Hello! My name is Kacper and I’m an Economics and Management student currently in my second year. I’m doing my year abroad in Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. I want to share my experiences and tips about studying abroad. Let me begin by giving a few tips on how to pick a destination that is right for you. It is very important to consider academic reasons as well as cultural reasons when you make up your mind. Getting to know a different culture is an important part of the experience, however remember that this is not a vacation, and if you go for a full year this will stand for 33% of your time at uni (or 25% if you’re on a four year course). This is why I will mainly focus on academic reasons here, as the cultural part is pretty much a matter of individual preference.
For me, the opportunity to go abroad without having to take an extra year was one of the main reasons why I have picked King’s to do my degree.
As a Polish national living for nearly a decade in the UK, I was really keen on living in another country for a year and getting to know a different culture.
Before you even consider which part of the world you want to go to, I would suggest thinking about how long you want to go for. There are 2 options: either one semester or a full year. I decided to go for a full year, as moving back to King’s after the first semester didn’t really appeal to me. If I was going to go somewhere, I really wanted to get a real feel for how it is to live in a different culture. Other reasons against taking only one semester option were things like having to move during Christmas time back to London with all of my stuff. That didn’t sound like a good idea. Also, after getting used to a different learning style in another country, it might prove difficult to throw myself back into King’s culture without a break. So before even thinking where I was heading, I knew that I wanted to take a full year abroad.
Next is picking the location you want to go to. Personally, I was only interested in either Europe or North America. As much as I wanted to try a different culture, I didn’t want a too dramatic change so that I can still focus on my studies without having to adapt too much to the new environment. So, after looking at the options for my course, I cut down my options to Toronto, California, Copenhagen, Vienna and Bocconi. Soon I found out that Toronto only does one semester exchanges, so it was out of the game. In order to decide between the rest, I had to do a extensive research into what they could offer.
I decided against California due to the fact I didn’t want to be so far away from my family for such a long period of time. Also, teaching methods in the U.S tend to be quite a bit different to Europe, so I decided to pass. I had to decide between Copenhagen, Vienna and Bocconi. Firstly, I have rejected Bocconi as the modules offered didn’t really appeal to me. I have to say that I always wanted to live for a bit in a Scandinavian country, mainly to get a real life feeling of their fantastic social welfare. But on the other hand, Vienna is a beautiful city and it was also really tempting. Both universities are really highly ranked.In the end, I picked Copenhagen as CBS specializes more in Economics and Business than University of Vienna.
However, I made one mistake in the process which I would urge you not to repeat. I did not check whether equivalents of compulsory modules are offered in the course catalogue. As a result, after my offer has been confirmed I realized that I might not be able to go as potential equivalents of some of my core modules didn’t match the required standards. Thanks to very prompt reaction from the KCL Global Mobility Office and Dr. Vandoros (a study abroad tutor responsible for module approval for my course at KCL), we’ve managed to find modules that just met the criteria (but I had to agree that I will catch up with any work that has not been covered in those modules). So, I would strongly advise you to check the module list of your chosen institution against the required modules for your course.
After you have picked your institution you’re happy with, go and do lots of research about it. It will not only help you to write an impressive personal statement and convince the Global Mobility Office that you should get the place, but it will also help you familiarise with the culture of the organisation. This is really important so that you know what to expect when you arrive. A good example with CBS is that most exams are 4 hours long, generally carried out on a computer and are the only form of assessment for the module. The 4-hour exam is the only thing that counts and stands for 100% of the final grade. This might not suit everyone and is worth considering before making your final choice. I know many people prefer to have their assessments spread out among coursework, participation and exam marks (as is mostly the case at King’s). Many institutions also widely use oral exams, which I know many people don’t like.
Another thing that’s important is credit and grade transfer. In my case, only credits will transfer back to KCL, grades will not! This might mean that I’m bit more chilled this year about achieving high grades as they will not affect my overall degree classification (you only need to pass to secure the credits), however this also means that my exams next year will be weighted much more for my final grade than normal. In other words, I know that I will have to work very hard next year to get good grades as they will form majority of my final result. At other universities, grades can transfer back to King’s. It is again a matter of your individual preference if you want to chill for a year and then work really hard, or spread your work load evenly.
So, to conclude, there are many other factors other than the average amount of sunlight per year that I would urge you to consider before picking your destination. It is important that you gather as much information about the institution and the country you’re planning to go to before you apply, to avoid disappointing surprises.
If any of you have questions about my experience of studying abroad, living in Copenhagen, adapting to a new culture etc. feel free to contact me!
Good luck with your applications!