My name is Danial Naqvi and I should be a second-year Human Geography student at QMUL. I say that ‘I should be’, because although for all intents and purposes, I am; I’m currently sitting in the United States of America, in Austin, Texas to be precise. Why? I’m on a study abroad semester at the University of Texas at Austin and will return in January to complete my second year studies. I wanted to meet new people from different cultures and backgrounds and given that the University of Texas at Austin is a global university, the shoe couldn’t be a better fit.
Soon enough you’ll have enough of the pristine beauty of Mile End and will want to expand your horizons and explore the world. If you haven’t yet taken a gap year, it’s not too late. QMUL offers study abroad exchange programmes through Erasmus and their international programme too. You could be jetting off to Australia, Denmark, Spain, the United States or even South Korea for a semester or for a year. It’s an amazing plethora of locations and you wouldn’t believe how simple it is to get involved and fly off to a distant land. Although it is true that some degree structures allow for a study abroad year, most people who want to go abroad would be at a loss. I study Human Geography and for me, studying abroad was always an aspiration when I arrived at QMUL in September 2016.
In this blog, I will outline the application process to the International Exchange Scheme, the lead up and my experiences so far. If you want to know about Erasmus, please contact the Erasmus officer: firstname.lastname@example.org. So without further a due, let’s get into this…
The Application Process Before you even start to think of the mountain of a year in front of you, you’ll have to start thinking about your application to study abroad. I remember that in October, the International Office gave talks on the study abroad experience. From that moment, I was geared to apply. Two of my friends also applied which gave me a boost that I wasn’t alone.
Depending on where you want to go, you have different requirements to meet. For example, if you want to apply to the University of California; you have to commit to going for a year as that’s the only exchange they offer. Likewise, if you want to go to my host university; The University of Texas at Austin, then you will have to apply early. Both the University of California and the University of Texas at Austin have strict guidelines on study abroad schemes so you have to get your application in by early November. The deadline to apply for all other institutions is in January.
On top of all the work you’ll be given to introduce you to university studies, you’ll also have to piece together at application. I knew that I wanted to apply to the University of Texas at Austin so I did my application differently to how you may have to do it. I applied solely to that institution first and if I weren’t to be successful would have adjusted my application to apply to other universities. Initially, apart from my current host university, I had sights on Hunter College at City University New York and the University of Toronto. I was set on hoping over the pond to North America. The application process comprises of a few components; you’ll need to make a study plan for each university you want to apply to. It’s best to speak to your departmental advisor so that they can sign this off. This can be done by researching the courses offered on the host university’s directory. Once that’s done, you’ll have to get an academic reference. It seems strange to get a reference from someone who has known you for two months but talking to your tutor or personal advisor is the best port of call. Finally, you’ll have to write a personal statement of intent. This is similar to the piece you wrote for UCAS when applying to universities such as QMUL.
Once you’ve procured all the important information, you can apply and you’ll just have to wait and see.
The Preparation Congratulations, you’ve been accepted into the International Exchange Programme (IEP). I received this email, exactly one month after the deadline on the 8th December 2016. I remember exclaiming at the top of my lungs and nearly breaking my dad’s back in the process. Now, if you thought the application was tough; you’ll prove your metal in the months leading up to your departure. Remember to qualify for any study abroad scheme, you must achieve a MINIMUM of a 2:1 in your first year, that’s 60%.
I’ll write separate blogs on the nitty-gritty of the preparation for study abroad but the basics stand as; acquiring a visa (for most countries this is mandatory for study abroad), acquiring housing and sorting out insurance and travel arrangements.
Amongst all the work, as I’ve mentioned a few times, you’ll have to juggle these responsibilities too. Somewhere along the way after you get your offer you’ll be invited to a talk held by the head of the IEP and you’ll meet people also on your programme to that specific university. I met someone that I’m now very close to and it’s crazy to think how study abroad can bring people together through mutual interests.
There are some small, and seemingly insignificant pieces of the puzzle too. They include application to the actual university itself and sometimes the need for travel injections. All these I will discuss at a later date but for now, just be wary of the constant need to be on the lookout for information that can help you; especially through social media.
My Experience Thus Far I’ve been in the USA for a month now, I have three months left. I arrived in Houston and adjusted to the climate with family and then drove up to Austin five days later. Austin is the vibe of somewhere like Brick Lane or Camden. It’s a hip town with lots of arts and culture to be involved in. The campus is huge, it’s 4 miles in circumference and it’s sometimes a behemoth to walk. Luckily class breaks 15 minutes earlier than timetabled because the university appreciates that back-to-back classes are a normality and doesn’t want students to run in the excruciating heat. Yes, it’s hot. Since I got here the temperature has surfaced lower than 25 degrees Celsius during the day.
As I mentioned, my host university is a global institution with over 6,000 international students enrolled in the last fall semester. I’ve met people from UCL, The University of Edinburgh as well as students from France, Mexico, Spain, Hong Kong and New Zealand. Of course, I’ve met Americans too, more specifically Texans. The lifestyle is much more chilled out than London where if you want to focus on your career, it is encouraged and not an abnormality.
I’m an aspiring humanitarian journalist (which is basically a journalist working in socially underdeveloped regions of the world), and I was heavily involved in the Print at QMUL and would’ve applied for an editor role if I didn’t come abroad. In that light, I applied to work for the Daily Texan which serves the University of Texas at Austin’s 50,000 students. I got a position as an opinion columnist and now have published two pieces.
The best advice I can offer for study abroad is to let loose and open your horizons to new possibilities, friends and experiences. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t work hard last year but I also wouldn’t be having the best time if I didn’t step outside my comfort zone and speak to people. The opportunities are out there for you, so what are you waiting for?