Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Introduction and Options Video

Hello all,

If you don't like reading, here is another way to get the run down on what options you have for studying abroad with the University of Chester:

Alternatively, if you're new, and would like more in depth information on how to study abroad,  please read this post first: Initial Steps to Studying Abroad!

One of the thousands of views one can see when one travels.

Much love,

Lucy xxo

Next post in the series: ISEP vs Bilateral

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Overall Application Process

If you're new, please read this post first: Initial Steps to Studying Abroad and/or watch this video: How to Study Abroad: Introduction and Options

Okay, so now you know roughly how to study abroad, what your different options are and how to pick a list of host placement preferences. It's probably a good idea then to discuss the actual application steps. Below, please take a look at the different processes required of you to enrol on the Study Abroad Experience and I wish you the very best of luck in your application.

As previously, this post will concentrate on ISEP and Bilateral Exchanges only (as I have more personal experience in these than I do for WB5004).

All the love.

Things to do Before you Apply

  1. Contact the Study Abroad Office via email.
    This is to acquire a detailed document describing the different options available to you and should have been done as step 1 of Choosing Where to Study.
  2. Attend an initial Group Presentation/Informational Evening.
    These will be staged throughout the year in with specific dates provided to you from the Study Abroad Office, probably in reply to the above email you'll have sent. It is possible to apply before attending one of these, but you must attend one before the end of your application cycle, as they are generally designed to help you make your final choices. At this stage, you will also find out about the Student Finance and any bursaries available.
"Listen to what I have to say, young one."

Initial Application

  1. Submit a 250 word statement as to why you would like to study abroad.This should be submitted via email to the Study Abroad Office. At this stage, your grades will be evaluated, along with your statement. It may be important to note here, that although you do have a minimum requirement of 55% in your first year, a lot more rides on your 250 word statement and therefore you should be as passionate as you can. It is also important to note that spaces for appointments are allocated on a first come first serve basis, so submit your statement ASAP!

  2. Attend an interview with the Study Abroad Tutor.
    This interview will assess your suitability for an exchange (as you will automatically become an Ambassador for the University of Chester when on exchange) so be positive, polite and above all, ready to go abroad. You will need to have this interview by November 8th, 2015 if you want to study abroad in the 2016/17 cycle. If you are looking at this in the future, your best bet is to check this date during Step 1 of this list.
  3. You should receive the outcome within 3-5 days of having the interview.
    If you have been successful, you will be sent a "To-do List" and a University of Chester application pack. At this stage, if you have not done so already, you should attend one of the previously mentioned Group Meetings/Information Evenings.

This is my 'yes-you-want-to-hire-me' smile!

Second Stage of Application

  1. Complete stages 1-3 of the To-do List.
    Once the three stages are signed off, you will be offered a second appointment with the Study Abroad Coordinator. You need to complete these stages as soon as possible. For the 2016/17 cycle, the final deadline to meet with the Study Abroad Coordinator is December 15th, 2015.

    As far as I know, stages 1-3 are as follows:
    1. Acquire a reference from your head of department.
    2. Acquire a reference from your Personal Academic Tutor or PAT.
    3. Confirm that you have registered onto a 4 year programme and give the Study Abroad Office your MAS code; obviously this is different if you are doing this as your second year.

    Please give at least two weeks' notice to acquire your references and if your course doesn't have a four year option, get in touch with the Study Abroad Office ASAP.
  2. Attend a meeting with the Study Abroad Coordinator.
    You should come prepared to this with all of the information you have collected about your chosen destinations (or that in which you acquired whilst completing the 7 steps of Choosing Where to Study) as the Study Abroad Coordinator can only assist you in your application, not do it for you. This appointment will be approximately be 45 minutes long and will provide further guidance needed on your final application. For the 2016/17 cycle, the final deadline for this meeting will be November 15th, 2015.
  3. Complete your Final Application form and submit it.
    For the sake of easy-reading, I will make a post about this later, separately and in detail. For now though, know that you need to complete this in your own time and that it will be assessed by the University of Chester before finally being submitted to your chosen host institutions. For the 2016/17 cycle, the final deadline for submission of your application is midnight on Sunday 29th November, 2015 via email. Your only job after that is to wait for the final decision. You should be notified via email on the final verdict within a week of the closing date. For the 2016/17 cycle, all successful applicants will be notified by December 6th, 2015Unfortunately, because of the government and various other policies, you will have to re-write (or at least copy and paste your initial application) into a separate and new host-specific application (once the University of Chester accept the first one of course). More on this topic in a separate post though!
Me after submitting my application - aaaaah!

