There are two activities that take up the majority of every university student’s time: going to school, and going to sleep. Making sure you have these two areas covered before you head abroad will put you in a better position to worry about the real reasons you’ve over here: meeting new people, traveling to far off lands, etc. Here’s a little about what to expect before and after you venture out.
Once you’ve decided that Surrey is the school for you, you’re going to want to make sure you have a place to sleep. Although there are a lot more students here than beds, the school does its best to make sure that exchange students have a place on campus to call home if they so choose. You may also opt for non-university housing. This is a good option if you want that upper echelon of freedom or extra space than typical in a dorm, but it means you have to do a little more work on your own to find a place to live. Not to worry, the university will send you links in emails directing you to websites to look for off-campus accommodation, and the students I know who do live off campus (most second and third year native students live off campus) are really happy with where they live.
If you decide you’d rather live in a campus dorm, you have plenty of options for what suits you best. There are six different options of dorms, each with a different set of space and facilities reflected in the varying costs. Need a lot of space and your own personal bathroom? No problem. Just want a bed to sleep in and a roommate to meet someone new? There’s an option for you too. No matter what you decide, you’ll end up sharing your kitchen with your other flatmates. Try to be extra friendly with your flatmates at first and they may let you use some of their cutlery or seasoning until you’re fully settled in, just make sure you ask them first! Remember that you’re going to be living here for an entire semester, so you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with anyone in the first week. If you respect other people’s stuff, they’ll respect you in return.
Additionally you’ll need to sort out which courses you’ll be taking at Surrey with your home university. UCF didn’t end up offering a ton of flexibility with my program, but many students have loads of options regarding which modules they can take. Surrey requires that all of its students enroll in exactly four courses, but make sure you pick out two or three on top of that that work for you as a backup plan if something doesn’t quite work out as planned. If possible, try to sign up for something that Surrey can offer a unique perspective on. Many of my friends here are studying law or politics at their home universities and are taking classes here where they can learn something that isn’t available to them outside of the European Union, for instance.
As a math student, all of my courses have the same grading outline: one mid-semester test (20%) and one final exam (80%), with two unassessed coursework assignments (think of them like homework assignments that are graded, but the mark doesn’t count for your actual grade). Now I don’t know about you, but 80% of my grade all in one exam?!?! This freaked me out when I was scheduling courses. So far though, the content has all been very manageable, and the material is about the same difficulty I would be expecting back at my home university. The professors are all eager to see you succeed, so they usually provide you with whatever resources they can to help you: old exam papers, review sheets, tons and tons of examples, etc. When they give you coursework, even when it isn’t for a grade, just do it anyway. With only two opportunities in class to show your professors what you know, it’s best to make sure what you think is sufficient is also what they think is sufficient. They also are waiting to see students at their office hours (I just don’t think too many English students go to see their professors outside of lecture time). In the times that I’ve made it to see my professors, they were so thrilled to see someone come ask them about class that they gave me more help than I anticipated—even offering me advice on how to best make my way around a new university.
One last thing you’ll want to find out is if your grades received here at Surrey will transfer to your GPA back at your home university. Many students I know only need a passing mark (which in England is a 40% on their shifted grading scale) to receive credit back home, where other students like me will receive a grade here that will also go on their transcripts back home. It all depends on your program and your own school. Either way, have no fear… even students like me who do need to worry about the grades they get find plenty of time to make it out to one of the local pubs.