Katherine - University College London

B Civil Engineering
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

Being a civil engineering major at UQ, I took two core courses abroad and two electives (one advanced and one free). The modules I took were as follows:

  • CEGE3010: Financial Aspects of Project Engineering – This course highlights the way engineering works in practice making note economic, contracting and risk aspects. The course was run by industry professionals meaning the content was less rigorous and assessment was more understanding for abroad students.
  • CEGE3019: Advanced Soil Mechanics – This course is similar to that at UQ however with a stronger importance towards ‘research’ aspects – ie.a painfully long excel analysis of two soils. The course itself was aimed at masters level students, which was a bit of a shock as an undergraduate, however with a bit of work put into the coursework and study towards the exam, it was easily passable.
  • GEOG2020: Surface and Groundwater Hydrology – This course was run through the geography department, as opposed to an engineering faculty. Therefore, the course was taught in a different manner with more emphasis on the understanding of process rather than calculations. The final exam was replaced as an essay which made it quite convenient to take abroad.
  • HART1703: Architecture in London III – This course was really interesting as all class time was wandering the streets of London. Not only did it provide a strong basis to understand the intertwinement of new and old architectural techniques in London but also allowed me to see the city in a totally different perspective visiting sites such as the London Zoo and Alexander Road Estate.

Overall, I was quite happy with the modules I chose, although they weren’t those I anticipated to take abroad. I would definitely recommend having a list of possibilities as it makes selecting classes easier, especially if those you’ve chosen have been discontinued or full.

Personal experience

Living in the hub of Europe, London, was possibly one of the best destinations for exchange. It meant being able to simply take weekend trips to the likes of Paris, Strasbourg or Glasgow. I think one skill being abroad has taught me is the ability to solo travel and to make friends along the way. Before embarking on exchange I wouldn’t have imagined going on trips alone but I’m so glad I did as it showed me how easy it is to arrive in a foreign place and make friends – with one of my first friends being a Dane I spent my birthday within Copenhagen! While travelling and embracing different cultures was one of my favourite parts of being abroad, I’d have to say the time I spent at based in London at UCL, made the experience something else. Living in a such a vibrant city with the ability to attend a late night art event, a musical or a concert after classes truly is something that I couldn’t experience in day to day life in Brisbane. To add to this, every experience I had was shaped by the new and lifelong friends I made while living at college. By the end of my exchange I had even visited three of my closest friends in their hometowns of Stockholm, Paris and Warsaw.

Accommodation 

For me, one of the highlights of studying abroad was living in Central London. As UCL is located right in the heart of the city in Fitzrovia it's on-campus accommodation is also. I lived at a catered hall called Ramsay Hall, which also holds the reputation for being UCL’s party hall. Fun fact: It is also where Coldplay met, with lyrics ‘lights will guide you home’ in their song Fix You, alluding to the following the lights of the BT Tower at night which is right next to the hall. While the meals were only weekday breakfast and dinner and the whole experience (not being able to open your window, having a bedroom sink you can’t drink from, being watched by ‘wardens’…ect) can leave you feeling a bit like you live in a prison – I can assure you that socially its anything but that. Ramsay is one of the most internationally diverse halls and also one of the largest, housing over 400 students. Every weekend the common room (AKA the lounge) is packed, making it easy to mingle with people or just hang out with friends. It was thanks hanging out there during the international orientation week and the official orientation week, that I made the most part of my abroad friends, some of which I ended up travelling with to Spain and Paris.

Budget

As imagined, living in Central London isn’t the cheapest of options, however, you soon find that all the costs are justified by the amazing experience. The accommodation cost £210 a week and on top of that, I budgeted at least another £100 per week to cover food, transport, alcohol and recreational costs. Travel out of London can be really cheap when booked in advance (I got return tickets to Copenhagen for only £35) however keep in mind that it's usually out of Luton, Stanstead and Gatwick Airports, so it costs an additional £25 to get to the airports. If you want to make the most out of travelling on weekends, during reading week and before/after study, I would recommend budgeting at least another $5000 AUD (that way you know you’re in for a good time).

Professional development and employability

On an academic level, I believe being abroad has enriched my studies as it gave me an opportunity to see knowledge from a different perspective. From taking courses in different departments, I was able to contextualize previous studies and appreciate the similar information but with a different objective. On a personal level, I think from being abroad I have gained a lot of independence and management skills which will come in use when applying for future employment.

Highlights 

I’m sure the same as many others, choosing a single highlight is almost impossible as almost every day in London is vibrant and amazing. Whether it be the seeing the sunset over the Thames after a day of classes, a picnic on Primrose Hill with friends or a weekend trip to Stockholm; there was never a day that was dull. Perhaps, the highlight was the thrill of living in Central London with a group of friends and the ability to simply knock on their door to just have a chat or prepare the next trip to Paris. All I can say is that the single thing that added the most character to my entire trip was everyone I met and grew close to, as it’s with each of them that I got to create memories which underpinned the ‘London Experience’.

Top tips

  • Honestly, just submit the application and hope for the best, whether it is to UCL or any other university.
  • Going on exchange will always fit its cliché of ‘being the best five months of your life’ and it will forever offer so many new experiences that you just can’t get at home.
  • Being immersed in a different culture with a group of new friends is possibly the most liberating experience. While there may be a few bumps in the road with regards to studies or simply getting by, all of the highs of this new way of life outweigh it without a doubt.
  • If I could recommend anything it would be to go with the attitude that ‘you only get out what you put in’ and just make the most of every day, whether it be filled with classes or a weekend free to explore!
Katherine - University College London