A semester at Leeds

It was quite late in my degree by the time I decided to do a student exchange, but I’m so glad I did because it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! I chose the University of Leeds due to its academic reputation and atmosphere.

Culture

Before arriving in Leeds, I didn’t think there would be much of a cultural difference between England and Australia. But after living there for six months, and immersing myself in the community, I definitely noticed a few stark cultural differences. From simple things like what’s available at supermarkets, to how the locals interact with you and each other – sometimes their English accents are so difficult to understand it sounds like they’re speaking another language!

The University

Within the university, there was such great community spirit with a seemingly endless number of clubs and societies for literally any activity you could imagine! In terms of study, I found Leeds to have a reasonably similar teaching style to QUT. However, Leeds was very strict and rule-abiding about a lot of things. Attendance for tutorials was compulsory and recorded, so if you missed more than two or three classes you were contacted by the unit coordinator. They also took down lecture attendance! Lectures were sometimes recorded (depending on the subject) but the slides were always available online.

Travel

The UK is a fantastic base for easy and cheap travel throughout Europe. There is a small airport at Leeds but I preferred to use Manchester airport (1 hour train away) because flights from there were usually cheaper and more regular. My main mode of transportation throughout the UK however was buses. Although they do take a bit longer, they’re so much cheaper and I didn’t find them too uncomfortable! Transportation is something to consider early on though, because if you’re planning on catching trains then it’s definitely worth investing in a discounted rail pass from the beginning.

Accommodation

I stayed in student-based accommodation at Mary Morris House – a student apartment block in a nearby suburb of Headingley. There were frequent buses to the city but I usually just walked for 30 mins. Headingley was a lovely suburb to live in though – it mostly consisted of students and the main street was primarily full of pubs and op-shops! In terms of cost of living, it was quite similar to Brisbane, slightly more expensive due to the exchange rate at the time but very doable to stick to a limited budget for day-to-day living.

Leeds

Yorkshire is such a beautiful part of England- from York itself to surrounding towns; the country is full of such rich history. As an architectural design student, I was just in love with the ancient buildings and gorgeous streetscapes as well as the landscape in the nearby moors. Leeds is such a massive student city and has so many international exchange students who are always looking to make friends and have a good time. The city is full of gorgeous old buildings and there are always activities on a daily basis!

Overall, this experience was even better than I’d hoped for! Meeting so many incredible friends and travelling so frequently, I loved every minute of it and would absolutely recommend doing an exchange!

“100% Worth It” – University of Leeds Exchange

Natasha L., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Media and Communication
University of Leeds, England (Semester 1, 2016)

I was extremely nervous to begin my university exchange experience. I am quite a shy person and was unsure about how I would make friends, live away from home and navigate myself around a new city. However, going on exchange was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

The University of Leeds is located in the northern region of England called Yorkshire and is known for it’s impressive school of communications as well as an amazing student union and social environment. I chose to study here because of the vast opportunities to get involved in university life and immerse myself in the entire exchange experience. Despite some initial fears, tears and freak-outs, I definitely settled in a lot more quickly than expected and made professional and personal connections that will last.

Walking around and learning the city of Leeds proved to be exceptionally easy from my accommodation, basically following one main street the entire way. I enjoyed exploring the city centre after uni and shopping at the local Kirkgate markets, going to grab a bite from the Corn Exchange or just admiring the old, intricate architecture on most buildings. Despite the fact that many compare Australia to England, I definitely felt that there were many differences and going to Leeds did pushed me to become more confident in new environments.

Staying in “Devonshire Halls” student residence for my exchange was one of the best decisions I had made. A range of exchange students had all chosen this accommodation and we were able to hang out, study and walk the 20 minutes to university together most days. I chose to be self catered but had the opportunity to meet people at special dinners, in the laundry room or at social events that the accommodation put on with live music and free food included!

I found that the cost of living in Leeds was similar to that of Brisbane, but that travelling around Europe in between did take up a huge portion of my savings. I travelled to more than 14 countries in my time away and found that I did need to always budget for more than I needed due to traveling mistakes or slip ups (i.e. missing a flight, booking a flight for the wrong month, booking a flight for the wrong city etc etc).  Many of my friends had the same issue and we all decided that over estimating your budget is a lot more beneficial to prevent stressful situations. I would encourage students to take $10,000 – $12,000 AUD per semester. In saying this, it is easy to stick to a budget when living in Leeds to due the ability to walk everywhere and the general cheap cost of living.

