Abby - University of Surrey

B Business Management/ B International Hotel Tourism Managment
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

I was in my final year of a dual degree of Bachelor Business Management (majoring in HR) and Bachelor International Hotel and Tourism Management (majoring in Tourism) when I went on my exchange to the University of Surrey. I studied two UQ Tourism courses and two general electives whilst I was over there. I strongly encourage when planning to go on exchange to leave your general electives and complete them whilst on exchange, as this will make it a lot easier when trying to get subjects approved. Organising subjects and getting approval was one of my first challenges during the whole exchange program, there were moments when I would consider giving up but with help and determination, I was able to get subjects approved, and be able to go on an experience of a lifetime.
I was drawn to study at the University of Surrey for not only being located in the UK and only a 40-minute train ride from London but also for being in the top-ranked schools of Hospitality and Tourism Management in the UK. This was clearly shown in the classes I took, as found them all to be engaging, interesting and most importantly useful! The classes were more practical then theory based, with assignments being related to real life work (e.g. writing a news article review on the success of a stock exchange listed hotel, or writing a report on the success of a hotel you ran in class, or developing a product and creating an entirely new product proposal). Surrey was similar to UQ in that you would have a two-hour lecture and a one-hour tutorial each week. For my classes, three of them only had two pieces of assessment whilst one of them only had one! This was daunting having little assessment in not knowing how my work would mark against their criteria. However, after my first couple of assessments, I found it to be the same if not easier!
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my academic experience at the University of Surrey.

Personal experience

Studying abroad was something I wanted to do since high school. Through finally working up the courage and confidence to apply, undertaking the UQ Abroad program has now been one of the best experiences of my life. Every day I was over there I gained a new experience or memory.
I formed a close friendship group mostly with two other Australians and two Americans, where we would constantly message each other to plan places to travel too, things to do on weekends (like 1pound bowling on Sundays), recipes to bake, and warning each other of Starbucks deals such as half price frappes where we get one and sit by the lake (*when it was not raining of course). Not only did I make such a close group of friends but I also made friends with many other exchange students from around the world as well as local people living in my flat and flats nearby. Being friends with other exchange students is great as they are just as keen as you are about the experience, so are good to explore and travel with, whilst being friends with locals you are able to learn about the country and teach them about yours. 
The University of Surrey is great for travel. Firstly with its location 40-minute train from London, I did many day trips to explore the wonderful city. It also means that it is very close to London Heathrow and especially London Gatwick airport where you can cheap flights to all around Europe. The University of Surrey also has a month break during Easter which is fantastic for exchange students being able to travel! I suggest not planning this until you get over there as you will meet people who will want to travel to the same places as you. I did an 18-day top deck tour during this time with one of my close American friends, where we were lucky enough to get a last-minute deal. It was a great way to see Europe, especially being my first time travelling Europe. The University of Surrey is also great in that it provides day trips to nearby towns in the UK, this is a good money saver and a good way to go see other areas within the UK.
Going on exchange has given me more self-confidence in who I am, it has made me more culturally aware of the world around me and how people live but most importantly to make the most of life an enjoy everything it has to offer.

Accommodation 

The University of Surrey was extremely helpful when organising accommodation. As soon as I was accepted they sent me information on applying for on-campus accommodation. I lived on campus and it was probably one of the best decisions I made. The University of Surrey campus is very small compared to UQ, in that I am able to walk from one side to the other in 5 minutes. However there are three accommodation campuses, I lived on the main campus in Surrey Court, which was ideal is it was central to everything. Getting to class took less than 5 minutes, and nights out the uni bar Rubix was also made very easy get home. The campus is also in a great location of the town Guildford, with a big Tesco supermarket 15-minute walk one side of campus and the main town centre 15 minutes walk the other side of campus. This was great as I did not need to pay for any transport whilst getting around campus and Guildford.

