The University of Chester is a historical, large and traditional English university, and has been teaching for over 150 years. The university is predominantly based in the historic town of Chester but has other campuses around the local area. The campus I spend most of my time at is Riverside. It sits on the edge of the River Dee, and is only a three minute walk from the very centre of town. The main campus is Parkgate, a little outside the town centre but still only a ten minute walk. Most of the university groups, clubs and events are held on this campus.
However before I arrived in Chester (this time last year) I was going through the motions of organising my exchange. My to-do list was filled with tasks like:
– research flights
– research travel card options
– organise visa
– research holiday options
My list was never-ending; as I chose a one year exchange I was faced with a lot of flexibility time wise, not something you want when planning for a year with no place to start. Hence my post today, with a few things I learnt while planning that will hopefully be helpful to you.
Looking back this part of organising was both the most difficult and easiest step. Booking a flight is a great place to start when preparing for exchange, it gives you a time and place to start. Personally I scanned the webjet website before I made my decision to fly to Barcelona, as the website’s comparison feature made researching a million times more efficient and easier. When looking for a flight make sure you factor in, flight time, layover time, the company, number of stops and price! On a long haul flight from Australia you will want the shortest and most comfortable flight you can afford. As I haven’t flown with every airline in the world I won’t recommend any airlines, but here is the 2015 Top 100 Airlines list that I consulted when making my decision.
When researching flights within the country or continent you’re travelling to, I use the Sky Scanner app (the app is much more user friendly than its website equivalent). Flights within Europe can be incredibly affordable depending on the season and how far in advance you buy tickets. Also, the Sky Scanner app has a feature which allows you to browse cheap flights from anywhere- to anywhere. It is my absolute favourite feature, and I use it for most of my holidays. If you are a spontaneous person and are interested in $30 return flights to Slovakia, download this app now!
For bringing all your hard saved savings with you, the humble travel card is the only option to consider (are there any other options?) Each major bank has their own version, but are all fairly similar; you can load them up with as many currencies as you need. Things to factor in are, withdrawal fees, transfer times and accessibility. The fees factor is straightforward; now that you have the world at your feet you won’t want to be throwing away perfectly good travel/ food/ tacky souvenir money just to withdraw a measly 1000 Hungarian Forint from your card ($4.82 AUD). Researching fees may seem tedious but can save you a lot of money. Transfer times however, is something you only think about when you are in a ‘situation’. Make sure you know how long your money takes to transfer, so you can transfer enough money ahead of time.
If you need a UK visa the application process can be intimidating and overwhelming. The forms, the elusive appointment, the time and the price. Something I can recommend is to organise your visa as early as they allow you. If you leave a few accommodation bookings to the last minute, oh well. Didn’t book that limousine transfer, you’ll survive. Organising your visa should be priority number one, because without it, you are not going anywhere. The forms are so long and individual that I cannot possibly go through it all here, however I can guide you to my saving grace The Aussie Nomad. Enjoy.
Holidays are my favourite thing to plan! As I arrived in Europe a few months ahead of university I had some time to play with. I would recommend making a list of places you want to see and composing draft itineraries to fit your timeline and budget. I would recommend looking at some tours, if you are money conscious it is usually much cheaper per day to travel on a tour rather than on your own (and everything is planned for you- fuss free!) As mentioned before, the skyscanner app is great for finding flights. If you really want to experience everything you could take a bus around Europe. I’m not really a fan of long haul bus travel after a delightful 26 hour bus trip from Barcelona to London, yes that is longer than a flight to Europe. When you arrive at your destination from your transport of choice, you will need accommodation and for this I offer you booking.com and Air BnB.
I hope you enjoy planning as much as I did.