May 30, 2010

Openings, Applications and Acceptances

With a compulsion to share the process of exchange and having found such a limited amount of information from exchange students regarding the actual application process, I have decided to write my first Blog, detailing just what my experience of student exchange is over the 2010-11 period. I hope it provides a mechanism for friends, family and other exchange students to keep up with all of the things that will be happening while I'm away. So what better thing could I do but start at the very beginning. While I don't expect future posts to be anywhere near as long, I believe this one must account for a fair bit of catching up. I hope readers can feel free to post any comments or opinions they might have about what I am doing, suggestions and perhaps even some suggestions on writing style as I guess this will be somewhat of a literary exercise as well. Please read on and I hope you find it as enjoyable to read as I have found it to write!

It seems like I might be coming to the end of the application process for all of the multitude of things happening over in London. Over the last 6 months, it has been so very time consuming to get all of them sorted out. Here is a bit of a list of what's been prepared since December 09 in the lead up to my year long student exchange to London.

3 December 2009: Hermes application for UWA exchange student selection - This application involved research into all of my units for UCL and the likely alternate units that would count for credit at UWA. This required all of the official approval from all of the UWA faculty offices. This application was probably the most comprehensive, also asking all sorts of question like the cultural background of your likely destination and what you expected to be met with upon arrival. A lonely planet guide to the destination certainly helped me out when frantically trying to finish the form in time. I guess I was really putting all of my eggs in one basket, lending all of my research efforts and dedication into UCL based on the singing opportunities available to me over there and of course the prestige of the engineering course.

7 February 2010: First contact with King's College Chapel Choir - While in dialogue with Ralph Allwood concerning the Eton courses, I mentioned my desire to sing with a good chapel choir similar to the St George's Cathedral Choir while I was away. He was kind enough to suggest that I get in contact with David Trendell at King's College London to see whether there might be a place for me in the King's College Chapel Choir. Not long after, I got a reply asking for some reference material to demonstrate my voice and sight singing ability. I sent off some recordings and asked Joseph Nolan (St George's Master of Choristers) to send off a reference for my reading. I tried not to get my hopes up as Mr Trendell said that he still would have to give place preference to KCL singers.

14 February 2010: Application to 2010 Eton Choral Courses - This step was quite important to me as a choral course in the time prior to the beginning of the uni semester is what I intend to use as a jumping platform to the music world of the UK. I remember learning so much and having my horizons widened so broadly by the similar course I took in 2008 at Eton. I applied for two courses, my first preference being one beginning 1 August at Trinity college Cambridge and the second at Queens and Merton colleges in Oxford beginning the following week. The outcome of my application came soon after on the 23rd of February where I was offered a place on the Oxford course.

14 March 2010: Acceptance into the UWA exchange program for study at UCL - This was a day of great relief as it marked a moment of direction for the following year. I knew that it was time to get going and organize what I was going to involve myself in while I was there. While we were instructed not to book any flights till we were accepted on the host university side of things, it was still nice to get the go ahead into the investigation of such things.

20 March 2010: Application to UCL - After being approved by UWA, I had to get onto my application to UCL straight away, giving preliminary information about course requirements. The special exchange student application form was quite straight forward and had this funny little ethnic origin form at the end with the notable distinction between 'White' and 'Irish Traveller'.

10 April 2010: Acceptance into the KCL Chapel Choir - Being satisfied by my recordings and with an additional reference kindly provided by Ralph Allwood, I was accepted into the choir. A very comforting moment as I realized that I would not only be supported musically from the word go upon arriving in London but would also have the social support of the choir members, an important factor when arriving in the UK without any people to turn to. Immediately I checked bus and tube routes to the chapel from UCL (walking looks like it will work the best though) and attempted to use the UCL time tabling system to get a rough idea whether I would be available for the rehearsals.

10 May 2010: Booking flights - Having had good time to consider what I would do between the end of the Oxford course on the 19th of August and the beginning of uni (assuming I got in) on the 27th of September, it was time to get on with booking tickets. I guess this part made it a bit more of a reality, setting a definite date and time that I would be leaving the country. Perhaps the fact that we couldn't book the return date made it more obvious as well given that I would only be coming back over a year later. Malaysian Airlines and a 23 hour flight seemed like a good catch since It'd be good timing for sleep and arriving in London at 5:50am would allow for time to check out my college and get to Oxford before sundown..

