I spent the winter semester 2019/20 at the University of Bristol in the south-west of England. All in all, I perceived my stay abroad as a valuable experience that not only helped me personally, but was also very enriching from a professional perspective. In particular, I perceived the insight into new fields of study and the expansion of my linguistic knowledge in English as a great benefit.
Content and procedure of the stay abroad
I have been studying psychology at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich since 2017. It was already clear to me at the beginning of my studies that I wanted to spend a semester abroad. On September 22nd, 2019, in my fifth semester, the time had finally come and I made my way to England. The first week there, the so-called Freshers Week, was mainly used to make contacts and make first friends. There was a huge range available, from information events and sporting events to parties, which gave you first impressions of the city and student life to collect there. Especially at the Fresher’s Fair you have the opportunity to get to know the many different clubs and societies. In the second week, at the beginning of October, the lectures started. Until then, it was still possible to change courses. Fortunately, I was able to switch to a third-year psychology course. At the beginning, employees of the Global Opportunities Team advised foreign students not to take first-year courses, but in retrospect it was quite feasible to take a third-year and two first-year courses. In the end, I took the following courses:
- School of Psychological Sciences: Drug Use and Addiction (3rd year)
- School of Humanities: The Modern World (1st year)
- School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies: Issues in World Politics (1st year)
Above all, I really liked the opportunity to choose courses from different departments or subjects. In each course I had two fifty-minute lectures and one seminar a week. In “The Modern World” a tutorial was also offered, which dealt primarily with the writing of portfolios and essays in the subject of history. In the first week of November, the so-called Reading Week took place, during which no lectures are given and the students are given time to do all the readings and prepare any essays. The lectures took place until Christmas and from January 13th – 24th, 2020, the exams take place. I had to write a total of five essays and one exam. However, if you do not want to return to university in January, foreign students can contact their course instructor and change written exams to a different format, such as an essay. Visit ehuacom.com to get information about Finland higher education.
Planning the stay abroad
I applied to the University of Bristol on my own and not as part of an exchange program, as unfortunately my home university does not have any partnerships with UK universities. The free offer from MicroEDU helped me a lot when applying. Although the University of Bristol’s application deadline was only mid-June 2019, I sent my documents to MicroEDU for review and forwarding for the University of Bristol in January 2019. The application documents consisted of a form with personal information, the certified certificate and a language certificate. The B2 level in the DAAD test, which you can take for free at my home university, is accepted. No letter of motivation is required up to a grade point average of 2. 0. Overall, the application process was extremely straightforward and in April 2019 I received an offer letter from the University of Bristol.
The next step was finding suitable accommodation. As a participant in the International Program is guaranteed a place in a student accommodation at the university, this step also turned out to be not very complicated. All you had to do was enter your three favorite dorms in the accommodation portal. I personally chose them based on their distance from the university and with The Hawthornes I got my favorite. In total, I paid around £ 105 per week for a shared room with a private bathroom. The dormitories differ in terms of size, distance from the university and whether they are offered with or without catering. The price of the accommodation also includes a bus ticket for the U1 line.
I chose to travel to the UK by train for environmental reasons. If you book early, you pay 69 € for the route from Regensburg to London with the Super Saver Europe. From London you can then take a coach, for example from the National Express or Megabus, to Bristol for around £ 5. The trip with the Eurostar via Brussels has proven to be extremely comfortable and it takes about a day to travel. Advantages over flying are not only lower CO2 emissions, but also no weight restrictions and no early arrival at the airport, for example for check-in.
The tuition fees and rent for the dormitory are due at the end of October. You can either pay in installments or all at once. Tuition in Bristol is £ 4,625. Thanks to my scholarship from the German National Academic Foundation, however, I was reimbursed for this.
Special gain from the stay abroad
As others have often described, my semester abroad definitely broadened my horizons. By applying as a free mover and not, for example, with the Erasmus program at the University of Bristol, I was guaranteed a place in the dormitory, through which I came into contact primarily with local students. I have the feeling that Erasmus students are often in a “bubble” of exchange students and that it is more difficult for them to make contact with local students. This is primarily not a bad thing, but less of an advantage if you want to get to know the country and people of the country you have chosen for the exchange. I have learned a lot about that different political views of the British and differences between Britain and Germany. Europe and Brexit were a ubiquitous topic and I really appreciated getting to know different views on it. Bristol is a very diverse city and I’ve learned a lot about different cultures and religions. As a volunteer in a language café, where I supported people who wanted to improve or practice their German, I also had a lot of contact with international students. Both of my courses on politics and history, which are rather unrelated to the subject, have also become extended understanding of the world. My English in particular has improved enormously in the four months. Thanks to the wide range of societies and sports clubs, you can also try out new areas during your semester abroad.
Recommendation for future exchange students
I can only recommend traveling to England on the Eurostar. If you already have the opportunity to forego a flight, then in my opinion you should do so too. And the price of just 69 € for a one-way trip certainly doesn’t speak against it, especially with the international flat rate from the Studienstiftung.
Otherwise, you should find out about the large number of societies in good time. Unfortunately, I only found out about many very great societies at the end of my stay abroad, which was a shame. Most of the societies can be found at the Freshers Fair, but there are many others that can be found on the University of Bristol website. I can also warmly recommend the various student accommodations at the university. They are not necessarily the most luxurious accommodations, but you get the opportunity to meet many British and international students in a very uncomplicated way and to really get to know the student life in England. A double room is also a nice experience. Overall, you should enjoy every day of your semester abroad, because time goes by faster and four months are shorter than you think.