Exchange was an unforgettable experience that helped me grow and develop as a young adult. I gained confidence in social and professional situations and learnt how to handle myself independently when stressed. I made friends that will definitely last a lifetime and was able to meet and connect with people from all over the world. Although pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be daunting, I believe that going on exchange is 100% worth it and it will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

The Best Thing I’ve Done!

Isobella T., Bachelor of Business
University of Leeds, United Kingdom (Semester 2, 2016)

In January, I left my family and friends to spend a semester at the University of Leeds in England. I was told about Leeds by one of my friends, but I didn’t think much of it until I went to the QUT Exchange Fair, and one of the previous semester’s students told me how great it was, and how much fun he had. That made up my mind.

Leeds is a beautiful campus set between James Baillie – my residence- and the city. It was about 25 minutes walking from James Baillie, and 15-20 minutes from the city, with plenty of sights along the way. The campus contains two bars, the English love a good bevvy between classes, and turns into a three room nightclub on Fridays. Fruity on Fridays along with Otley Runs are staple Leeds outings. The University is big on being social, with heaps of clubs to join, as well as outings around England for exchange students. The city itself is full of different places to eat and drink. There is something on every night in Leeds, so you’re never running short of options, just remember to buy tickets online.

One of the wonderful places in Leeds!

The teaching in Leeds was a little different to QUT. Most lectures only ran for an hour, and none of them were recorded. Three of my subjects only had one piece of assessment that was worth 100%, which I found quite intimidating. Due to the credit transfer difference, I took five subjects, but I found them very manageable, and hardly had any homework, leaving me with plenty of time to travel.

Not much homework left me plenty of time to travel!

I budgeted about $15,000, and usually stuck to my £100 a week budget, depending on whether I went travelling or not. The exchange rate was pretty tragic when I left, but picked up towards the end. I used a Commonwealth Travel Money Card, and never had any problems. It was super easy and cheap to get to Europe, especially if you fly Ryan Air or Easy Jet, and we used Google Flights or Sky Scanner to find the cheapest flights. In March, we had a month long mid-semester break, so it was the perfect opportunity to visit Dublin, Zurich, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow and Warsaw!

Visited Paris in the Mid Semester break

The friends I made on exchange were some of the best people I have ever met, with the majority of them from Canada and America. The first person I ever met in Leeds ended up being my best friend on exchange; we did many solo trips in Italy, The Netherlands, France, and Spain, and luckily, never got sick of each other. The atmosphere in Leeds is super welcoming and friendly, and my friends and I often had dinner together or went to the gym, because we lived so close.

Going on exchange was definitely the best thing I’ve done so far. I got to see Europe, live independently in another country, and meet some amazing people that I plan on visiting soon. It takes a lot of effort and planning in the beginning, but it is so worth it in the end. The only downside is how quick time flies: one moment, you’re arriving at Leeds Bradford airport and the next you’re saying goodbye in Manchester.

Making Hearty Friends Abroad

Fraser B., Bachelor of Media and Communication / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Leeds, United Kingdom (Semester 1, 2017)


January 15th, 2017 I packed my bags and headed for the UK. I hadn’t been to the UK since the summer Commonwealth game of 2002 in Manchester, and I was certain it had changed a little since then!

After spending a week in London seeing high school friends, I journeyed north to Leeds where myself and 500+ other exchange students settled into one of many student residences across the town. It took the better half of a week just to get familiar with faces, let alone knowing names. However, it didn’t take long before the international students formed one big group, the likes of which I’d never been a part of.  It was interesting watching all these different cultures assimilate in such a bizarre setting. The north of England, housing those from countries, which covered all continents. But, we made sure our time spent with each other was worth it, studying, travelling and creating friendships that will last much longer than our mere six month semester abroad.

I was very lucky to travel the European continent, to destinations I’d never been before. It was a priority of mine to not just go and see sights, but rather spend my time in these new destinations doing what the locals do. Because that’s how you assimilate and diversify yourself as a person, you learn from those who are native and can convey to you their culture and the way they live. You learn about the country itself, not just what it has to offer in aesthetics.

