Penelope - University College London

B. Science / Laws (Honours)
Semester 2, 2018
I learned not to panic when something goes wrong, but to just see it as all part of the adventure!

Academic experience

I took four science courses while on exchange: introduction to archaeology, texts in archaeology, biology of ageing and vertebrate life and evolution. I had never studied archaeology before and so I was excited to try something new.

UCL has a very different enrollment process to UQ. You are assigned a "Personal Tutor" who assists you navigate the administrative side of study. Most domestic students have already been accepted into the courses, so there are usually only a few spots left for affiliate students (particularly in higher level courses). First, you must email the lecturer asking if you can enroll in their course, then once you have permission you can enter your enrollment preferences online. Once you have submitted your enrollment preference you are unable to edit them unless you go to the faculty office (which is why it is important to obtain permission from the lecturer). Following this, the lecturer then approves your course selection if there is capacity in the course and you meet the pre-requisite requirements for the course. I found this process a little time consuming and stressful, however once my modules had been approved it went smoothly from there. The exchange student co-ordinator was incredibly helpful throughout this process and I would recommend contacting him/her if you run into any issues.

Although the lecturers are recorded at UCL, some courses have a compulsory attendance requirement to pass the course. I had been approved to obtain credit for two subjects, but only if I took them together. These two subjects ended up clashing, so I had to make a new credit application for another course after a week of classes had already passed. UQ Abroad were incredibly helpful and I received my approved credit application in time to enroll in the new class.

Finally, UCL has a different assessment method to UQ. There are two semesters of classes, and then an exam period at the end of the academic year. Because I was only attending UCL in semester 2 (UCL's first teaching term) I was unable to sit any exams. Instead, I was required to write an extra essay for each subject which had an exam. This meant I didn't have to study for any exams, but it also meant I had to complete 7 essays in 10 weeks. I found this to be a little stressful, however it was still manageable.

Personal experience

Dressing up for Halloween.

I had an incredible exchange. I had such a good time getting to know all the people who lived in my hall of residence, and I made new life-long friends with many of them. I found the mix of different people from different countries and backgrounds really helped to open my eye to new perspectives.

I also managed to squeeze in plenty of travel around the UK. I took a road-trip around Scotland before I arrived, I spent a week in Paris with three of my new friends during the semester break, and I caught up with one of my Australian friends in Wales.

In terms of personal skills developed, I would say I gained a lot of self-confidence and learned to critically question my world view. I realised the value of listening to other people: everyone I spoke to had the most incredible stories to tell me and experiences to share.

Accommodation

I lived in Ifor Evans, which is a catered hall of residence. I cannot recommend catered accommodation enough! The food was amazing - way better than I expected. I ate better than I would have if I had to cook for myself, and I didn't have to waste time cooking or worrying about what to eat. The biggest bonus though was how easy it made meeting people. On the first day I went down to breakfast, sat down with a group and made instant friends. Although Ifor Evans was not on-campus, it was only a quick bus ride away.

Budget

I would say for the three months I probably spent a little over $8000. The main expenses were:

  • Accommodation: $5000 (however this included breakfast and dinner on weekdays, and brunch on weekends)
  • Food: $1000 (this was for lunch on weekdays and dinner on weekends)
  • Transport: $400 (for the bus to and from uni and for various trips around London)
  • Entertainment: $500 (I'm a musical nerd so I spent quite a bit going to the theater)

Challenge

During my exchange I became very close with one of my hall-mates, named Aras. Unfortunately during my exchange he passed away unexpectedly. It was incredibly challenging to deal with the grief of losing a close friend, especially so far away from my family. I was very lucky to have made such amazing friends in the hall who supported me during this time. UCL and Ifor Evans were very helpful. They offered counselling for all of the students involved and assisted us to organise a memorial for Aras.

Professional development

Enjoying the view from the bank of the River Thames.

In terms of professional development, I think I developed a lot of resilience and improved my problem solving skills. There were many times while I was travelling during exchange, or during the first few weeks of semester where little problems would arise which I needed to solve quickly. I learned not to panic when something goes wrong, but to just see it as all part of the adventure!

Highlight

It is difficult to pinpoint a "highlight" as I have so many great memories from my time abroad. My trip to Paris was amazing, and I also really enjoyed the hike I went on in the first week to the Seven Sisters. However, I think the last few days of my exchange stick out in my mind. All my friends had finished exams and we stayed up until the early hours of the morning talking and laughing together. I just remember the atmosphere being so relaxed and happy, as we exchanged memories of our time together and talked about our hopes for the future.

Top tips

I think you will see this repeated in every testimonial: just do it!

Penelope - University College London