From Shenzhen to Bristol – my year studying economics in the UK

‘There can be confusion around studying abroad for the first time […] I had lots of questions before setting off!’ New graduate Yalin shares her advice for studying a Master’s degree in a new country.

By Yalin Wang

A photo of a colourful sign that reads 'Bristol',
Bristol, the city where I found a zest for life and peace of mind

My name is Yalin and I am from Shenzhen, China. I have just completed my studies for a master’s degree in Economics, Finance and Management at the University of Bristol.

I graduated at the end of 2023, so it is my honour to share my study abroad experience with anyone hoping to study at the University of Bristol in the future.

There can be some confusion around studying abroad for the first time. For many students – like me – it is their first time living overseas. I had lots of questions before setting off, such as where to buy groceries, how to take public transportation, and how to spend my spare time.

So here is my mini guide to studying in Bristol, along with some photos I took of the city.

Living in the city

Geographically, Bristol is located in the southwest of England, so students living in south China will not have to worry too much about the climate here.

A photo of a courtyard surrounded by old stone buildings, covered in a light layer of snow.
A snowy day full of surprise

It can get as cold as 3°C in winter here and at that temperature it feels good to wear a hoodie plus a down jacket. In spring and summer, there is an average temperature of 20°C, and you will be able to enjoy the sunshine.

Bristol doesn’t cover a large area, but the city centre has enough for your daily needs. Standing at any intersection, you can go either way and come across supermarkets, restaurants, or a gym. Some of the most popular places are no more than 20 min on foot away from each other.

A photo of deer grazing in a field under a sunny sky at Ashton Court.
Warm winter sun and lovely deer at Ashton Court

Of course, the public transport here is also convenient. Google Maps provides very detailed information and for buses within the city I use the First Bus app. For trains and cross-city buses, I usually use the Trainpal app. It takes about three hours by bus or an hour and forty minutes by train from Bristol to London.

I find the pace of life in Bristol is not so fast, so it’s possible to live a pleasant and easy life after class here.

Finding accommodation

The university provides lots of types of accommodations that students can apply for. If you are not satisfied with the room you are assigned, you can simply refuse the offer and apply for off-campus student housing.

A view of the Wills Memorial Building tower from the Queen's Building.
The Wills Memorial Building – an iconic landmark

It is worth noting that there is more competition when you apply for off-campus private apartment or house in Bristol, so it is better to compare prices and room types at least six months in advance if you are not sure whether to accept the accommodation offer from the university.

Studying at Bristol

There are three terms in one academic year of Master’s study. For my programme, Economics, Finance and Management (MSc), we had lectures on the three general subjects alongside tutorials and group learning in the first term.

When it approaches Christmas, the first term comes to an end. The second term starts from mid to late January and includes more targeted learning where you can choose three subjects you are interested in and study four to five subjects in total that term.

A photo of Bristol Cathedral with students relaxing on the lawns in front of it.
The best moment – a spring day in central Bristol

After a three-week Easter break from late March to mid-April, you have a period of study and review until May. Final exams are distributed during May and finished by early June at the latest.

Finally, your dissertation is planned, carried out and finished in the third term from June to August. Before the third term, you will choose a supervisor relevant to your topic and make preparations according to their guidance. Your Master’s study ends with the submission of your dissertation.

Discovering differences

A photo of Yalin's feet resting on a log in a city park.
Leisure time in one of the many parks and gardens

Lectures are usually fully arranged throughout the week in China, including very detailed teaching. In the UK, lectures in each subject area are generally offered once a week. Therefore, students are required to build their self-study skills and complete reading in their spare time.

In UK universities, tutorials are also conducted with a smaller number of students. This form of teaching gives more opportunities for professors and students to communicate, and students will learn a lot of critical thinking skills through this type of communication.

Since there are case studies and analyses to be discussed in the tutorials, students may gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject.

Getting involved in societies

A photo of the harbour and a ship's mast with the sun setting in the background.
Sunset at the Harbourside – an area with restaurants and bars in the heart of the city

The university always pays attention to students’ physical and mental health, so there are lots of activities to join in, ranging from all kinds of sports to art events.

I personally participated in tennis lessons and learning ballroom dancing in my spare time at Bristol. These extra-curricular activities enriched my life during my studies and I felt that there was no limit to the number of societies or events I could get involved in if I wanted to bring some freshness into life.

Planning for the future

Throughout the year, the Careers Service provided a range of job application and CV workshops, as well as support finding work and internships. As I studied business alongside economics in my undergraduate and graduate studies, I plan to apply for jobs in the security industry and corporate finance in the future.

A photo of the sun setting behind a large stone bridge, with a student relaxing on the grass in front of it.
A view of the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge

During my studies abroad this past year, I saw how strongly people felt about their passions in life and their freedom, which gave me more motivation to find a balance between work and life in the future. I feel inspired by my time at Bristol and will always attach great importance to self-exploration and personal achievement.

Learn more about studying as an international student at the University of Bristol.