Written by

Andres Alvarez (Colombia)

I am Andres Alvarez from Colombia and I am currently in my second year studying BA (Hons) Media Production. When you are a member of the BU community, not only you see the #buproud hashtag everywhere, but often also feel it! Especially when you discover all the opportunities this university has to offer.

Study Exchange opportunity 

As a filmmaker, being able to travel and live in other countries and immerse myself in other cultures is essential, as I am constantly looking for remarkable stories that can nurture my creativity.

BU has many partner universities around the world, and we have the opportunity to spend sometime abroad on exchange programmes, which contributes to our personal, academic and professional development.

As soon as I found out about it, I submitted my application and was nominated to go on a Semester Abroad to the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Studying in the US

It has been quite interesting to see how adaptable I have become since I left Bogota to study in Bournemouth. It took me some months to get used to the education system here and its odd marking scheme and deadlines. Just as my confidence was building up at the end of the first year, I embarked on a new exciting experience and I had to get use to a complete new system again, this time in the US.

There are three main differences I can think of between the UK and US education systems:

Deadlines: usually, in the UK, almost all of our assignments are due towards the end of the term while in the US you get weekly assignments

Specialisation vs flexibility: in the UK, degrees are far more specialised and focused on your field of studies from day one. In the United States, if you feel like you can handle 6 units at a time, you take them. If you want to take units from other courses, even if they are not related to your degree, you can also do that.

Scheduled clasess: in the US we spend twice as long in scheduled classes compared to the UK. In my course, for example, I am expected to spend 25% of my time in class (according to my syllabus) and the remaining time in independent learning, reading, doing research and working on my projects.

I think there are positive and negative things about both systems and they both work fine in their own ways.

Life as a student in Orlando 

Filming on Location

I was very busy with classes, independent projects and the occasional travelling. My routine in Orlando was quite different from other exchange students, as I didn’t set aside much time for going out clubbing, except for a couple of occasions when I went out dancing at Latin American clubs.

As I got more used to living in Orlando, I met a fellow filmmaking student with whom I collaborated as director of photography. We developed different projects, like music videos and short films. It was a very rewarding relationship, as we will hopefully become long lasting friends.

Hurricane Irma 

We had the unfortunate experience of Hurricane Irma. However, it was a chance to travel with two friends, as we were trying to escape it. We rented a car in Orlando and drove for 25 hours to New York City, stopping in North Carolina to get some sleep. It was an amazing experience and we had such a good time, plus classes were cancelled almost for a week, so we got a small holiday out of it. 

I certainly gained many experiences from this study exchange, but I think the biggest highlight was to experience a new culture, meet wonderful people and escaping the British winter to 6 months of sunshine!

By Andres Alvarez, Colombia, BA (Hons) Media Production, 2016/17