The exchange timeline: a comprehensive guide to what you will think and feel

I wanted to write a blog post that I thought would be helpful for future exchange students to read, but I didn’t want to write a “what I wish I knew”, “highlights of my exchange” or “what I have learnt” blog, so instead I am going to tell you the cycle of emotions you will feel whilst on exchange.

  1. “I’m sorry… what? Could you just slow down and write that all down for me because I have no idea what you just said” – when you arrive on exchange people like to bombard you with information (verbal and paper form). They usually speak like you have a mild idea of what you are doing (which you don’t) and deliver all 10 steps to settling in at once, instead of 1 one at a time.
  2. “Hmmm how do I make friends?” – so you arrive and you are entirely disorientated, confused and tired but you have to make friends otherwise you are going to be alone and miserable for the next 6 months… but you haven’t had to make new friends since starting year 8. Its okay, take a breath and say hi… and if necessary acting entirely desperate usually gets sympathy invites
  3. Homesickness – for some this may happen earlier than others, its usually worse when special occasions roll around and can even come in waves but its important to remember that this is an amazing opportunity and once you get home again, you’ll be asking yourself “why did I want to come back to my boring life where I have no money or job?” so make the most of it!
  4. “Assignments? You mean this isn’t a holiday” – it may not affect your GPA but you do still have to do work to pass… shocking right?
  5. Everyone in your last week of exchange: “Bet you are looking forward to going home!” You: “I’m happy sad… happy to see everyone back home, but sad to say goodbye to those I have met” – you create a life for yourself on exchange, a mini family and support network. You achieve so much and it seems heartbreaking to leave it all behind, but you know that on the other end of the ridiculously long flight home (because you live in Australia that is basically in the middle of no where and near nothing) there are a group of people that love you.

It’s Easter break re-cap time!

So classes start back on Monday and the Easter break is behind us, but I want to take this chance to reflect a little on my adventures.

I met mum in London… a city that has become quite familiar to me in the past 12 months. I led her around to all the sites, we did the tours and wined and dined. I’d like to say these were the highlights of our time in London but for me, it was showing her around a city I love. I could sit in Hyde Park for 3 days straight or ride the underground for hours and be happy, just because I was in London, and now I got share this amazing city with someone I love! Top Tip: London Cocktail Club is a must, the music is great and they set fire to your drinks… what more can I say!

After that we headed south to Brighton with a pit stop at Windsor Castle. My advice, be at the palace at 11am to see the changing of the guards… sure it’s smaller than the one at Buckingham Palace but you can actually see what’s happening J In Brighton, all I have to say is we ate fish and chips on the pier whilst I listened to songs from Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging being blasted on the speakers… teenage dreams were made that night.

Then it was westwood to Weymouth via the Jurassic Coast. The sun was shining, and if I closed my eyes really hard and pretended it was 10 degrees warmer I may have been home.

Next was Bath but first, you guessed it… another pit stop! The first was a ‘drive-by’ of Stonehenge. TIP: just drive by, you get super close, can take your photos and don’t waste your money. We then headed to Bristol. Underwhelming is really all I have to say. If I am fair we didn’t have much time to explore, but it wasn’t the happening city I expected. And then we made it to Bath. Our Air BnB was beautiful and the city was rich with history. My top tips would be: do the free Mayor’s walking tour, go to the Roman Baths and have a Cornish pastry from the Cornwall bakery for lunch!

At this point I was adamant that Bath would be my favourite place we visited on our road trip, but I was about to be proven wrong. Next was Oxford… and OH MY GOD! The buildings were so grand and there were cafes and bars in every direction you looked. The city was teeming with people, and yet when we went rowing on the river (my fondest memory of the trip) it was so peaceful. Conclusion drawn- if I don’t move to London to work, I’m living in Oxford! 

We then headed to the most anticipated destination of our adventure. A pub called the Boughey Arms in Stoke-on-Trent. The people were lovely (as you would expect) and the food was good, but unless your name is Boughey I probably wouldn’t recommend going all the way to Stoke to have a look.

