Global Surrey

A central sharing space for international stories, news and events at Surrey.

My Santander exchange experience at the University of Sydney

Undertaking an exchange semester at the University of Sydney was an experience I believe I will never be able to replicate. Spending 24 hours on a plane to reach a country full of sand, beaches and a massive array of wildlife was one of the best decisions I had made.

Spending time with other exchange students and local students enables you to immerse yourself into a wide variety of culture and different lifestyles which I could learn from and at the same time, make invaluable experiences and friends for life.

Sydney in particular is an amazing city with a variety of different activities, iconic sights to see and a huge international community who are incredibly friendly.

During my semester, I was lucky enough to be able to travel through different parts of Australia, and managed to spend the mid semester break on a trip to Bali, Indonesia with my friends. Writing about some of my experiences in Australia, I organised a road trip / camping trip which started in Alice Springs where we picked up our 4×4 cars and headed south towards Adelaide whilst stopping at key locations such as Uluru to see Ayers Rock, random salt lakes and natural reserves full of kangaroos.

Our trip to Bali consisted of 16 of us exchange students; we ranged from countries such as Norway, Netherlands, England, Germany, France, U.S. and Italy. Bali was an interesting cultural experience where we got to experience all the different temples, the lifestyle there and all the famous beaches (and not forgetting the monkeys!).

At the end of the semester, me and a couple of my friends decided to do a road trip down the east coast. Having rented a car, staying at different hostels every night and trying out new things such as diving; it was an experience well worth the money and the time. I also managed to see a reef shark, turtle and nemo whilst down under!

Not forgetting about studies, the University of Sydney has a massive campus with roughly 55,000 students from all around the world. There are such a variety of societies which you can join, such as caving, rugby league and kayaking. Lessons were diverse with a similar set up to Surrey (lectures and tutorials).

To sum up the whole trip, it started in July and ended in December. It was the best 6 months of my life to date in which I made friends for life, saw views which I never will be able to replicate and opened my eyes to how beneficial travelling can be to the soul. I am incredibly grateful to my University for providing the opportunity to be able to do this and the host University for taking me on.


Isaaq Yunis, Accounting & Finance

My Santander exchange experience at Ryerson University

My exchange was at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. Classes started in early September so I arrived in late August to settle into accommodation and see some sights before university began. Typical tourist sites in Toronto that everyone visited included the CN Tower, Toronto Islands, Toronto Zoo and the Casa Loma castle. At Halloween there was also a trip to Canada’s Wonderland (their largest theme park) which was themed during the festivities, with actors dressed up and hidden around the park to jump out and scare you.

It was also a must to visit Niagara Falls (which was about an hour and a half’s travel away). It was my favourite experience over the four months as it was a beautiful experience to take a boat ride into the falls. At night time there were also firework displays over the Falls that you could sit and enjoy from a nearby park. The town of Niagara itself was small but lively; a tourist’s hub of arcades and casinos.

During my semester there the Toronto International Film Festival occurred in September, and many celebrities (mainly Hollywood actresses and actors) made appearances around the Entertainment District downtown. If you were willing to wait with huge crowds of fans you could definitely see celebrities such as Ryan Gosling and Denzel Washington. Downtown Toronto is definitely a social area you would enjoy taking long walks in with many great diverse restaurants as well as small quaint coffee shops.

Ryerson University itself is not a campus university but has several buildings scattered downtown. Probably the worst thing about Ryerson were the 8am starts and lectures lasting three hours. Work life was also more stressful than Surrey in my experience as exams, essays and assignments were expected on a weekly basis and they all counted towards your final grade. It was also really expensive to purchase the textbooks that were compulsory for each class as they could not be found cheaply (even second hand they cost almost as much as if they were new). As it is not a campus university most of the Canadian students also lived quite far and commuted in just for class.

Staying in Toronto, you could easily and conveniently take a weekend trip to Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa or Blue Mountain Ski Lodge for low prices by travelling by bus for example. By bus, travelling to the United States can also be very cheap (e.g. Chicago or New York).


