Holly, fourth year Anthropology with a Year Abroad BSc student, shares her experience of study abroad at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.
Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself (e.g., programme of study, background and interests)?
My name is Holly and I’m an Anthropology student on the Anthropology with a Year Abroad BSc programme. At the moment I’m going into my fourth year at UCL after completing my year abroad at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. I grew up moving across Asia, living in Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei and others. This gave me a love for experiencing different cultures and eventually lead me to pick Anthropology. My main interest in the course is social anthropology, and I’m currently working on my dissertation on third culture kids at international schools in Asia. Eventually I hope to work as a teacher in international schools myself. My main interests are mainly focused in exploring new places, both abroad and in London. I did my final years of schooling in Brighton, so I love going home and being by the beach.
Why did you want to study abroad? Did you have a specific country in mind?
Due to my upbringing, I was always heavily interested in doing a year abroad. I have grown up moving so it feels very natural to me and I love the experience of moving to a new place and getting adjusted to it all. At the start of my degree, I wasn’t entirely sure if I was definitely going to go on a year abroad, but after having first year online due to covid, my decision was cemented. I didn’t feel I was in a rush to complete my university time and wanted to make the most of the amazing opportunity that studying abroad gives you. Originally, I had always wanted to go to Greece for my year abroad as the options in Australia was only Melbourne and Sydney, and I wanted a different type of city to London. The placement choices are updated every year and luckily, the year I was going was when UQ was brought back as an option. After researching my options and the courses available to me, I knew Brisbane was my top choice and I got in! The research I did was really helpful and I would make tell anyone considering it to research a lot about the city and university you’re looking at. The main things to look at are the courses offered at the university, the cost of living, the support offered for exchange students and then things like public transport, international student community, whether classes are offered in English, what the funding you can get is and anything else. There’s a lot of information online and doing this really helped me to narrow down my options and just apply to the ones that would be a great fit for me personally.
How did you secure your study abroad placement?
The first UCL applications required answering a range of questions, so using the research I’d done initially, I wrote about the courses I’d found that I was interested in studying at each of my universities and any specific areas of study that they offer that UCL doesn’t. I think that this really helped my applications as each of my answers had detailed answers on why I wanted to study at that particular university. After this, my application to UQ was very easy as I was recommended by UCL, so after doing some admin work, I was accepted.
I had the most amazing time! I flew out to Brisbane and stayed in an Airbnb for the first days while looking for a houseshare and got very lucky, moving into a gorgeous Queenslander with a group of awesome people. I’m so glad I choose to live in a house share as it really made the experience a lot more authentic and gave me a lot of experiences that I think I wouldn’t have had otherwise, as well as people to help me adjust to the country and culture. UQ has a really great and active exchange student society that runs weekly events and trips, so that helped further the experience a lot. I made some lifelong friends through the society, and I’m now planning to go visit them in their home countries. I also made so many incredible friends in Brisbane and I can’t wait to go back once I graduate from UCL!
Australia, and Brisbane in particular, have an amazing feel to them. Brisbane feels like a small town but has all the amenities that you would get and need from a bigger city, so it’s a great balance and a really nice change from the past two years in London. The university itself its stunning and set on a massive campus. That is also a really cool experience to have as coming from UCL, we’re not used to having that but its great to be able to have both during your time at university. UQ also offers a massive range of courses and having the freedom of a year abroad means you get to take some incredibly interesting courses. I took introduction to guitar in my first semester, which was a practical course of learning guitar! I also got to take multiple history courses, including the history of sexuality and the city in history. There’s courses in everything there and the quality of teaching that I had was really strong.
All in all, my experience of study abroad was better than I ever hoped and imagined it to be and I’m so glad I went. I think it can be hard to decide whether to do it or not as people around you may say it’s a waste of time or that you should just finish university as fast as you can, but I think it’s a truly invaluable experience that you’ll never get the opportunity to have again.
What support was available to you whilst abroad; student socials, academic support etc?
As mentioned above, QUEST (the exchange student society) have a lot of events, especially in the welcome week so you get the opportunity to meet all the exchange students during those. They organise trips to popular destinations around Queensland as well, so you can join those as well. There is an introduction lecture at the start of orientation week, which is incredibly helpful and I think the information they gave both at that lecture and in the lead up to beginning at UQ was very useful. The academic support is very strong as well. They have a student center, where you can drop in or call for any issues and there’s always very friendly people there to direct you to where you need to go or help solve any problems. Additionally, I found all my lecturers and course coordinators to be very accommodating when I had any issues.
They have a great range of different societies in addition to QUEST, like the surfers society and ones for absolutely every single interest or sport! This is a great way to make friends with more home students and again have some great experiences. Throwing yourself into anything that interests you is the best way to go.
What advice would you give to someone considering studying abroad?
If you’re considering it, just do it!! Realistically you’re never going to have this opportunity to move to a country and be so supported in it again. Pushing back graduating by one year is so worth it for this and gives you invaluable life experiences. I personally couldn’t imagine have graduating this year, without having the knowledge and growth I got from my year abroad. Regardless of where you go, it broadens your horizons so much and allows you to meet people and experience things you’d never have done without it!
What would you say was the most beneficial part of your year abroad and how did it feed into your degree experience?
Being able to branch outside of Anthropology and take courses that complimented it. With such a broad course like anthropology, the majority of courses that you take outside of it will feed into it in some way. For example, taking history courses gave me the opportunity to understand anthropological phenomenon that I previously didn’t see from this perspective and the full historical context. Additionally, studying in a completely different manner to UCL has made me a much more productive student. At UQ, they do a lot of smaller assessments throughout the semester, rather than one or two big final courseworks at the end of the year. Through studying in a different want, it helped me perfect and improve my note taking and focus on what was important as we went. Taking other courses outside of my discipline also gave me more practice in writing different types of essays and seeing what works best for me. All these skills are going to be taken into my final year assignments and help me with my dissertation.