23 May 2010: Farewell to Anthea Moller - With my last voice lesson being the preceding Friday, I was sad to say goodbye to Anthea having learnt a great deal on foundation elements of singing and discovering some wonderful repertoire. I guess that period of 7 months was a period where I became sure that I wanted to follow the path of music in a serious way as soon as my degrees were finished with. I thank Simon Lawford for once again pointing me in such a fantastic musical direction. At her farewell, I met some of her other students, many of whom had just come back or were going to London and had been WA opera young artists in the past. I also found out that Stuart Laing would be heading over to London for roughly the same period as I would.

26 May 2010: Pre-departure part 1 and UCL acceptance - This day was something of a frenzy of exchange involvement. The afternoon began with the two hour exchange session where I was stunned to look up and see the 164 other exchange students who filled Alex lecture theater. I felt proud to be among them. The lecture answered questions about the travel insurance policy and some other practicalities regarding visa, money and settling in to your new home. At the get together at the tav following the lecture, it was nice to meet up with some other people going to the UK and one who had already found out some detail about water polo in London. This seemed particularly good timing since I had only had my last water polo training for the season the previous morning. Perhaps I will be able to swim over there after all. That night, I checked my email and was very pleased to see that I had been accepted into UCL from the London side of things. Had I not had to book flights for the choral course, this would have been the time to get on with it. I also grew inquisitive about the other sports and societies that might have been on offer at UCL so I checked up the University of London Union's website and made a little short list of other activities available on top of water polo such as sailing, salsa dancing, swimming, chamber choir and canoe polo.

30 May 2010: UCL accommodation form due - Having spent months looking at student accommodation in terms of proximity to UCL, services and environment, I managed to put down my preferences for accommodation and hand my application into the exchange office on the 11th of May, leaving over 2 weeks prior to the deadline at the end of the month for it to be sent to the London office. At this point I hadn't strictly been accepted into UCL which made the application very awkward (for example, I didn't have an 'affiliate number'). As soon as I got my placement acceptance from UCL, I called the housing department (Skype credit is great) and checked that my application had been received. While they didn't have me on the system yet, they told me that my application could still be in the 'to process' pile. They mentioned that the recent issues in mail delivery due to air travel and the Icelandic volcano eruption may have delayed the arrival of my application and that I could send a digital version. Not wanting to take the chance, today I submitted a pdf version of my application to the housing office complete with passport photos and affiliate number. This part certainly does make me anxious as good accommodation will make a big difference while I'm away. Being prompt and properly submitted is certainly an important aspect to getting my preferences. Having read some invaluable opinions from The Student Room accommodation section, I got a good idea about the difference between the various colleges and halls available. My priority sat finding a catered hall with proximity being an important factor. My preferences were:

  1. UCL Halls of residence - There are two but I only want to get into Ramsay Hall which is nearby, has shared bathroom and kitchen facilities, a music practice room and quite modern rooms, all just a 10 minute walk from UCL.
  2. Commonwealth Hall (Intercollegiate Hall) - This college also appealed to me being one of three colleges sandwiched against each other with good facilities and a similar setup to Ramsay Hall.
  3. College Hall  (Intercollegiate Hall) - While this didn't strike me as such a social college, it still hit all the necessary criteria and was certainly close to UCL, practically being next door to the engineering faculty.
Having submitted the application, I believe this will be my last hurdle and last element of vulnerability and insecurity where possible "I'm screwed" moments could have arisen. Once the verdict comes in on where I will be lodged, it will be a real relief.

Having looked back on all that has happened over the last 6 months regarding exchange, I wonder how I've been keeping up uni all of this time as well. I'm happy to have got this little travel blog going and I hope someone (maybe some other musicians or UK exchange students?) may enjoy getting some insight into the whole process. I'm already feeling more inspired about going having now remembered what I've accomplished in getting this far. With exams coming up at UWA now, I really look forward to finishing them so I can get on to preparing for the Big Trip!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome idea! i'll be sure to read it when you're awwaayy! =D