Elaine Yue, Economics

My Santander exchange experience at the University of Sydney

I was an exchange student studying at our partner university – the University of Sydney. I had never travelled to Australia before and was very excited to see what the country had to offer. When I started my semester at the University I realised that the campus was enormous, and I was eager to start my semester.

Initially, my first thought was that the campus was so big that it was going to be hard to find all my classes, but luckily it wasn’t so difficult in the end. The learning experience at the University was similar in some ways to Surrey and different in other aspects. One thing in particular, about the learning experience that I noticed was that there were more regular assessments than I had at Surrey. For example, at Surrey I pretty much only had mid-semester and final exams, whereas at Sydney I had a range of assessments from quizzes, assignments, multiple mid-semester exams and then my final exams. I felt that this system was good because it kept students constantly working throughout the duration of the semester. However, I personally think that the University lacked support for the students, and maybe that was due to the University being so big.

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to travel around Australia and New Zealand whilst being on exchange. I managed to do this after I had finished my final exams. I managed to visit Sydney, Melbourne and a variety of places alongside the east coast during my time in Australia. My favourite place was definitely the Great Barrier Reef area and the Whitsundays beach. These were amazing destinations to visit and are world class travel destinations. I managed to travel from Queenstown in a campervan all the way from the bottom of the South Island to the top, and that was an experience I’ll never forget as New Zealand is a truly beautiful country.

The whole student exchange experience is an experience I’ll never forget. The ability to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things, becoming more independent, meet new people and make new friends, studying in a different country and embracing their education system, and the memories you make within the 5 months are amazing. I would recommend anyone, if they have the chance, to definitely go on student exchange as it’ll be an experience that will benefit you in so many ways.


Vincent Tu, Economics and Maths

My Santander exchange experience at Victoria University of Wellington

I spent my first semester of my second year studying abroad at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. After an extremely hectic period studying for exams while also preparing everything to essentially move to another country I finally got a whole 13 days to relax before flying off to the other side of the world. 36 hours of travelling later and everything was new to me. All of my senses were going wild and I instantly started picking up differences between the British and Kiwi culture, building styles, accents and general landscape. Within a day I had met my two flat mates (both also international exchange students) and a few others where we eventually went on to become an extremely close 13-strong group made up of mainly internationals, and we did absolutely everything together. We had a week to explore Wellington before studies began and by the end of it had already done almost half of the popular destinations. I even bought a car which made travelling the country later on much easier (because I wanted to and not because I needed to).

After studies began I spent most of my evenings with friends heading to the pub or playing pool downstairs in the basement of our halls and the weekends exploring this new world, from the lookout at Mount Victoria to the national museum of New Zealand to watching hundreds of seals chilling out at the Red Rocks, just outside of the city. Time flew by and before I knew it the mid-term break was approaching us and five of us decided to plan a huge 4500km road trip across the whole South Island (about the distance from the UK to Azerbaijan). It was always going to be a tall order driving for around 3 hours a day and seeing most things New Zealand had to offer within 15 days but we managed it. The highlights of our trip were probably helicoptering over and landing on the Franz Josef glacier, Lake Pukaki and skydiving over Queenstown, though there are way too many places to name.

Another six more weeks of studying/partying/exploring went by and the end of the exams jumped out at us even faster than before, and after getting those out of the way it was time for our second big road trip, this time ‘only’ 4000km across the North Island, half of it with two kiwi friends in a campervan (I had sold my car by this point) and the final week alone in a rented car. The highlights this time had to be camping out at the beach side with a few beers and the 7-hour long walk through Tongariro Alpine Crossing (Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings). Suddenly my half year in New Zealand was over and I was heading home again, back to normal life. I would highly recommend going on exchange to New Zealand (or anywhere!), as you will meet many amazing people, and create many more amazing memories with them.