One blog post simply cannot encompass my exchange in semester 1 of 2017. There are simply too many memories, experiences and events that I’m sure all other students can relate to. The pictures, although pretty, do not do each destination justice. As to completely experience something, you must do so in the flesh.

The Exchange Timeline: A Comprehensive Guide to What You Will Think and Feel

Claire B., Bachelor of Journalism
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2017)

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 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. It’s 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 it’s 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 nowhere and near nothing) there are a group of people that love you.

 

Waking up to England!

Gina O’Donnell, University of Leeds, England (semester 1 2017)
Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries

Upon my exchange at the University of Leeds, in semester 1 of 2017, I learnt many things about myself and the world surrounding me. Going on exchange with a friend from Queensland University of Technology, I felt at ease having a friendly face with me on this epic journey. But soon learnt that being a duo may have been our downfall as people assumed we did not need to be invited to halls events etc. But I was able to overcome this by putting myself out there, making sure I was out of my comfort zone and made life long memories with amazing people.

A lot of these people however were themselves exchange students, I found myself shocked at the little interest the local people in Leeds had in people from other countries. An interesting prospect considering majority of their population is immigrants. It became more prominent as well after beginning my classes and I started to realise that the classes I did not have my exchange friends with were hard to make friends in. People had already formed their own group of friends and were exceptionally unwelcoming to newcomers. As I had already made my own group of friends this did not worry me, you can’t please them all.

What I did enjoy about my classes was experiencing the different teaching styles offered at the University of Leeds. One lecturer in particular absolutely astounded me going above and beyond any other undergraduate level of teaching I had experienced. This particular lecturer really shone through and definitely made me happy with my choice of host university.

Another great aspect of my exchange experience was staying on campus and in the Halls. Not only could I get up 5 minutes before a lecture and take naps in between classes, but I was also surrounded by interesting people. We did lots together dinners, birthday parties, party, errands and most importantly TRAVEL.

I cannot begin to tell you what it was like to travel to a different country nearly every weekend, other than it’s a worthwhile experience. The reason I chose the University of Leeds is because it had it’s own airport and it was close to pretty well everything in Europe.

Also the town of Leeds itself is BUZZING. A small University town with your rival University being Beckett, but it’s also a lot of fun. They always have something going on in the centre and great student deals pretty much everywhere.

I’m not trying to talk up the University of Leeds, but simply the whole exchange program. You get the proper opportunity to live and study in a different country, with government support. WHY WOULDN’T YOU. Wake up, this may be the best thing you ever do.

Aussie among the Brits: My semester abroad

Sarah K. – Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2016)

I had the time of my life studying at the University of Leeds during Semester 2, 2016.

Leeds is located at the centre of the UK in the Yorkshire region, about 315km North of London. It is an awesome student city which meant cheaper living costs (especially compared to somewhere like London!) and the opportunity to meet heaps of university students.

The University of Leeds was really great, and incidentally while I was there, it was awarded University of the Year 2017. It was my main choice because it provided a lot of subject options which allowed me to match up all of my law and business units. It was also interesting listening to lecturers with English, Irish and Scottish accents. Different to QUT, lectures are compulsory and your timetables are configured for you, there is no option to design your own schedule. The university also offered hundreds of different clubs! I joined a number of societies, notably the ‘Leeds Snowriders’ skiing and snowboarding society. Being a member allowed me to go on the university ski trip to Andorra, located on the border of France and Spain, which was an absolute blast.

In England, after graduating from High School, most students will move cities and live in on-campus student accommodation Halls for their first year of university. During my semester, I opted for catered living in Devonshire Hall, which was only a 15 minute walk from campus and looked a lot like Hogwarts. I cannot recommend student accommodation enough – you’re living with hundreds of other students just like yourself, which makes it so easy to make friends!

