Todd Myers (2010 Scholar) talks about life at Cranfield with a family
Living at Cranfield with a young family (2010-2011)
One thing I learned during my year at Cranfield is that everyone’s experience is different. People are at different life stages: some with families and others not, some participate in very little of the many extracurricular activities while for others they seem to be involved in so much that you wonder how they have time to prepare for lectures and complete assessments. For some of those without a partner along for the ride it can almost be like a return to their carefree teenage uni days, while for those with partners or families there will undoubtedly be challenging periods due to the workload. However, there is no reason why you should see less of your partner or family than during a normal work routine. I was able to catch up with my wife and daughter for lunch regularly and was nearly always home for bath time at 6:00 pm. On average I probably spent about two hours at home every second night completing preparation for learning team meetings but beyond that I was able to limit bringing work home with me.
It is actually quite easy to get into an easily manageable routine. However, this changes in the last few weeks of each term when assessments suddenly start piling up! There are four hours of lectures a day, alternating each week between morning and afternoon. During the first two terms you are allocated into a learning team. During the morning or afternoon (depending on when lectures are) you meet with them to prepare for lectures and group assessments. The amount of time depends on the group. Some will have very limited meetings while others will meet upwards of four hours. Generally meetings are for around two hours. Both teams I worked with were quite flexible with working around every person’s obligations outside the course.
During the final two terms the schedule opens up and depending on which electives are taken, there may even be some days completely free of lectures. There are no fixed learning teams in this half of the course. People are free to form their own groups, though most just prepare on their own and form teams for group assessments only or to prepare for exams. Most people use the increased free time to complete job applications and attend interviews.
As you’d expect, accommodation is much smaller and closer together in England. After living on big blocks in Central Queensland and Brisbane, this was a challenge for us. The family accommodation at Cranfield is comfortable enough but it is fairly old and to put it politely, there is limited sound insulation between the terrace houses. However, I noticed similar issues when staying at a friend’s flat in London so I suppose this is just a fact of life when living in a cold-weather country where people live closer together.
Accommodation costs on campus are going up but they are still a lot cheaper than staying in private accommodation in Cranfield village. There is no doubt that private rentals in the village would be more comfortable, however, between the convenience and the lower cost, it is hard to beat staying on campus. Current costs for on campus accommodation can be found here: http://www.cranfield.ac.uk/students/life/accommodation/cranfield/accommodation-summary.html
We didn’t set a budget so probably ended up spending a little more than we had to. Adrian Wood’s suggested budget of £1,000 per month on top of rent seems more than reasonable in my experience if one was to take some level of care with their spending.
We probably spent around £700 on Amazon setting up with basic things like a microwave, washer, dryer, cot, baby car seat, etc. Apart from the baby stuff none of these were absolutely necessary as there is an oven/stove top in the kitchen and a laundromat on campus but it did make things simpler during the year and we were able to sell everything for a bit over £300 to an incoming student. The two week gap between outgoing and incoming students makes this hard to do without using storage though.
We purchased a car for the year, which is highly recommended, especially for anyone with a family. It was a great stress reliever for my wife to easily take off to the shops in Milton Keynes or to go out for a Sunday pub lunch in one of the local villages. Second hand cars are much cheaper in the UK. A comfortable runabout should cost well under £1,000, although we saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a Merc so splurged almost £3,000. We got close to half of this back on departure, though we left ourselves no room for negotiation on sale because up until the last week before we left the UK we had intended on shipping the car back to Australia (this is an option but be prepared for A LOT of paperwork). Hacfield Leasing in Cranfield village might even be prepared to lease a car for the year which would take away the hassle of buying and selling. Car insurance cost us around £700 for the year. I would recommend not exchanging your Australian licence for a UK licence as you can drive for a year without doing so and strangely enough, it is cheaper to insure yourself on a foreign licence (the premium increase for having a new UK licence is much higher than for having a foreign licence). If planning on heading to the continent and driving there you will also need to get an international licence before leaving Australia.
Apart from meat, groceries are generally cheaper in the UK. We probably spent a bit under £100 a week compared to a bit under $200 a week in Australia. Another £100 to £150 a week probably had us covered for petrol, phone, entertainment, electricity and heating. Travel costs would be on top of this and will obviously depend on how much travelling one does and how far they journey.
To avoid big forex fees, we used a 28 Degrees Mastercard (from Australia). I can’t recommend this card highly enough – there are no exchange fees whatsoever and the exchange rate used is the interbank rate so no hidden commission in the spread to worry about either. We had a Natwest account with the branch on campus and funded this with regular cash advances using the 28 Degrees card.