Exeter may not be the first city that comes to mind when thinking of studying in England, or even when one thinks of the Southwestern region of the country. Though often overlooked, Exeter is a wonderful location for study abroad in England. Further west even more than the better known cities of Bristol and Bath, both of which are easy trips from this amazing city, and located conveniently near the southern coast of England, Exeter is a city well worth a visit in its own right.
Subjects & Courses
Among the popular subjects to study in Exeter are: Business Studies, Engineering, Geology, Film Studies, Literature, and Biosciences. All of these programs specifically will satisfy students studying abroad in Exeter, and there are several other subjects which are popular among students in Exeter too, such as studying the English Language.
The course structure in England tends to be made up of a two-hour lecture once a week in combination with a one-hour tutorial also occurring once a week. Lectures are generally taught by the course professor to a large number of students and involves more of an overview of the topic being taught. The tutorial is smaller, sometimes taught by someone other than the professor, and often goes over that week’s lecture in more detail in order to resolve any confusion.
The way courses are scheduled during study abroad in Exeter allow students to sometimes only take a single class each day, or sometimes two, because the standard course has one lecture a week and one tutorial a week. This leaves a lot of free time for social activities.
There are hundreds of societies in which students can participate in while studying at British Universities. Some examples of these societies are the History Society, the Erasmus Society, and the Acapella Society. These societies are very similar to clubs at universities in the US, therefore the societies host social activities, formal events, trips to other parts of the country, and even trips abroad.
University terms in England run about 12 weeks, followed by about a month long break before exam period. The fall term runs from September to December, with exams in early January, and the spring term runs from January to March, with exams in late April and early June.
The University of Exeter is a highly ranked university academically, but it is also highly ranked for the experience it provides. The University came in tenth for Overall Satisfaction and fifth for Teaching in the UK in the 2013 National Student Survey Rankings. Along with teaching, the University is ranked highly for its research, and 90 percent of its research was ranked as being at internationally recognized levels in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. On a lighter note, if you study abroad in Exeter at the University of Exeter, you will share an alma mater with J.K. Rowling.
Life in Exeter
The city was founded by the Celts and expanded by the Romans, its history stretches back well over 2000 years. When it became a successful trading port in the Middle Ages it was able to finance the completion of the breathtaking Gothic Cathedral that is still a central sight in the city today and boasts stunning examples of Medieval architecture despite taking some damage in the Luftwaffe raids during WWII.
Along with the incredible age of the city, Exeter is a lively city to live in, partly due to the large student population. It’s not so big as to be overwhelming, or make you feel unsafe, but it’s still large enough that there is plenty to do. Out on High Street there are a variety of shops and restaurants to explore, along with points of more historical interest, like the Cathedral and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. There’s a fairly active nightlife, as there are several local clubs from which to choose, and it isn’t hard to find something to do on the weekends.
Exeter is in a good location to travel around the country. No matter where you live in the city, you won’t be far from one of the several train or coach stations. You can head out to the far point of the Southwest, such as to the coastal town of St. Ives or the legendary birthplace of King Arthur, Tintagel. Nearer to Exeter are Dartmoor National Park and Exmouth, a nearby port town where you can enjoy ocean views. It’s even easy to travel outside of the country, Exeter is only about three hours from London and international airports.
There are some cultural differences for which you should be prepared, however none of them are too jarring. Some of these differences are somewhat obvious, such as the fact that being on time is more important in the UK. The one difference that is most likely to affect your experience is the fact that most people in the UK tend to be more reserved, they are still friendly but for the most part you will have to make the first move when meeting people for the first time. The weather is mild in Exeter, although still rainy like the rest of the UK in general.
Accommodation & Visas
Most exchange students live off-campus. These students live in flats that they share with between five to ten other students. Each person living in the flat gets a single room with an en-suite bathroom, although the room sizes do vary, and share a kitchen/living room with the others living there. The costs of these living arrangements are usually listed as a by-week charge, although generally exchange students have to pay the full price in advance. If you are only studying abroad in Exeter for one term, you should look into housing as soon as possible, because not all places offer single-term housing. There is some on-campus housing offered, depending on the program. That living arrangement is similar to dorm living in the US, although meal plans are instead offered through each dorm typically. Very rarely, though fortunately, there are homestay accommodations offered to international students studying in Exeter.
International students do need a visa to study abroad in Exeter, either a Student Visitor Visa or a Tier 4 General Student Visa. The visa process can be complicated, the amount of time necessary to apply depends on what you want to get out of your study abroad experience and how long you will be studying abroad.
Benefits & Challenges
There are some challenges to adjusting to the UK education system as compared to the system in the U.S. For example, the course schedule is very different. Having only one lecture a week, especially a lecture of such a long length, can be strange. However, the tutorials associated with each lecture can be very helpful in creating more specific understanding of the subject.
More difficult to get used to is the grading scale. In the UK the cut-off for passing is at 40 percent and anything above a 70 percent is considered an A, which can be incredibly difficult to get. Also, there are not very many graded assignments. In most subjects each lecture has one essay worth about 40 percent of the final grade and one exam at the end of term, worth 60 percent. This varies somewhat, some classes have only the final exam—which is then worth 100 percent of the final grade—and in some subjects there are more frequently assigned essays—such as in History where some courses have a short essay due every week.
Exeter has some wonderful benefits for international students. Some of these are the sites that can be seen within the city itself. Exeter is home to the Exeter Cathedral, which dates from about 1400, which is both a beautiful and historical building, as well as the host of many musical events, both from their own choir and from a variety of other musicians.
Another fun attraction to see while studying in Exeter is the historic Quayside which is only about a ten minute walk from the city center and is a favored location for antique shops and restaurants. There are many other things to do in Exeter while studying abroad: historic tours of the city, trips through underground passages, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, or even the Rougemont Gardens.
All things considered, Exeter is an amazing starting point for your adventures abroad.