Student experiences

Kayleigh Preen

BA (Hons) Criminology

Criminology student Kayleigh Preen shares her experience of studying abroad as part of the Turing Scheme and explains why it was the best decision of her life.

"Choosing to do study abroad in the US, in partnership with BCU, has been the best decision of my life. It brought me new levels of independence I couldn’t even imagine having before leaving for the US. BCU has many different partnerships with universities across the world. The first decision I had to make was which country I wanted to visit. I made the decision to attend Western Illinois University and it was an amazing fit for me.  

Read more of Kayleigh's story

"Choosing to do study abroad in the US, in partnership with BCU, has been the best decision of my life. It brought me new levels of independence I couldn’t even imagine having before leaving for the US. BCU has many different partnerships with universities across the world. The first decision I had to make was which country I wanted to visit. I made the decision to attend Western Illinois University and it was an amazing fit for me. 

“I used my time in the US to also travel, knowing that it was cheaper to do while already there. We spent labour day, an American holiday, on a boat that we rented and swam in the lake. Later, that month, we flew over to Miami Beach where we swam in the ocean. While doing all of this, I ensured that I was keeping up with my classes and getting the grades I needed to pass my course. Teaching in the US is different from the UK. You have work due for each class every week, and ‘midterms’ and ‘finals’ aren’t just a thing you see in the movies.  “I study Criminology at BCU, but when I went to Western Illinois University I studied Law Enforcement Justice Administration during my time there. My future aspirations are to become a detective, and I’ll hopefully be joining the national detective programme when I graduate from BCU.

“There’s so much more I could talk about, from the amazing individuals I’m lucky to call my friends, to the weekend plans we had each week whilst studying abroad, to going to a real American football match, or even celebrating my 22nd birthday in another country. And if you’re thinking of going abroad for a semester and want advice on what to do or advice on finances, then feel free to message me on Instagram (@_kayleigh._xo). I would be more than happy to help you out, and maybe you can experience this once in a lifetime opportunity too. My top tip would be to create a group chat with other students participating in the Turing Scheme at Birmingham City University.”

Students can find out more about the Turing Scheme on iCity.

Nacera Felix

Nacera Felix
BA (Hons) Textile Design

Nacera had the chance to study in Chengdu, in Sichuan, China, as part of her studies. As well as exploring the city and surrounding area, she also had the chance to get an insight into student life on the other side of the world.

“I love East Asia, so any opportunity to explore culture is a 'must' in my eyes! We explored the city of Sichuan, including the shrines and Buddhist temples, and sampled the food within the city and the university campus.

Read more of Nacera's story

“I’ve learned more about how people relate, even though there was a language barrier, and how history and cultural aspects are important as they have certain traditions that are still important in the country today. We didn’t really get anything taught to us in terms of a specific topic; however, we had a puppet show presented to us and that was pretty interesting.

“I would say that I'm now more opened-minded, not that I wasn’t before, but I've experienced something and now it holds a special part in my life. I’d advise anyone else going abroad to be open-minded as every culture is different. Do your research before attending, as you wouldn't want to do something out of context which cold offend someone – just be patient and respectful.

“Looking ahead, I’d love to keep on travelling with my career in mind – Japan would hopefully be my next journey or anywhere else that is as inspiring to me personally, and hopefully I could possibly work abroad and gain a number of experiences.

“I think my travels will have an effect on my planned career as a textile designer, as I will have experienced a different sort of life and project those experiences through my own perspective. That in itself is my future plan.”


Hunaynah Seedat

Hunanyah Seedat
BA (Hons) Accounting and Business

Hunaynah took part in a summer school in Brunei as part of her Accounting and Business studies at Birmingham City University. She took part in a number of leadership-related activities with students from all over the world, as well as getting to find out more about the lifestyle and culture of her host country.

“I chose to go to Brunei as I didn’t know much about the country and the activities planned seemed interesting and challenging. My first impression of the Universiti Brunei Darussalam was that the campus was small compared to BCU; however, it was nice and I liked the open space and greenery.

Read more of Hunaynah's story

“The lecturers at the university were friendly and made all of the participants feel welcomed. They were interested in knowing more about the different countries and universities each participant was from. Each leadership activity was different, challenging and interesting, such as being blindfolded and listening to instructions to get to a destination, and negotiating and working in teams.