Once your Application has been Approved:

  1. Await on the Host Institutions decision.
    Although you are now through to the final stage of the application, you are still not guaranteed an exchange experience. This is because the final decision is not Chester's but the host institutions itself. The final decision on where you will end up can therefore take up to 12 weeks from the ISEP January deadline. You may, at this stage, contact the Study Abroad Office for updates but you will not be offered another appointment with the coordinator until your final placement has been confirmed with the host institution.
  2. Pay your Exchange Fee.
    There is a £250 exchange fee which must be paid, for the 2016/17 cycle, by January 31st, 2016. Luckily however, you do not need to pay this until your application has been sent to the host institution, so there is very little chance of this money being wasted. The Study Abroad Office will also contact you at this point if there are any other outstanding documents needed from you, for example, your passport details. 
Time to relax and daydream as you wait.

Upon receiving your Host Institutions Acceptance email:

  1.  Attend your second appointment with the Study Abroad Coordinator.
    You must book this within one week of receiving your acceptance email as delays at this stage can cost you money; you don't want to end up watching flight prices go up and up! This appointment will therefore give destination specific advice and help guide you through the process of visas and immunizations; my experience of which I will also post about later.
  2. Acquire your visa and start booking things.
    This will be specific to your host institution and I will be writing about these steps in far greater detail later on. It is important to note however, that the costs of these things can run up to about £500, all of which you need to be able to pay as, and when they come. Some of this can be claimed back later if you are entitled to a travel grant or any of the travel bursaries available so it would be a good idea to find out about these ASAP. This is also the time to double check with your placement as to when they want you to arrive and to think about what other plans you have. Do you want to travel around before returning home? Do you want to come home at Christmas? etc. etc. etc.
  3. Attend an Orientation Session with the Study Abroad Tutor.
    At this stage, there will is requisite pre-departure academic work to be completed and the Study Abroad Tutor will give you advice on how to deal with culture shock, academic difficulties and other strategies for staying safe whilst abroad. There will be a risk assessment that needs to be completed and a reflective process which the tutor will talk you through. You must complete this before departure.
Congratulations! You've made it through.
You're officially going to study abroad!

And just like I had to wait for my acceptance, I am going to leave you waiting on more information by ending this post here. I hope this helps you when it comes to your general application process and I wish you the best of luck with it! If you're still confused as to what the actual application looks like and what sort of things you have to submit; those are the topics I will cover in my next post!

Much love,

Lucy xxo

The next post in the series: Individual Applications

Monday, 18 May 2015

Considering Where to Study

If you're new, please read this post first: Initial Steps to Studying Abroad and/or watch this video: How to Study Abroad: Introduction and Options

For some of you, you may already have a fixed idea on where you would like to study. For me, for example, I always wanted to study in the United States so that ruled out a lot of alternative research (even though at one point I did get distracted by Canada and Australia!). For others, you may want to look at everything before making any actual decisions on countries, let alone individual universities. This blog post will give you a step by step guide on how to chooses a place to study at and hopefully help you start your final decision making process. Everybody does this slightly differently, so obviously use this as a guide only and let your instinct take over where it really matters!

Above all, make sure that you enjoy the process!

Step One - Bilateral Choices

Before starting this process properly, please contact the Study Abroad Office for an up to date list of the Bilateral Partner Institutions currently available to you and preferably some web links to those specific universities. I would give you the list currently available to me, but you might be reading this in the future and they may have changed so that seems pointless!

Step Two - ISEP Choices

Once you have the Bilateral options available to you, go ahead to the ISEP website and have a look at what International options and what US options they have. Skip this stage if you are choosing to study abroad by replacing your second year at university.

