Reflections on my Year Abroad

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By Joe, Civil Engineering
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham


The University of Birmingham provided me with the opportunity to complete the third year of my integrated Masters degree abroad. As a student of Civil Engineering, I had always wanted to learn infrastructure design and sustainability principles from a different viewpoint. At the same time, I felt that my second-year self had got stuck in a comfort zone that I wanted to push myself out of, and so I applied for the study abroad programme. It was a simple application process in which I had to select seven universities out of a long list of UoB partner institutions. Even though I know now that I would have had incredible experiences at any of the universities, I was very pleased to find out a couple of months later that I had been allocated my top choice option, the highest ranked institution in Australia, University of Melbourne.

Preparing for ‘the big move’ was not as difficult as one might expect. I enjoyed searching for accommodation and booking flights; it provided very welcome relief from revising for my second-year exams! I was easily able to get in touch with students who had studied in Melbourne as well as students who would be flying out to Melbourne at the same time as me.

When I arrived out there in July 2019, the thrill of meeting new people and finding my feet in a new country dispelled any homesickness. I loved it from the moment I got over the jet-lag! Seeing as my year in industry was equivalent in weight to an ordinary third year of an MEng, I had to ensure I covered similar academic content offered at UoB. It therefore goes without saying that I was involved in some challenging areas of study. One example was a module in which my team and I had to design a water management plan for a small town, incorporating both conventional water treatment methods as well as south-eastern Australia’s unique requirements related to drought conditions and storm events.

I got into the routine of studying hard on weekdays and taking trips away at weekends with the mountaineering society or other students. In the Australian Summer holiday (Nov-Feb) I was able to enjoy trips to Tasmania and New Zealand in addition to a volunteering experience in Fiji.

Whilst the upfront costs of moving to another country and travelling may seem unmanageable, the number of loans and grants that are available certainly ease the burden, as well as the comforting fact that tuition fees for the year abroad are only 15% of that of a normal year of study (for home students).

I met so many great people and experienced so much I never thought I would, so I can confidently say it was the best decision I could have made for my studies. When Covid-19 cut my time down under 3 months short, at least I could say I had made the most of my time out there.

Finally, the fresh perspective I can now bring to discussions with potential employers pertaining to niche aspects of civil engineering is worth its weight in gold. It is for this reason that I would recommend a year abroad to any student, whether you are looking for travelling adventures or academic insight (or both). Based on my experience and the experience of fellow ‘year-abroaders’, it is highly likely to be the best year of your life so far.