The University of Sheffield has exchange programme agreements with various American, Canadian and Australian/New Zealand universities, allowing MPhys students to spend the third year of their course overseas. Most students do with as part of a named degree programme, but students on other programmes may also apply for "non-mandatory" placement, which are awarded competitively across the whole university.
As part of my physics and astrophysics degree I had the opportunity to spend my third year abroad. I chose to study at the University of Western Australia, which is involved in building the astronomical instrumentation and developing computing facilities for the upcoming radio telescope facility, The Square Kilometer Array.
I studied a variety of modules that were not offered in Sheffield, including high performance computing courses with access to the supercomputing facilities and courses in radio astronomy, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was able to travel over the Australian summer, where I met a diverse range of people and visited some amazing places. The west coast was stunningly beautiful, with perfect beaches, coral reefs and unpolluted skies - perfect for observing the southern hemisphere.
Adjusting to the new environment, different teaching styles and courses was challenging, but I think it gave me an edge when applying for my current PhD position as it demonstrates some key aspects of a researcher: organisation, flexibility and independence. The chance to study physics in another country is not one to be missed and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering studying abroad!
I took part in a year in North America exchange in the 2014-2015 academic year at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada and since then have not stopped telling people about my experience and how great the study abroad program, much to the annoyance of my friends. Not only did I spend a year in Canada making new friends and exploring the North American culture through frequent travel to Toronto, New York, D.C, Montreal etc. but the experience offered exceptional educational opportunities.
Waterloo is the home of the Institute of Quantum Computing, where alongside my regular studies I undertook a voluntary job as a programmer, bolstering the Institute’s data capture software for the superconducting qubits group. This was a great opportunity to meet the researchers at the cutting edge of quantum technologies and build on CV whilst also attending a University with an already stellar teaching reputation.
On top of all this, participating in an exchange program can cut the price of tuition for the year you are abroad by as much as £7000. Since then, with the experience I gained abroad I have been accepted onto a Marie Curie PhD in Konstanz in southern Germany, where I am investigating qubits on 2D materials. I would highly recommend the study abroad program to anyone considering doing so, the opportunity to travel, boost your CV with work experience and/or language skills and complement your education is unparalleled.
Choosing to study abroad was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Before I went people told me it would be one of the best years of my life - and they weren't wrong.
I studied Theoretical Physics at the University of Waterloo, Canada in 2011. We were well situated, close to the US border and Toronto. I met an amazing group of Canadian and European students, we regularly went on long road-trips to National Parks and cities in Canada and the USA. I'm still in touch with them and we meet up annually in someone's home country.
On the educational side, I took a course in Particle Physics - it was one of the best courses I ever took. I was inspired and after completing my MPhys in Sheffield I moved on to a PhD is Particle Physics. I am now a Post-Doc working on the LHC at CERN for the University of Sheffield.
My life has been shaped in a great way by the decision I made to study abroad
It sounds clichéd but my year abroad at the University of Maryland was the best year of my life so far.
I had always wanted to study abroad, and my choice to study here at Sheffield was heavily influenced by the study abroad program.
On August 24th 2015 I left Manchester airport, headed for Washington DC and the University of Maryland campus (a 30-minute metro ride from the city). As an exchange student I lived in university accommodation, living the "American college life" with my roommate Daniela - an economics major (student) from Costa Rica.
The physics department at Maryland was very different to that at Sheffield, but just as welcoming. I was taken in by an existing group of friends in my quantum mechanics class, and from that moment I had a ready-made study and social group - the majority of whom I still talk to regularly. Together we attended many college sports games, which were free to attend as a student, including basketball, football and soccer. The atmosphere at the games was incredible, with the football stadium holding 52,000 people, and the basketball centre seating 18,000.
I stayed in the US for the whole of my exchange year, not returning to the UK until June 20th 2016. I took the view that I'd already done the long and expensive flight, I was going to make the most of the time I had!
As much as my grades counted the same as they would have at Sheffield, so I had to work(!), I made the most of every holiday time to travel. For thanksgiving I travelled to Chicago, to experience a "real American thanksgiving" with a friend I'd met in my first year - she was doing her exchange year at Sheffield! Next was winter break, and unlike at Sheffield, all exams were over before the holiday - so no revision! My family came over from England and we visited New York, Boson and Washington DC (meaning I could show my family the campus). After they left, I also visited Niagara Falls and experienced the biggest snowstorm on the east coast in many years (25 inches of snow!). Universities in the US don't get an Easter break, instead I had a week in March for "spring break", in which I spent a week on the Caribbean island of Aruba! Finally, after final exams ended in May, and I watched many of my friends graduate (I was in mostly final year BSc classes) I embarked on a road trip to California. We drove from Maryland to California and back in 3 weeks, covering 22 states and seeing more than I ever imagined possible. The trip spelled the end of my year abroad experience, and before I knew it I was back on a plane to Manchester, eager to spread the year abroad message and encourage as many people as possible to take the opportunity!