Step Three - First Elimination

Now that you are aware of all the different countries available to you, whether ISEP or Bilateral, your first decision should be to eliminate any countries you really have no interest in going to at all. That might sound harsh but for example, I didn't want to go to any places in Europe. This may sound rude, but I have a lot of family around Europe and therefore did not see a challenge in applying there. I wanted to look further afield.

This may be very different for you and so you should try to do this step on your own. Reflect personally on what you know of each country or if there are places that you already know that have very strong alternative views to your own. (Although again, this may also be attractive to others as it could be an excellent challenge for those striving to be as open minded as possible!)

One key point to add here is that; depending on where you choose to go, extra funding might be available to you. This changes regularly and will probably require extra research from yourself but its something to consider for those worried about costs!

While considering which places you do not want to go, and thus crossing them off the list, I also suggest starring those you really would like to visit! This will obviously help later when it comes to picking your favourite universities.

Ooooh, in the Netherlands they have loads of cheese!
I love cheese.

Step Four - Limiting your Choices

Since there are guaranteed to be less Bilateral options than ISEP options, my next step is to properly look at the choices available down the Bilateral route. If you like any of the universities available here, skip this stage. If you don't like any of the options currently available through the Bilateral route, drop this as an option.

I found that, during these first few stages, instinct was the best thing to follow. If I didn't like something about a university at first glance, there were too many other options to investigate each university in detail (and still complete my second year) so I crossed them off the list. This left me with extra time to properly research the universities I was actually interested in. To be fair though, this is how I chose the University of Chester too, so do it in whichever way suits your personality.

Step Five - Course Options Available

For some, this step might actually be more important than steps 3 and 4, I'll leave that one up to you.

For Bilateral universities, go onto their individual sites and find out what courses they offer. Alternatively, ask at the study abroad office during one of your initial set up meetings on their advice as to which university best suits your needs.

For ISEP universities, the ISEP website luckily has a course finder for the US universities and a separate one for the International universities. This is extremely useful in narrowing down the 300 different options available to you!

Side effects of too much research may include mental and physical collapse.

Step Six - Figuring Out What Else Matters to You

For me, I knew that I wanted to go somewhere bigger than the University of Chester with a large range of sports that was conveniently in a relatively interesting and close-to-other-stuff location. This may be completely different for you but hopefully this section will help you to establish what it is that you really want out of your host institution. This step will also help you to create your preference list which I will talk about in detail later. So, below are a list of questions that you need to ask yourself. If you don't know the answer, find it out before signing up to something you don't fully understand. Remember that this is an entire year of your life, so you need to be comfortable with your final decision.

Consider not only the country, but the specific location the university is in. Is it mountainous or flat? Is it sunny 300 days of the year? Can you actually work in that heat? Does it snow in the winter?

How big is the country compared to your home country? How will this affect you? How will you get around? How will you get there and home again? How big is the distance between two places?

On top of this, what is is close to? Is there public transport available? Where is the closest airport? How far away from the local town or city is the university campus? Are there shops?

Are you going to be around the sea? Are you going to be landlocked? Does this affect you?

Also, what nightlife is available? (**WHAT IS THE DRINKING AGE?**) What alternative entertainment is there? Are there cinemas nearby? What about parks? Is it industrial or rural? Does it suit your personality? Is it completely similar to Chester/home or completely new? Is that something you want, not just now but for AN ENTIRE YEAR?

Will you have substantial wifi available to you? What about mobile network coverage? Will you be able to Skype? Is it a developed country?

Did you know that you can WALK from the airport to your accommodation,
drop off your things and then walk to the leaning tower of Pisa, all in one hour?
No, I didn't know that until I got there either.

Do you speak it? Do they speak what you speak? What accents do they have? Do you like the way they talk? Is the course in your language or a local one? Are you prepared to attend a university where the course is taught in English but the local language is not English?

Also, will you be able to further your language skills? Would you like to learn the language? Studying Abroad is in fact one the of the best ways to learn a language, so consider it properly!

Culture and history
Do they have a similar culture to yours? Are you prepared for Culture Shock? What religions do they have? Are there any other strong beliefs? What do locals wear? Listen to? Talk about? Will you be comfortable in wearing local clothes for AN ENTIRE YEAR?

