Samantha Leahy

Date: SP5, 2013
Degree Program: Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood)
Host University: University of Sunderland
Host Country: United Kingdom

Why did you choose your host university?

Because I couldn’t speak any other languages and wasn’t doing a course related to languages I decided it would be best to go to an English speaking county. I ended up applying for the universities in England because I thought this best related to my course, and ended up at Sunderland. 

What was the university like?

The university was very good. I didn’t expect much considering it was a small university compared to others; however I was pleased with my experience. Finding classes to take while on exchange was quite difficult, but the university both at home and over there helped a lot. The classes were very useful, but I would recommend not taking any subjects which are final year subjects (which I had to do for one subject), as many subjects seemed to link up with others in final year, along with dissertations. The staff were very helpful, including the tutors as well as the exchange team, and I would recommend going straight to the exchange staff for any problems.  Assessment standards seemed quite similar to UniSA standards. The library had a lot of resources for assignments, and their online catalogue was very big and broad.

Student Samantha Leahy - UKWhat did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

This experience has definitely shown me more of the world and made me consider future career options outside of Australia. The whole semester put me out of my comfort zone, therefore I learnt to adjust to new situations and open myself to new experiences. 

What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

The university suggests you use the university housing, which I strongly recommend as it makes it easier to get to uni, meet new people, and overall adjust to the new surroundings as the basic things are provided for you. There are 4 (I think) options for university housing, and they suggest exchange students go to Clanny House, which I did and was very happy I chose this option. This was the cheapest option, and although a 20 or 40 minute walk from uni (depending on which campus you were at) there was a free bus for students from the front of Clanny House every 15 minutes on week days (which was more than the other houses got, as they got mini busses instead which came less regularly). I shared my flat with 4 other exchange students, but the number of people you share with depends on the size of your flat, as other people shared with more. 

Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

Before getting to Sunderland I travelled a bit around Europe with a friend (who was also going to Sunderland uni), before we made our way to England, where we started at the bottom and travelled our way up to Sunderland. I think it’s a good idea to travel beforehand as the semester doesn’t start until September some time, so there is a lot of time between when our first semester ends and theirs starts. I also travelled a lot throughout the semester on weekends. The university organiStudent Samantha Leahy - UKsed some of these things for Freshers, exchange students, or part of the Student Union, and some of them we organised on our own as everything was very close (I would also recommend using Megabus to travel around England, it’s VERY cheap and we saved a lot of money using it!). I also travelled around Europe after the semester was over with some friends before coming back to Australia. 

Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

Adjusting to life in England was quite easy as it’s very similar to Australia. One obvious difference is the weather (and I think it is best to find winter clothes in England rather than buying them in Australia beforehand), but you get used to it, and everywhere inside is always warm. Meeting people was easy through the university. All the exchange students met in the first week, and did a lot of things together, so most people you would meet would also be on exchange. To meet more people from England I would suggest joining clubs at the university (which there are plenty of). The university itself organises a lot of out-of-uni things, like Freshers and trips to neighbouring towns, and there’s a lot of student nights out, so there’s plenty of opportunities to meet people.

Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?

I think this experience broadened my knowledge, both in areas relating to my course through seeing how things are done in other countries and learning aspects of a subject which may not have been covered in Australia, and in my knowledge of other lifestyles and cultures.  

What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

I would say to just do it, it is such an amazing experience, you’ll have the greatest time on exchange, the whole experience is absolutely amazing. My only regret is not being able to stay longer than a semester. 

Top Tips:

My top tip about the studying part of the exchange is to go to the exchange team straight away if you have a problem and sort it out ASAP, especially if it is regarding UniSA as it becomes hard to sort things out at home due to time differences and takes a lot longer than expected!

My top tip about travelling is to do as much of it as possible during your short time there! Go on lots of weekend trips and see as much of the country as you can. Being in Europe everything is so close and accessible, so take advantage of it while you can!

Areas of study and research

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