Two students who spent a year out from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) to study overseas have said the experience totally changed their lives.
Final year Law student Rumbie Makonise, who spent a year studying Law at the University of Luzern in Switzerland, and Emily Haisman, who went to the Northern Kentucky University in the USA to study Psychology, are now urging other DMU students to do the same.
Emily (second right) with pals in Kentucky
The award-winning DMU Global team and exchange students are running a ‘Study Abroad Fair 2022’ on campus this Monday to explain how you can organise a year at a university in Europe, Asia or North America.
Emily said: “It was an amazing experience – the best ever – and I would tell students at DMU to just go for it.”
Rumbie, who started up a business while in Switzerland, added: “The work was intense at times but I am so much more focussed on my work. People told me an exchange trip changes your life. I am living proof of that!”
Read Emily and Rumbie’s accounts of their year on exchange below and find out more about the Study Abroad Fair 2022 here
I always knew I was going to go on exchange even before I joined DMU. I am studying Law and the first two years were spent in lockdown so I had only had an on-campus experience for a couple of months.
I had a choice of four universities to study Law for a year. I didn’t want to go to Germany, France or Cyprus so I chose Switzerland. To be honest I was apprehensive. People were saying ‘why Switzerland’. Even the Swiss asked what I was doing there! But it turned out to be the best thing I have ever done.
Switzerland is really advanced, everything is really clean, people are well organised and the public transport is good.
Because I had not been on a university campus due to COVID I think I was like a stereotypical Brit abroad and was going out quite a lot. But then other students – most of them were aged 23 or above – were really mature and had a great work ethic. It rubbed off on me.
Rumbie with business partners Kinsale and Hope in Switzerland
There were just two faculties and about 4,000 students and they were so hard working. Everyone I knew went to the library from 8am to 6pm with lectures in between. I watched other people so I could learn what to do and how to work.
Sometimes the work was intense but this work ethic has helped me out no end. I am so much more focussed and really know how to handle a work load. I am definitely a different person.
Since I returned my friends have said ‘what happened to Rumbie’ and ‘you have definitely changed’. I have certainly matured. People do say that going on an exchange does that to you. I am living proof of that!
One of Rumbie's pictures of the Swiss countryside
I am pretty good at advocacy work and there was a specialist Moot Court I applied to study in.
When I started, I was the worst student there. I was coming from a Common Law background and Switzerland was very much about Civil Law. In fact, my professor told me he expected nothing from me.
But then, when he and my peers helped me out, by the time we reached the advocacy lectures I came to life. We entered a competition for the best Moot Court in Europe and I was in a team of three chosen to represent the university in Barcelona. We did not win but it was a great bonding experience and we were so proud about how we had worked as a team.
You never know who you are going to meet on exchange. Myself and another DMU student, Hope Abraham, teamed up with an American friend I had met and started a business called Heruno [it involves a portable coat and bag hook that can hang from anywhere on your travels which is embellished with personal designs].
Rumbie with one of her @traditionalheruno hooks
I made a best friend who was an intellectual property lawyer and he showed me how I can become a businesswoman as well as a lawyer and he influenced me to get into Intellectual property law. I also did some work experience at his firm.
Law students might think these types of exchange trips are not relevant to them. But you just never know what experiences you are going to be given. It is the best thing I have ever done.
You can see Rumbie’s business venture on Instagram @traditionalheruno.
I knew travelling and spending a year on exchange was something I wanted to do and when I was applying to DMU I wanted to make sure that was an option. Because of COVID I had been a bit unsure about moving overseas.
But it was when I was looking at housing for my final year at DMU that I thought ‘I just have to apply’. When I was younger I’d see American colleges on film and watch videos of American campus life on social media and it was something I really wanted to experience.
Emily and fellow students in Kentucky
I applied for one US university and I was waiting and waiting to hear back. Then at the final minute the university decided, because of COVID, that they were not going to allow overseas students to travel there.
I was devastated and it was a stressful 24 hours but DMU Global got in touch and said there was a space at the Northern Kentucky University (NKU) and did I want to go?
The DMU Global team and NKU made things very easy for me. I arrived at the end of August 2021. The first thing that hit me was how much warmer it was. I didn’t expect that. And the people were so helpful. I already knew who my room mates would be and so that was all fine. I arrived a week into term so lectures were already underway, which meant the campus was busy and I could hit the ground running.
There were so many events happening and I really liked the teaching in Psychology. It felt like I was back in school in a way. I was so used to big classes and lectures but at NKU groups were a lot smaller and it was just like the films I had seen about American high school - with the one arm flip down desks and all the professors knowing your name.
A meal together on Spring Break
It was a lot more intimate and it meant I made friends a lot more quickly. When I walked through campus every day there were people everywhere saying ‘hi’. It was so friendly.
The international students had trips arranged during the year. I went on a spring break trip to the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee with South Americans, Asians and Europeans and it meant we all cooked different foods I had never tried before. It was a great experience.
Sport on campus was also an eye opener. We went to watch the NKU Norse basketball team play at the arena (which holds 10,000 people) and tickets were free.
They were playing their rivals from the University of Cincinnati and weren’t expected to win. The campus is alcohol free but this was a huge game and so there were tailgate parties in the car park. NKU won and I had never seen scenes like it.
Emily (left) with university friends on a night out
I made a best friend, Kayla, who is now here at DMU on exchange. She was one of my room mates and for the Labor Day holiday in September I went to her family’s lakeside retreat and went on their boat – it was incredible. I also went to Frat Parties and celebrated Halloween – I went as a student from Ravenclaw in Harry Potter. I stayed at Kayla’s house a few more times and now the roles have reversed.
She has been to see my family in Milton Keynes and we have had trips to London together. She is a friend for life.
I would say to any student considering an exchange to go for it. I had to take funding the trip into consideration and think about how much I could spend each day, but it is manageable. It is by no means cheap to go to the US. But it is not as much as people might think.
My family and friends have certainly seen a change in me since I got back in the summer. They can see I am more confident and after a year at NKU I seem to be an even happier person.
The Study Abroad Fair 2022 offers a range of sessions between Monday and Wednesday next week that students can attend to learn more.
For general information about DMU Global exchanges visit here
Posted on Friday 25th November 2022