Dakota - Royal Holloway, University of London

B Biomedical Science
Semester 2, 2017

Academic Experience

As a biomedical science student at UQ, I had to take Human Physiology in Health and Disease (BS2050) to give me credit towards my degree but for my remaining three courses I could take whatever I wanted. There were definitely limitations on the subjects I got to choose from, so I stuck within the biological sciences department and took Developmental Biology (BS2060), Evolution (BS2160) and The Diversity of Life (BS1040).

The whole academic system is different, and it feels very much like you are back at high school. For example, all my lectures (and courses) usually had around 40 people in them. Some teachers also ask you to raise your hand and answer questions in class. They also create your timetable for you so you don’t have much choice in what time you spend in class. This was all very weird coming from UQ where you are very independent and treated as an adult in charge of your own life. Only some of my lectures were recorded which was annoying but not really a problem because attendance at all classes is compulsory (as in you get told at the beginning of the term you can’t miss more than one or two classes, or they will email you asking why you haven’t been there).

Although studying at RHUL was very different and sometimes annoying, it didn’t really deter from my enjoyment of exchange as a whole and it was fun trying to figure everything out/experiencing the different ways they do things.

Personal Experience

I have to say, although I met a lot of people of lovely people from England and the UK, I felt that I got along a whole lot better with other exchanges students. First of all it was easier to meet them because of the exchange student events that took place and we all kind of grouped together because we were experiencing all of the same things by ourselves. It was also great to have other people that wanted to explore the UK and go and do activities with that locals aren’t all the fussed on doing.

Going on exchange definitely made me realize how easy it is to go to different places whenever you want really, and how much sightseeing you can do in such a short amount of time. I usually went into London (about 40 minutes on the train) at least once every second week, probably more actually, which seems like a lot but there was still so much to see and do when I left. I also went with a group of other exchange students to Scotland for a weekend during semester and although we were only there for two days I felt that I got to see so much more than I originally thought I would and the whole trip turned out to be surprisingly easy. I would recommend booking trips at least a little bit in advance though, so you aren’t paying a crazy amounts of money to go, prices can really vary day to day.


I lived on campus in the Founders building (the main orange looking castle building you see in all RHUL’s promotional material) and I have to say I was so glad. It is right next to the library and was max a three minute walk from all my classes. Transport was definitely an expense I didn’t expect to be so large so I was really happy I didn’t have to commute in to university everyday.

I had a single room and it was actually quite spacious and nice to stay in. I also never had to wait to use the shower or bathroom and considering I had to share with around 10 girls I was happily surprised by that. There were a few issues with the communal pantry/kitchenette area but not any more than you would expect when sharing a space with 30-something girls. Although having a sink in my room seemed really weird and unnecessary when I was preparing for exchange, it was honestly one of the best things and you don’t realize until you experience it.

Founders was also catered which was really handy most of the time because having to go and buy your food from the shops in town is an effort and the grocery shop on campus can get pricy. There only time when having catered accommodation wasn’t good was when they repeat the menu and its not something you like. Also the dining hall is only open at certain times (which aren’t the best, to be honest) so that is annoying when you come home after 7:30pm and can’t get dinner or you have class and don’t get out until after 2:30 and you’ve missed lunch. The cost of food is not included in your accommodation price and is pay as you go. But when you live in a catered accommodation, like Founders, you get a massive discount (I think it's like 50%) on meals with you College Card so all of my meals worked out to be around £3 which is not bad.

I enjoyed living on campus and particularly in founders because a lot of other exchange students also lived there and everyone kind of mingled together because you are all so close. Its also nice to have your own room and space to go though when you want time out and I felt like I had a really good balance of both in founders. Its also a really nice building to look at so it's exciting to live there.


I believe I left Australia with a little under AUD$15,000 and I came home with maybe $3,000 of that, which I was happily surprised by. Just as a guide to what I spent my money on here are a few things: my accommodation cost around AUD$3,000 and was paid in the first couple of weeks of being there, as mentioned before all of my meals at the dining hall on campus cost maximum AUD$5 and that would be a big meal, I went on three weekend travel adventures and then maybe 10 or more day trips within the UK all of which varied in money spent, a return train into London cost around AUD$15 but an all-day travel pass (which I would recommend if you want to spend the whole day in London and travel around) is approximately AUD$25. But the good thing is you can buy a 16-25 railcard which gives you a 30% discount on these costs. The railcard does cost £30 but you can use it for pretty much all your train travel in the UK so I found it worth it.
Another thing to point out is that I did a lot of shopping while I was over there, mainly clothes shopping because I wasn’t very prepared for the climate and they also have heaps of shops that we don’t have in Australia so I wanted to make the most of my time there.

I honestly think, although I have given a guide for some costs you can expect, you can definitely go on exchange and experience your trip in whatever way you want. You could end up spending way more or way less than I did, it really depends on what kind of trip you want to have.

Professional Development & Employability

Living by yourself, on the other side of the world, for the first time in a place you’ve never been before really makes you become independent over night. You have to make all of your choices yourself which is very fun and sometimes really great but I definitely feel like a proper adult now that I have experienced exchange.

Living in a different country has also changed my perspective on a lot of things and travelling to various places has shown me how similar, and different, so many cultures are. I feel like these realizations will be what has improved my professional development the most because I can now look at things, and apply myself to situations, differently to someone who has not had the same experience as me.


As cliché and obvious as it sounds, the highlight of my experience was by far the friends I made and experiences I was a part of. Almost every day I found myself saying something like “I can’t believe I live in England” or “who would have thought that I would be in Scotland with a group of people I met only two weeks ago on a Friday night when a couple of hours ago I was in a different country? Crazy.” And I feel like I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy all of the amazing things I did without the people I met. They honestly just made my whole trip.

Top Tips 

I have so many tips for students considering exchange, far too many to write here so I’ll just try to squeeze as many as I can in 100 words.

Prepare as much as you can yourself before you go and then don’t get super angry or upset when you get there and you have to change all of your plans because of some unforeseen, silly reason, nothing is that much of a big deal. Don’t be so worried about your safety that you don’t do things, just use your common sense and it’ll get you through it. Do things you wouldn’t normally do back at home, you’ll be gone soon so make the most of it. Other exchange students are the greatest so try to meet some. Embrace the annoying differences in the country and uni you are going to, you will laugh about them later. And lastly, enjoy being a tourist and if you get some weird looks just know that you are having more fun then they are.