When I started my studies, I set myself the goal of spending a semester abroad at a renowned university in Great Britain. The British charm of the country and its people has inspired me since school and has never let go. With the city of Bristol, I made the perfect choice for a semester abroad to experience it up close.
Preparation and application process
It is really advisable to start planning and preparing your stay abroad in good time so that you don’t panic shortly before departure. About 1 year before my departure I started to compile all the important documents (such as the language certificate), to find out about the choice of courses at the host university and to clarify whether it would be recognized for my studies at my home university. In addition, the question arose for me of the financing of the semester abroad, so that in addition to the regular application process for the selected university, the application for various scholarships and BAföG abroad at the same time. The MicroEDU team was always at my side with advice and action if I had any questions or questions about any of these topics. I was particularly supported by Rebekka Pietschmann, who is responsible for stays abroad, for example in the UK.
In the end I decided to spend a semester abroad at the University of Bristol. On the one hand, because the university enjoys a good reputation both within the country and around the world, and on the other hand, because the range of courses in the field of psychology matched well with the course content at my home university. In addition, Bristol was recently named the “best place to live” in Great Britain, which I can only confirm after my stay there.
After submitting my application, I received an acceptance from the University of Bristol within a month. So I was able to spend the last five months before starting the semester abroad with further planning without hesitation.
After the acceptance of a study place, the question was of course: Where will I live? This quickly became superfluous when I found out that Study Abroad students are guaranteed a place in one of the many student residences at the University of Bristol if they apply in good time.
Of course there was also the possibility to look around for a room in a private apartment. However, this was not an alternative for me, as living in a traditional English dormitory was part of the experience of the semester abroad for me.
If you decide to use a dormitory place, you should definitely first get an overview of the many student dormitories and weigh up what is personally important and what is less important (e. g. proximity to the city, food). In particular, you should be clear beforehand about how much you are willing to pay in accommodation fees, as these vary greatly depending on the dormitory and room comfort. I myself paid around € 224 a week for a room including a sink.
The application for a dormitory place is then quite straightforward. You can apply for a first and second election at the same time. About three months after I received my application, I finally received a confirmation of a place in a student dormitory.
During my semester abroad in Bristol, I lived in Wills Hall, a very traditional student residence in the Stoke Bishop district. Wills Hall is one of the “catered” accommodations, which means that two meals per day are included in the price of the dormitory. During the week there was a daily breakfast buffet and dinner, at the weekend there was also a breakfast buffet and lunch. All residents of Wills Hall ate together in a large, imposing dining room. The food was freshly prepared every day and there was a large selection of meat, vegetarian and vegan dishes.
The highlight of the Wills Hall was clearly the so-called “formal dinners”, which took place around once a month. On this occasion, all residents wrapped themselves in traditional robes, ate together and celebrated wildly – so anyone who likes Harry Potter will feel at home here.
For me, “self-catered” accommodation would not have been an alternative, as I kept getting to know new people, especially through dinner together.
I also find the opportunity to try traditional British dishes a very valuable experience. Under other circumstances I would certainly not have bothered to prepare these myself.
I also have the feeling that I was able to save a lot of time and money through the meals in the dormitory. I then had both more available for activities and travel.
Before starting my semester abroad, I heard from many that the meal times were unfavorable, but I cannot say that for myself. In my opinion, these are well coordinated with university times and offer enough freedom for activities on the weekend.
The only thing to complain about was that Wills Hall is relatively far out of the city center. With the bus ticket included in the price of the dormitory, there was always a direct connection to the university district and the city center, but you always had to calculate around 30 minutes including waiting times. “Just a short time” to the city was always associated with a little more effort, which is why I was once again happy not to have to look after myself.
All in all, life at Wills Hall enriched my semester abroad extremely and made it the unique experience it was in the end. In my house block, in addition to British freshmen, there were also a lot of international students, all of whom were very warm and open. Before I knew it, I’d made tons of friends all over the world.
As mentioned briefly above, in the course of the application process I had to make a pre-selection of courses, the availability of which was then confirmed to me in my “Offer Letter” from the University of Bristol. During the first week of the university, however, it quickly became apparent that some of these courses either overlapped in time or were no longer offered at all. It is therefore advisable to discuss a few “backup” courses with your home university beforehand in order to maintain a certain degree of flexibility in the final choice of course.
