Starting university can be a big step: your workload is different and you might be living on your own for the first time in your life. Some students, though, make an even bigger life change and opt for a study exchange.
Natasha Buetow has just come back from the University of Central Florida in Orlando (UCF), where she studied for a semester. “I’ve always loved the U.S. My dad is American, so we have some family there”, she said to explain her choice to study abroad.
Studying abroad took a lot of preparing: Natasha first heard about the different options to go abroad in a presentation held at
the university last February. The application process was long- winded, and she had to write an essay explaining why she would suit the study exchange and what skills she would bring to the UCF. Her grades and attendance were checked and she had to go to London to get her Visa from the U.S. Embassy. “It took a long time, but it was all worth it”, she assures.
Natasha was accepted to the programme and flew to the U.S. in August to explore the country. The university experience was completely different from Bournemouth.
She says: “The UCF is the second largest university in the states. There were 60,000 students, while in Bournemouth there are about 17,000. It took half-an-hour to get from one side of the campus to the other.”
The American school pride was also present: “You could see people walking around campus wearing UCF clothing and there were events going on all the time in the campus. There were people in stalls trying to get you sign up for their societies”, said Natasha.
“Everything was in much bigger scale. It was kind of like from a movie.”
There are around 50 students each year coming to Bournemouth from all over the world. Jordan Landreau from Nantes, France, is one of them. He came to Bournemouth to study for one semester after wanting to live in the UK for years.
“ If you’re gonna do it, commit yourself to it and do everything you can while you’re there” ”
“I saw Bournemouth on the list of exchange places and thought, ‘hey, what’s that? I’ve never heard of this place before’. I chose it because it was close to London and there was also the beach”, Jordan says.
“I think my favourite thing here has been doing the radio show on Nerve Radio.
As an exchange student, I don’t have as many lectures, so I get to do lots of things. I had only very little previous experience on radio. It has been a huge challenge doing a live radio show in English.”
The programme administrator had warned Jordan that the local students might not be used to having international students, but in his experience everyone he met was welcoming and understanding. Jordan’s biggest problem, however, was the many English accents.
Jordan says: “I’m used to the American accent, so learning to understand all these different accents was a challenge. But that’s why I came here, really.”
Jordan loves travelling and has visited places like Tunisia, Morocco, and the U.S., but as his study exchange is nearing its end, he admits that he does not want to leave Bournemouth: “I never expected to feel so at ease here. And I didn’t expect to fall so in love with the town.”
The reasons why students do study exchange are very varied: some want to experience their subject taught in a different way, some do not know what they want do abroad and some have specific plans on their mind. Marta Vizcaya Echano, who
is the International Mobility Officer at at the Bournemouth University, thinks that students generally benefit from going.
“Students that go abroad already know what they want to get out of their experience and come back to Bournemouth with even more ideas. Those who weren’t sure at first come back and are often more motivated towards their studies.”
Marta advises that student wanting to go abroad remembers to do their own research, take advantage of the time spent with staff, and ask questions from the academic tutors and other students.
It is important to find out about the university you want to go to. Sometimes working methods can be quite different or the university might be different to what you have in mind.
“Sometimes you end up in a big university in a big city, or a small university in small town. It’s not just about the country.
“The student also needs to do research on how they fund their studies abroad, because Erasmus and the Global Horizons don’t cover all the costs”, Marta says.
Both Natasha and Jordan advise anyone who is planning to go abroad to take all you can out of the experience: “Some people are a little bit lost or afraid, but really, we’re all in the same boat. Talk to everyone, go to any event you can”, Jordan says.
Natasha gives the same advice: “If you’re gonna do it, commit yourself to it and do everything you can while you’re there.”
To find out more about study exchange and international placement opportunities, visit http:// studentportal.bournemouth.ac.uk/ career/study-abroad/