Consider, what your day to day life there is going to be like. Do you want that for AN ENTIRE YEAR? What local histories are there? Is there anything of a sensitive nature happening? Has it ever happened? Would you feel comfortable being yourself there?

Also, how will this experience benefit you? Will you grow as a person from living here? Will it push your boundaries? Will you enjoy the challenge?

You mean...
Its NOT normal to paint yourself green on a night out?

Is it bigger or smaller than Chester/home? Will you know everyone in one week or not even know 10% by the end of the year? Are you comfortable with this?

Can you walk across campus or do you need to take a bus? Is there one place to eat or 10?

Are you picky? Will they have food that you can actually eat? Will you eat like normal? Are you happy to change what you eat? Do you want to explore different foods around the world?

What is the possibility of you gaining weight? What is the possibility of you loosing weight? Will you be able to remain as fit as you are now? What exercise facilities will there be? Is it normal to work out and eat healthily? How does that fit with the way you live now/the way you want to live?

Is this even edible?

Cost of Living
What does it cost to buy milk where you live? What does it cost to buy milk where you are considering to study? How will this effect you?

Will you be able to work? Will you be able to afford all the things you can afford now? Is the cost of living cheaper or more expensive overall to your home country?

Things you take for granted
What do you use on a day to day basis? Will you be able to continue doing this? Are the toilets the same? What is the water consumption like in that location? Will there be taxi ranks available after a night out? What is the out of hours transport like? Is it safe to be out at night? What do the locals do? What are the Sunday opening times? Or the opening times of shops and facilities in general? Is it too hot to be outside for most of the day? Or too cold? Will you be able to cope with that?

Do you want to wear this every day? 

Or this?

Step Seven - Creating your Preference List

So, now that you have at least considered all of the questions above, you should be in a better position to really start creating your preference list. My advice on how to do this is as follows:

  1. Choose what is most important to you;
    What must be present at the university in order for you to enjoy studying/living there?
  2. Decide what else is fundamentally valuable to your Study Abroad Experience;
    What would you really like there to be?
  3. Lastly, decide on what matters to you but doesn't necessarily change your view entirely;
    What would be nice for the placement to have?

Once you have decided these three elements, rank the universities you have left on your list, starting with what is most important to you (or step 1). From there, shuffle them around according to your other fundamental values (or step 2) and lastly, see if any of your other desires change the positioning of your list of university (does step 3 change the order of your list at all?).

This should therefore leave your best option (or favourite) at the top of the list and should descend accordingly. The most important thing to remember is that you could end up at any one of the universities on your list, so...


And on that note, obviously if you are deciding to partake in a split semester programme and you are going to be applying to two different universities, make sure you do all 7 steps twice, and thus be fully prepared for both semesters! Good luck ;)

What would be the point in going through the entire application process,
paying for all your food, accommodation and flights
... just to leave because you didn't do your research?

Right.. that all came out a little negatively but it is just so fundamentally important to remember, during all of your excitement, to be realistic in where you apply to. There is a positive correlation between those who have the most rewarding of experiences abroad and those who do the most research beforehand. If you're a super open-minded, relaxed person who can just adapt to any environment they are put in, then go you, you can just apply anywhere you want to! But if you're not, or if there is something that you really can't live without, do yourself a favour and work out if you can get that in any place you intend to apply to before applying!


I hope these 7 steps help you to find your perfect list of host institutions and I look forward to sharing with you the next stages of your application to Studying Abroad!

Stay tuned,

Lucy xxo

The next post in the series: The Overall Application Process

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Bilateral vs. ISEP

Initial Steps to Studying Abroad Continued

If you're new, please read this post first: Initial Steps to Studying Abroad and/or watch this video: How to Study Abroad: Introduction and Options

As you may have guessed by the title, this post will not be about WB5004, if I learn more about this, I might make a post about it later but as I am not doing this myself, your best bet is to email the study abroad office for more details on that particular option. This post will concentrate on explaining the differences between Bilateral and ISEP as options.

Are you ready to learn something new?

The Academics of Studying Abroad in General

The University of Chester runs on what is known as a "Full Year delivery model". This means you must study abroad for the entire academic year or not at all, because basically studying for just one "semester" abroad would not work with the rest of your degree.