As part of the Welcome Week, so-called “drop-in sessions” were then offered by the various departments, in which one had to register again personally for the individual units (a few also offered online registration). In general, I found the course registration very time-consuming, the first three days I was almost exclusively occupied with setting up my weekly schedule. But I’ve also heard from others (especially those who have taken units from the 1st year of study) that their course registration was less time-consuming – so I think everyone has different experiences.
However, all contact persons in the departments were really very nice and helpful, so that you didn’t have the feeling of being alone in front of this hurdle. Looking back, I would say that course overlaps are not as dramatic as previously thought, since all lectures are recorded and can then be accessed on the Internet as often as you like.
Finally, I completed a total of three courses in the areas of “Psychology” and “Criminology”: “PSYC20003 Developmental Psychology and Language”, “PSYC31052 Nutrition and Behavior” and “SPOL10020 Understanding Crime, Harm and Society”. I really enjoyed the opportunity to take courses from different bachelor’s programs and made my semester varied.
Both psychology courses only ran for half of the semester (6 weeks each), while the criminology course lasted for the entire semester (12 weeks). In terms of the workload, I find that the courses are very demanding overall, especially courses from the 3rd year of study. In addition to the exams at the end of the semester, I also had submissions or presentations during the semester. Therefore, I think it is a good decision not to only take courses from the third year of study – because abroad you don’t always want to have to study.
The close contact with professors, the small group size in seminars and the individual support, which is very important to me at the University of Bristol, definitely helped me.
Nevertheless, I would advise to ask the professor or contact person in the department again how the individual assessments for Study Abroad students are handled. In a course, for example, I didn’t have to give a presentation like my fellow students, but my essay was weighted more heavily in the overall assessment.
Thematically, I found all three courses to be very interesting and valuable for my further professional career, as they dealt with content that is not on the curriculum at my home university. If these are then taught by internationally respected professors, that is of course all the better.
Overall, the support from the International Office at the University of Bristol was very good. The team always had an open ear for questions and difficulties and I was helped quickly.
Travel and experiences
One of the most important things about a semester abroad is of course traveling and experiencing the local culture. Bristol offers the perfect starting point for this (once you have got used to the rainy weather), because there are many small and somewhat larger cities with British flair in the vicinity, such as Bath, Gloucester, Salisbury and Cardiff. There is also a very good connection to London or Oxford by coaches such as the National Express or Megabus.
Most trips I have with the AFT Bristol undertaken. This is an organization that, together with the International Office of the University of Bristol, offers inexpensive day trips (for around 15 €) for international students around Bristol. I think the AFT Bristol is a great opportunity for little money to get to know the area around Bristol better and to meet international students. I also went on a few weekend trips with friends from my dormitory, for example to Dublin, Liverpool, Manchester or Penzance (Cornwall).
Apart from that, there are of course plenty of opportunities in Bristol to enjoy your semester abroad to the fullest. My absolute favorite place is the landmark of the city of Bristol: the Clifton Suspension Bridge. From there you have a breathtaking view of the gorge of the River Avon below and the beautiful green surroundings of Bristol. So if you are looking for a break from university, this is the perfect place to relax and unwind.
Another thing not to be missed is the Cabot Tower and the view from its observation deck of nearby university buildings such as the Wills Memorial Building, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the Harborside and much, much more. Also not to be forgotten are the Bristol Cathedral, which is located very close to the university district, the lively shopping district around Carbot Circus and of course the many markets, small cafés (e. g. Mrs. Potts Chocolate House) and rustic pubs (e. g. The Christmas Steps), which are spread over the entire city center. Bristol also has a lot to offer historically and culturally. For example, there are many free museums related to Bristol’s history and formative personalities such as great theater, the Bristol Hippodrome.
All of this, in my opinion, is what gives Bristol its charm. With every trip to the city center, I discovered new hidden favorite places that contributed to the wonderful experience of my semester abroad and which I will remember forever.
The semester abroad in Bristol was a unique and unforgettable time for me, which helped me both from an academic and above all from a personal point of view. Even if studying and living in England is very expensive (approx. € 9,000 for tuition and accommodation fees), it was definitely worth the money to me and I would do it again at any time. Within a few months I made an incredible number of friends all over the world, experienced exciting things and grown to love Bristol as a city.