Hilary - University of Nottingham

B Arts/ B Laws
Semester 2, 2015 & Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

I studied three 20-credit second-year history modules each semester, which was a full-time load. Nottingham offers a broader range of history subjects than UQ and I loved that there were so many on British history, which is my main interest. I would particularly recommend ‘Kingship in Crisis: Politics, People and Power in Late-medieval England’ and ‘A Protestant Nation?: Politics, Religion and Society in England, 1558-1640.’ Nottingham’s history modules are run similarly to UQ, with one (non-recorded) lecture and one tutorial per week. The assessment methods were different to UQ, as there were no marks for attendance or class discussions. Each course had one 3,000 word essay and one final exam both worth 50%. The biggest challenge I encountered was that all my essays were due on the same day, so I would recommend starting in advance!

Personal experience

The most important thing I’ve taken away from exchange is the friendships. Being away for a year, I was able to meet a wide range of people who were a great support network. Most of my friends were exchange students and it was easy to get to know each other as we were all in the same situation. I also made some lovely local friends which was great as they tended to be more interested in getting involved at the university. I was able to do a lot of travel thanks to Nottingham’s very long holidays, and I would recommend fitting in as much as possible.

Accommodation 

I lived on-campus at University Park in Rutland Hall, which was catered. This was really convenient, being a ten-minute walk from the centre of campus and right next to the gym and sports fields. Having meals provided was great in terms of budgeting, though I did miss out when I travelled on weekends. The difference in cost between catered and self-catered isn’t huge, and I would guess that catered is slightly more cost-effective. Having previously lived at one of UQ’s colleges for two years I would have preferred something more independent, but catered halls are a great way to get the ‘college’ experience. Almost all of the residents are first years (18-19) and at 21 I found the age difference noticeable. However, there was a small number of exchange students in each hall who were in the same position. Living in a catered hall certainly made it easier to meet people, and I met almost all of my friends this way. My friends in self-catered apartments also had a great time, and their flatmates tended to be more varied. Some had apartments full of exchange students while others were with English first-years.

Budget 

My accommodation cost just over £5000 for the year, and this included food. Transport within Nottingham was cheap, as buses for students were £1 into the city. However, transport to other parts of the UK was quite expensive, especially trains. I feel that the cost of living in Nottingham was slightly cheaper than Brisbane, especially as it is a student city. In terms of going out, there were two big student nights each week and drinks were moderately priced, but there was always a £5-6 cover charge. I travelled a lot, and this was by far my biggest expense. I would say that UQ’s cost-of-living estimate of £10,000 per year is accurate for Nottingham, but this did not include much travel and I definitely spent more. I would recommend taking the OS-HELP loan and saving as much money as possible before getting over there because travel is so easy from the UK and it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Professional Development & Employability

I feel that exchange has given me really valuable life skills. I am much more independent and am able to manage my money effectively. I am also much better at decision-making and can remain calm in a crisis (such as missing a flight home from Germany). I used exchange as a chance to get some work experience relevant to my degree (Arts/Laws) and would really recommend this. I volunteered at the Nottingham County Court and learnt a lot of skills transferable to Australia, and was able to become more involved in the community.

Highlights 

My highlight was getting the chance to live in the UK, having moved from there to Australia when I was very young. They have a really fun university culture, with all first-years living on campus and older students not far away. I loved exploring the rest of the UK and would recommend not neglecting this when travelling! Exploring Europe was my other highlight, and there was so much opportunity for it. Each semester has a month-long mid-semester break which meant it was easy to organise seeing friends in different countries.

Top Tips 

  • Trains in the UK are expensive but everyone aged 16-25 can get a railcard for £30, which gives you 30% off all fares. National express coaches are often a cheaper option to trains, and they also offer a young persons’ coachcard with 30% off.
  • Go to the international student orientation program! There is one at the start of each semester. In their semester 1 it is a few days before freshers’ week, and in semester 2 it’s during the first week of classes. A lot of exchange students I knew met their friendship group for the semester during these few days.
  • Make friends with locals, particularly if you are staying for a year. Most of my exchange friends only stayed one semester and without local friends, I would have had to make friends all over again.
  • Nottingham is an up-and-coming city and has lots of quirky cafes and bars. It’s fun to get out of the campus bubble and explore the city centre.
  • Don’t just consider Europe when travelling. I went to Morocco for nine days and it was probably my favourite place. I flew from there from Pisa with Ryanair for £18!
Hilary - University of Nottingham