In the winter semester 2014/15 I spent my semester abroad at the University of Birmingham Business School with abbreviation of UOB listed on abbreviationfinder. With my experience report I would like to share my experiences and primarily give an impression of what it means to live in England for a few months.
At the beginning, it is highly recommended to collect information about the semester abroad at an early stage. Regardless of whether you opt for the Erasmus program or a self-organized semester abroad, you should be personally convinced that you want to study abroad. I saw the semester abroad as an opportunity to break out of everyday study life in Germany for a semester, to get to know new people from all over the world and to gain numerous new impressions.
At University of Birmingham, the places for the Erasmus program were extremely rare and the number of applicants, especially for English-speaking countries, was high. I’ve been to London a lot in the past, but wanted to get to know another British city for a while. Accordingly, I assumed early on that a semester abroad in England would only be possible for me if I wrote applications to universities on my own initiative. Even if this means a little more effort, it has the advantage that the number of universities available to choose from is significantly larger for self-organized semesters abroad than in the Erasmus program. This means that the choice of university can be optimally adapted to your own needs.
After some research, I had put together a list of criteria that were taken into account when choosing my university. Academically, I recommend universities that have accreditations (e. g. EQUIS, AACSB). This guarantees a certain quality of teaching and can also make it easier to get credit at the local university afterwards. Positioning in important rankings can also provide an impression of satisfaction with the university in a country comparison (e. g. Guardian Ranking). The semester times were also relevant for me, as I wanted to do an internship afterwards. Accordingly, the semester should end before Christmas if possible. In addition, it is worth taking a look at the Course Catalogs in order to keep an eye out for interesting courses according to your own preferences. Admission requirements (e. g. language tests (TOEFL, IELTS), grade point average) were included in my decision as well as the size of the city. Especially with regard to the language test, I can only recommend that you tackle it at an early stage, as it also requires some preparation time to achieve the desired result.
In the end my choice fell on the University of Birmingham, because in my opinion it best fulfills the criteria mentioned.
The academic year in Birmingham is divided into trimesters, but only the first (September to December) and second trimester (January to April) are taught. The third trimester (May to June) consists exclusively of exams. The university has existed since the beginning of the 20th century and, unlike most British universities which were built in the 1960s, is still equipped with many traditional buildings.
Birmingham is the second largest city in England after London with just over a million inhabitants. The region is known for its formative role in the context of industrialization and is slowly changing towards modernity. Immigration waves in the 1960s also make the city very multicultural. Well-known sites are the modern library (the view from the roof is recommended), the region around the venerable town hall or the area around Brindley Place with a few bars right on the canal. However, Birmingham is by no means a tourist city and in terms of attractions it cannot be compared with London, for example. For shopping enthusiasts there is the large “Bullring” shopping center, which is directly connected to the main train station “New Street Station” and contains all the well-known shops. There are also numerous restaurants and cafes in the area. Sports enthusiasts will find two Premier League clubs in Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion and another second division club in Birmingham City.
I sent my application via MicroEDU because the team responded very quickly to my inquiry about the UOB and provided me with information material. On the other hand, I am still waiting for an answer to my question about applying directly from the university. I am therefore happy that my application has been processed conscientiouslyon the part of MicroEDU s. All you have to do is submit a few documents to MicroEDU in accordance with the entry requirements (which can also be found on the UOB website). These check for accuracy and forward the papers to the UOB. After about six to eight weeks I received my confirmation (around mid-June) and was able to start further planning.
In terms of accommodation, I applied early for a place in the numerous student residences. However, the number of applicants is extremely high and a place is only guaranteed for non-European applicants. That’s why I got a rejection here, which in retrospect didn’t necessarily turn out to be a disadvantage. That’s why I took part in the house hunting event organized by the university, which took place about two weeks before lectures started and costs around £ 200. For three days you are housed in student residences (which are of far better standard than their reputation) and have the chance to meet a lot of new people in a short time. About forty students took part in September, so the atmosphere is by no means anonymous. The university staff is supported by current students at the university who are always ready to provide tips on living or studying in Birmingham. The organizers provide the participants with tips and help with finding accommodation for the time of the stay abroad. In England, most home rentals are carried out through intermediaries (“agencies”). The employees of the university establish contact with them and the students then visit houses of various kinds in small groups. There are also a number of houses that belong to the university. In any case, there is enough time within the three days to find the right flat share for everyone. As a rule, students live in houses with three or four-bed rooms, in exceptional cases with five-bed rooms. At the House Hunting Event I met my new roommates, all of whom, like me, studied in Birmingham for a semester, and almost all of my new friends from my time in Birmingham. The international circle of friends had already grown rapidly at the start of the course.
