Zoe - University College London

B Journalism/ B Arts
Semester 2, 2017

Academic Experience

I studied politics at University College London (UCL) in the UK for the autumn semester from September to December. UCL is right in the heart of London, which meant although it lost the ‘campus feel’ we have here at UQ, it was nestled amongst some of the busiest areas of the city, such as Kings Cross and Soho.

I studied four politics courses during my time at UCL. The content was usually very interesting and topical (two subjects included British Politics and Politics of the European Union – lots of Brexit talk!), and the lecturers were very knowledgeable in their fields. However, contact hours were limited (2 hours a week per subject), and therefore required a lot of outside work. There were also large quantities of reading each week (~3/4 hours per subject), and assessment was scheduled close together (four essays within two days!). This just meant I needed to be careful with my time. Overall, the level of difficulty and quality of teaching was fairly similar to that of UQ.

Personal Experience

If you’re on the fence about going on exchange, hopefully I can be a part of the push: do it. It is without a doubt the best decision I have ever made. Although crossing the world and living in a new country for the first time can be scary, it forces you to grow as a person and have experiences you never would have the opportunity for should you stay in Australia. I met people from all over the world, and formed lifelong friendships and memories I’ll look back on fondly at for the rest of my life.

Living in London was already going to be incredible, but the close group of friends I made there made all the difference. A city is only a city unless you’ve got people to experience it with! I can’t stress how important it is to get out there and meet people – and it’s a lot easier than you’d think. 

It also helped a lot with personal growth and self-confidence, and I found myself constantly stepping outside my comfort zone. Moving to a new country gives you a fresh start, and really lets you take control of your life, the direction you want it to head in, and who you want to be. Following my exchange, I spent a month in Europe with an Australian friend and had the most incredible time. Europe is so accessible from the UK, it would be a shame not to go!

Accommodation

There were some issues with my acceptance letter arriving on time and subsequently applying for accommodation, meaning I was unable to stay at UCL university accommodation. However, I was able to find private student halls (Tufnell House) which still provided me the same ‘college’ experience I was very keen to have, not being from halls at UQ. Although it was pricier than most UCL accommodation (£245 a week including bills), it was much more comfortable than many of the rooms in university-provided accommodation. I would definitely recommend my halls if you have room in your budget – it had a good social atmosphere and was fairly clean and well-organised. Another perk: a house cat!

Budget 

What you hear is true – London is expensive. But there’s also an endless amount of things to do, so starting saving now. Eating out costs between £7 and £15 (although £15 is fairly high-end), and a single tube ride is £2.40 during off-peak and £2.90 during peak times. A bus is only £1.50 and changing is free within the hour, so I would recommend the bus for most journeys as it’s cheaper and generally nicer than the tube, although it takes longer. All transport caps at £6.60 each day, so if you reach that limit all travel is free afterwards if you plan to travel a lot in a day.

Regarding travel, a lot of students travel to Europe on the weekend; however, I personally think this would be quite difficult with the amount of work. I would therefore recommend travelling after/before exchange, as I myself did. I used approximately $15,000 AUD including a little travel, flights, and general living expenses. In terms of setting up a bank account for the UK, instead of setting one up over there, I would highly recommend getting a Citibank Everyday Transaction Account for your exchange, as it does not charge any exchange rate fees, which most of the other big Australian banks do.

Professional Development & Employability

Going on exchange is a fantastic way to show employers you are open to change and are able to adapt to new situations. Anyone who has moved overseas before (which is many employed adults) will understand the struggle of moving to a new country, let alone when you’re still a student! It demonstrates some very important skills employers will definitely take note of. I feel like it also gave me more confidence in myself and my own abilities.

Highlights 

My highlight would definitely be the friends I made in my accommodation. I made a very close group of friends I would spend most days with, and as they were all British, it gave me an insight into true British culture. They made me feel incredibly welcome in this new country, and would understand when I got homesick. There are some experiences I will never forget – lighting fireworks off for my birthday (they’re legal in the UK!), waking up to snow outside my window, and seeing Tower Bridge for the first time. Even just going for a pint with your friends after a long day at classes was a truly British experience, and something I’ll definitely miss!

Top Tips

Put yourself out there! It’s hard to turn up in a new country knowing nobody – but remember, everyone else is looking to make friends too, especially if you’re turning up at the start of the year. Sitting next to one guy at a flat party and having that awkward initial conversation ended in me finding one of my best friends. So introduce yourself to as many people as possible, and it’s likely at least one will stick. Also, people tend to find it pretty cool you’re from Australia – so pull out the accent, and you’ll be fine!