Rachel - University of Nottingham

B Science/ B Arts
Semester 2, 2014

Academic Experiences

I studied two French courses (third and first year) and four Science courses (two second year Genetics courses, one first year Microbiology course and one second year Ecology course). I found that the biggest different was that my science courses did not have a practical component (excepting one course which had three practical sessions only) which was very unlike what I was used to at UQ. This meant that I had a much smaller amount of contact hours, which was great for travelling, but I did feel that I didn’t get the most out of the courses as I would have at UQ. The teaching style was also very different and took a while to get used to. 

I had trouble coming to terms with what we were supposed to be learning - while I understood the content, I did not understand the context of the course and how what was in the lectures would fit into my degree (or life) - whereas at UQ, we have many opportunities to put into practice the things we have learnt and really understand them - for example, in practicals and tutorials.

Personal Experiences

The exchange was an amazing experience, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I made some of the closest friends I’ve ever had with the people who came on exchange with me from UQ, and made some really great friends with people I met while travelling and at Nottingham. 

I travelled before, during and after semester and I ended up visiting 17 different countries while overseas which was incredible. I travelled to some amazing places, including doing a Contiki tour of Scandinavia, exploring Iceland with some fellow exchange students, doing weekend trips around the UK, going on the University ski trip and sailing in Turkey. Everywhere I went I collected magnets and I came home with 45!  I experienced many different countries, languages, currencies and cultures and I feel that I picked up a little of each along the way. 

I also had various troubles while on exchange – I got very sick in the first week of my travels and the week before I started university, my phone was destroyed, my watch broke, I lost my travel card, ID and student card, my luggage was lost and various other unlucky situations, but I survived them all and came out with a better understanding of myself and how to deal with situations like these. 

I also feel that I am a better listener and can empathise more, and I became friends with many people who, had I stayed back home, I may not have become friends with, and they all had an impact on me for the better.

Accommodation 

I lived on campus in University-arranged, catered Halls of Residence. I loved living on campus and I am so glad I chose this option and not self-catered. It was so easy to socialise and I met so many more people and made such good friends this way, and having my meals done for me made life so much easier. However, the food was not particularly great quality or very healthy and by the end of my exchange I had put on almost 10 kgs. 

I was also in the hall which was the most hated of all the halls on campus (as there was strong competition and rivalry between halls) which meant that I associated less with the people in my hall and spent more time with my other exchange friends in other halls as those friends wanted nothing to do with my hall. 
I would have had a very different exchange had I stayed in a share-house, and if I did exchange again I might, but for England catered accommodation was the best way to go.

Budget 

Accommodation at Nottingham for one semester of a standard catered room was about $4500. This included all meals, but we were only provided with brunch and dinner on the weekends and I would probably have spent an extra £5 ($10) per week on food, such as chocolates, 3 minute noodles for in my room, tea and milk, snacks etc.  Then every time I went away for a weekend and missed meals I would pay for them. You could cook a meal in a hostel with friends for under £2 each, but eating out would usually cost about £10 for a meal. 

I generally spent about £20 to £50 per week on entertainment and travel in Nottingham, depending on how often I went out (nights out would usually cost me about £20, but other people £50; £6 to get in, £10 for drinks (including pre drinking) and £4 on getting there and back). Movies cost about £5, and buses to and from the city were £1 each way. 

On an average weekend away I would spend about £150 to £200 – generally allow £15 per night for accommodation, average of £5 per meal, £50 to £100 for transport and the rest for entertainment, tourist attractions and souvenirs. 

I had saved up about $10 000 before I left, got a $6 250 OS-HELP Loan, a $1000 scholarship and $250 from my mother, and I was also receiving Centrelink which was about $400 per fortnight for 18 weeks (roughly $3600).  I estimate that I spent about $21 000 for the 6 and a half months (28 weeks) which included a $2000 return plane ticket, the accommodation, 6 weeks of travel before the semester started, 4 weeks over the Christmas break, 3 weeks after semester finished and every other weekend during semester. 

If you are not planning on doing much travel you could do exchange with only $10 000, but travel was one of the main reasons I did exchange and it was worth every cent.

Academic Development and Employability

The main thing that I achieved academically was deciding on what career path I wanted to do. Before I left I was very undecided and tossing up between many different options, but throughout exchange I came to decide on my major and sub-speciality which has really helped me. 

I also feel that I’ve learned how to work well in a team, with new people and in new situations, how to push my boundaries and comfort zone and how to deal with unexpected problems. 

I also think I've learned be a more considerate and compassionate person, but also to not always accept ‘no’ and push for better treatment (for example, not just accepting that a courier lost my bag, but ensuring that they actively looked for it).

Highlight 

I have two highlights – my Contiki tour through Scandinavia before semester started, and going to Iceland with fellow exchange friends over the Christmas break. 
Both were incredible experiences and I had so much fun. Contiki was a great way to do some extended travelling without having to worry about organising everything yourself, and for Scandinavia it was much cheaper than doing it alone. I made some really great friends on the trip who I am still friends with now, and the cities and countries we went to (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland) were amazing. We did fantastic things like bobsledding on the Olympic track, jumping in a glacier, swimming in Norwegian fjords, partying with locals and just having a fabulous time exploring new places, seeing incredible scenery and soaking up new cultures. 

Over the Christmas break I, along with 5 other girls on exchange from UQ, flew to Reykjavik, hired two cars and spent the next 5 days driving around the south coast of Iceland exploring and seeing spectacular things, including the Northern Lights, walking on a huge glacier, swimming in the Blue Lagoon, seeing geysers and waterfalls and volcanic sand beaches and losing ourselves in the beauty of the landscape.  It was an incredible experience and I would love to go back at a different time of the year – Iceland and Norway are my top two countries and I am definitely going back there!

Top Tips 

  • My main piece of advice would be to keep a diary, or a blog or some kind of record of the things you do while on exchange.  I started one but never kept it up and I bitterly regret it now that I’m home.  You will quickly feel like all that you did happened to another person in another life, like a dream, and that you have forgotten things.  Photos are great but it really makes a difference to have some things written down so you have a record of your amazing experiences.  Even if it’s just a few sentences a week, do your best to keep it up. 
  • Secondly, do everything available to you.  Don’t think about money – spend it because more often than not it’s worth it to do crazy things that you may never have a chance to again.  In saying that, do be careful and watch out for scams and thieves, and don’t waste your money on stupid things but save it for experiences. 
  • Take every opportunity you get and don’t say no because you are scared things might go wrong – they will, you will survive and be a better person for it. 
  • Join lots of societies and get really involved with your university, and don’t be afraid to make friends with people from back home – it just means that you will see them again at the end of the exchange! 
  • Get rid of half the stuff you have packed - you don’t need it all. 
  • Get insurance, and bring a power board!