Budget

Budgeting is key! A good idea, which I did, is to do up a budget in an excel document before you go, to give you a rough idea of how much you should spend on each different expense. I went over with just over $10,000, which was satisfying enough to pay for all my expenses including rent, food, mobile, travel, and entertainment. I was happy with the travelling I was able to do, although if you plan to do a lot, then I would advise taking more money. Being on a tight budget meant getting the cheapest deal, staying in hostels, taking an overnight bus, flying Ryanair or easyJet, and getting a student travel card are were always the go for travelling. Some weeks I would spend more than others, I would aim to do a shop once or twice a fortnight, aiming for 30pounds a fortnight, but of course times I would find myself going back for other little things. So it is important to be wary of how much you spend and to regularly check your finances. And most importantly remember the EXCHANGE RATE, whilst I was there the exchange rate was one dollar to fifty pence which meant I could easily double what I spent to get the Australian rate coming out of my account.

Professional development and employability

Being able to say 'yes' I am going to study overseas, and being able to organise the whole process I think is firstly a good sign of professional development, in determination, organisation and willingness. Being able to say you lived overseas for six months in a different environment, shows that you can be ready to work anywhere, in any environment. Personally, as I said it has given me more self-confidence, independence, improved my communication skills in communicating with people from different cultures, and has made me aware of the world around me. I was also able to learn more about the British hospitality, tourism, and events industry in courses, therefore broadening my knowledge from outside Australia. Overall the whole experience gave me skills that I will be able to take with me for the rest of my life.

Highlights 

My whole exchange experience was a highlight for me. Every time I look back I remember a different memory or my favourite moment will change. From my first day in London with the excitement of a new life adventure, to walking through Oxford, doing a Sound Of Music tour in Salzburg, riding bikes in Amsterdam, a casual weekend trip to Belgium, going out every Friday night or baking cookies as group nearly once a week, I really can not pick a favourite moment. I have travelled to so many places, had many laughs, heard great stories, and created lifelong memories, but maybe my biggest highlight was the people I did this with, and the lifelong friendships I have made.

Top tips

Participating in the student exchange program is something I strongly recommend for everyone to do! I'll say it again and keep saying it, studying abroad was one of the best experiences of my life! Nothing can prepare you for how much you are going to learn and how much fun you are going to have. So whether you have the slightest thought to go on exchange, just go for it! As I mentioned the process can sometimes be tough, but you have people there to help and support you, so just do it, and you will never regret it!

  • Create a Citibank account - It is super easy and will save you money too. With no credit interest and no international transaction fee, a Citibank debit card is great for travelling. However remember to warn them you are going overseas (and where) and you also may need to change your mobile number on your account when you get there, especially if you make big transactions where they may need to text you a code. I, unfortunately, had a few issues with this as I need to change my mobile number and I forgot to warn them of my travel. But there are three Citibank buildings in London you can easily go to and contact the Australian office for free.
  • Live on campus - It makes life so much easier. You are close to everything, most other exchange students do it to so you will not only make friends with them but also locals living in the accommodation too. Though aim to live on the main campus (i.e NOT Manor Park or Hazel farm), therefore a recommended band to choose when applying for accommodation is Band C and hopefully, you will get Surrey Court, which is in a great location.
  • Sign up to the meet and greet - If you don't plan on travelling beforehand, arriving on the day of meet and greet, where people from the university come pick you up from Heathrow airport and drop you at the campus, is great. This is super helpful especially if you are a first time traveller. It is also a great way to meet some of your fellow exchange students, I actually meet two of my closest friends during the meet and greet.
  • Get a Railcard - Saves you heaps when travelling via Train in the UK and Bus around Guildford (something I didn't realise until after I purchased my bus ticket in Guildford)! Don't forget to take an ID photo with you if you already have one, saves you having to pay another 2-5pounds to print a photo.
  • TRAVEL - Surrey is in a fantastic location. London is only a 40-minute train ride, which then gives you easy travel access to the rest of the UK and Europe. Make the most of how close and how cheap it is to get to another country, there is just so much to see. Becoming friends with other exchange students and they will have the same travel passion as you do. Whilst there is so much to see in the UK and Europe, don't forget to explore around Guildford and the Surrey Region!! Surrey has some of the most amazing English countryside, and within Guildford alone there is some beautiful walking and hiking paths to take!!

Finally again, if you have the slightest consideration to participate in student exchange, then do it! It truly is one of the greatest experiences you will enjoy in life!

Abby - University of Surrey