Universitas 21 Summer School

The University of Birmingham offer a number of places and associated bursaries for travel and accommodation, for our students to participate in the annual U21 Summer School. This is an excellent way for undergraduate students from all disciplines to come together to study and share ideas. 

The event changes venue every year and has been held in Mexico, Australia, Connecticut and Hong Kong in recent times. Each host chooses a theme to base the week of activity around and many take the opportunity to introduce a topic that is of importance to the host university, region or country. It is an excellent opportunity for our students to engage with their peers from other internationally renowned research intensive partner universities.

Ben travelled to the University of New South Wales in 2014 and was happy to share some information on his experience: 

Why did you choose to apply for this U21 event?

The University had previously sent me to the U21 Undergraduate Research Conference at Waseda University in Tokyo in 2012, and it was such an enriching experience. I became familiar with advanced topics in a variety of fields and made lifelong friends with students from around the globe. When I heard UOB was nominating students for another U21 event, this time in Sydney Australia, I was eager to be involved!

What was the best thing about your experience?

Meeting and networking with other enthusiastic, dedicated students from all over the world. I made new friends from USA, South Africa, Australia, Germany and Sweden to name a few, and had a fantastic time exploring Sydney and learning about its history, architecture and culture through the Summer School program!

What benefits do you think you gained in relation to your personal development e.g. your confidence, competence, knowledge, future employability?

Attending the Summer School was certainly a confidence boost. Firstly, every student’s experiences and knowledge of their home country’s culture are very much valued and are the subject of much interest with all attendees. It isn’t difficult to make new diverse friends!Additionally, as an astrophysicist, I was somewhat out of my area of expertise at a Summer School on urban design and architecture. Despite this, my group’s final presentation was selected as the best at the Summer School by a panel of industry professionals! This was incredibly humbling. I think really broadened my knowledge on the theme of urbanisation and I’ve started to consider ways one might apply a physics degree in this area.

How did your U21 bursary help you?

The U21 bursary was indispensable for my attendance at the Summer School. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to afford flights to Australia, let alone accommodation costs, and so I’m very grateful to UOB for financially supporting mine and my fellow Birmingham students’ applications.

What did you think were the most attractive things about the University of Birmingham when promoting it to other international students?

In my opinion, the fantastic range of opportunities for international travel and study is the best thing about being a student at the University of Birmingham. In my time here, I’ve been sent to represent UOB at a research conference in Tokyo and a Summer School in Sydney, as part of UOB’s membership of the amazing Universitas 21 group. For those reasons, I’m extremely happy with my decision to study at this University.

Is there anything you would have changed about your visit?

I believe I made the most of my visit to the Summer School in Sydney. Many students who attended felt sorry to be heading home at the end of the 2 week programme, but I was quite glad to be sticking around in Oz since I had arranged to head south to Melbourne and take part in an astronomy internship.My advice to any student elected to attend a U21 event, would be to make the most of being in another country and try to do some independent travelling after the programme concludes. You can always meet up with some of the new friends you’ve made as you go!

What advice would you give to students thinking of applying for a U21 Award in the future?

I would recommend embracing the opportunity to make friends with students you would otherwise never have met, and to certainly stay in touch with them. Attending the U21 event in Tokyo 2 years ago, I made many Aussie friends who invited me to stay with them during my time in Australia after attending the Summer School in Sydney! It’s a wonderful feeling seeing old friends from around the world again, and to always have a couch to crash on wherever you go!