So, at your overseas University, you will need to enroll on to 120 CATS (or UK Credits) worth of modules of Level 5 study (same level as second year). By doing so, it will become possible for the University of Chester to accredit your year abroad.

The modules you actually take will depend on whether you are completing your year abroad as your actual second year (WB5007) or as an additional third year which results in an overall four year course (WB5008). In both cases, the year is marked on a Pass/Fail basis a lot like first year. Ultimately, you need to remember that the University of Chester has no say in whether you pass or fail so although of course you should have as much fun as possible whilst there, remember that you are actually supposed to be studying!

You mean... I have to actually read books?

So should I do it as my second year or as an additional third year?

Second year replacement
First things first, this is obviously only available to first years. You also must match the modules you study overseas (as close as possible) with those you otherwise would have studied at Chester. You therefore cannot do it through ISEP. This is because, through ISEP your placement is not as easily guaranteed and the University of Chester wont risk putting your degree in jeopardy. Therefore, if you want to do it as part of your second year, your only option is the Bilateral route.

The other possibly negative aspects of doing your second year abroad are:

  • Your choice of Universities to study at is naturally limited by what you need to study to complete your chosen degree and to continue from in your third year.
  • If you were to fail your year abroad (by not achieving a pass for all 120 credits) you would have to retake your second year at the University of Chester instead of moving on to third year.
  • By doing your second year abroad, even if you pass, your entire degree will be weighted in third year. This means that whatever you get in your third year alone will be your final degree classification. See it as doing a second first year!
  • You will miss out on the opportunity to partake in Work Based Learning or Experiential Learning in the Wider World (WB5004 spoken about in my previous post).

However, on the positive side:

  • Providing you pass the year abroad, your degree will remain a 3 year commitment.
  • This means you're still only paying Student Finances for 3 years.
  • Unless of course you wanted to do a placement year as part of a 4 year course, which, with this option you could still do!
  • In fact, to study abroad in second year, your Student Finance Fees are only £1,350 compared to £9,000 as normal. 

Studying abroad is cheaper than studying in the UK?!

Additional third year
This is available for anyone not already doing their third year and means that all study undertaken overseas is additional to your normal degree programme. There is no compulsory element to what you can study abroad as part of your 120 credits to pass this year. You do however need to get your choices approved by your PAT tutor and your head of department. This is because you will be returning straight back into third year after having potentially studied nothing to do with your actual degree! (My advice there? Choose most of your modules roughly relating to your overall degree to stay on track with things you might need to remember for third year!)

So the possibly negative aspects of doing an additional third year abroad are:

  • This experience will require you to extend your degree by one year and therefore graduate one year later.
  • Despite the Student Finance Fees being less than £9,000, you will still have to budget for an extra year in education.
  • Alternatively, if you had initially intended to partake in a placement year, thus already in a 4 year programme, you will have to forgo this and change your course code to WB5008.
However, on the positive side:
  • Student Finance Fees are only £1,600 for an entire extra year of studying. This therefore does not add a huge amount surplus to your overall Student Debt.
  • This year does not count towards your degree classification nor requires you to pass in order to progress into your final year. The year is entirely supplemental, and therefore has far less risk to the overall outcome of your degree programme. If anything, it might help to de-stress you from second year, ready to boss it in third year! (Well, fourth year).
  • Since the year does not have to match your chosen degree perfectly, the opportunity to study in different fields presents itself. 
  • The range of places you can study also increases as you can partake in either Bilateral or ISEP!
  • You will still partake in a normal second year, so you can also try out Work Based Learning or Experiential Learning in the Wider World. 


So should I go through Bilateral or ISEP?

Bilateral Exchange
So to recap, "A bilateral exchange is an exchange undertaken by students under a partnership agreement that has been reached directly between the University of Chester and each one of its Partner Institutions" - this simply means that for every student leaving the University of Chester on bilateral exchange, a student from that Partner Institution is sent to Chester.

There are currently 7 partnerships available (April, 2015) for Chester students, this is likely to change year on year however so you should first email the study abroad office to ask them what partnerships are currently available before making any decisions. 

