Alexander - University of Nottingham

B Engineering (Hons)
Semester 2, 2017

Academic Experience

The UK University System is different in many ways but what I enjoyed about it is the content is that its broken into smaller parts and they are a bit more industry-specific compared to UQ. I did Computational Fluid Dynamics, Mechatronics, Engineering Management and Energy Efficiency for Sustainability at my time at the University of Nottingham all subjects which I found stimulating and ones I recommend. Within my degree, the University of Nottingham really are passionate about sustainability, much more so that the Australian Universities. There were a few challenges I had to contend with, mainly to do with assumed knowledge from a different first and second year foundation. I needed to learn some of the content by asking lecturers about recommended content and then learned about it in my own time. Overall, while the learning experiences were different, it took me a while to get used to but it is definitely something I enjoyed.

My advice would be to use the exchange to do your electives as there is more flexibility in that stage of your degree, so always check what subjects the university offers and what subjects you still need to do!

Personal Experience

There was plenty that I got out of going for the exchange. Aside from the different learning experience, I met friends within a few days of arriving to the University which was a relief once I did meet everyone and I already have plans to go and see them again next year! There were many people I met that weren't just from England but also all around Europe and it was a real learning curve about places to see, things to do, etc. I travelled around Christmas time to several places around Europe and for the first time to a non-English speaking country: Spain as well as Germany. I am someone who is interested in history so I went to a lot of museums and try and understand the past of many events in the places I went to. It was a time where there is a lot of freedom and how good or bad the experience is, is completely up to you! I do feel a lot more accomplished as a person having done the exchange and I feel much more organised, independent and I can feel like if I do get into a tight corner now, I just take it a step at a time and resolve any problems I have.

The main thing I gained from the exchange was perspective. Perspective of the northern hemisphere, Europe and how the others live their lives. And that above many things is a lesson and an experience of a lifetime.

Accommodation

I lived on Campus in one of the Halls; Willoughby Hall was awesome! This was a catered hall and it cost the equivalent of $5000 for 18 weeks (about $280 per week) and there were meals every day of the week. I was on the older side of the people who were there from around the country but that didn't deter me one bit from the experience. The rooms are fairly basic for what I got but they come with everything I needed so I didn't worry too much. I did stay for most of the Christmas break in the Halls when I wasn’t overseas, at this stage at which point you can still have the catering for an extra fee or, do what I did, cater for yourself. The halls were great because you always have people to talk to and you are never by yourself and everything is close by when you need it. There are other halls worth considering as well, both catered and non-catered as well as private accommodation but it is important to consider what works, or what will work, for you as you will spend several months here. Having said that, I do recommend staying in the halls as it makes life much more stress-free and enjoyable as well as being logistically easier to organise.

Budget 

In terms of cost of living, Nottingham is very good compared to places like London and Manchester. Expenses are variable and should be taken on a case-by-case basis but in my case my Visa, Flights (to England and back) and Travel Insurance cost around $2500. My accommodation was around $5000 and this included prepared meals and food allowance vouchers to spend at any eatery in the University (not on alcohol though!). The phone bill cost about $400 in total when I was overseas but make sure you get it with a provider where you can use your phone freely in the EU. Other spending like travelling by bus or train and going out added up quickly but I was always cautious what I spent.

From there, it is up to you how much you want to experience! I travelled around Europe over the Christmas break and I easily spent more than $1800 on flights, accommodation, food and attractions, but this is value for money considering you can get very cheap flights and accommodation if you know where to find it, more so when you organise it early. I went over the winter and it will be more expensive come summer time. I would say $11k is a conservative estimate of my total spending for the trip when factoring in everything. Best advice: Plan EVERYTHING in advance to save yourself plenty of money!

Professional Development & Employability

Definitely a higher degree of independence. I was by myself when I got there and I knew that the quality of my experience was dependent on me and me alone. I made the most of what I could and I don’t regret ever going! Going overseas by yourself; you do have to be more self-sufficient, especially in a place where you haven’t been to before and especially when travelling as making a stuff up will set you back a lot, usually with money.

Stepping out of the comfort zone was a big deal for me as I honestly didn't know what to expect. I took it all a day at a time and tried not to look too far ahead and only worry about what I can control. And I have learned that the most daunting things on the surface can easily be some of the best things you can experience. Most times, stepping beyond your comfort zone and what you thought you weren't capable of before is the best way to progress forward as a person and this experience was testament to that.

Managing my time and my finances was more critical being overseas rather than back at home. This was something I became a lot better at as time went on and if I did make a mistake I certainly learned from it! The trip has made me far more organised as a person and I felt I have grown up a lot over time for the better.

Highlights

Definitely Christmas time when I went travelling! I went to several different countries including Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Spain and Germany. Spain was the first non-English speaking country that I have been to and it was very different but it was amazing! I picked places that I genuinely wanted to explore rather than the quantity of places to see but I would have wanted to see more if I had extra time and money. They are all places I would love to go back to in the future plus more, especially Barcelona!

Going to the Lord's Cricket Ground in London was a great experience given it's rich history as well as going on the London Eye and seeing the whole of London. There are many other great places in England that I went to such as Manchester, Sheffield and of course, Nottingham. I went to places that intrigued me and then everything else was a bonus and it is the best thing to plan out what you want to do before you board the plane to go over as the options to do things are nearly limitless.

Top Tips 

My advice is DO IT! Whatever doubts you have about the exchange program or anything else like that, throw it out the window because this opportunity is one you will seriously regret if you don’t take it! My one regret is not doing it for another semester and I would strongly recommend for prospective students to go to the University of Nottingham because it is such a great experience with the University itself, the people, the atmosphere, the history and the location. Do it when the UK Autumn Semester comes along as there will be a lot of new students there (so UQ Semester 2). Save up as much as you can because the more you have, the more you can do. It’s a very student-friendly place and I can’t say enough good about the university! I would also recommend doing it for a whole year as it is going to take a semester to get used to it and it will be far more enjoyable if you settle in and then take away some of the anxiety in the second semester.

Even if you don’t go to Nottingham, the experience of studying and going overseas warrants the trip. It is something you have to experience to understand entirely what it all means I can say that it was the best time I have had as a student.