Christina Irvine

4th year

Christina, from Scotland, travelled to RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia for her fourth year as part of the exchange programme. She is studying Civil Engineering with International Studies in the in the school of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society. Christina is based at the Edinburgh Campus.

Why did you decide to take part in a Global Student Programme at Heriot-Watt?

As a civil engineer you must have the ambition to improve the public's quality of life through infrastructural and water developments. Whilst studying at Heriot-Watt I have been able to build upon this passion. Although, I wanted to embrace the chance to experience different schooling and act on the genuine interest I have for global civil engineering. Every country has different approaches and techniques and I thought this would be both interesting and useful to learn. I enjoy a challenge and being pushed outside my comfort zone. I wanted to gain an out-the-box international perspective of engineering by immersing myself in foreign engineering models and practices and I felt I could achieve this by studying at RMIT.

How is studying in Australia different from studying in the UK?

RMIT University in Melbourne is a much larger university in comparison to Heriot-Watt. The university campus is bigger, the number of students is greater and there are more opportunities and events happening. As the university is much larger there are fewer lecturers to provide guidance during your studies. Heriot-Watt provides civil engineering students with mentors who they can seek advice from at any point in their academic career. However, RMIT does not follow the same structure so encourages the student to be more independent and encourages you to succeed through your own self-motivation.

Studying in Australia will always provide a different academic year for students because you enter into their second semester and follow into their first semester in the New Year, whilst enjoying the Australian four month summer between the semesters. This provides plenty of time to fully enjoy Melbourne, therefore during the semester you can concentrate on your studies to a greater extent than other international experiences. 

What are the highlights from your global student experience so far?

The people of Melbourne are very welcoming and the experience is made less intimidating by the first language being English also. There are a lot of similarities which is comforting but Melbourne provides a city full of character.

The size of Melbourne ensures there is always something happening and it is such a culturally diverse city. Mexican, Spanish, Polish and German festivals are a few of the vibrant day events that I have been to whilst in Melbourne. There are plenty of music festivals due to the exchange taking place over the summer period. I have been to and enjoyed Meredith Music Festival and the Laneway Music Festival and got to see some of my favourite artists. In summer the weather is continual sunshine every day and there is a very laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. 

Also, studying in Melbourne has provided the opportunity to travel. In Victoria, a couple hours journeying takes you to either a beautiful National Park with rainforests and waterfalls, or a journey in the other direction can take you to a stunning beach lined coastal drive with surf beaches and impressive rock stacks. I also travelled to Queensland, which allowed me to experience one of the seven natural wonders of the World – The Great Barrier Reef and the beautiful Whitsunday Beaches.

Travelling out with Australia is made easy for international students since there are many backpackers and students alike wanting to travel. I have booked to go to New Zealand and the Philippines, which are places that are not as easily and affordably reached from Scotland. Hence, I have been given the ability to travel to these beautiful places on the other side of the world by partaking in the exchange programme. 

The greatest highlight however, from the experience thus far is the amazing people I have met on the exchange and the close friends I have made. 

How do you think being a global student will benefit you in your career after university?

In order to be successful in the workplace after university, I can no longer rely solely on being knowledgeable in my field as it is expected that you have the ability to interact with people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures. Studying at the RMIT campus is preparing me to work better in an increasingly diverse and international workplace.

I want to keep pace with this ever changing discipline and by studying internationally I am broadening my educational experience. I am reinforcing theory with real world experiences which will prepare me to work in a global economy. The civil engineering industry holds the exciting promise of obtaining a job worldwide once graduated. A year at RMIT shows I am willing to travel and I already have international experience.