Katelin - University of Leeds

Bachelor of Engineering/Science
Semester 1, 2018

Academic experience

At the start of this year I was lucky enough to have studied in the UK at Leeds University. I selected science subjects within my Science and Engineering degree. I studied subjects in animal developmental biology, neuropharmacology, introduction to drug design, principles of drug discovery, and nutrition in the prevention and treatment of disease. These were all subjects different to the ones I would have been able to study at UQ and so gave me the opportunity to study both things I was interested in, and broaden my horizons beyond the engineering field. 

Leeds University offered comfort in that the teaching methods and university culture was similar to Australia, however the assessment schedule was quite different. I had a lot less assessment (including assignments, reports and quizzes), throughout the semester and so had a lot of time to travel during the uni semester. The one-month mid semester break even meant I had the option to go on a Top Deck tour in the middle of the uni term! The only negative with their assessment schedule was that this meant that I had 80-100% final exams at the end of the semester. I am someone who always puts 100% into study and so to say that I had the time to holiday whilst uni was on is a big statement! I managed to stay on top of my work throughout the semester, even whilst travelling, and the 3-week long study and exam period meant that even though exams were daunting, it was manageable.

The biggest challenge about exchange was the living out of home (I had been used to living at home in Australia) and making friends. The fact that all of the university accommodations were so close to grocery stores, and they all provided laundry, printing and postal services allowed me to ease into the living situation. The university also had a society which organized long weekend and day coach trips throughout the UK, which made making friends a lot easier- especially as the trips were catered for like-minded international students who have a passion for travel. The numerous events organized for abroad students to socialize, including a weekly afternoon tea, meant that making friends and feeling at home was a lot easier too.

Choosing the subjects that I would study overseas was a struggle for me as my dual degree, and the fact that I was doing an extended Electrical and Biomedical major within Engineering, meant that I had little room for electives. Finding subject information online and trying to match up Leeds modules to equivalent UQ subjects took a lot of time, and subject approval from both UQ and Leeds University was stringent. I would thoroughly recommend getting your subjects submitted for approval as soon as possible, as it allows more time for changes. Thankfully the enrolment and registration process was much easier! I had to submit an application to UQ, and once approved, could apply to Leeds University. The application process was easy to follow, and once I was accepted into the University of Leeds, detailed registration instructions were provided.

Personal experience

My overseas exchange allowed me to forge friendships beyond borders, with those from countries all throughout the world. It truly opened my eyes to life beyond Australia, and expanded my cultural awareness. The opportunity for so much travel throughout the semester was definitely a highlight. I travelled to 10 countries and over 40 different cities throughout Europe, and villages throughout the UK, all within the space of 6 months- something normally unachievable just by going on a European holiday. Some places were ‘spur of the moment’ and based on recommendations, and some of the best places were not on your typical tourist ‘to do list’, yet I was able to experience these all from living in another country and interacting with locals.

The exchange experience certainly developed my independence and ability to adapt to unfamiliar scenarios- from travelling alone, communicating with those of different cultural backgrounds and who may not have English as their first language, managing money to a greater degree than normal, and to basic ‘living at home duties’ like weekly meal preparations, grocery shopping and laundry.

Accommodation

I lived off campus at University accommodation, 15 minutes walk from the uni, and 20 minutes walk to the city centre and shopping district. The location was very handy, and its proximity to a main road meant public transport was easily accessible. I opted for a self-catered private room with an ensuite, which suited me perfectly due to dietary requirements, however, for the average ‘non-fussy’ eater I would recommend catered accommodation to allow more opportunities to interact with fellow international students. The host university provided a kitchen and bedding pack upon order, and the accommodation reception handled all postage and general enquiries, with staff always being more than happy to help. A laundry room and common room with printing facilities was also provided.

Costs

Overall, I spent roughly $5350 on accommodation (rent was divided into four lump sum payments), and allowed $100 per week on groceries. I put $7000 AUD on my travel card to allow for food, transport, entertainment and travel- which seems a lot, but included both train travel between cities within the UK, costs on the pre-organized weekend trips offered by the university, travel in the UK for 3 weeks before uni started, a 2-week Top Deck tour mid-semester, and a week-long trip to Portugal after uni broke up. I wouldn’t say I was extra conservative with spending either- after all, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, I didn’t want to do it half-heartedly! I was lucky enough to be the recipient of the Frank Joseph Murphy Bursary, and a UQ exchange scholarship which certainly made the costs associated with the exchange process so much more manageable! I would strongly encourage anyone considering study abroad to apply for as many scholarships as possible, as although applications are arduous, the rewards are worth it!

Professional Development

Interacting with students from all over the world broadened my perception of others and gave me so much insight into life beyond Australia. Being able to study in a university environment with students from different countries, cultural backgrounds, and social and economic circumstances provided me with invaluable communication and teamwork skills I will utilize in my later Biomedical and Electrical Engineering career.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was certainly the travel that came with the exchange. I have gained so much historical insight of countries so comparably different to ours, and have taken with me many memories that will last a lifetime.

Top tips

I would encourage anyone considering exchange not to do it half-heartedly! Plan your trip in advance so you have the time to save the money, so that you take every opportunity as it arises- as it will most likely not come around again! You don’t want to arrive back home thinking of all the ‘could haves’ and ‘would haves’. Travel to places you would have never considered before, and force yourself into situations you would normally push back. For instance- I joined the filmmaking society at Leeds Uni- something totally out of my comfort zone and scope of interests, but it allowed me to make friends and I ended up having so much fun!

Quote

Studying abroad- the opportunity only comes around once, but memories will last a lifetime!