Art & Design Employability



Student exchange


Students engage in a period of study at another educational institution. Usually this is hosted by a partner institution in a different country and for the duration of one academic term.


Organisation, self development, cultural awareness and diversity, understanding of larger context, development of international networks, ability to communicate with people of various ages, capacities and backgrounds.


Project Title: Student Exchange
Student Name: Thomas Woods
School/Department: Fine Art – Photography
Year of study: Three
Project Length:  One term
Project Location: San Francisco Art Institute


The main aim of this exchange was to broaden understanding of the subject area. It was hoped that experience of a different approach to the learning of photography would benefit practice, while living in a different city would provide insights from which new work could be made.

What happened:

This exchange involved studying at the San Francisco Art Institute for the first semester of third year.

Four classes had to be enrolled in, in order to satisfy the credits needed for the semester. These included ‘New Genres’ and ‘New Genres Photoworks’, a conceptual contemporary art practice class and a conceptual photography class respectively; a sound-art class named ‘Sonic City Sounds’ and a photographic theory class called ‘Conversations with Contemporary Photography’. Classes spanned a few different departments, which provided an exciting departure. Classes were taught for undergraduate students, although each class contained a few Masters students, who were very interesting to work alongside. Other exchange students from schools in Asia and Europe were also present.

In writing up this experience, Thomas Woods observed, ‘The main issue that I encountered whilst on my exchange was organising accommodation; the only option that the school could offer me was the Student Halls which, for me, was far too expensive (around the equivalent of £1000 a month). This meant that I had to find accommodation elsewhere in the city which proved very difficult in San Francisco. I spent the first month of my exchange couch surfing and sleeping on the floor of dorm rooms before I was able to find an apartment. Money was also a concern as I did not receive any funding for the exchange and there were many costs including travel and securing official documents (i.e. visa)’.

External or internal partners involved:


Project outcomes:

In each class, credits were achieved through individual assessments. Instead of an essay in the theory class, it was possible to be assessed on a historical presentation.

Returning to GSA, the exchange provided material for a presentation to class, which was also aimed at prospective exchange students in the photography department.

Skills student gained from undertaking the project:

Personal learning and development.

Being in a foreign country, 5,000 miles from home, not knowing anybody and having nowhere to live for the first month forced a sense of motivation and problem-solving.

Classes every day from 9am to 7pm, engendered better organisational skills and faster working.

Video Interviews

Creative Ad – 3rd Year – Katherine Hudson

Final year advertising creative Katherine Hudson reminisces on her semester studying in the Danish capital Copenhagen. From religious diversity to a greater sense of self-confidence, this account really demonstrates the transformational qualities of a student exchange program.

Spatial Design – 3rd Year – Caroline Wisby

Students often complain about a heavy workload of or assessment bunching. Final year spatial student Caroline details the benefits of an alternative more intense work schedule. The beneficial to Caroline giving her the confidence to do her master abroad next year.

Graphics – 3rd Year – Christopher Adrian

The decision to leave the German city of Hamburg may not have been an easy one for Christopher. This graphics student examines the contrast in learning and teaching that will give him a well-rounded perspective when it comes to working on future briefs.

Image Credit

Image: installation at GoMA, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, Niki de Saint Phalle, Mirrored entrance

Related Pages


The Studio


Visual Literacy


Student engagement