Our last stop was York. Also somewhere I have been wanting to visit since arriving in Leeds, and it did not disappoint. Recommendations: there is a church called York Minster (I know I didn’t know that either) and you MUST go and see it, and if you like Mexican check out Fiesta Latina York for a mean feed.

As we drove back to Leeds, that marked the end of our road trip but not the end of our holiday. We spent two days in my second home before going to my third… Durham! The 5 days spent with my family were filled with wine, laughs, food, wine, lots of of photos, wine, food, stories, food and wine!

And that was it! Not only were my holidays nearly over, mum was leaving and I had to face going back to assignments but, all good things have to come to end.

Thanks mum for the adventures, lets do it again some time. Xx

Easter break… already?

Wow… it feels like yesterday that I was boarding a plane to England, and now I am already on Easter break, and well and truly over half way through my exchange experience… where has the time gone?

Now seems a good as time as any to reflect on the 5 best moments so far…

  1. Flat roast dinner: my flatmates and I successfully cooked a whole Sunday roast fit for the Christmas table. It was the first time I truly felt like I had a place here in Leeds, and looking around, I felt like I had truly made some life long friends.
  2. Karaoke: on Tuesday’s a local restaurant called Bierkeller has karaoke. All I can say is that my first night out back in Brisbane has a lot to live up to. Nothing quite beats belting out “Somebody to love” with a stein of cider in your hand…
  3. Trip to Dublin: well… I went to Ireland and it was great!
  4. Cornish Pasty eating: this is inclusive of every time I have eaten a Cornish pasty whilst I’ve been in England (and that has been more than once ;P). I don’t know what it is about them, but every two days I get a craving and only ever so often do I make the decision to NOT take a walk to The Kirkgate Market to buy one
  5. Surviving: basic survival is incredibly rewarding whilst on exchange. Not only have I mastered the art of washing and grocery shopping, but I am also in training as the next MasterChef!

As you can see sometimes it is the little things and the people that make your time whilst on exchange. To those thinking about going on exchange I would not only urge you to do it, but to remember whilst you are on exchange to take a moment to appreciate the subtle beauty of the little things.

So now that it is holiday time, as an exchange student that can only mean one thing… TRAVEL. My mum is meeting me in London before we embark in a road trip around the UK. I will be sure to update you with my comprehensive review of all the sites in a few weeks’ time, so stay tuned!

My first impressions of Leeds

The train stopped. My world halted. But the people around kept moving.  The moment I had anticipated, dreaded, feared, dreamed of and planned for was finally here. I was in Leeds. I had made it. I was on exchange.

I’ll be honest, my first day in Leeds was a strange one. It was full of mixed emotions, cold weather and slight confusion. After dragging my suitcases through the city centre, whilst strategically glancing at my phone that was carefully balancing in my pocket every so often so I didn’t get lost, I managed to reach my residence, Central Village. The weather was cold. Very cold. I was sick of travelling, and I was simply ready to sleep BUT my birthday was in two days and no one wants to spend their birthday alone, so off I went to be ‘social’. 

That first night was great! I met people from all over the globe, all studying different things and all hoping to get something different out of this unique experience of exchange. The people I met that night are people I would now class as my friends, and I suppose THAT would have to be one of the greatest ‘first impressions’ anyone could hope for… acceptance.

The following days only got better (with the exception of the weather) and my good impressions of Leeds only continued to grow. The juxtaposing architecture, the rich history, vibrant culture and once again, acceptance of Leeds as a town and the university, all came to the forefront.

Never before had I ever seen public pianos in a shopping mall prior coming to Leeds, but I must say seeing a fellow student pull up a chair and play with complete freedom for nothing but his own self-satisfaction is one moment of those first few days I will never forget.

Exchange is supposed to change you. To enrich your life, broaden your perspective, open up opportunities and challenge you to push yourself. I feel like it is premature to say this has happened to me already… but perhaps first impressions are the most meaningful.