The positives of going with the Bilateral option is that you have a very high change of getting placed. The agreements in place mean that you apply directly to your chosen host institution and the process of acceptance is much faster than the ISEP option because of this.

Other points to note include:

  • Accommodation fees are paid directly to the host institution. This means that you have more involvement in choosing your accommodation as well as having to obviously pay in the host countries currency, and at their rates.
  • There is a so called ‘No frills’ approach to organising an exchange through Bilateral as there are no third partied to deal with. You deal with the host university directly.
  • Since the University of Chester and the Partnership Institution are constantly in communication, you are put in touch with the host university at a very early stage in the application process, resulting in only having to deal with one point of contact until arrival at the host institution. This can make organising the whole experience a lot simpler.
  • The Bilateral exchange is very much student-driven. As you are put into direct contact with the host university and as you are paying them the accommodation fees etc, it is your responsibility to organise everything, not the Study Abroad Office's. This is both a pro and a con. It requires more effort from you as a student but also means you can be far more involved in the set up of your own exchange. Therefore, to partake in the Bilateral Exchange, you must accept a high degree of personal responsibility, independence, integrity and realise that personal organisation is a must.

Taking all of these aspects into account, it is therefore obvious that researching your chosen host institution is absolutely vital to your exchange success. If you fail to do your research properly, you may find yourself in a foreign country with no money and no plan! So.. as Chris here at the Study Abroad Office would say: DO YOUR RESEARCH!

Like that one time where...
we booked a place one hour away from where we wanted to really be.

An hours train ride to University every day?
Think of the extra costs!

ISEP Exchange
Alternatively, there is the option to partake on an ISEP Exchange. "ISEP is a network of over 300 colleges and universities in 50 countries cooperating to provide affordable access to international education for a diverse student population." - ISEP Website - so as you can guess, you're dealing with a hell of a lot more organisations than with the Bilateral Exchange. This of course comes with its own set of pros and cons. For one, you can study at a far greater range of universities in a far bigger number of countries than with the Bilateral option.

This also means however that, although you get to pick your favourite places to go, you may end up at any one of the many university they have to offer. This is because ISEP makes the decision on where each student gets placed depending on the students specific study goals (which you can lay out in your application) as well as their desired site to study. So, if you are studying English but choose a university specialised in Computer Science just because it is in California, you are unlikely to be placed here.

But before you get put off, each university you can apply for has an estimated "placement expectancy" ranging from "excellent chance" to "very limited" on the website. These are all visible before you even admit to anyone that you want to study abroad, so if there is only one place on the list of over 50 universities that you want to go to, and it says very limited, apply at your own risk.

To put it into retrospect, I got my first choice of university and my friend Simon got his 3rd choice. You can put as many choices of Universities as you want to and you can put them all into order - so it really isn't that big a deal; its pretty much the same as applying to University in the first place!

Similarly to applying to University, the ISEP Exchange application process is very similar to a UCAS application. There are several process phases and the application is therefore more structured than the Bilateral option in general.

Other points to note include:

  • The ISEP Coordinator at Chester is there to assist you throughout your exchange application if you need it. On top of this, there will be an ISEP Coordinator at the host institution too. They will therefore be able to help you if necessary during your actual year abroad.
  • Therefore, you effectively get the benefit of an extra support network that you would not have access to through a Bilateral exchange.
  • Despite all the additional support and more structured application process, similarly to the Bilateral exchange, there is still a significant responsibility on your part to ensure you research your chosen sites. This is mostly because, as ISEP will place you at any of the sites you list, if you later find out that something at your placed site is not to your liking, it will be far too late to do anything about it.
  • So therefore, again, as Chris would say: DO YOUR RESEARCH!
Yay - we're through!

So to sum it all up

Research is absolutely key. Remember that this is your opportunity to not only study abroad and broaden your field of expertise, but to also experience another part of the world for an entire year. Basically, the more research you do, the more likely you're going to be in a place you actually want to be in and have enough money left over to go and do/see everything you actually want to. Imagine going through the entire application, paying all your fees, paying for your flight, just to find out that you're going to a place that bores you!

