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Can I Go Back Yet? (London, UK)

You know when people say studying abroad was one of the greatest experiences of their life. Well my internal reaction was always ‘urgh… how incredibly cliché and exaggerated’. Happy to report that really was the case for me. I had the best time. Went so many places, made so many memories and lifelong friends, and lit a fire that is my love for the city of London (afraid that flame/house fire won’t be going out anytime soon). Broaden, my horizons did. I’ll never be the same (ooh dramatic…).

I’d always wanted to go to London and travel around Europe – who doesn’t? Going on exchange presented an opportunity to do that beyond being a tourist. While I wish I could’ve had a more ‘British’ uni experience, my choice of Regents University allowed for a truly unique experience in one of the city’s loveliest locations, meeting people from all across the globe. I chose Regents primarily because it was in London, and gathered from my limited research that it had somewhat of a reputation for being international but I had no idea what I was in for (a really pleasant surprise if you will). The school has an American college/faculty so you’ll likely meet tons of Americans. But other than them, be prepared for everyone else to be bilingual, multilingual even in a lot of cases. Almost everyone I met came from very mixed, exotic backgrounds, so getting to know everyone was super interesting. Unfortunately, this means meeting native Brits at Regents is rare but I have friends all around the world now which makes up for it.

The university is in the beautiful Regent’s Park, one of the city’s many parks – London’s not as grey and dreary as its reputation would have you think. Since it’s a private institution, it’s a pretty small community/student population. Lectures and seminars are much smaller than at UTS, generally 20 students max. In one class, I was one of 7. You get to know your classmates and teachers, and vice versa. Given the small class sizes, some subjects had excursions and cool networking activities – for ‘Introduction to the Events Planning Industry’ I went to Cardiff, Wales for a school-paid-for excursion to visit renowned event venues. I learnt a lot, got to travel to another country, and it made for great bonding.

Living on campus is great for meeting other people. I stayed in Reid Hall, the main campus accommodation, and had roommate who was also on exchange from Spain. The university is right by Baker St one of the big tube stations, so travelling anywhere in the city (and out of it) is super easy. Walking places is also convenient given the central location. It only takes 15/20 min to walk to infamous Oxford St, and Primrose Hill and Camden Lock Markets are right nearby. In fact, right opposite the school’s main entrance is the stunning Queen Mary’s Gardens. So basically, it’s a prime location to take in all the city has to offer and an extremely exclusive address to have, even Londoners don’t have the privilege of living in Regents Park… once-in-a-lifetime kind of stuff. Thanks to the park, it also doesn’t feel like you’re living in the city: no noise pollution, traffic outside your window, etc. The actual living facilities could be alot better – my mattress was super squeaky, the desks in the bedrooms were pretty small, and the refectory food was severely lacklustre towards the end of the semester (although rumour was that the school was switching catering companies the following semester?) – but it only gets to you if you let it. Use your meal plan generously throughout the semester – I had £200 remaining by the time I had to leave and its non-refundable. Like everything else in London, living on campus is definitely not cheap but for the short time I was there it was worth it.

Whenever anyone asks how my time was, I find myself incapable of thinking of adequate adjectives. Great doesn’t seem to cover it but at the same time it seems like I might be sugar coating it – I’m not. Maybe it was ‘easier’ for me to go on exchange because I’d been living away from home for a few years, or because it’s London and it isn’t as big of a cultural shock as say a city in China or Peru. Sure, it dawned on me that I was in a country on the side of the other planet where I knew absolutely no one but I pushed it aside and was adamant to make friends and make the most of the experience. Now the challenge is to not become that annoyingly pretentious person who brings up their amazing time overseas every given opportunity… it’s a hard task, believe me. My friends would likely say I’m failing.

– Dalena Vo (Student ID: 98039593)

If you have any questions about going on exchange or Regents you think I might be able to answer shoot me an email: Dalena.Vo@student.uts.edu.au

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