Nikita - University of Birmingham

B Arts
Semester 1, 2016

Academic Experience

An important thing to note is that most subjects in the UK run for a full academic year (September-April/June). As I was studying there in first semester (i.e. UK second semester), I was coming in halfway through the term. My subjects were all within the School of Governance and Society and I felt very out of depth with my more difficult third year subjects at first and had to change some subjects around as I didn't feel like I was getting enough support to make up for missing six months of learning.

Assessment varied for exchange student depending on faculty and some students (especially science courses) just did the regular assessment like domestic students, but in political science we had different assessment which was 6x 3000 word essays (one for each subject) based on one week's topic throughout the term, and they were all due on the same date in May.

As a result, my learning experience was very independent and many political science exchange students felt a bit isolated from the learning experience of other students. While we finished the semester at the beginning of May, many other students still had exams well in to June. Overall, I thought the teaching was excellent and I really enjoyed the opportunity to gain an international perspective content-wise.

Personal Experience

Making friends was very easy as there were plenty of social events for exchange students at the beginning of the semester and everyone was in the same position of not knowing anyone or anything about our new city. I did find it very difficult to meet domestic students unless you lived with them. My semester was very social and Birmingham is a great place to be a student with lots of clubs, a fantastic student bar on campus, and it's very easy to travel the UK from there.

In April, we had a month of holidays after classes finished and before exams commenced in May, so I went backpacking for three and a half weeks around southern Europe with other exchange students from Canada, Australia and the US. I also took short trips to Spain, France, different parts of the UK and to London many times on weekends. It is very easy to travel Europe cheaply and exchange students are always interested in coming along!

To make my money last longer and travel in a different way, I did a Work Away (www.workaway.info, involves working in exchange for food & rent) in Le Mans, France, for three weeks after the end of semester which was a fantastic experience in the French countryside.

Accommodation

There really is an accommodation option for every budget available at UoB, ranging from dorm-style flats to five-bedroom flats that vary in price and really just how nice they are. The online application system is very comprehensive so I had a pretty good idea what it would be like, but its important to apply on time so you don’t miss out. Be aware that most likely all of your flatmates will be freshers (first years) who just finished high school, halls are notoriously rowdy and it’s the norm for a majority of first years to live on campus.

My accommodation choice was really dictated by price, and I chose a duplex room in Pritchatts House which is an older dorm-style flat with 18 bedrooms, a communal kitchen and bathroom, but I paid an extra £5 per week to share my bathroom with one other girl which made it much more enjoyable. While Pritchatts is cheap, the flats are also huge meaning it was hard to actually meet anyone beca use there is no communal sitting area, and the kitchens are very industrial. Many flats are in an area called the Vale that is approximately 25minute walk from campus. I didn’t really spend that much time in my flat though because it was so easy to meet exchange students and we spent much time at other people’s flats, on campus or around Birmingham.

Budget 

Birmingham is a very cheap place to live. After accommodation, flights, insurance, etc., I comfortably lived and travelled on $10 000 for 6 months.

  • Rent: $190/week for duplex room in Pritchatts House
  • Groceries: $60-70/week
  • Entertainment: $80 week (this is a generous estimate)

Travelling to London is around $10 round-trip on Megabus (4hours) or $20-40 via train (1.5-2.5hours).

Professional Development & Employability 

Exchange has given me so much more confidence to meet people and put myself out there. I have an international perspective in my studies and I got to study subjects I never would have been exposed to which will give me a competitive academic advantage.

Highlights

Meeting so many students from around Europe, the world and Australia, and just constantly spending time socialising, travelling and meeting more people. Living on campus was so much fun. Academically, it is the best thing I have ever done and allowed me to really focus on my studies without distractions of work/life at home.

Top Tips

Put yourself out there! It may be daunting to try and make friends with people you don't know in a place that is unfamiliar, but you will never regret going out to say hello and it's far better than being alone in your dorm!