By Lily Meyer
One student, who does not wish to be named, made an official complaint to the University after failing her year abroad at Carlos Tercero University in Madrid in 2009.
“I failed my Erasmus year in Spain, even though I worked so hard and never missed a lecture,” the 22-year-old student said. “The universities out there are very intense and there are a lot more exams.
“However, I feel if I had been given more help and support from the lecturers there, I’m sure I would have passed.
“I have no problem with working hard and my Spanish is fluent, but the lecturers are not willing to offer help to the foreign students. They make us feel like an inconvenience and not welcome.”
The student did not receive any compensation and had to pay the usual tuition fees to repeat the year in the UK.
“I don’t feel as though the University took my complaint very seriously but I hope it has made them realise some things have to change,” she said.
Kayleigh Marshall, 21, a third year politics student, claimed she suffered rude comments from staff and little teaching support when she studied for a semester abroad in Madrid.
“The teachers seemed unhelpful and not to like Erasmus students,” said Kayleigh. “Once when I said I did not understand something, the lecturer muttered under her breath, ‘maybe if you spent less time putting on your make-up and more time with a dictionary, you’d do better’.”
Students are supposed to decide on the modules they would like to take before leaving Kingston, but on occasions they are forced to change to modules that have no relevance to their course once they arrive.
“When I arrived I went to collect my timetable, but the lady at the desk told me she had no record of me,” said Kayleigh.
“Eventually she allowed me to pick some modules, but they were not the ones I had previously chosen. Apparently those modules were part of a different faculty. I was very confused and worried I would not have enough credits for my degree.”
Devyani Vyas, European academic coordinator and the person responsible for the organisation of the Erasmus courses at Kingston University, explained that many students change their modules once they are abroad without notifying them or asking for advice. She said that students “need to prepare” for the challenge of studying abroad, due to the difference in education systems in other countries.
“If a student fails half or more of their modules they will have to repeat,” she said.
“This will obviously cost them more money – whether it is here or abroad,” Ms Vyas said.
Kayleigh is not the only Kingston student who was frustrated with the course. Jonathan Phillips, 26, a third year journalism student who also studied in Madrid, felt he was not prepared for the challenges.
“I really regret taking a year abroad in Madrid as I feel, from an academic point of view, that it was a complete waste of time and the worst mistake I have made,” said Jonathan. “Not only did I fail the year, I also learnt nothing about what I was studying.”
Between 20 and 40 students from Kingston decide to study abroad every year.
Students can choose to study a semester or a whole year abroad.
Although there have been a few incidents with lost timetables and confusion over modules in other countries that are part of the Erasmus programme, it seems that the Spanish exchange has the most problems.
If students decide to spend the whole year abroad, they are not required to pay any tuition fees to Kingston. However, they will need to budget for accommodation, food and travel expenses, as finding a job abroad can be a lot harder than in the UK.
Treesha Pandoo, 22, a third year politics student who studied one semester at Universite de Lumiere Lyon said: “Studying politics in France was definitely a challenge but I still enjoyed it. Sometimes there was confusion but the teachers understood I was an exchange student and the course was difficult for me and therefore they were lenient with my essays and supported my learning.”
Kayleigh also studied a semester in Cyprus and she felt that the staff were much friendlier and more organised there, making it a much better experience than her time in Spain.
Ms Vyas insisted: “The majority of our students do extremely well and are desperate to go back abroad as soon as they can.”