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Small world, big experiences: exploring student mobility at UCL

JasonLewis19 October 2017

This week, the Study Abroad team is running its annual Study Abroad Fair, celebrating the breadth and variety of UCL’s outward mobility opportunities and encouraging students to take full advantage.

UCL has exchange agreements with over 250 institutions in 40 countries across five continents, including 48 of the world’s top 100 universities.

Data compiled by GEO’s Strategic Data Manager, Alejandro Moreno, indicates that in 2016, UCL students participated in outward mobility experiences in destinations ranging from Los Angeles, California to Avarua, New Zealand.

The map below highlights the cities where these experiences took place:

Cities where UCL students have participated in an outward mobility experience

UCL Study Abroad also provides students with different exchange and mobility options. This pie chart shows the percentage breakdown of student mobility in 2016 across the various types of mobility available.

 percentage breakdown of student mobility in 2016 across the various types of mobility available

UCL students who have participated in an outward mobility opportunity – whether spending a year at a prestigious American university or a couple of months excavating historic sites in Israel – have recommended it as an extremely worthwhile experience.

Here are a few student testimonials.

Alexandra Willems, Law

“There is something very heartening about travelling halfway across the world and still finding people to complain about Eduroam with, in whatever language that may be.”

Alexandra Willems in ShanghaiAlexandra Willems was one of six UCL students to join the summer Study China Programme 2017 – an immersive three-week Mandarin Chinese programme.

Reflecting on her experience, Alex said: “The main aspect of the trip that has stayed with me was the high level of organisation. There was a clear system of support, as well as a timetable and a placement test for the Mandarin Chinese Advanced Level speakers.”

students and monks during temple visitShe added: “The programme included an afternoon of seeing the main sites in Shanghai, including the Bund, People’s Square and the Shanghai Museum, but much of our free time allowed us to explore our own personal interests in the city. My favourite place that I visited this time was the little-known underground Propaganda Art Museum, legally allowed but only in a restricted location”

“In all, the Study China Programme is an amazing opportunity that is organised to a very high standard. Many thanks to all those involved in making it the insightful and educational experience that it was, and I am only saddened that I cannot do it again. Someone else will have to live that experience for me in future programmes, and what a lucky one they will be.”

Eshitha Vaz, Population Health

“The course has shifted and tilted my perspectives as to what it means to be a student.”

Eshitha surfingEshitha Vaz was awarded one of the Study Abroad tuition fee free places at the University of Sydney.

At the University of Sydney, she got the chance to study Aboriginal Culture and History. Speaking on the impact of the course Eshitha said: “I feel I have become more culturally literate in the process and more aware of socio-political currents which have enhanced my career aspirations in turn.”

On her time in Australia, Eshitha added: “Certainly, the personal highlights of the time I spent in Australia were the friends I made and the places I got to visit. As recommended by our programme, I participated in a three-day ‘Surf Camp’ at Seven-Mile Beach in New South Wales where I learned how to surf. It was here that I formed my best friends throughout the trip, some of whom were studying at different Universities and schools in Sydney.”

“The landscape and natural beauty of Australia is undeniably powerful which is why I was so grateful that our timetable facilitated exploration. Two of my closest friends and I took a flight to Cairns, Queensland on a weekend and managed to go scuba diving and snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef: one of the seven ‘Natural Wonders’ of the world and the world’s largest coral reef – an experience of a lifetime.”

Moiz Paracha, Chemical Engineering

“From Penguin Colonies to roaming through the Hout Bay, there is so much to do.”

moiz paracha in cape townMoiz Paracha was part of the first UCL outward mobility experience to the University of Cape Town, where he joined the Sustainable Water Management in Africa course.

On his time in South Africa, Moiz said: “This was honestly an amazing experience, not just on an educational level but also on a personal one. The willingness and desire they have to genuinely make a change to the country is really what caught my attention. The experience, in general, is very eye-opening. The type of new people you can meet and the calmer pace of life is a great cultural experience.”

Reflecting on the landscape, he added: “The beauty of the country is phenomenal. Overall if you’re even vaguely thinking about applying, go do it because it’s something you won’t regret.”

To find out more about what opportunities are available to you and to read more student testimonials, visit the UCL Study Abroad website and follow them on Twitter @UCLcares.

Data visualisations courtesy of GEO’s Strategic Data Manager, Alejandro Moreno

UCLSat: a collaboration out of this world

JasonLewis26 July 2017

UCL is part of the international satellite mission QB50UCLSat, a satellite designed and built by UCL engineers and scientists, was launched in June from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India as part of an international mission called QB50.

The satellite is now 507km up and going overhead three times a day (six times actually, but three times in working hours).

On the current status of the satellite, Dr Rob Wicks (UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction) said: “We have our ground station here and we listen to it every time it goes overhead and we get data back. It’s working well at the moment, touch wood.”

Funded by the European Union, the QB50 mission has involved the launch of a network of CubeSats built by universities all over the world to collectively study the physics and chemistry of the middle and lower thermosphere of the Earth for the first time.

The mission has fostered a lot of collaboration across universities, science institutes and industry partners. For example, two universities in Australia help UCL listen for radio contact with UCLSat, and UCL does the same for them.

“Australian National University and Adelaide University are both helping us out with radio contact with our satellite,” explained Dr Wicks. “And that’s kind of on just a friendly, reciprocal basis. We listen to theirs and they listen to ours. There’s no official paperwork to do with that, but we are just collaborating as friendly institutions.

“It’s one of the great things about QB50 – you have these 50 institutions around the world that are now sort of semi-friendly and talk to one another about radios and satellites and things like that.”

A resounding success

UCL has been involved in the mission since 2011 and, in addition to working on UCLSat, UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) engineers also produced hardware for 13 of the other satellites.

The mission has been a resounding success. The failure rate for CubeSats is usually 40%, but the CubeSats launched during the QB50 mission is half that, at 20%.

Speaking of UCL’s achievements and pioneering vision for the project, Dr Wicks added: “UCL should be extremely happy that it has been a leader in this field of big CubeSat missions. The whole mission right from the beginning has been a struggle, because space agencies and a lot of the science community were very negative about CubeSats. They said ‘they are too small and too unrealisable – it’s a waste of time and a waste of money to try and do science with them’.

“I think we are basically proving them wrong – we can use them for education, we can use them for training and we can use them for science. We can keep them cheap. We expect that 20% will fail, but that is better than 40%, and we are going to get real useful scientific data out of it. It is only really now that the science community is waking up to this.”

Student support

UCL students have been heavily involved in the project. Masters students worked with MSSL in the early stages of the project on the design of the satellite and on simulations of the upper atmosphere, among others.

Théophile Brochant de Villiers, who worked on the CubeSat while studying for his MSc in Space Science and Engineering at UCL, is now a technician in the MSSL Department of Space & Climate Physics.

He said: “We were a small team working on UCLSat. This meant there was a lot of work and a lot of tasks that I wasn’t necessarily trained for. So I learned everything on the job; this required being proactive, and not being afraid to seek out help around the lab. I got to know a lot of amazing scientists and engineers which I still regularly interact and work with. This is what I’m most proud of.”