Ankita - University of Exeter

B Laws/ B Arts
Semester 2, 2016

Academic Experience

I studied two creative writing subjects (known as modules) at the University of Exeter. For the English major, a full-time load is two subjects, instead of four like at UQ. Whilst this may sound like each subject has a large workload, I didn't feel that way at all because all my assessment was interesting, enjoyable and informative.

My courses were excellent. English studies at the University of Exeter are renowned throughout the UK, and all of my tutors and lecturers were enthusiastic, helpful, energetic and talented writers themselves. I was always motivated and engaged with the readings and course work. I made some really great friends in both courses too, which was fantastic. Exeter has a bigger focus on self-directed learning than UQ does, and this was definitely challenging at first – you are expected to be writing and editing throughout semester, and tutors are more than happy for you to make appointments to discuss your work. On top of this, you should be keeping up with the set texts, as well as doing your own independent reading. This style of education was definitely reflected in the assessment, which was not staggered throughout the semester like my previous creative writing subjects at UQ, but usually due towards the end of semester, and our final portfolios were weighted highly. Knowing this, I tried to write a few pieces every week, and give myself ample time to edit, research and analyse my work. Another thing that took a bit of getting used to was their marking system and the terminology generally used in the UK for different scores. At Exeter, anything below a 40 was a fail, and anything above a 70 was quite impressive. Instead of using words like 'high distinction', and 'distinction', the UK uses terms like '1st', '2:1', '2:2', and so on. After I got my head around that, it was pretty easy to go from there! 

Personal Experience

I gained so much from my exchange, and I'm so glad I did it. Living out of home in a new city on the other side of the world was scary at first, but life in Exeter is peaceful, homely and it quickly became a familiar place. I made some wonderful friends from all over the world, and I learnt that I am capable of a lot more than I thought I was previously. I cooked, cleaned and shopped for myself, walked to and back from classes every day, and made decisions about my finances and resources - all of this made me gain a lot of independence and practical skills, and allowed me to become more resilient and pragmatic about my life.

I also travelled, a lot. I ended up visiting about 46 cities in my six month stint overseas, and many of these places I travelled alone to. It was challenging for sure, especially with language-barriers and catching public transport, but it was so worth it and I learnt so much about myself. Travelling is so eye-openi! ng, and w ith Exeter situated in the picturesque south coast of England, you don't have to go far to see and experience some beautiful places! 

Accommodation

I lived at James Owen Court, one of the university residences about a 20 minute walk from Streatham campus. James Owen Court was situated at the end of a long road which constituted the High Street of Exeter, full of shops, eateries and a cinema too, so it's in quite a good location. The halls had many exchange students living there, and I shared a floor with seven other girls from the U.S, Colombia, New Zealand and Australia, and we all got along really well. I appreciated the set-out of each floor; each of us had our own room and bathroom, and there was a communal kitchen and lounge area. This meant that we could be by ourselves when we wanted to, and there was always bound to be someone in the kitchen if we wanted a chat or break from study. Washing and drying facilities were located near the front entrance and we had to pay each time we used it. Reception were helpful during our stay and were always happy to answer our questions, which was really nice.

My advice is to save yourself the stress and start organising your living arrangements early! I've heard great things from people who decided to live off-campus, so that's always an option too, but whatever you decide to choose, make sure you are pro-active about it and get it sorted before you arrive in Exeter! It can be a tedious process at times, but well worth it when your living arrangements are confirmed; it's a huge relief. 

Budget 

I found Exeter to be cheaper than Brisbane in most ways. Groceries, clothing and general university supplies were very reasonably priced, and there are many charity shops too which I liked to go to. As Exeter is a relatively small city, everything is in walking distance so I never caught public transport other than a bus to and from the airport. I used taxis about three times when I was there, so in total I spent very little on transport. Expect to fork out a bit on fresh fruit, restaurants and movie tickets! Accommodation was costly too, but this was to be expected. I spent most of my money on travel, including flights, trains, accommodation and day tours; most weekends I would do a day trip to somewhere in the UK, and during semester breaks I would travel to Europe. Travel and accommodation aside, I think if you set aside about $100 AUD (give or take) per week on general things like groceries, washing and drying, (much needed!) winter cloth! ing, as w ell as a meal out or two, you should be fine! Give yourself some leeway in your spending if you can; my philosophy is that since you are overseas, you should explore and experience as much as possible, and always worrying about money takes away from your enjoyment of the exchange. So don't be too hard on yourself in regards to your bank account! 

Professional Development & Employability Ankita

I've been able to learn a lot more about inter-cultural communication from my travels, and develop my teamwork skills from living with seven other people, as well as my ability to be accommodating, attentive, understanding and flexible towards others. In addition, I improved on my time-management skills too, namely, organising time to study, travel, do my weekly shopping, cook, and enjoy time spent with friends. When you don't have constant reminders about when assessment is due and what you have to do before class next week, it really teaches you to be alert and to keep up with your work load! 

Highlights

I don't know if there was one particular moment during my exchange that stood out from the rest, but I truly enjoyed the little moments of connection I made every day with people. Whether it was baking a cake with a new friend, catching up with a flatmate over a hot cup of tea, or sharing a laugh with a classmate before a tutorial - these were all things that I really appreciated during my stay in the UK. It allowed me to understand that friendship and kindness exists everywhere, which is a great thing. 

Top Tips

I don't regret a single moment of my exchange, and highly recommend the experience to anyone who has the ability to do it. It's challenging at times, but you meet some really wonderful people, and see the most spectacular places, and learn a lot - not just from your classes, but also about yourself! 

My advice is to get started on the application process early, and always ask questions if you are unsure about anything. It's time consuming, but it's such an exciting feeling when you finally get your acceptance letter from your host university! With regards to university-life and your studies, don't be afraid to put yourself out there: speak up in class, strike up conversations with students in lectures, and join some clubs! I did all of those things and it resulted in some amazing friendships and lots of enjoyable class discussions. I joined a really fun fitness group too, which was difficult but such a good stress-reliever! 

If you are thinking of going to Exeter, make sure to do a tour of the cathedral which just stunning, and also get a meal at Rabbit, Exeter's first 100% vegan cafe - it's delicious! Also, don't forget to enjoy a pizza and a toffee cider at the Old Firehouse, too. J.K Rowling was a student at the University of Exeter, and the Old Firehouse was her inspiration for the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter! 

When it comes to travel in the UK and Europe, plan out explorations early so you can make the most of early-bird specials, cheap flights/trains and accommodation. Buses to and from London were very, very cheap in comparison to trains - in fact, buses around the whole of Europe and the UK were a lot cheaper than trains or flights, so they were a popular option (especially overnight buses). But trains and flights are good options too if you have the budget for it. Websites like skyscanner.com were very helpful, and Flybe - an airline based in Exeter, has frequent flights to many parts of Europe from the city's airport. Make the most of the opportunity you have to explore and experience different countries, cultures and places! 

Ankita - University of Exeter