“From taking part in the summer school I have gained more independence in travelling abroad on my own, as well as becoming more confident. Meeting different people from different countries, I was able to learn a few phrases of their languages as well as their lifestyle and information about their country.

“The advice I would give anyone doing this would be to research the country and lifestyle, and also be open to try everything from various activities that may be out of your comfort zone to different types of food.

“My plans for the future are to work in an accounting or a business firm and hopefully progress to become a leader where I can open my own accounting firm. The summer school programme relates to my future plans as it taught me how to become a better leader and enhanced my cultural awareness.”

James O'Connell - USA

James O'ConnellBA (Hons) Media and Communication

James spent a semester studying at Northwest Missouri State University as part of his degree in Media and Communication at Birmingham City University.

As he lived at home during his time as a student in Birmingham, this gave him the opportunity to get a different insight into student life, as well as experiencing work and study in the USA.

Read James's story

“I chose this course because of my passion for video, editing and TV production, and BCU offered amazing facilities and experiences. I decided to take part in Study Abroad mainly due to being a commuter student and I wanted to sample a true university experience. I was emailed the opportunity and was encouraged by family and friends to pursue it. I think we only get so many opportunities in our lives, so I immediately applied. I wanted a change and to move away from my daily routine.

“When I arrived at Northwest I found a blanket of snow covering everything; it was so cool. On my first day, I walked around the campus and met with students and staff. Finding their union with a huge canteen, the basketball pitch and stadium made my jaw drop!  Northwest has such a beautiful campus.  I was greeted really well and I felt at home straight away.

James O'Connell 1

“I kept myself busy all the time at Northwest. I studied five classes, mainly in production – I created videos, filmed live sporting games and devised advertising campaigns. There were some amazing things I filmed that really helped me learn. Away from the classes, I made loads of new friends and went on road trips with them in Kansas, Nebraska and other places. In my downtime I hung out with friends, watched films and played board games. There was also live music and concerts during the semester; they had Echosmith playing which was fun.

“I think that at BCU we have some of the best facilities, better even than in Northwest, but Northwest also had everything I needed – a TV studio, radio studios, editing suites, live music rooms, and a hi-tech camera lens and lighting – and because of the encouragement I received, I was able to use them fully.

“I really enjoyed the teaching – there were a lot of assignments but teachers were always available and helped me a lot. I really learnt a lot about design and video production classes where our teachers would go round the room and give us feedback. I felt more relaxed and I did some of my best work during that time.

“Maryville, where the university is based, is a little bit isolated from larger cities but it had everything you would need. There were some great restaurants and the student halls were walking distance from everywhere in the city. I really enjoyed the student halls environment. It did get lonely on some occasions but always tried to keep myself busy.

“I feel like I benefited so much from going abroad and I feel so much more developed as a person. I gained so much confidence in myself and learned what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I found my calling in video production and I am now pursing it for my future career. I also made lifelong friends and I’m planning to visit them again soon. Study Abroad really changed where I see my career going and has opened my eyes to brand new and exciting opportunities.”

View James's blog

James O'Connell 2

Nicole Walsh - Mexico

Nicole WalshBA (Hons) Business and Accountancy

Nicole went to Puebla, Mexico to our partner institution Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP) over summer 2017, where she studied a five-week course in Spanish for Beginners.

Read Nicole's story

"I chose this programme because I want to go into international business. With this I wanted to learn another language to boost my employability and make myself a better candidate. I also love history and culture, and this country is full of it. When researching the institution, you could tell that it was a top-class university.

"The University was beautiful. They put a lot of time and resources in to the upkeep of the campus. Unlike BCU they have one big campus that everyone studies at. It is a massive University and you can get easily lost! The University is gated/fenced so only students and staff members can get on site. It’s a very safe University.

"Before participating, I’d never travelled outside of Europe before. This experience has allowed me to integrate with a different culture and learn how they live. I went by myself so the main thing I learnt was how to meet new people and come out of my comfort zone. I’ve also learnt that Mexicans are one of the friendliest people I have ever met. They are very welcoming and very accommodating – I was very lucky to make lots of Mexican friends.

