Michael Simpson

Academic exchange | Birmingham, England

4th year BSc Economics

Where did you live when you studied abroad? I lived in a beautiful residence in “The Vale” called Chamberlain.

What was the hardest thing when you arrived in England? The hardest thing for me, when I arrived, was sorting out my biometric residence permit (needed for stays more than 6 months now) since I was arriving in the U.K. more than two weeks before the semester started.

What was the easiest thing when you arrived in England? The easiest thing, when I arrived, was getting to campus from the airport. Train station on campus can get you straight to the airport with one change!

What did you find different about studying in a British University? Having no December exams and 12 exams in May was very different! We had 4 weeks off and then a 6 week exam period so it wasn’t as bad as it sounds.

Best things about Birmingham? Best German Christmas market outside of Germany! Lots going on in Birmingham (largest city after London in the UK), and I could train directly to London Stansted airport from campus in about 1.5 hours for the super cheap flights.

What do you find most interesting about Birmingham? Birmingham has four large universities and nearly 40% of the population is under 25 years old.

Most memorable experience in England? The most memorable experience in the UK was probably travelling around stunning Isle of Skye.

Funniest thing that happened to you in Birmingham? This is a good one! I lived in the same residence as Isaac Wright who plays Brandon Stark, one of the leading characters in Game of Thrones! Helped him figure out the laundry machines and we were both in the same (Math) department.

What surprised you most about England? How unbelievably different people’s accents can be just 100 km away. Manchester and Birmingham and North London were all so distinct. Also, a 70% is a standard A+ equivalent and a 40% was a pass!

Food you miss the most and could not get in England? Hardly any fast-food joints around campus (probably a good thing) except for your coffee shops like Starbucks and Costa.

What did you miss about Canada when you studied abroad? The much drier and sunnier winters. Although, I miss the much warmer winters the UK has now.

What do you like most about studying abroad? Life was much more stress-free than being home. The format was different but having all the classes be pass/fail and not having to worry about scholarships or GPA was amazing. Could spend a bit more time socializing or travelling and let my blood pressure drop.

How many other countries did you visit when you were studying abroad? I went to Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Israel, Scotland and Wales (I know the last two aren’t separate countries). Did heaps of travelling within England too.

What are your future plans, and has studying abroad made you change your future plans? I am going to do my Masters in Economics in Canada next year but studying abroad has made me think of doing my PhD abroad.

Do you have any advice to future students, who may wish to study abroad? Go abroad. Don’t take only easy courses. I took some of my difficult required courses abroad and did not have to worry about them bring down my GPA or hurting my scholarships. Challenge yourself.

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