A Semester to Remember – by Hanh Thu Luu

After five months living in the United Kingdom as an exchange student, I can tell you that studying abroad is definitely the best decision you will ever make in your life. It may appear a little bit hard, confusing and stressful at the beginning. You may undergo homesickness and worries about academic failure when coming to a strange country where there are lots of things needed to handle by yourself. However, believe me, after first weeks of getting settled in, familiarizing yourself with functioning in your host university and making new friends, you will realize that you have made a right decision. Let’s treat your exchange time as a journey to discover yourself, another country and other people surrounding you. There will be so much you can learn, then you may realize that you are much stronger than you thought and you more treasure even the smallest things which you have taken for granted in your home country and at your home university. For me, the experiences during my exchange time at the university of Exeter indeed exceeded my expectations. Five months passed so quickly, I learnt a lot and gradually become more mature. An exchange is a process in which the more you involve yourself, the more enhancing and valuable your experiences are. I had a fantastic time in Exeter and I will strongly recommend this opportunity to anyone who is still hesitating over going on an exchange. To illustrate, I will share my experiences in both academic and social aspects to help you more easily imagine my time in Exeter.

In the first days when I just arrived at Exeter university, I found it really tough to adapt to their teaching and assessment methods. Generally speaking, the teaching component itself was not quite different from our Adelaide university. Each module normally comprised of one twohour lecture split into two fifty minute parts and a short interim break. However, tutorials were significantly different. For some modules, I actually had no tutorials during the whole semester
while for other modules, tutorials consisted of the whole students enrolled in the courses, not small groups as we had at Adelaide university. It thus become really hard to conceive and practice new skills and knowledge. Regarding to the evaluation methods, it was really stressful and a bit scary when all my modules for business school were assessed solely by one exam at the end of semester. In other words, your grade entirely depends on how you perform in the  final exam and this is your only chance to pass the module. This really made me appreciate fairness and encouraging values of Adelaide university’s component and internal assessment structure. Moreover, in Adelaide, the exams normally follow immediately after the official semester finishes and run intensely for two weeks. Meanwhile, in the UK, I finished all my courses in March and then technically had one-month Easter holiday to prepare for my exams that dispersed from the beginning until the end of May. Nevertheless, my advice was to just take it easy and calmly find your own way to adjust to new academic requirements. At Exeter, the grade of 40% is already sufficient to pass a module and our university really has a considerate policy not to count your mark to your GPA at home. Therefore, it is unwise to be obsessed with solely academic stuff, you truly have more interesting things to enjoy during your exchange time!

In my opinion, you should try to be as much of a tourist as possible, travelling to new cities, new countries, meeting and talking to people from all walks of life. Weekends, public holidays, Easter break and the period after exams are absolutely brilliant times to go, see and enjoy as much as possible. I ensure that what you can learn is even much more precious and memorable than theoretical knowledge provided at university. While on exchange, I was lucky to do a lot of travelling to numerous cities in the UK as well as in other countries in Europe. I really loved how easy and inexpensive it was to get around England by virtue of their fantastic public transport system. There were a variety of choices among buses, coaches, trains, ferries or planes which took me even to the remotest regions in the North of Scotland and for instance, a five-hour trip to London only cost five pounds. Therefore, on weekends, I took numerous short trips to discover England. I visited Bath, took a steam train from Paignton to Kingswear and wandered through the narrow and picturesque streets in Dartmouth. I also went to Northern cities such as York, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds and visited London three times to see as many splendid views of this capital as possible. During my Easter break, I travelled to Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, France and Belgium for two weeks. After my exams, I dedicated last trips to Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness (the Highland capital of Scotland). I was also fortunate to take a train going via famous Glenfinnan viaduct and imagined that I was going to Hogwarts school like characters in Harry Potter film.

Each trip taught me something new about myself and helped me gradually grow up, learn how to tackle any arising problems on the road calmly and bravely. By endeavoring to understand and explore each destination by all five senses, I learnt a lot about local history, geography, culture, language, cuisine and people. Most importantly, now I am confident that wherever I go, not only can I survive, but I can live, enjoy and support myself, which is how I grow up after my exchange.

In short, just take it easy, go with the wind and your youth will be filled with unforgettable memories 🙂

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