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International Exchange

Applying for a year abroad- my story

22 August 2019

One of my major inspirations for studying Geology was the opportunity to travel- this dream has finally come true! This is due to some very hard work and a pinch of good luck.

My A-Levels weren’t what I expected, and I ended up at Cardiff through clearing (best thing that ever happened to me) so I was enrolled on the BSc Geology course- not the MESci with International year I was so desperate to be on.

This sparked me to work my socks off to get onto the course with the international year and here I am!

The process of applying to do an international year was complicated but I was given loads of support from both staff at Cardiff and at my host university.

Around Christmas time, all students enrolled on the international course attended a presentation where the application process was explained to us followed by a slideshow showing the possible hosts, we were shown various universities around the world such as Miami, Australia, Sweden and finally, Canada.

I was set on going to Canada for my year abroad from day one. I had researched some different universities there prior to discovering my options and was delighted when it was announced University of British Columbia was on the list of host universities. My delight faltered slightly when I discovered there was only one place available at UBC and a potential 18 applicants.

There were two parts to the application- firstly, a general application form- mostly questions to gain contact information and possible module choices for your top three choices- and then the scarier half: a supporting essay.

Guidelines for Supporting Essay

The essay was split into three major sections:

  1. Motivation for studying abroad,
  2. How will this opportunity benefit you personally, professionally and academically?
  3. What qualities will make you a good ambassador for Cardiff University when you are away?

 I spent the Christmas holidays writing the essay of my life, showing off how much research I had done into the local area, including the geology. I talked about how the modules offered at UBC would be far more beneficial than those offered at Cardiff and how I had overcome many obstacles (including my poor mental health) to be in the position to apply for a year abroad.

 I waited a lifetime for the decision – three weeks. I couldn’t think about anything else and then one Tuesday lunchtime sat in the Taf with friends I saw an email entitled: International Exchange Placement – Confirmation Required. My whole body went numb and I panicked my friends by repeatedly shouting “OH MY GOD” with zero explanation, when I eventually opened the email and saw “you have been nominated to University of British Columbia” I jumped up screaming and climbed over my friends (very awkwardly as I was sat in the middle of a booth), ran outside and phoned everybody I could possibly think of, sobbing down the phone. It felt like such an achievement.

My letter of acceptance from UBC

After I received my nomination everything went through pretty nicely for me, in April I received my acceptance letter from UBC and applied for housing (which I’m sure I will detail in a future blog post) and that was that! I am now sat preparing for my flight to Vancouver in just over a week and I truly cannot wait!


  1. Sam Mordey-Jones

    Well done Niamh, keep us updated with many more blog posts. Very proud of you as always x

  2. Joe O'R

    Shame you are going to miss us winning the League Cup/ FA cup double. Up the Villa!

  3. Sheila O'Reilly

    fantastic first ‘blog’ ….. looking forward to reading many more …… I know I will be looking at clock every day you are in Vancouver thinking that it is such-and-such -time with Niamh …..Enjoy xxx

  4. Ffion Gilbert

    So proud of my best friend as per, good luck and be sure to keep us updated! We all want to know how you’re getting on, and for me especially you’ll be a good Guinea pig to see what it’s like x

  5. Charlotte Taylor

    Brilliant blog. Very proud of you and I hope you have a fantastic time. Vancouver is a beautiful city and I’m sure you’ll love it. Can’t wait to hear more. Xx

    • Niamh O'Reilly

      Thank you! I can’t wait to explore the city! x

  6. Natasha Bertulis

    Wow this is such a great blog! So proud of you and your amazing mind! Cannot wait to see more blogs like this, I thoroughly enjoyed reading. So inspiring!! UBC are very lucky to have you!!! (Already extremely excited to hear what you get up to!) X

  7. Louisa bertulis

    Wow, so so inspiring! I can’t wait for these blog posts and to hear about all the exciting things you’ll no doubt be getting up to! I’m very proud of you, it’s going to be a year to remember x

  8. Alice C

    Ahh this is amazing, well done!!! England’s loss is Canada’s gain ❤️ We’ll all miss you a lot but can’t wait to hear what you’re up to!!! Xx

  9. Chrys Mordey-Jones

    Like your blog Niamh, Will all miss you from Caerphilly Sam Mum and Dad ❤️ x what an amazing experience you will have ENJOY

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