Devonshire Hall consists of several houses with both catered and self-catered students. My house had 10 people in it including myself, one other Australian exchange student, one American exchange student and the rest were all English students. Being catered at Devonshire Hall (or ‘Dev’ as it was quickly termed) meant that breakfast and dinner were always social occasions used to catch up with friends and plan weekend adventures. The food was pretty good but prepare yourself…England LOVE potatoes! Dev was also a really social Hall with frequent social events, quiz nights, movie nights, hall sports teams and drama and music groups. University accommodation allows you to meet so many different kinds of people from your home country as well as international students. Besides connecting with a lot of Aussies, some of my closest friends came from various places around England, New Zealand, Iceland, Netherlands, Japan, Denmark and many more.

I chose England for the location of my exchange because of its location within Europe. Other than the friendships I formed, travelling was what I loved most about exchange. I managed to fit in travel before, during and after my semester. I loved the ability to meet people from different countries and experience a variety of cultures. Exchange allowed me to be independent and self-sufficient whilst also completing my studies and it’s something that I think everyone should experience – you won’t regret it.

A Semester Abroad in Leeds

Kate M., Bachelor of Creative Industries/Laws
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2018)

 

When I embarked on my 7 month long exchange adventure, I was nervous, teary eyed (from saying goodbye to the family), anxious but so damn excited! Ever since high school, I knew I wanted to do an exchange program at University. When the opportunity arose in the second semester of my fourth year, I took it!

I was on my way to North England, to the University of Leeds. My original plans to head to Berlin didn’t quite work out for me but I had heard incredible things about the student lifestyle in Leeds. I left a month early, dropped my suitcase off at a friend’s house in London and went on a month long summer trip around Portugal, Spain and Italy. I had never been to Europe or England so travel was my goal – I wanted to see as much as I could!

Abseiling in Ilkley Moore

After a month in the sun, I headed up to Leeds to begin my semester abroad. Unfortunately, I was not given the accommodation I applied for so I was hesitant upon arrival. However, I was thrown into two weeks of Freshers! It was a wild, exhausting and great two weeks and it really helped me kick start my friendships with my new flatmates.

The Parkinson Building – Leeds

After two weeks of partying, it was time to hit the books. I had chosen to study two languages and some other elective subjects… so to be fair, I didn’t have to hit the books too hard. Classes were really interesting and it was great exploring the amazing campus of Leeds. The university environment is very welcoming and it is easy to feel comfortable all around the campus.

The city of Leeds is quite small but there is so much to see in Yorkshire. I went on many weekday and weekend trips to nearby castles and abbeys, other cities and also did many hikes! I would definitely recommend getting out and seeing the region you choose to stay in because, lets be real… study can wait!

Kirkstall Abbey

After a few weeks settling into Leeds, making new friends, partying and exploring, I was getting restless and decided to book a last minute bus to Edinburgh. I spent the weekend sightseeing and meeting even more people. As soon as I got back to Leeds, I scheduled two more trips within the semester – one to Ireland and a week trip to France. I loved living in Leeds because it was a good cheap base and there are so many easy travel options nearby ie. Leeds Airport, Manchester Airport or London.

The main reason I went on exchange was to travel and so I made sure I planned my trips strategically so I didn’t skip too many classes. After classes for the semester ended, my boyfriend flew over and we travelled for a month around mainland Europe and Eastern Europe and also made it to the Ukraine (which I highly recommend). I popped back up to Leeds for exams and travelled again for another month before flying home.

Streets of Leeds

My biggest advice for exchange is make sure you save up some money so you can enjoy, have a good time and travel to new places! Also, be confident, put yourself out there and say yes to new experiences! As long as you have your wits about you and stay safe, you will have some life changing experiences and it will open your eyes to a whole new world. You should probably do a little study while you’re over there too!

 

University Life at Leeds

Chelsie, M., Bachelor of Media and Communication
University of Leeds, England (Semester 1, 2018)

I recently completed an exchange program for one semester at the University of Leeds in Leeds, England. To say it was the best experience of my life is an understatement! I thoroughly enjoyed every part of my exchange, from the city, to the university; the people, to the night life.

My host university, University of Leeds, is one of the most prestigious and internationally recognised universities not only within the United Kingdom, but in the world. However, this does not mean that the students and teachers were pretentious, or that it was extremely strict – it was really quite the opposite! My lecturers, tutors and fellow class mates were all extremely friendly and were willing to help with anything I asked of them, which I am very appreciative of. Leeds is a student city, so it is always full of life and buzzing with activity!