On a similarly important note, remember to stay open minded throughout the entire experience. Generally, you will be expected to embrace the local culture, not conflict with it. The world is a big, diverse place – treat it that way. Don’t expect that everything will be the same as here in Chester, only with people speaking with a different accent, the plants and animals looking a bit odd, and the weather being a bit warmer. Be prepared to be shocked - at least that way, you wont actually be shocked when it comes to being shocked!

The same month that I turned 18, I left to travel the world on my own.

The same month that Rachel turned 18, she still had a 10 pm curfew.

A point that might affect some of you, and may make you work a little harder is that there is a minimum eligibility criteria imposed by the Study Abroad Office. This means that you need to achieve a minimum of 55% on average for your first year of study in order to be applicable to apply for any of the above experiences. This is mainly because the University of Chester would like some assurance that you as a student are strong enough academically to cope with a different education system without a drop in grades. As well as this, by being abroad, you automatically become an ambassador for the University of Chester and thus they obviously want you to be leaving a good impression! Mitigating circumstances, as with everything, will of course be considered.

I hope that helps and I will have more information for you all soon,

Lucy xxo

Next post in the series: Considering Where to Study

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Initial Steps to Studying Abroad

Hello and welcome to your informal guide on how to study abroad whilst at University. 

Although this will mostly be University of Chester-specific, it may also be a useful guide for other students. For my other readers, I'll be leaving for Northern Arizona in August so the blog posts will get more interesting from then, I promise! Either way, if you have any questions about anything on this blog or otherwise travel related, please don't hesitate to email me at the following address: lucyslocations@hotmail.com

I will be using old photos from my trip to Turkey in 2012
to try and break these posts up a little!

So why do I want to study abroad? 

An early obsession with teenage drama movies was probably the reason behind my lifelong dream to go to an American High School. Unfortunately, although I did spend a few weeks in a school in Germany, I never made it to the USA in time to go to a High School. 

Perhaps for this reason, as soon as I thought of University, I also thought of studying at an American College. I actually specifically chose to come to Chester because, at the applicant day, my future lecturer of Events Management advertised how studying and/or working abroad was a common aspect of the course they offered. 

That slow-mo, high school hair flick right there.

On a different note, just by looking at this blog or speaking to me once, you'll know that I am forever interested in culture and traveling and experiencing the world, so obviously this just seemed like the next best thing to a gap year.

Actually, if anything, coming from someone who spent a maximum of 3 weeks in one place throughout their gap year, the idea of spending an entire academic year in one place really excited me. Whilst on a gap year, you get to go anywhere you want to and get to experience a vast amount of cultures in a short amount of time, you don't tend to fully immerse yourself into the local culture, because by nature, a gap year is too short to really figure out "the way of the local". 

The fact that I spent 2 months in Australia and only met 3 locals also spurred me on. I don't want to just travel the world anymore, I want to live in it. 

Thus, spending an entire year at a different university was the answer for me!

Other positives for studying abroad include:
  • Gaining confidence in yourself
    - you are on your own in a foreign country after all!
  • Gaining friends around the world
    - you never know, they might come in useful in the future.
  • Gaining knowledge of the world
    - seeing and experiencing another culture can really educate you on your own.

From my experience of 1 month working in Turkey,
I know that one year will be amazing.

So how did I organise my study abroad experience?

Since I already knew that I wanted to study abroad and that my university offered it, my initial steps might be a bit different to yours. My advice to you is to find out as early as possible who the best person is to speak to about going abroad. For the University of Chester, your best bet is emailing studyabroad@chester.ac.uk and asking to set up a meeting.

As you might have guessed, my doing this and various behind the scenes, long term projects mean that the study abroad system here at Chester is changing. This might mean that the information I had access to when applying (or lack of) is different to what you can now get. Therefore, as well as watching the videos I am yet to create, my advice is to look at the University of Chester website to get some initial ideas on what opportunities you have. Hopefully by the time you read this, the new website layout will be up and running for you! (If not, just know that its changing for the better).

I promise!

So how does it all work?