"Since returning I feel a lot more motivated for my final year. This trip has reinforced the idea that I would love to possibly work abroad or in some sort of international business. Through this experience I know this is something I want to pursue, and I’m going to start a Spanish course in October to continue learning the language and hopefully one day return to Mexico.

"I’m a lot more confident in myself as I made the trip on my own, which I was very nervous about. It has made me very excited for the future because it has opened my eyes to all the possible things I can do."

Nicole Walsh in South Korea

Jack Smith - USA

Jack Smith BSc (Hons) Sound Engineering and Production

Jack visited the University of Rochester (UoR) in New York State, USA from January 2017 until the end of May. It was a study abroad programme for a semester and an exchange with two students from UoR.

Read Jack's story

"I chose this programme as it was the first exchange ever on my course and I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to meet new people, experience a different culture and establish new contacts in a contact-driven industry.

"UoR is very different in the way it's run and how courses are taught. Students are given the option of choosing what modules to take and even go to taster lectures for the first couple of weeks. The teaching at Rochester was great, the lecturers had vast experience in the industry and were very friendly and approachable - all great aspects when learning.

"The facilities were also good: free gym, sports equipment, and good equipment and gear for us sound engineers! I've learnt that getting there and the administrative tasks necessary may be long and tedious, but it's a great learning curve and has great rewards at the end of it. Furthermore, it has given me a more rounded idea of what I'm studying, as having many different lecturers teach you, especially when there's crossover, makes you really understand the subjects more, and you become better at learning yourself for future projects.

"I would advise anyone pondering a trip abroad to just go with your gut and do it. Once you get there and get settled in, it's fantastic - there are so many people in the same boat as you - just like when you first attend university at BCU. It seems all new but you soon become accustomed to life there. The stories, experience and lifestyle you get to bring back home are unlike anything you can gain while staying in the UK - and it's a great addition to your CV!

"My plans for the future are to attend my final year, complete my final project, and hopefully crack on and use whatever knowledge I've gathered to gain a relevant job. I think my study abroad programme has really expanded my horizons!"

University of Rochester

Karina Kapina - South Korea

Karina KapinaBA (Hons) Media and Communication

Karina attended Summer School at Dankook University in South Korea for her mobility programme in summer 2017. She chose the country because its universities had very organised summer schools, and also study and accommodation fees were waived, which meant she only had to pay for her flight.

Read Karina's story

"Dankook University is HUGE! It’s like a whole town itself. We even had a map to find our way around and to know which buses we can take around the campus. The students there were super friendly and the staff were extremely welcoming and professional.

"I was learning Korean language and the teachers were going very fast, so even if I was in a beginners’ class it really helped that I had studied a bit of Korean prior to going. One of our teachers could not speak English, which was interesting as we had no choice but to try and speak Korean to her. It was also a really fun class!

"The programme was filled with so many people from different countries. I believe that it has helped me to communicate with others more easily and not be afraid to speak to new people and learn about them. I’ve grown as a person and become more open and outgoing.

"I also enjoying time alone travelling Korea – I mastered following a map with no WiFi and finding every location I wanted, as well as overcoming my fear of empty streets! My advice would be to learn basic language to feel more comfortable wherever you are going. Plan what you could do each week - just rough ideas so you know what you would like to see and this way you will be able to see more!

"My plans for the future are to travel as much as I can. This programme has been the furthest I’ve ever been from home and the first time in my life I was outside of Europe. I hope that I will return to Korea in future and can’t wait to explore more of Asia!"

Julian Hatwell – Taiwan

Julian Hatwell MSc Business Intelligence

Julian attended Summer School at the National Changhua University of Education (NCUE) in Taiwan during summer 2017. Taiwan was a place that he had always wanted to visit.

Read Julian's story

“NCUE is a good university with excellent resources. The welcome I was given from the moment I arrived was incredibly warm, kind and genuine. There was a mixture of Chinese lessons and cultural activities. The lessons were pegged about right for complete beginners and the cultural activities were a lot of fun on the whole. One or two activities seemed to be aimed at a younger age group than undergraduates, but that didn’t seem to matter at the time. Everyone was very enthusiastic.

“I learnt some basic Chinese which I hope to develop further in my own time. I learnt a lot about myself and especially the importance of trying everything and joining in enthusiastically with group activities. In these situations, you get out what you put in.

