Nelson - University College London

B Politics, Philosophy and Economics (honours)
Semester 2, 2022


My first motivation for going on semester-based exchange was based on the opportunity to study in a different university in a different country, allowing me to understand their methods of teaching and research. My second and probably strongest motivation was to explore a new country and region of the world, enabling me to discover the culture and history of these places while meeting new people from vastly different backgrounds.

Personal Development

On a personal level, I have gained a better awareness of my preferences and what I want and don’t want in life. For example, traveling across different places in Europe is a lot of fun, but I enjoyed it a lot more when I was doing it with friends that I met in my host country or other students on exchange. While I still had fun when I travelled alone, my enjoyment was significantly higher when I was sharing the experience with another person. Therefore, this experience enabled me to demonstrate to myself that I am still happy when doing things alone but that they tend to be more enjoyable when I get to share them with friends. Another personal reflection, is that the experience pushed me to further adapt to events that occurred and remain resilient no matter what happened. At the end of the second week on exchange, my backpack with my computer inside got stolen at a bar. While it was quite inconvenient that this occurred, I was happy that I was able to continue to plot along, find a way to borrow a computer from the university while the police were conducting their investigation. (Side note: UQ insurance were super helpful and easy to deal with, which made the experience a lot smoother). I was then able to purchase a new computer and got reimbursed by the UQ insurance (Chubb). I was quite happy that I was able to smoothly deal with the situation, adapt and remain resilient, not letting it disrupt the rest of my exchange.

Academic Development

From an academic standpoint, I had high expectations for my host university. University College London (UCL) is ranked in the top 15 universities in the world, which led me to assume that the academic experience was going to be superior to the one I experienced at UQ. Unfortunately, in my opinion, UCL is not as good as UQ in terms of administration and learning outcomes. The administration process are very old and slow, online systems related to admin tasks such as selecting courses don’t function smoothly, forcing students to go to the admin offices in person. Furthermore, UCL accepts too many students for the physical capacity of their lecture theatres, resulting in limited places for classes, sometimes making it difficult to select a class and weakening already poorly designed admin systems. In terms of learning outcomes, the lecturers were quite good, but the teaching period is only 10 weeks long, and in most essay-based courses, students only complete two assignments compared to at least three at UQ. Therefore, the lower number of teaching weeks and the lower number of assignments, resulted in lower learning outcomes than at UQ. That being said, the academic experience was not bad in absolute terms, just relative to UQ I thought it was worse and way worse than my expectations. However, once I recalibrated my expectations, I did enjoy my academic experience at UCL. The lecturers were in general quite knowledgeable in their field and I did learn from the courses that I was enrolled in. Furthermore, I did second and third year courses that required pre-existing content (that I had learnt at UQ), enabling me to experience slightly different explanations and presentations of similar topics. I think this helped me to develop a deeper understanding of these topics. Furthermore, there was something special to study at a very old institution, where many recognised academics had previously studied and old libraries covered in dark wood.

Professional Development

During my exchange, one of the key skills that I was able to further develop was my ability to adapt to different ways of working and learning. As explained above, UCL had different was of teaching and communicating with its students, meaning I had to learn and adapt to these different methods. At the beginning, I was a little frustrated because the system seemed to be quite slow and outdated. However, I told myself that this is the way it is and I just have to adapt and make the most of it. In hindsight, I happy that I pushed through these frustrations and adapted to the environment I was in and did my best with what I had. Additionally, I was able to participate in numerous student sport and professional society activities, enabling me to meet people from many different walks of life and understand the corporate environment in London. As I was using this exchange as a sort of test run to see if I would be interested in living and working in London after finishing my studies, this opportunity was extremely valuable for me to understand the various career opportunities and have a set of friends already living in the city. Through this experience, I can safely say that I am very interested to move for a few years to London.


During my exchange, I budgeted 250 AUD each week not including rent and flights. Surprisingly, I was able to comfortably stay below this about despite eating out for lunch and going out for dinners and events with Friends. I think I was able to do that because I took advantage of the TESCO meal deal, which included a drink, sandwich and snack for £3.4, allowing me to have a quick lunch snack at a very cheap price. Also, I was lucky that there was an ALDI around the corner from where I lived, making groceries super cheap. Keeping my lunches and groceries cheap allowed me to save a lot of money for other activities such as traveling to other cities in the UK and Europe or going to events such as comedy clubs, expositions, theatres or concerts. In total, these costs accumulated to around $5000. On the other hand, rent was quite expensive, costing £275 a week at UCL student accommodation, totally £3300 pounds for the entire stay (around 5747 AUD). Adding 2200 AUD for return flights, I spent around 13,000 AUD for my exchange. While this is a big number for one semester, if I subtract my costs if I lived in Australia and continued to study at UQ, the exchange costed me actually around 4000 AUD more than if I stayed in Brisbane. Despite, this price I think the experience was more than worth it and I would do it again if I could. That being said, I do feel quite privileged to have been able to accumulate savings through part-time work and internships over the past three years, allowing me to afford this experience. My main advice for future students is to plan a weekly budget for fluctuating expenses (i.e. all expenses aside from rent and flight tickets) and try to reduce costs on things that you consume frequently such as food. Finally, if you do have some savings, don’t hesitate to enjoy your experience and spend money to travel around your host country and neighbouring countries. Once you will be working full-time in your career it will be a lot more difficult to have the time to travel and enjoy the world.


The funding that I received was extremely beneficial for my experience. As explained above, going on exchange was quite costly, meaning the funding provided relief to enable to fully experience my exchange without having to work part-time during the exchange (which would have been quite difficult in a foreign country). As a result, it enabled me to thoroughly enjoy my exchange, allowing me to embrace the culture and academic experience while not be limited by an extremely tight budget. I am very grateful of the funding that I received from UQ’s widening grant.


I got accommodation directly through the university. In hind-sight I think it was definitely the easiest option and most practical. Getting private accommodation is extremely difficult, especially if you don’t know anyone in the country and are not aware of the local renting market. However, UCL has a strange accommodation system where you put the maximum price you are willing to pay and what type of room you would prefer, then get allocated if there are availabilities. I thought that if I put a low price, I would not be sure to get accommodation. So, I put a higher price and it turns out that they try to fit you in room that is the closest to your maximum price. Also, higher price places tended to not have as good as an atmosphere as the lower priced accommodation. This is because the higher price accommodation has more separated living spaces. In hindsight, I would have selected a lower price and preference a single room with shared bathroom.


The highlight of my experience was definitely the different people I met whom became quality friends. Through my classes and participating in society events, I was able to meet new people from vastly diverse backgrounds. We travelled to cities in the UK and Europe, they helped me to explore London and have a truly integrated experience.

Advice/Top Tips

My main tip for other students considering to participate in an exchange is to fully embrace the experience and push yourself out of your comfort zone, especially in the first three weeks. Making quality friends and having a support network to share your experience with, makes the experience significantly more enjoyable.