Here at the University of Chester, you have three choices to experience some form of cultural exchange (other than making friends with the incoming international students of course). These are:
ISEP, Bilateral or Experiential Learning in the Wider World (WB5004). Now, just to clarify, I am going to be an ISEP student so if you are planning on doing the other two, although some processes might be the same, I am not the best person to ask for those. Maybe instead, you should add the study abroad office on Facebook and ask if there is anyone who has done it before.

You know I'm intelligent because I have glasses on.

"ISEP is a network of over 300 colleges and universities in 50 countries cooperating to provide affordable access to international education for a diverse student population." - ISEP Website

Basically, you can go pretty much anywhere around the world by applying through ISEP and you can do so for either an entire academic year or split the year into two semesters and go to two different places. Their available universities are split into US Universities and International Universities since it is an american organisation.

Bilateral Exchange
"A bilateral exchange is an exchange undertaken by students under a partnership agreement that has been reached directly between the University of Chester and each one of its Partner Institutions" - Overseas Exchange Lecture

So basically, there are a select few universities around the world that have partnered up with the University of Chester and mean that you can go there, and one of their students can come to Chester! The application process here is therefore very different to that with ISEP. As with ISEP, you can do a full academic year or split it into two semesters in different places.

Experiential Learning in the Wider World (WB5004)
"This is a unique opportunity to gain credit towards your degree, and the chance of participating in projects around the globe." - University of Chester Website

WB5004 is different to the other two by the fact that it is not a year long placement, it is a replacement for the Work Based Learning module taken at the end of your second year, here at the University of Chester.

Oh what's that information down there?

This therefore means that
You can do ISEP or Bilateral either in your second year (as a replacement to the one in Chester) or as an extra third year (resulting in your actual 3rd year becoming your 4th year).

Alternatively, or on top of this, you can do WB5004 in your second year (only).

**You cannot however have one bilateral semester and one ISEP semester - they must be through the same application process I am afraid **

So..  I will be 2 years older than everyone else graduating?
I promise this is my happy face.

Right! I think that is enough information for now. I'll be back soon to tell you more about the application process but for now, go grab yourself a tea and go over the information again to make sure you understand what your options are before moving on.

Me after applying for my visa.
Much love,

Lucy xxo

Next post in the series: Introduction and Options Video

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

2015 Blog Introduction

Dearest repeat readers,
(and hello to the new ones too)

It has come to my attention that I have spent far too long away from doing the things I really love. So, today, I am revamping my blog and starting a-fresh, ready for my next adventure.

For those of you that do not know, I am Lucy Cunnington, I am 21 in June and I am going to Northern Arizona University (NAU) in August 2015 for the full academic year. This is through an organisation called ISEP. If your university is part of their program, you should take a look at the link above. If your university is not on the list, you should go and find your University Study Abroad Office. I'm pretty sure every university has one, but it might be like the one here which was very hard to find, so - Good luck!

If you are not at university but wish to study abroad then have a look at these two links: Prospects and StudyAbroad - though I would use them as a starting point only!

If you are looking for inspiration for your Gap Year or next holiday then please go to my Gap Year Content page and have a read of my previous blog posts. If you happen to be in the process of applying to university or are thinking about it, please also take a look at this link: NotGoingToUni - I found it today and really wish I had known about it before applying. University is great, but it also isn't for everyone so here are a few other options.

Here's a random pretty place I've been to to make this post more interesting.

So anyway, before I jet off to the big USA again, I will be doing 5 weeks and a minimum of 150 hours of "Work Based Learning" at the Study Abroad Office itself, here in Chester. My job for those 5 weeks is to blog about how I set up my Study Abroad Experience (flights, visa, application, etc.) and to create some short and snappy films for students such as my-previous-self to watch, in order to learn more about our study abroad options.

Follow this link to start reading about the Study Abroad Process and how to begin it yourself. After that, follow the links set up on the right hand side of my blog, under the title Study Abroad.

If by any chance you already have some burning questions about this or any other travel related things, please don't hesitate to email me at my brand new email address: lucyslocations@hotmail.com and I will do my best to either 1) reply personally to you or 2) write a blog post about your (anonymous, of course) question. Most of the time, people ask questions about things other people want to know the answer to as well, so this seems like the best way to format things.

I look forward to hearing from you,


Lucy xxo