“I feel quite strongly that I want to participate in university life outside the academic study and research settings. I’m the sort of person who’s totally focussed on my work and my assignments and deadlines, but this experience reminded me of the joys of participation in the wider community.

“I definitely think a lot more about living and working abroad, perhaps even permanently.”

Read an extract from Julian's Changhua Diary

Julian Hatwell 1

Nikola Tonev – USA

Nikola Tonev BSc (Hons) Sound Engineering and Production

Nikola took part in a semester-long exchange programme at the University of Rochester in New York.

Read Nikola's story

This was an amazing opportunity to experience the American college lifestyle without paying their insane tuition fees. It was a great chance to see a completely different educational system and teaching approach.

The teaching there is very dynamic and demanding. It stimulates you to think and work almost constantly, which I believe is the sole purpose of university. What I really love as a concept (even though it was very hard) is their form of assessment. As opposed to the UK system, where the mark for the semester is formed by 1-3 big courseworks or exams in the end of the semester, in the USA there is a small (OK, sometimes not so small) assignment/homework that has to be completed by the next week and is being marked.

First of all, this a great way to keep the students involved. The other huge benefit is that your mark is divided into many small chunks. So in case you have one thing that you are not really good at, or you have been sick or unable to do your best for some reason, this will only reduce your mark a tiny bit.

Nikola Tonev

University of Rochester has one of the best sports centres I have seen in a school or university. There was an amazing basketball court where the university team was playing its NCAA games and three more courts that were convertible and could be used for volleyball, football, badminton, etc. There were four tennis courts, five or six squash rooms, a swimming pool, a huge gym and an indoor baseball pitch. There was also a full-size stadium for American football and a newly built baseball pitch. What was the best part of it? Everything could be used at no additional cost!!

I have learnt an awful lot about American culture, geography and lifestyle – things that I barely knew anything about before (I mean like real knowledge based on personal experience and not on movies). I have learnt a lot of new and useful skills for adaptation in a completely different environment, because even though I came to the UK from Bulgaria, this is still in Europe, things are not so different, but going to a different continent (not only as a tourist, but actually living there) was a hell of an adventure!

I spent a considerable amount of time with people from many different countries and backgrounds. We travelled a lot together, meaning we had long periods of being together literally 24 hours a day. All of this is very, very beneficial for one’s communication skills, especially if your first language is not English (mine is Bulgarian).

My advice to someone thinking about going abroad would be: Go for it. Whatever opportunities you have, go and make the most of them. Take risks, go out of your comfort zone, get involved. Because all of this will be totally worth it in the end.

Nikola Tonev

George Marrable – Australia

George MarrableBA (Hons) Media and Communication

George went to Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia for his four-month summer exchange programme.

Read George's story

I had the choice between America and Australia, and the climate and lifestyle initially drew me in. However, after looking at the course, I knew it was for me because although it was similar to what I do at BCU, there was a variety of modules that were very different to my course here, and would give me the chance to broaden my knowledge.

The learning at Swinburne was slightly different to BCU. Although it consisted of lectures and seminars, we were assessed on a series of small tasks throughout the year, rather than one or two big projects at the end of the module. Staff were very involved and took a great deal of care with the students, and were more than happy to offer extra help and explanations. For me in particular, they were very accommodating in making sure I understood the cultural aspects and situations that I may not have been familiar with.

The experience definitely allowed me to add a different perspective to my learning, but it also gave me the opportunity to try new things in areas such as advertising - something I cannot do at BCU.

The course definitely made me a lot more confident, and allowed me to take my guard down a bit more. I was very nervous about going to Australia without knowing anyone, but doing the study abroad made me act more confident. I have also noticed that a lot of my skills, particularly my writing, have greatly improved. The experience allowed me to build contacts and friends that I still speak to regularly.

The four months I spent in Australia were absolutely unbelievable, and were completely worth it from both a personal and educational aspect. You just have to throw yourself into everything and try everything you can. Everyone was so welcoming to me, and making friends was the easiest thing ever. Take every opportunity they offer you and do as much as possible because the four months is over so quickly!

I am hoping to go into PR or journalism after my final year, and the study abroad gave me something amazing to put on my CV, and was crucial in securing jobs and internships since I have returned.

