Spain, BSc (Hons) Criminology and International Relations. Completed exchange at APU (Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University), Japan.
“It was a breath of fresh air to see that everyone was so welcoming and the diversity is so high. Everyone confides in each other so well, I found it really relaxing and felt like I was in the right place”
Why did you choose to study in the UK, and at Oxford Brookes?
Regarding the UK, I was influenced in my childhood. I was born and raised in Spain but I always went to the same British International School, in southern Spain the British curriculum is quite popular. My parents felt like the British curriculum would be a bit more challenging and it would give me more direction in life. I am very used to the system so I knew what to expect, and I had a lot more options in the UK.
It was Oxford Brookes because they were one of the two universities in the UK that would let me do the combination that I’m doing. So I was looking at Brookes for Criminology, and for International Relations, and then I found out I could actually join both of them into a joint honours.
What do you like the most about Oxford Brookes?
I feel like it’s a welcoming environment, and it’s a big change. If you’ve been born and raised in another country, and lived in that country for 17 or 18 years, and studied at the same school, I felt like I needed a breath of fresh air. It was a breath of fresh air to see that everyone was so welcoming and the diversity is so high. Everyone confides in each other so well, I found it really relaxing and felt like I was in the right place.
When you first arrived, how did you find settling in?
I did my first year completely online from Spain because of the pandemic, my first semester [on campus] was in second year. I had to learn quite quickly how to be independent at home, so in terms of living by myself it wasn’t too much of a jump, it was actually quite nice and I enjoyed it, while being able to organise my time completely freely and being able to go shopping whenever I want. I always take a bit of time when I meet new people and new friends, so when I established my little group they helped me out the most and we helped each other. We all live in the same area (near Headington shops and Parade Green) so we all let each other know when there’s different sales, or a special in a shop.
At the beginning the Enrolment team and IT services helped a lot. I also had experience working in the Induction team.
What’s your favourite thing about living in Oxford?
One of them is sports, my whole life I have been doing 3 to 4 main ones so it’s nice being in such an international setting. The people and the friends so far, and the most unexpected relationships are always the best ones. So I’ve met people at completely random times and everyone’s always really friendly and open, you want to see them again and they make your day better. I’m a really big foodie, whatever you’re craving you can probably find it, there is such a diversity! There’s still so many restaurants I want to try!
Have you lived in university of private accommodation?
I’ve been staying in private accommodation near Headington shops.
Where did you go on Exchange and how long was it for?
I was based in Japan, specifically at APU (Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University) and I was there for 6 months, April to August.
What stood out for you during your Exchange?
It was such a life changing experience in such a positive way, people always ask me ‘why Japan?’ and I always have to give them the same answer ‘I don’t know!’. I was really fascinated with the country, the older I became the more I was invested and I started learning Japanese and watching documentaries and so on. There was something always pulling me towards Japan. The most striking things were definitely the people I met there and the culture, its environment and atmosphere. It felt like home. I am still in contact with the people I met and some of them are coming to visit me and I do plan on going back soon to see everyone.
I felt like Japan was my safety bubble, it felt like home because I was able to integrate myself with locals, so it was really sad when I had to leave! Mentally I am still very much in Japan, I have the Japanese time on my phone. When I am talking people it’s nice knowing what the time is there because it’s 8 hours ahead of us. I still find myself replying in Japanese too!
How did you find studying there and the course content?
Because I do such a unique combination, they didn’t actually offer Criminology specifically, instead I did something called CSM which is relatively similar but just a bit more broad. I felt like it very much depends on which professor you have - most of my assignments there were more consistent. At Brookes I usually have 2-3 per module, usually due in the middle of the semester and then again at the end of the semester. There, it was more consistent work with small assignments. In one of my classes, we had readings, and once a week we did an informal quiz on it which would go towards our grades. It was more little and consistent effort whereas here it’s bigger and in stages. Even the writing there was a lot more informal. I did a lot of reading for the classes but it wasn’t always necessary to show that in the writing I did, as it was based a lot on my own experience.
At Brookes one class is around 50 minutes, or double if it’s a double period, but in Japan one class was 100 minutes. So they were incredibly long and we had around 6 periods a day with 5 minute breaks in between to walk between classes. You could rearrange your timetable based on how you wanted it to be.
Which language(s) did you study out there?
I studied in English but I did focus on my Japanese studies 4 times a week, but my Japanese is not good enough to study with it fully! I studied Japanese in my first year at Brookes because they offer the free language module, and I had an intensive course in Japan.
Do you have any advice for future exchange students?
Probably the biggest one is - don’t be afraid to explore! No one will blame you if you take longer than others. Everyone is in a different time in life in general. Some people may go out straight away and find friends, but others may take some time because they’re more focused on finding a routine. So, in the beginning it was a big move, and I was more focused on finding out where to go shopping, how to get to uni, how to find my timetable and finding a bit more structure in my daily life. Afterwards, through mutual friends I met a lot of locals and my relationships completely exploded! Which was quite interesting. So don’t be afraid to meet other people, but also don’t be afraid to go out by yourself. In Japan, people would not judge, so you should go and do what makes you happy and experience things, be open to new things.
Can you sum up your time at Oxford Brookes so far using one word?
When you have graduated, do you have any aspirations following this?
As I am studying Criminology and International Relations, I could go either way. I could focus on one aspect or I could combine both. I have this idea of going into politics or international relations and then focusing on crime. In terms of jobs, I’m not too fixated on it at the moment. I’m going with the flow as I am travelling quite a lot and love exploring new places. I am applying for a master’s in Criminology, the university in Japan offered a full scholarship if I wanted to study further.