Dan - University of Surrey

B Business Management/ B International Tourism and Hotel Management
Semester 1, 2015

Academic Experiences

The University of Surrey is located about 35 minutes from the centre of London and proved to be ideal for my exchange. It is currently ranked 4th in the Guardian League table just below Oxford, Cambridge and St Andrews Universities. The University is located in Guildford, which is a small city rich with history.

I chose the University of Surrey because of its location and the fact that my UQ subjects closely matched those I would take at Surrey. I am a third year student studying dual degrees in Business (Marketing) and Tourism (Events). I found the workload and teaching styles at Surrey to be very similar to UQ.
Surrey has a smaller student population, which means that it is easier to meet and get to know people in your courses. I found the quality of teaching to be very high at Surrey.

Personal Experiences

For me going on exchange was one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences I have had. Although it sounds clichéd to say that an overseas exchange can change you as a person, it most certainly does. The skills I learnt are invaluable and my experiences unforgettable. I found that my one semester abroad gave me more skills and experiences than I gained in my first 2 years of university.

Putting yourself in a new environment with people you’ve never met before allows you to discover more about yourself and the world around you. I left wanting to stay longer and I’d say this is one of the best ways to leave a place.


Surrey was the perfect setting for my exchange, with a vibrant student union, regular social events, weekend tours organised by the union and its close proximity to Gatwick Airport and London.

I lived on campus in Surrey Court which was very centrally located. I would highly recommend living on campus and encourage you to avoid staying at Manor Park or Hazel Farm if possible as you have to get a bus to uni from those locations. As an exchange student it's not ideal to be living off campus although I knew some exchange students who did this. The campus accommodation gives you everything you need for one semester abroad and allows you to meet and socialise with people.
Campus is about a 15 minute walk from Guildford and there is a Tesco nearby too. If you live on campus there isn't really a need to get a bus pass or bicycle.


Budgeting is crucial to the success of your exchange. Ideally in order to be comfortable you need around $11,000 for flights, rent, food, transport, laundry costs, a mobile phone sim, and entertainment.
Additionally you need money for other travel and additional flights which depends on where you want to go. I would recommend getting an around the world ticket which can be purchased for around the same price as a return ticket to London. Staying in hostels and purchasing budget airline tickets also helps to save money.

Academic Development and Employability 

The past six months has taught me so much about who I am, given me cultural understanding, opened my eyes to the world, and taught me some valuable lessons. Exchange gave me the opportunity to network and make new friendships with people from around the world.
The experience has provided me with skills I believe will be very useful in the workplace and above all I feel my exchange has given me a greater sense of purpose.


I had many highlights on my exchange but if I had to choose just one I would have to say that it would be going to Iceland. Iceland was the most incredible places I visited on exchange.
I snorkelled between the Eurasian and North America tectonic plates, saw the birthplace of democracy, rafted down the Hivita River, swam in the blue lagoon and saw some incredible natural wonders.

Top Tips 

  1.  Get a room on campus – If at first you don’t succeed try again. As soon as you get the email to apply for accommodation apply. Don’t waste time with the application. If you end up at Manor Park or Hazel Farm I recommend calling up and requesting that if a place becomes available you moved to the on Campus accommodation. As an exchange student it really is not ideal to be living 30 minutes away from Campus by bus and even though I had heaps of friends on exchange who did this I would recommend you try to avoid it. Campus rooms are great and from the campus it’s only about a 15 minute walk to Guildford.
  2.  Round the world ticket – This may sound expensive but it ends up being about the same as a ticket to London and back. I visited 4 continents and paid around the same price as my fellow exchange peers who were from Australia. This is the best way to see the world and break up your trip.
  3.  Budget – Budgeting is key to the success of your exchange. It takes time and effort but is definitely a worthwhile exercise. Create a spreadsheet with all the general costs and then create a separate sheet for each country. At the end add 20 - 25% of your assumed costs to your budget as contingency.
  4.  Arrive two days early – Arrive at least two days before the Orientation session days. These are quite jam-packed days and there are lots of other things that need to be organized before Uni starts. Even though there is a shuttle from the airport I’d recommend arriving at Surrey earlier. 
  5.  Before you leave open a Citibank Account - This account saved me so much money in fees and charges. There are no fees when using ATM’s, making international purchases or when transferring money overseas. The exchange rates were really good and this method is much better than getting a travel card. I used the card in 18 countries and didn’t once get charged a processing or transaction fee. It takes a while to open the account but it’s worth it.
  6.  Plan your travels in week 1 - Don’t plan all your travels beforehand as you’ll meet people who want to go places and travel with others. If you go to Surrey in the first half of the year I would highly recommend getting a group together and going over to Ireland for St Patrick’s Day and staying for a few days. This was one of the highlights of my exchange.
  7.  Railcard – The Railcard will save you hundreds of dollars and is well worth getting. It gives you around 30% off rail tickets. Just bring an ID size photo with you to get the card. 
  8.  Bedding pack/Argos – I wouldn’t recommend the Surrey bedding pack as it’s expensive for what you get. Personally I’d recommend taking a sleeping bag with you for all your travels and go out and buy bedding when you arrive. Argos is really good for kitchen supplies and you can buy a whole kitchen set for reasonable prices. 
  9.  Don’t get a job on exchange unless you are staying longer than 1 semester – If you’re on exchange for a semester enjoy the break and avoid getting a job. Work as much as you can in the lead up to your exchange. It’s not worth interrupting your exchange with work.
  10.  Go to Iceland – Iceland was the most incredible place I visited on exchange. I snorkelled between the Eurasian and North America tectonic plates, saw the birthplace of democracy, rafted down the Hivita River, swam in the blue lagoon and saw some incredible natural wonders. If you go anywhere while on exchange I’d recommend Iceland be your number 1. WOW Air and EasyJet have some cheap flights available however some of the activities are expensive (so save up – it’s well worth it). I’d recommend going in Summer even though you won’t see the Northern Lights as it’s a lot warmer and it’s pretty much light all day.
  11.  Open a bank account with Lloyds not Santander – Surrey encourages you to open a Santander account however as an exchange student they will only let you open a £5 a month international student account with limited features. If you go into Lloyds which is in Guildford they will open a fee free account with all the necessary features and allow you to keep the account open for as long as you like. If you get the Citibank card you won’t really need a British account but it is useful.

Never again will I have the chance to travel with 70+ different people within the course of 6 months. I’ve lived the dream, the photos hold the memories frozen in time and as I move forward in life I know that this experiences has changed who I am and developed in me a greater level of independence.
I do stress the success of your exchange does come down to planning and organising. So start planning your exchange today and I promise you won’t regret it!

Thanks UQ Abroad for giving me this fantastic opportunity!