Bristol is a lovely city, located in the southwest of England. Only two hours away by train from London and 10 minutes away by train from Bath, its famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, hot-air balloon festival, SS Great Britain ship museum, and the lively Harbourside attract flocks of tourists from all over the world each year.
Last fall semester, I participated in the exchange program between University of Bristol and University of Rochester. As an engineering student, I was lucky enough to find equivalent engineering courses at my Bristol Uni so I wouldn’t be left behind academically.
It was quite interesting for me to compare University of Bristol with University of Rochester. Unlike UR’s suburban location, the University of Bristol Precinct is located on top of Park Street in Bristol’s city center. I enjoyed bring able to casually walk into a crepe shop, or look around a boutique store after lectures every day, and buy groceries on the way home. Very different from University of Rochester’s open curriculum, all Bristol students only take classes that are related to their course of study. When I told my fellow electrical engineering students that I had also enrolled in a psychology class, they were all surprised by my class choice. However, the biggest difference between two education systems is the academic assessment method. For U.K students, their grades are mainly decided by their final exams. During my time in Bristol, I didn’t have any midterms; all of my studies there were dedicated to one final exam at the end of the term. U.K. students also don’t have GPAs. Instead, their degrees are distinguished by first-class honours, second-class honours, upper-division, lower-division, and third-class degree. I found this different grading system fascinating.
During my time at the Bristol Uni, I was an active member of Bristol Wine Society and a science columnist at “Epigram,” the Bristol school newspaper. My social involvement helped me to grow as a person, become friends with the locals, and really become part of Bristol community. As a science columnist, I got to interview photonic scientists from the quantum mechanics center about their research and have in-depth discussions with other students about Apple’s inflating repair costs. My “Epigram” experience helped me discover my passion about writing and made me decide to join Campus Times this semester.
However, my recent abroad exploration isn’t only limited within Bristol. I also traveled to many other U.K. cities and even other countries. I watched the sunset from the top of University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, discussed Rugby World Cup with Argentina fans in Cardiff, listened to Irish folk music in Dublin, and watched New Year fireworks in Budapest. I made valuable friendships with students from Mexico, Singapore, Chile, Canada, France, and Germany in Bristol and met travelers from all over the world in hostels while I was traveling in Europe. All of those experiences helped me to understand what I love to do in life, honed my communication skills, and built up my confidence enormously.
My Bristol experience not only exposed me to another world-class level education system, but also helped me to learn more about myself and prepared me for working harder on building a brighter future.