The university itself was established in 1904, so as you can imagine, each building is grand with incredible architectural features. The most recent development to the campus is its student union, which, let me tell you, is probably the most important building a student can know about. Unlike Australian universities, there is an unspoken expectation that students participate in either a club or society. So much so, that it is the minority who do not join in on the student camaraderie. It is in The Union where most social activities for the clubs and societies occur, simply because it is the perfect place to hang out.

Incredible Architecture

There are three bars (which are super cheap and host quiz/trivia nights), a night club for the weekly Fruity events and occasional concerts (I saw Milky Chance there!), a grocery store, cafes, bean bags, lounges and SO much more! During my time there, I joined the hockey society and made so many friends and great memories. We had weekly hockey socials, training and games each week, so you definitely get to form a bond with your team mates! There is definitely a massive drinking culture in Leeds, as I found out when everyone continued to go out rain, hail or snow. 

For my accommodation, I spent the four months at Ellerslie Global Residence. I really enjoyed living here as it is basically on campus, only a 15 minute walk to the city and food is provided for you, so you don’t have to worry about grocery shopping or cooking. Having a catered meal plan is super ideal, especially if you plan on travelling every weekend, like I did.

Idyllic London Street

I could not recommend the University of Leeds any higher for a student exchange. If you are considering them for your time abroad, definitely apply. I can guarantee you will make lasting friendships and memories you will never forget!

Leeds Survival Guide Part 5: General Tips

Eleny H., Bachelor of Media and Communications
University of Leeds, England (Semester 2, 2017)

Money

I spent around $14,000 on return flights from Brisbane to Leeds, catered university accommodation, bedding and kitchen items, a trip to Paris, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Tenerife and numerous trips throughout England. My biggest expenses were the return tickets from Brisbane to Leeds and the accommodation. If you’re going to go for the full travel experience it’s best to budget around $15,000 which will get you around Europe and the UK as long as you don’t eat out every, single day. The biggest ways to save some money would be by making your own meals and choosing a non-catered accommodation as well as staying within the UK and making sure you book all trips months in advance (even small train trips).

Accommodation

I ended up in Devonshire Hall which I highly recommend. Even though the accommodation was about a 20-25 minute walk from campus, this allowed me to get my daily exercise and get some fresh air. If you really don’t want to walk, there are busses available for 1 pound per trip or bus passes available which are cheaper if you’re using the bus more than once every day. Check out the First Bus website for more information on buses.

I went with the catered option at Devonshire Hall which meant I received breakfast and dinner Monday to Friday with brunch and dinner on Saturday and lunch on Sunday, all in set time frames. This was incredible because you sit and eat with your friends every morning and night at the same time. This was probably the biggest way for me to avoid loneliness and home-sickness and it gave me a good daily routine. You can just roll out of bed, go to breakfast in your pyjamas and all your friends will be there in the dining hall waiting for you.

Plus, just look at how gorgeous Devonshire is!

Beautiful Devonshire Buildings

There is also a music group, an acapella group and a drama group at Devonshire that perform throughout the year, along with incredibly fun formal dinners where you dress in a Harry Potter-style gown and enjoy a three-course feast.

Devonshire Drama Group

Even though Dev wasn’t my first choice, I was extremely happy to be amongst the other 600 students that got chosen to reside there.

Extra Little Helpful Tips

  • Shops don’t give you plastic bags for free. You pay about 5 pence for a bag which isn’t so expensive, but bringing your own bags is free (there are plenty of tote bags to collect at o-week!)
  • Buy your kitchen and bedding essentials at Wilko or Primark, don’t go with the university packs because they are overpriced and quite bad quality. They even host a couple of IKEA trips at the start of the semester if you need to collect some items.
  • Join a society! They are the best way to make some friends and to bond with the locals. Some societies you might not know exist are the belly dancing society, baking society and even a coffee society.
  • Most importantly, enjoy every moment of exchange because you most likely won’t get an experience like this ever again. Now that I am home, I don’t feel any sadness or regret because I know that I did everything I possibly could do while in Leeds.

So, these are the top things that I have learned while on exchange at Leeds. I hope they give you some insight into what living in Leeds is like. Now it’s time for you to go and explore for yourself.