A New Experience
My name is Jaume Torres Coll, and I am a second-year psychology student. Curiously or strangely enough, I am currently writing this blog from my parents’ home in Spain, although I am doing an exchange with the University of Groningen - a city in the north of the Netherlands. I am writing these in the last week of my online exchange which, believed it or not, has been one of the most interesting experiences in my life.
Before university, I was already a travelling person, and I’ve always enjoyed my family trips in order to see new places and meet different cultures. So, when I heard about the opportunity to study abroad for a semester, I felt like I couldn’t miss this incredible opportunity! I also thought a semester abroad would be a great opportunity to improve my knowledge in the field of psychology and at the same time, it would make me more appealing to future employers – particularly because of the flexibility when choosing the courses that allowed me to pursue my interests.
When I think back to when I received a call from the exchange coordinator announcing the acceptance to the University of Groningen, I still remember my strange combination of feelings - completely filled with excitement and uncertainty of what this journey would take me. Just minutes before receiving this call, the Spanish PM announced that the whole country would be in lockdown because of the magnitude of COVID-19 cases that were currently being reported through the country. So, as you can imagine, my head at that moment was filled with questions about: Will the exchange be cancelled? Will these end soon, and I will have time to do it? Will it be online?
To be honest, at first, the announcement of the Exchange being online was a bit of a breakdown as this meant that I wouldn’t be able to travel to the Netherlands and to learn from their culture first-hand. Nonetheless, from the first day on, the University of Groningen was always super kind to make their online students feel at home and welcome even with an online environment. It also helped that my course was taught in English and had lots of exchange students, so it was really easy to become friends with people on my course. The well-prepared online chatting environment did not hold me back from talking with different people and learning from their different backgrounds.
University's Main Building
What I Have Learned
Through this whole process, I’ve always been very grateful for the amazing support that I have received from both, the Mobility Team at Bournemouth University and the Mobility Team at the University of Groningen. If you’re thinking about doing a semester abroad (even though it might be online) – do it, I would recommend it anyway! You’ll gain valuable skills and unforgettable friends. Although I have had a great time and I have extremely enjoyed the experience, I’m excited to go back to BU (and to the UK) to finish my degree. This fresh perspective and new knowledge that I have acquired will definitely help me with my final year project and at the same time, will enhance my curriculum for future employments.
This exchange has taught me that no matter the situation you are in or the challenges that you are facing, it is important to take an optimistic approach and to try to be as proactive as possible. And even though we sometimes feel that we have done all that we could, there will always be someone that can give us an extra hand.
Academic Life At UG
When it comes to academic life, it was quite different to what I was used to. Unlike Bournemouth University, where I usually take a set of 3 different modules each semester, UG has a different academic and marking structure. The semester there is split into two blocks, ‘Block A’ and ‘Block B’, taking three smaller modules for each block (6 modules in total). Personally, in [Block A] I took ‘Cognition and Attention', ‘Clinical Neuropsychology’, and ‘Developmental psychology’. And in [Block B] I took ‘Social Cognition and Affect’, ‘Cognitive Neuroscience’, and ‘Biopsychology’.
To put an example, the Biopsychology module consisted of two lectures a week (Mondays and Fridays) and a “social gathering” (on Wednesdays). In the lectures, the chapters of the recommended book were discussed and then this would be assessed in the exam. The exam was structured into two partial exams in an open-book format - the first partial exam covered the first half of the book (Chapters 1-7), and (took place halfway in the course) and the second partial exam covered the second half of the book (Chapters 8-14) (took place at the end of the course). “Social gathering” consisted of an optional meeting where students would meet in an online environment in order to socialize and to discuss the different topics of the module, this helped make the course more dynamic and fun.
On the other hand, when it comes to the marking system, the grades are in a range from 1 to 10 and in order to pass you need to get at least a 6. So, have in mind to work extra hard… My advice, in order to catch up and keeping on top of things, would be to be 100% organized. Organization of workload is key! If you plan correctly, then I’m sure you will be able to combine the hours of staring at a computer screen and the social interaction with people on your course.
Nonetheless, being an exchange student gives you a bit more flexibility than most students there, as you have quite a list of modules to pick from! In my case, it helped me to expand my knowledge on my topics of interest that otherwise I wouldn’t encounter till final year. Moreover, you may even get lucky and because of your persistence and active participation as a student, the exchange can open new doors that you would have never thought of before, like having an offer to do a Master at the host university!!! (In some courses, in my case was in Neuropsychology that was a final year module, the lecturers make a selection of the top 5 students and offer them the opportunity to do a Masters related to that module. So, keep in mind that your actions always have an effect!)