secret Santa just before Uni ended for Christmas and to be taken in at this time of year by a bunch of people who were strangers just a few months earlier was truly amazing. I think it was this moment when my group of 11 friends were at its closest, and I regularly think back to this happy time.

Top tips

-    Make an active effort to meet people, Australians are people who are loved all over the world.
-    The other travellers you meet abroad are all in the same boat as you and friendships can very quickly develop.
-    I had a comfortable budget where if I wanted to do something I could, but I was always careful with my day to day spending.
-    I never felt homesick because video calls make possible what wasn’t a few years ago.
-    Don’t be shy to try new things, none of these people know you back home.
-    Take a million photos, they can become a good travel diary.