We decided on a house that belongs to the university, as a permanent contact person and immediate “problem solver” seemed to us to be the best option. In retrospect, this was not necessarily the worst choice, as other houses were struggling with problems with the agencies. The average price for a room in a shared apartment in the student district of Selly Oak is around 70 to 80 pounds per week (including additional costs), but the English building standard is by no means comparable to the German level. At this point you definitely have to be adaptable and make compromises, both in terms of the furnishings in the rooms and the quality of the heating and bathroom, which in some houses is infested with mold.
As already mentioned, the student district is in Selly Oak. The university can be reached on foot in five to ten minutes. Selly Oak offers various supermarkets (Aldi, Tesco, Sainsbury’s), snack bars / take-aways and has two large pubs, “The Soak” and “The Goose”, where students meet every evening. There are regular pub quizzes and performances by amateur musicians, so that it never gets boring. The prices are also student-friendly compared to the city center around New Street, which can be reached in about ten minutes from the “Selly Oak” train station. With the exception of Sundays, trains run very regularly, but trips back from parties in the city can easily be made by taxi, as the price is only two pounds per person for a reasonable group size.
The university already sent information about studies, the city, etc. by email at an early stage, thus helping people to find their way around quickly. A welcome event was also held so that the international students get to know each other better.
Further highlights at the beginning of the semester are the Society and Sports Fair, where you can find out about initiatives and sports groups and join. These are very popular in England because, unlike in Germany, universities largely replace sports clubs and also guarantee a corresponding level of performance.
The German Christmas Market will be offered in the City Center from mid-November, with all kinds of stalls reminiscent of the German markets. But not only Christmas items or food are sold there, so that after a long time I was able to buy good German bread again.
At the beginning of the semester, the courses are selected at the university. In the introductory event (which is actually only aimed at Erasmus students, but is still recommended) personalized notes are given out so that you can find out whether the courses specified in the application can also be taken. However, it is not a problem at all to change courses within the first two weeks of the start of lectures. All you need is a signature from the secretariat in the relevant department (e. g. Business Department or Economics Department). When this slip of paper with courses totaling 30 ECTS credits (the workload must not be lower according to the examination regulations) has been submitted to the International Office, all courses are confirmed.
Personally, I have taken six courses with five ECTS credits each. These are all essay modules, ie the lecturer provides an essay topic that must be worked on by the end of the semester in mid-December. So for each course I had to write around 3000 words (around ten to fifteen pages). At this point it should be noted that in my case there was some confusion about the due dates. Two weeks before the end of the semester, the International Office informed us by email that international students studying in Birmingham for only one semester had to hand in all essays by mid-December, although agreements with the respective professors indicated otherwise. In the end, this led to some time stress, but was still feasible with good planning.
In contrast to my German university, the amount of math and statistics in England is kept to an absolute minimum. With average knowledge, one is not faced with too great a problem in this regard.
Overall, the courses are much more application-oriented than at my German university and much less theoretical in nature. In some cases, videos and case studies were used, and guest lectures were also included. The large number of foreign professors and students is just as interesting. The proportion of British students at the business school is likely to be only around 50 to 60%.
In addition, it is also recommended to explore the surrounding cities and regions, as the tourist attractions exhaust themselves quite quickly. With National Rail or bus companies such as Megabus or National Express, trips to Manchester, Liverpool or London (all about 2 hours away) are possible at any time. In the vicinity, for example, Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon can be reached in 30 minutes. In addition, the university offers numerous day trips to Wales, Cambridge, etc. , which you can join extremely inexpensively by registering in advance.
In summary, I can absolutely recommend the semester abroad at the University of Birmingham. These four months are certainly among the best of my life. The amount of academic and private experiences shape the personality and thus definitely contribute to individual development. I can warmly recommend a semester abroad at the University of Birmingham to anyone who is open to new things and has always wanted to get an insight into English life.