This week marked my last week of my exchange semester at the University of Leeds.
First of all, if you are thinking about going on exchange, I know it’s clichéd but DO IT! It honestly seems like a really scary thing to consider going to another country to live for 6 months or a year, but if there’s anything that I want it’s to extend to a year. This has been my first experience living away from home, and while I’m on the other side of the world, it’s not as scary as the concept. I love it!
I started off my exchange with a week in London with my mum and a 13 day Topdeck tour to Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Krakow, Prague, Dresden, Berlin and Amsterdam, and can I just say that this was such a fantastic experience. I met the coolest people (mostly from Australia and New Zealand lol) and I did things I never would’ve thought possible or even considered, such as getting a tattoo and going to a sex show in Amsterdam…, seeing an orchestra in Vienna, pub crawls in Krakow and Berlin, going to 3 musicals in 6 days in London, and pretty much covering the whole of Prague in a day on foot! On top of that I went to Croatia with my friend for 8 days where we walked on the wall surrounding Dubrovnik and took a cable car up a mountain to get a view of the entire city while eating lunch (which is a must-do by the way).
After Croatia, I finally arrived in Leeds on 15th September to begin what would be the best semester of my life. We started off with Fresher’s week, which is pretty much when all the students move into their accommodation, register, go to various activities, find societies to join and party! So basically orientation week for us but way better. One thing I love about University of Leeds is that it’s an actual campus. At UTS we mainly just have a couple of buildings all over the place and that’s it, but here they have red brick buildings, 5 libraries (!) and a university union building that students actually spend time in. People have so much uni pride here as well. Like at our dance comps we would always yell “Leeds, Leeds, Leeds…” to cheer on our teammates. It’s such a great atmosphere. Probably the best activity at the uni during this week was all the clubs and societies stalls. All the students at each table were so passionate about their societies, which made it really difficult to not put your email down on their list. I signed up for so many things I don’t even know how many or what they were… The awesome part is that when you visit a stall, the only thing you had to do if you wanted or were thinking of joining was put down your name and email. They have this great system where you can go to a Give-It-A-Go (GIAG) session, which is usually for free (possibly a small fee if they have to hire someone to run it or pay for equipment) and you just get to try out that activity from the society with no later obligation to sign up as a member. It’s so much better than at home where if you’re considering a society you have to pay up front and then you never go! This way you can actually find out if you enjoy the activity and when the sessions run during the week to make your decision and pay later. It honestly makes all the difference. It also means you can just try an activity once that you’ve always wanted to try but don’t want to commit to doing it every week. On top of weekly sessions, they also have socials where you just get to hang out with the group rather than doing the activity. Some societies have more socials than others but it’s a great way to make friends.
The modules (English word for subjects) that I took are Managing Festivals and Events, Introduction to Film Studies I and Sociology of Modern Societies. What I’ve found about studying here is that it is a lot more individual and research based rather than group projects like back at home. I’ve heard in some modules there are group assignments, however my main form of assessment has been essays. Exams are coming up in January (yes, that’s right, after Christmas break) but I managed to choose all modules that wouldn’t have exams, on purpose I might add 😉
While I’ve been here I have kept insanely busy! So much in fact, that I’m afraid when I go home I’m going to be seriously bored. I ended up joining two societies: archery and Dancesport. And above everything else, Dancesport has by far been the best uni experience that I’ve had. It’s allowed me to do competitions in other cities, learn a new skill that I’m passionate about and meet amazing people who I love and I’m going to miss so much! It has definitely been one of the best things I’ve done while I’ve been here. If you want to meet local students, I would definitely recommend joining a society. It can be really hard to actually meet local students and become friends with them because you may only meet them once or not at all, but at a society it gives you one huge advantage, which is that you have something in common. There is honestly a society for everyone as well. They have over 320 here in Leeds! And a lot of local, and also international students join them and actually attend unlike home. Another society that I didn’t completely join but attended a few socials with and a weekend trip to the Lake District was the photography society. Pretty much my main advice is to join a society because you will not regret it! On top of this I’ve also been to 3 concerts (Leeds has so many to pick from!), Ghost the musical, the local Christmas market, been to the Leeds light show which is a much lesser version of Vivid lol and attended my Dancesport Christmas Ball! There are so many events on here, it’s insane so definitely make the most of it while you’re here.
Finally….travel. I have travelled just about every weekend since I’ve been in Leeds. I decided that it would be cheaper to travel in the UK instead of extending to Europe, which is fine cause I did that in my first month anyway. I’ve been to York, Liverpool, Bath, Leicester (for a dance comp), Manchester, Glasgow, Lake District (Keswick), Edinburgh and my flatmates and I have Dublin and Belfast planned for next week. I’m also going to be heading to London, Madrid, Lisbon, Munich and Switzerland with my sister next month before I head home at the beginning of February, which is so exciting! Especially because one of my flatmates is from Munich so I’ll get to see her one last time before I go home. It’s been so amazing to have been able to visit all of these incredible places, and honestly I don’t know how I’ll not travel when I go home, because once you start you can’t stop!
If I have any advice for you, I would say just do exchange. You will not regret it! When you go on exchange, join a society, travel, and meet fantastic people just by putting yourself out there. My best friends here are my flatmates, and in fact I would go so far to say that even though I have only known them for 3 months, they are my best friends in the world and I will miss them the most. I love those crazy Germans haha. Also, just get involved in as many things as you can. My motto here has been to say yes to everything. Obviously not in the complete literal sense of the word. But the point is to participate in as many things as possible and to make the most of my exchange by doing things I never would’ve done before and getting out of my comfort zone.
Thank you so much to UTS for this incredible opportunity. The only thing I would change about this experience is that I was here for a year instead of a semester.
Sorry for the essay but I hope you enjoyed, and come to Leeds!! If anyone ever has any questions about exchange or Leeds, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rachael Day, 98133679