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It painfully starts getting to me that summer is over. But looking at the pictures and realizing during my lectures how many examples of studied issues I can recall from the countries I visited just a few days ago doesn't help me abandoning the holiday mood.

What do students do in summer? I guess that some are coming back home to rest and spend their free time with family and friends. Others work or go travelling. I normally chose the last option. This year I decided to take my time with returning to Europe and make a few interesting stops on the way back from my study exchange in Australia. I'm really glad that I saved some money throughout semester and I could take advantage of being in this part of the world.

I had three interesting years before starting University and there was always such thought in my mind that when I decide to become a student again, I will be tied up to one place for the following three years. That proved not to be true. Actually to tell the truth I spend as little time in London as possible. I wouldn't say it's because I don't like it there, it's because there are so many places to see and once you start travelling, it is really difficult to stop.

Travelling is not only a pleasant way to spend your time, it is also a beautiful way to learn about new cultures, people, history, geography, development or international relations. Travelling you can also confirm or confront what you learn at the University. Studying in Australia I took a course in Global Development. Apart from a very experienced and professional lecturer its main asset was the different focus the course offered. Due to its location, Australia has a different focus and the case studies we were shown introduced the countries that we don't study much about in Europe. One of them was Indonesia and I cannot imagine a better approach to learning than empirical confirmation of what was learnt in a lecture room. Equipped with the knowledge about Indonesia I could made my own observations building a more complete picture of this interesting country.

This experience makes me think that starting a University course is not only about attending lectures. Enrolment opens you an ocean of opportunities that are waiting for you. If you make sure you use them, those three years may become time of your life.

 

In case you didn't know, Kingston offers several study abroad schemes, one of them being the ERASMUS scheme. If you still haven't decided if this is for you then don't worry I'll talk you through some things that I experienced on my exchange and some tips for your application and when you get there.

Here's a little info about me: I just got back to Kingston after spending a semester at the Université Lumieres Lyon 2. I had an amazing time, my French has improved a lot and I can now say I have friends on every continent in the world, of which I will endeavour to visit them all! It wasn't easy though I had a lot of obstacles along the way which weren't detailed in the leaflets you find at uni so I'm going to share with you some of my tips.

First things first; a deadline means a deadline! I had planned to go on my exchange in semester one of my second year but because I missed the deadline I had to wait a whole semester to apply. The application process can be long and you have to provide lots of documents and fill in endless forms (not for the faint hearted!) so make sure you're ahead of the game because if you encounter a problem with your application you will have allowed yourself enough time to sort it out.

Research! Research! Research! Don't rely on your Erasmus coordinator to make all the decisions, although they are a fountain of knowledge, they don't know every university on the list in detail. Take things into your own hands by getting to know your perspective university's website. Note down the names of the courses you want to study (unless you have to study something specific) and make sure you're familiar with your particular university's credit conversion rate. For example my university said each module was worth 9 credits but it was actually only worth 5 for ERASMUS students, this is so important because it could mean you fail the module or the year as a result. A little bit of planning will avoid this potentially disastrous situation.

Don't just stick with students from your university or who are the same nationality as you. You need to reflect on what you want to achieve in that year or semester both academically and personally and try and reach those goals. For me it was to improve my French, luckily no one from KU had come to Lyon with me so I could make a fresh start and I tried my best to mingle with students from other countries and above all the locals! It might be daunting at first, especially if you're a bit shy like me, but try to put yourself out there by going to ERASMUS events even if you have to arrive alone you'll definitely make friends. One thing I learnt is that ERASMUS people are a friendly bunch!

Accommodation is an important decision to make. If your university offers you a room in the halls of residence don't be too hasty to take it. Although it can seem like the simpler option at the time you might get more out of finding your own apartment with other students and the university will most likely have a team to help you organise this. On the other hand, I took a room in halls and it did give me a really good insight into the life of a French university student and I had a whole corridor of people to meet. Bear in mind though, that the halls' of residence are usually situated further out of town so if you want the luxury of choosing where you'll be living then go private.

Finally, and what you were all waiting for... money! The ERASMUS scheme offers a grant but the amount changes every year with the amount of students taking part. I was surprised at the substantial amount they gave me and it really helped me to make the most out of my trip. You can also tap into other grants and benefits but this varies from country to country. If you're lucky enough to be going to France, check out CAF, this is a government funded grant which all students in France (French or not) are entitled too and it is to help cover your rent.

So now you are armed with this knowledge I hope you'll make the right decision and that's to take this fantastic opportunity to study abroad. The likelihood is that you will encounter some problems of your own but be brave because that's what makes this experience so worthwhile!

Hello and welcome!

Posted 25 Oct 2013 by Tamara

 

House party timeHi Guys! As my first blog I thought it would be useful to tell you a little bit more about myself, and to give you an idea of the craziness that was my fresher's week!

As a final year Medical Biochemistry student, I'm someone that's a little bit obsessed with current science news etc., however I also make sure I have time to enjoy myself, so I am part of the University netball club, secretary of HCO: life sciences society and volunteer with disabled young people every other Saturday! Joining all these was the best decision I ever made as it's allowed me to meet some truly amazing people, and through netball I met my current housemates and people from so many different sports clubs which I often see on weekly socials, starting at the student's union bar and ending in some club or another!

Growing up in international schools (My dad used to work for the United Nations!) I love to get to see as many cultures as possible, so often try and go into central, even if it's just to walk around as the diversity of people you meet is amazing! For fresher's week though, I spent all my time in Kingston, as the amount that's packed into the week is ridiculous To start off the week, as is an unwritten rule when you get your own house second year onwards, me and my housemates decided to welcome everyone to our house with a house party! An amazing night to introduce fresher's week.

 

Geek Party at Freshers Fayre

As a second and third year, your lectures don't start till the week after fresher's week, meaning you're free to enjoy yourself and get ready for the new university year! Therefore as is tradition, I used that time wisely to meet up with and catch up with all my friends who I hadn't seen since before the pressures of exams overwhelmed us and celebrate with a few drinks.

As well as having a good time during fresher's week, it's also a good time to earn some money, with lots of jobs being advertised in and outside of university. I applied and was fortunate enough to be a fresher's angel, so was involved in helping with the induction of new fresher's, and advertising the students union during the fresher's fayre. As well as being an opportunity to get to know your university better and earn some money, it was a really fun role to be involved in and made my fresher's week a lot more enjoyable!

As well as work, fresher fayre is the time where all societies promote their clubs and try and obtain membership for the coming year, so I also made sure I spent time with my society! We managed to get all of our committee members together for a while, long enough to take a photo!

Overall, fresher's week is an amazing time to experience as much as possible and get involved with all that you can, as it could be one of the best experiences you have at university!

Being a Freshers AngelHCO society at Freshers Fayre
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