Vidvi - University College London

Bachelor of Science
Semester 1, 2018

Academic experience

I studied in the Biosciences Division at UCL, and took two third year science courses and two electives. My two third year courses, CELL3001 (Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine) and CELL3105 (Clocks, Sleep and Biological Time), gave me an insight into the world-class research and academics that UCL is renowned for. CELL3001 had a new guest lecturer for every class, and they each discussed their own specific input into ongoing stem cell research. CELL3105 gave a focused and unique account of circadian research over the years. The contact hours for third year science courses are far less than back home, with most subjects having 3-4 hours of lectures per week. 

I also took PSYC6002 (Introduction to Psychology) and HART1704 (Architecture in London). HART1704 involved weekly visits to historical and architectural sites around London, where we took lots of photos and discussed the relevant architecture. I would highly recommend taking any Architecture in London course if you have elective space, it is directed at study abroad students and took me to many places in London that I may not have known to visit! 

One of the most challenging aspects of the academic system at UCL was the exam style. Unlike for science courses at UQ, my finals were essay based exams, each worth 100% of my grade. While it was initially difficult to adapt and create new study strategies, planning ahead helped avoid having too much content to memorise at the end.

Personal experience

Without even realising it, I gained an endless amount of experiences and personal skills from exchange. It was an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and meet so many interesting and diverse people. Making new friends allowed me to take initiative and bond over our time together in our new home city.

Travelling around Europe meant I could exercise my independence and engage in culturally enriching experiences. It was astonishing to know that a few hours on a plane could take me to another country, where I could (attempt to) learn a new language, consume an endless amount of authentic food and explore the city to my heart’s content.

Accommodation

I stayed at Ramsay Hall, a catered UCL hall situated a short 5 minute walk from the Bloomsbury campus. The hall provided breakfast and dinner on weekdays, and brunch on the weekends. This is ideal if you're looking for the freedom and time to explore London all throughout the week. The hall was also centrally located with areas like King’s Cross, Soho and Leicester Square all within walking distance. If you want more flexibility with your schedule and prefer to cook, there are several self-catered residences within the same radius.

Costs

Accommodation was the largest expense (approx. 220 pounds), but having most meals provided and living centrally meant that I didn’t need to spend on much else! Definitely take advantage of student discount apps like UNiDAYS, Student Beans and the ISIC or NUS card as you can save heaps on food and shopping around London! If you plan on frequently taking the tube or national rail trains around the UK, consider purchasing a 16-25 Railcard. The card gives you 1/3 off these fares and will prove to be worthwhile if you invest early. Entertainment in London can be as cheap as 3 pounds if you get early bird tickets, otherwise tickets can jump up to 20 pounds on the day.

Travel can cost between 700-900 AUD per week, but this varies depending on your accommodation preferences and the country you choose to visit. While I was able to save on food and accommodation in countries like Hungary and the Czech Republic, places like Greece and Denmark required a higher budget.

Professional Development

Every new experience comes with its list of challenges, and exchange was no different. I developed many personal traits, such as resilience, patience and understanding. Additionally, exchange fostered and developed my planning, budgeting and organisational skills. I had to constantly look out for myself and remember all the little things, like having enough cash of a specific currency, packing my visa documents and being ever-ready for the London drizzle — all things I never had to consider before.

Highlight

The best part of my experience was everything that comes with living in the heart of London, one of the world’s most happening cities. Whether it’s exploring London’s countless food markets, watching West End musicals or admiring London’s skyline from Primrose Hill, you’ll be hard pressed to find a day without something new to try!

Top tips

If you plan on travelling around Europe, then I would highly encourage you to explore every country you’ve ever dreamed of visiting! Book early and keep a look out for deals on flights and accommodation. It’s not everyday you have the entirety of Europe within arm’s reach, so it would truly be a pity not to explore it!

Also, don’t overthink it — just apply! Even till the moment I hopped onto the plane, I was unsure about the concept of exchange and what it would bring. Despite that, I’m so glad I did it! Exchange is an invaluable experience which allows everyone to grow in some way or another!