Ivan Spooner, Business Management

My Santander exchange experience at Hong Kong Polytechnic University

I had an experience of exchange program at Hong Kong Polytechnic University for one semester. I chose Hong Kong as an exchange program destination because I wanted to study in an Asian country and Hong Kong is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia, having good infrastructure, many hotels and many landmarks. Being a hospitality and tourism management student, Hong Kong Polytechnic University is the perfect place to study and involve myself in local culture and life.

When it comes to University life, to be honest, studying at Polytechnic University was a bit hard due to many assignments and exams but the workload was capable and I could successfully accomplish all the work with colleagues helping each other. In addition, the subjects I took were interesting so I could study more efficiently and learn a lot. Apart from studying, the life of an exchange student was full of enjoyable moments. I met really nice friends including Hong Kong local friends as well as other international exchange students from other countries. For example, by sharing a room with a local student at the University residence, I could involve myself in real local life and could know better about its local culture. Moreover, I could know and keep good relationships with other exchange students by joining University organized programs such as university trips and other activities. One of my memorable activities was called the cultural lunch which is sharing foods from different countries, organized by international University students.

Apart from my university life, I could have many different experiences by traveling Hong Kong as well as outside countries nearby Hong Kong. Hong Kong has a variety of touristic resources from nature such as mountains and beaches to man-made places such as temples and skyscrapers. When I had a day off from university I normally went on a day trip to the mountains hiking, beaches for sunbathing or its unique islands including Hong Kong’s traditional fishing village. Moreover, as Hong Kong is located in the heart of Asia, it is really convenient to visit other Asian countries nearby such as Mainland China, Taiwan and Thailand. During weekends I also went to Macau and Taiwan with local friends and I gained new experience and had a great time.

I strongly recommend students to do the exchange program. While I have lived in Hong Kong, being a part of its real society, I could gain lots of new experience. I would not be able to experience what I had in this semester if I just traveled to Hong Kong. Even though while I studied it was hard, I gained a lot of knowledge. I am really satisfied with my exchange program experience, making unforgettable memories.


Eun Young Son, Hospitality and Tourism

My Santander exchange experience at La Trobe University

Going abroad can be as exciting as scary at first. From the beginning of my studies I knew I wanted to go on an exchange. There’s no better way to experience a new culture, it is completely different to travelling with your family. I was lucky to be sent to Melbourne, a city that completely won my heart. I will be honest, the night before leaving my family, tears flew to my cheeks, I asked myself why I had decided to go to the other side of the world on my own. But all those fears are now long gone. I had the best time ever in Australia. I will not lie, you need time to adjust and to get your bearings, it is quite disturbing at first to have no clue where to go and to know absolutely no one. But very quickly, through international student events and through college, you quickly get to meet new people.

One of my favourite things about this exchange is the amount of people that I have met from all over the world; it was very interesting and enriching. Another great thing is the amount of travel opportunities I got. During the first couple weekends, I was always venturing to a new place in Victoria. There is so much to do! From the breath-taking views in the Grampians to Philipp Island, full of tiny penguins passing by beautiful surf beaches, you don’t remember what boredom is. During semester break, a bunch of friends and me flew to Queensland to go on a road trip from Brisbane to Cairns, it was an experience of a life time! I was completely out of my comfort zone living as a backpacker going from one hostel to another, but I loved it! Sydney is not far by plane so I also spent one long weekend with a friend, it’s also a very vibrant city, I understand the rivalry with Melbourne, but the latter will remain my favourite.

Of course, a little voice in my head constantly reminded me that I was originally here for my studies so I had to stay focus despite the call of other sirens. I would strongly recommend to anyone to find accommodation on campus, there’s no better way to fit in amongst the university and also to meet Australians, I got the chance to go two weeks to Tasmania and stay at one of my friends!

Going on an exchange is an opportunity not to be missed, I recommend it 100%!


Elodie Smith, International Hospitality Management

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