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Caitlyn Wakelin

SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Sociology
Study Abroad › Exchange

Experience Faculty
Through this exchange I was able to experience different perspectives by engaging with people from around the world and studying in another social context, which I believe will be helpful when coming back to SFU.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation
Financial Preparation

For funding I relied on personal savings from working before the exchange, along with scholarships. I would recommend looking into scholarships for exchange students as I found this helpful.


I went to England in the spring semester so I found that it was necessary to bring good rain gear and generally pack for the weather. I mostly just packed clothing, medication, and toiletries and bought everything else when I got to Bath. There are plenty of reasonable options for bedding and kitchen supplies in places such as Sainsbury's. It took me about a day to pack but I was sure to do it early, to give myself time in case I remembered anything else I wanted to bring.

Travel and Transportation

To get to England I flew direct from YVR to London Heathrow airport. From there I was picked up by family and stayed with them for a bit before they drove me to Bath. However, it is also possible to get a train from the airport to London Paddington, then from there to Bath Spa Station. Once in Bath it is possible to get to just about everywhere by walking. To get to campus it is possible to walk but the walk there is all uphill so I usually took the bus. There was a stop very close to where I was staying, which made it easy. It is very easy to travel to other parts of the country through Bath Spa Station. I would recommend getting a rail pass as it gives good discounts for trains. From Bath Spa Station it is also easy to get to Bristol airport if you would like to travel around Europe.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

Make sure to consider time zones when looking at Bath's deadlines. Before you leave be sure to get converters for your electronics as the sockets in England are a different shape and use a higher voltage. I found it helpful to research phone plans ahead of time so I could get a sim card and activate it shortly after arriving in England. There are lots of reasonable options. I would also recommend participating in all of the activities in the first few weeks as they provide lots of great opportunities for meeting other people.

Roman Baths
The Roman Baths
University of Bath
University of Bath Campus
Bath Abbey
Bath Abbey
Arthur's Seat
The top of Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh
During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

The exchange student orientation started off with all the students in a lecture theatre where different people from the university talked about opportunities and services available to visiting students. After that we were split into smaller groups for a campus tour. We were also given a time to meet with the academic coordinator for our department with the other exchange students from our department. As part of the welcome activities there were also tours of the Roman Baths with other exchange students. During the first weeks there were lots of opportunities to meet other exchange students both formally through university organized events and informally through things organized by new exchange students.

Accommodation and Living

I did not try to look into third party housing so I do not know how easy it would be to find, but student accommodation was easy to get. For exchange students there are two options for student accommodation, which are both located in the city. Staying with other exchange students made it easy to make friends since everyone was in the same situation. I stayed in Pulteney Court which is located very close to the city centre. The flats in Pulteney Court have two to four rooms and shared bathrooms. Most kitchens in the block I was staying in are shared between two flats, but each flat gets their own fridge.

Learning and Adaptation

For all of my classes, there was one two hour lecture every week. I found that while some lectures were more interactive than others, most of them were less interactive than what I am used to in upper level sociology and international studies classes at SFU. For the spring semester there was a two week Easter break, after which lectures continued for a couple of weeks before the assessment period began. I had one class that had two papers, but most just had one term paper that made up the entire course mark. The grading system is also different in England, with 40% being the passing grade and an A being marks 70% or higher. I found that class sizes were either similar or a bit larger than those for upper division courses I am used to at SFU. It is also important to remember that in England they call courses modules.

Accomplishments and Challenges

I was able to take courses in Bath on interesting topics that are not offered at SFU. In this way, I was able to expand my perspective on these topics. I also found it interesting to learn more about a different social context. As someone who has a terrible sense of direction I was concerned about my ability to navigate unfamiliar cities, but through this experience I have gotten much better. For those with similar concerns, Bath is a fairly small city and is easy to navigate by foot. Overall, through the experience of living in a different country I have gained more independence and confidence.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

The University of Bath has lots of different societies for a very wide range of interests. I would recommend joining at least one as they provide a great opportunity to meet people with similar interests. I joined the school's mountaineering society, which involves rock climbing, walking (the area has hills but no real mountains), and orienteering. By living in student accommodation with other exchange students it is really easy to meet new people. I would recommend going out as much as possible with other exchange students in the first couple of weeks. Within Bath there are plenty of pubs and a few clubs.

Reflection & Tips

Although I was a bit nervous before leaving for the exchange, I had a great time and would recommend it to anyone. I enjoyed learning in a different context and meeting other people from around the world. I also liked being able to live in another country where I was able to get to know the area better than I would have as a tourist. There were also plenty of opportunities to travel around other parts of the UK and mainland Europe, which would be much more difficult while living in Canada. I found that through the experience of living in a new country and travelling around I have gained much more confidence and independence.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

By interacting with people from other parts of the world and taking classes on interesting topics not offered by SFU, I have been exposed to new perspectives that I will now be able to take back to life in Canada. In addition, before going on exchange I had never travelled by myself before and would not think that it was something I would be able to do. By going on exchange, I now have more confidence in my ability to navigate new situations and unfamiliar contexts.

Advice for Future Students

I would recommend that you stay flexible and open to new and different experiences while on exchange. I would also recommend that you join clubs or societies to meet locals with similar interests. I also found it valuable to go out with other exchange students at the beginning of the term as this is where I met lots of friends. I would also recommend seeing which other exchange students are interested in travelling to other places that you would also like to see. I also found that it was important to balance going out and doing fun things with new friends and taking time to yourself to recharge to avoid burning out.