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Pack everything into one suitcase and backpack!
My name is Natsuki, and I have been studying at Oxford Brookes University in England for this fall semester’s exchange program. I have finally gotten used to life and classes here recently, but the time for submitting mid-term reports has come in a flash, and I am struggling to get through it!
Today, I would like to talk about why I chose the United Kingdom as my study abroad destination and my preparation for the trip.
I hope this will be helpful for those who are thinking about or preparing for an exchange program!
As an International Relations (IR) student at APU, it is my dream to study in the UK, which is the country where International Relations was born, and I wanted to study national security and international political history, which I am particularly interested in. Besides, at APU, I mainly focused on international politics with an emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region, so I became interested in what difference it would make if I studied international relations in Europe.
I chose Oxford Brookes University because it is in Oxford, which is famous for being a university town, and I thought the historic buildings and great library would provide an environment in which I could concentrate on my studies. It is also attractive for me that Oxford is near London, the center of British politics, and can be reached in about 1~1.5 hours by bus. The safety of the city was also a major deciding factor.APU OffCampus Study Program's Oxford Brookes University page
Around the summer vacation of my first year, I began seriously researching exchange programs. I studied for the IELTS exam in September, took it for the first time in October, and applied for an exchange program at the end of the same month.
Studying abroad at a British university requires a relatively high IELTS score, and the university of my choice requires different scores for each of the four skills. I met the requirements with an overall score, but not for each skill at that time. Therefore, after receiving a "conditionally accepted", I took the IELTS test one more time, got the required scores in all skills, and finally received a full pass in February.
At first, I was scared to apply even though my IELTS score had not yet reached the required level. However, after applying, my goal became clear, and the right amount of pressure was created. As a result, I was able to significantly improve my score. In addition to studying using textbooks and YouTube, I asked my international friends to check my writing. Moreover, taking the IELTS preparation course for conditionally accepted students was also very helpful.
After being fully accepted by my host university, I began preparing for my studies abroad by taking international relations classes in English during the spring semester. I also started preparing for the procedures. In my case, I did not need a visa other than a Japanese passport because my exchange program is for just one semester (less than 6 months), but I had to prepare immunizations, scholarship applications, insurance applications, airline tickets, dormitory applications, course registration, and so on. Although I could gain help from the Academic Office and explanations at the monthly guidance meetings, the whole preparation process was a lot of work. But at the same time, I was excited.
Other things that I prepared before my trip included watching lectures at British universities on YouTube to know the atmosphere of lectures at overseas universities and to get used to listening to British English pronunciation. I also talked to an APU professor who had lived in Oxford about life there and tips for studying abroad, and since I was taking a politics class, I made sure to watch the news in the British media daily to learn about the political situation in the UK. I am not very good at English, so I strongly feel now how helpful that I did this kind of preparation to keep up with the classes at my study abroad destination.
At Narita Airport. Including layovers, it was a long journey of over 30 hours!
Preparation for studying abroad is very hard and I often felt anxious, but I shared information with my friends who were going on an exchange program in the same semester and asked my international student friends to help me with the procedures. They helped to ease my anxiety and gave me encouragement, which was very motivating. If you are considering or preparing to study abroad, please do not hesitate to ask as many of your friends as possible for help with questions or consultations!
In the future, I will tell you more about my life and classes in the UK! Please stay tuned for my future posts!
Just before landing at Heathrow Airport. It rained heavily when I arrived, and it was already so cold even though it was September!
Hello! I'm Natsuki, an APS 2nd year majoring in International Relations. I hope to inspire you all by sharing my interesting experiences, new discoveries, and encounters at APU. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!