Stuart - Royal Holloway, University of London

B Arts
Semester 2, 2018
You can expect to meet more people, from more places, while on exchange than at any other point in your life.

Academic experience

Royal Holloway is part of the greater University of London network and has an academic reputation to match. That said, if you can cut it at UQ you'll fit in just fine at RHUL. The quality of education and academic expectations are of a similar standard. I took two arts electives and one third year psychology elective. If you're a psych student, personality psychology (PS2050) with Dr. Gary Lewis is intellectually stimulating and provides an interesting take. Be aware that the marks for many courses at RHUL are split between an assignment and an exam, and all exams are in the summer term. So if you're going abroad in semester two at UQ, the course coordinators at RHUL will likely rework the assessment for you, often resulting in essays that are worth 100 per cent of the marks. This suits some students just fine, but not others. Lecture attendance at Royal Holloway is 'mandatory' in theory, but optional in practice for many courses.

Personal experience

In my time at Royal Holloway I met a bunch of beautiful and interesting people and formed friendships I hope will last a lifetime. Royal Holloway is a very diverse uni with many international students from a broad range of places, particularly continental Europe. If you have time, consider joining one of the many clubs and socs at RHUL, but don't overextend yourself. On a personal note, don't shy away from exchange if you're 'mature age'. I was 28 and while living in freshmen halls was originally jarring, after the first week I was just one of the gang.

Travel as much as you can. I managed to squeeze five weeks of travel on either end of my exchange and covered something like 40 cities in 15 countries. A rail pass is a great way to see Europe. Most of all, exchange is about the beautiful people you meet and amazing places you see while abroad.

Accommodation

If you can live on campus while you're abroad, do it! Particularly if you're only there for one semester - as organising private accommodation takes considerable effort and goodluck getting in if you're staying less than 12 months. Many exchange unis have stunning campuses and staying on campus will give you that quintessential experience. This is certainly true of Founder's at RHUL. Founder's is one of the most beautiful buildings of its style in the UK and for four months I got to wake up a view of the south quad outside my bedroom window. The dining hall is also just downstairs (and heavily discounted for Founder's residents) and you can't beat waking up a short stroll from your classrooms. Staying on campus will also fast track your social life, as you'll be rubbing shoulders with your neighbours in Founder's everyday.

Costs

I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship from UQ, which along with the OS-HELP loan, covered the total cost of my exchange. All my other funding was for travel. I had long service leave which really helped. I worked and saved as much as I could for a year. And sell any old stuff you don't need as well because it all adds up and it's better spent on travel! 

Rent in Founder's was about $3,000 for term one. You can easily eat at Founder's dining hall for £10 a day, which came to $1,700 for the term. The return airfare was $1,500. So you could theoretically do exchange at RHUL for under $7,000 for term one, as those are your major costs. But make sure you factor in sundries, which add up. Also make sure you take enough to go out and buy drinks. Trains aren't cheap in the UK either, though an age card will help if you're under 25. The ten weeks of travelling I did (staying mostly in hostels) cost close to $10,000 so that will be one of you're biggest expenses. And you want to over-budget. We did a bunch of attractions and little trips that really added up.

Challenge

Settling into a new social setting and culture is always a challenge and the only way to get better at it is to get more practice. For me, travelling solo for the first extended time around Europe was the biggest challenge and the best way to overcome that is simply to plan, work, save, and do it!

Professional Development

Adapting to new settings and situations and the ability to communicate with people from diverse cultures are sort after professional skills that I developed in my time abroad. I also developed my skills in planning, budgeting, and organising which are always handy life skills, particularly for travel.

Highlight

Meeting amazing people and making friendships that will last a life time was the highlight of my experience.

Top tips

Plan ahead. The more things you get sorted early, the less you have to worry about once you leave. But also don't be afraid to be spontaneous - in my travel I visited places I'd never googled or seen pictures of and that's an experience of awe that can't be beaten. Say yes to things you wouldn't normally, now is your chance to try things you wouldn't back home. Joining a club or soc will turbocharge your social life. But don't be afraid to say no, take a break, and spend plenty of time chilling out with your new friends and the people who matter - that's time you never get back and I wouldn't have spent it any other way.