Jeremy - University College London

B Biomedical Science
Semester 2, 2018
My exchange at the University College of London was absolutely phenomenal. Being able to engage with a fantastic academic program while simultaneously immersing myself in London's many cultures was a truely unique and humbling experience.

Academic experience

The UCL academic system was completely different to the UQ system. The contact time in class on a day to day basis is much less than UQ, which incentivises private revision throughout the semester. The lower contact hours also allowed me to experience all of the cultural activities London had to offer and overall allowed a better work-life balance. 

The most challenging academic component of the exchange was adjusting to the higher academic standards that are expected of UCL students, as well as assessment items commonly being weighted between 60-100% instead of the typical 30-40% found at UQ. Overall, this allowed me to develop into a better academic and helped me to produce more sophisticated and detailed work.

Personal experience

On a personal level, I was able to join several clubs and societies run by the UCL student union and continue my extra-curricular involvement from UQ. Overall, exchange is a great opportunity for personal growth and development purely due to the situations that you find yourself in that are unique to your environment. As such, you will start to look at new situations differently and with a broader sense of how the world works and how people from around the world think, you can begin to approach new situations with an understanding and open mind.

Accommodation

UCL offers a similar accommodation system to the Colleges at UQ. I was fortunate enough to be placed in a flat with six other students in the middle of Central London, just down the road from St. Pancras/King's Cross station. The location was absolutely phenomenal, with all of the necessities and pleasures of London in close walking distance. The UCL campus only a twenty minute walk away. 

For future students - London is one of the most expensive cities in the world period. The cost of living is ludicrously expensive. The UCL accommodation offerings are substantially cheaper than any private accommodation available and they also have the inbuilt support structure of the university.

Costs

Again, London is ridiculously expensive to live in. Living in a non-catered halls meant I was spending around twenty pound (so about 35-40 AUD) on food every four or five days, but you also need to consider the costs of acquiring enough kitchen equipment to cook sufficiently, cutlery etc. As such, the initial costs can be quite high. 

The rent itself is quite reasonable considering the location - nothing in West Central London is particularly cheap. But because this location is so central, I found myself not needing to use public transport very often as I could comfortably walk everywhere I needed to be. 

Overall, I believe my entire exchange cost around $12000 - with return flights, insurance, accommodation etc. So the initial estimates UQ provides are fairly accurate.

Challenge

Exchange is about putting everything you think is important to you at home into one bag, flying to (sometimes) the other side of the world, and trying to piece yourself back together. This is by far the most challenging component. You quickly realise the things you miss the most from back home and you need to figure out how to re-establish these things once you have arrived in your host university. This also means that you realise that things you thought you would miss, you don't miss at all, so there's a lot of personal learning that goes on rather quickly.

Professional Development

My exchange to UCL allowed me to expand my world-wide contacts in both professional and personal settings. Through interactions with my academic peers I was fortunate enough to volunteer at Europe's largest health and technology conference, where I was able to learn and engage with entrepreneurs from all across the healthcare industry. On a personal level, I was able to make lifelong friends from all different countries who chose to study in London. I was able to listen, appreciate and learn from their life experiences, upbringings and cultures, while also being able to share my own.

Highlight

The highlight of my exchange was being able to experience life in London while simultaneously studying at one of the most academic institutions in the world. I was able to experience great levels of personal growth through experiencing new cultures and meeting people from all over the globe, while being immersed in an academic culture bound by excellence and with values that closely align to my own.

Top tips

UCL is a fantastic place, but be prepared for there to be some gaps in information and a lack of communication. The university themselves have acknowledged this as a problem with their Affiliate students and they are working to fix these problems. 

But these are vastly overshadowed by the academic excellence and culture that exists at UCL and the lifestyle you get to engage in by living in London.