George Marrable

Anne Driza – South Korea

Anne Driza BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance

Anne took part in the Summer School at Hanyang University, South Korea for her exchange programme.

She chose Hanyang because she felt it stood out and had the courses she wanted to learn.

Read Anne's story

I chose to do a Summer School abroad because I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to develop myself by being in a completely different environment to the one I’m accustomed to. Also it would give me a chance to meet people from other parts of the world and connect with them. I particularly wanted to go to Hanyang University because when I researched the different institutions I could go to, Hanyang stood out and had the courses I wanted to learn.

Overall, the teaching was great because the teachers could communicate the information needed for the exam. The teaching material given was also great as it contains important information we can use in the future as well. I could tell by the way they taught that they had great knowledge in that area.

I have learnt and was able to experience the values and culture of Koreans. I have learnt to be more independent and become more aware how important cultures are in various countries. I have developed more confidence in myself to speak and be around various types of people from different backgrounds. I’ve become more independent in the way I study and live my life because I was able to be in a completely different country where I didn’t know anyone and adjust to their culture. But also it gave me more motivation to study and work harder by being around individuals who had such high goals in life.

My number one advice is to just embrace the culture. The only way to fully experience and have great memories is to not be afraid to try things. One of the main reasons you are there is to develop yourself and find out about what makes that country different. Also, be prepared to have exotic food because if you are going abroad somewhere in Asia, the food will be nowhere near similar to British food. Lastly, be aware of the weather beforehand in order to bring the right clothing.

This experience relates to my future, to see for myself if I was capable enough to adjust to the environment of different countries, as I would like to work abroad in the future.

Anne Driza

Alicia Rutherford – South Korea

Alicia Rutherford BSc (Hons) Speech and Language Therapy

Alicia took part in the Summer School at Hanyang University, South Korea for her exchange programme.

She chose Hanyang because it offered health-related courses she was interested in and is a well-established university.

Read Alicia's story

My first impressions were that the campus was beautiful and massive compared to what I have seen in the UK! The International Team staff were all incredibly helpful while we were arriving and settling in, and they were eager for us to really experience the culture and city as much as possible during our time there.

The courses I took were Mind Body Health and Adulthood and Aging. I thoroughly enjoyed both courses, and both will be very useful in my studies and when I am a practising Speech and Language Therapist. This is because of the theory I have learnt, but also working with such a diverse group of students from many countries really has enlightened me to considering healthcare in a global context, realising different attitudes, approaches and solutions to health/illness and also emphasised the importance of being a holistic, person-centred practitioner.

Personally I have learnt that I am capable of independently travelling to a different continent and successfully navigating around walking, using public transport, shopping and eating out in a different culture where I speak very little of the language. This has really boosted my self-confidence, as well as showcasing my resilience, perseverance and problem-solving, as it was not always easy and I had to find ways to overcome language barriers and cultural differences.

Alicia Rutherford

I was nervous going away on my own that I would not make friends, especially as a mature student, but being in the situation pushed me to use and develop better communication and networking skills. I met so many people from many different places and I have made close friends I am still in touch with and plan to meet up with again in future. I have also learnt a lot of academic theory that will be useful in the next two years of my course and general study skills, like for presentations, group work and managing time between studying, making friends and exploring Seoul. I have an increased understanding of Korean history, culture, politics and economy in the context of North East Asia and a wider world view. I can also use chopsticks now after having to use them every day for five weeks!

Since returning I have noticed that I am much more confident with myself and I know that I am capable of being independent, overcoming difficulties when I need to and making friends wherever I go. I also feel that I have developed a much deeper understanding of diversity and appreciating differences between cultures and people, as well as finding similarities and connections. The experience has opened my eyes to there being so many opportunities out there to find, places to see and people to meet and that the more that you do the more this enriches you as a person and also in your profession.

I have just started back at University for my second year of Speech and Language Therapy, so that is my plan for the next 18 months. From the work I have done this Summer I have gained interest in new areas of study, exciting areas of research in health and a desire to study at Masters level, which I have already started exploring. My overseas experience has opened my eyes to the opportunities that might be available to study outside of UK and given me the confidence that I could do it.

Alicia Rutherford