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.

Exchange at Leeds

Emma Lewis, Bachelor of Business/Laws
University of Leeds, United Kingdom (Semester 2, 2017)

Living overseas was something that I always wanted to do but I just was not sure when I wanted to do it. The student exchange program through QUT gave me the opportunity to take this step whilst also being supported by the QUT Global team with specialist knowledge of overseas university courses and accommodation. I chose the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom as my host university based on the glowing recommendations of my friends who had attended this university in the past. My cousin, who has not lived in Australia for over 10 years, also lived nearby in Harrogate and I wanted to be able to spend time with her and her young family.

I chose to use my four general electives within my law degree in order to study overseas. This meant that I was able to undertake any subject (within certain parameters) so long as I have not and will not complete equivalent subjects in my degree at QUT. As I wanted to expand my academic horizons, I sought to do subjects that I would not normally be exposed to at home. I did three subjects at Leeds (a full course load) including Medieval Literature, Britain and the EU and 20th Century British History. These may be perceived as left-field choices but they greatly benefited my understanding of British political culture and hot topic issues in international affairs.

In Leeds, I lived in an apartment with four other international students who were studying at the same university. We were from all different corners of the globe – Australia, Denmark, Norway, United States and Chile. We shared our favourite meals, music and TV shows with each other and became such close friends. It was only a five minute walk to class from my apartment and that was a blessing, especially when the days got even more cold and dark. There is a vibrant student culture on campus with events, markets and sports games on every week. The student union also organised regular trips around the country which I would encourage anyone to take advantage of!

During this experience, I traveled Europe and saw places that once only existed in pictures. It expanded my world view and exposed me to the most interesting people who have continued to shape the way I perceive different cultures. From my little bubble in Brisbane, I opened myself up to all the beauty and history of the UK and beyond. Exchange provided me with a rich education which extended further than academics alone. I believe I returned as a more well-rounded, resilient and passionate individual ready to take on the next stage of my professional career.

The Ultimate Guide to the University of Leeds

Katie, Nichola and Molly – Inbound students to QUT
University of Leeds, England (Semester 1, 2019)

We may be biased, but we love the University of Leeds. It is rated one of the world’s top 100 Uni’s and is right in the middle of one of the UK’s most vibrant cities – what more could you want?! It’s part of the Russel Group (a group of UK universities than engage in intensive research) and so you can guarantee you’ll be in safe hands. In 2017, The Sunday Times voted Leeds the University of the Year, joining the award for 1st in student satisfaction in the UK. If the numerous awards and rankings are enticing you to consider an exchange here, keep reading our ‘Ultimate Guide to the University of Leeds’ for more information, from academia to nightlife – we’ve experienced it all!

Academia

The University of Leeds is one of the biggest and most acclaimed universities in the UK and is famous for its teaching and research – providing lots of different academic opportunities and ways of learning. You can study almost everything at Leeds including Medicine, Art, Law and everything in between.

Academic life at the University of Leeds is somewhat different in comparison to QUT. A full workload is 120 credits per year – the number of modules (this is what units are called in the UK) required to be studied varies between each faculty and unlike at QUT each module may be worth different credits. For example, there are 10 credit modules, available for just one semester or there are 20/30 credit modules which are studied for the full year. This means that you will find yourself studying more than the workload is required here at QUT – for the most part at least 6 modules per semester is the norm. This may seem like a lot, but all the modules offered at Leeds are truly interesting – there are both compulsory modules and discovery modules (depending on the faculty), so there really is something to suit everyone’s academic needs. For instance, I am a Law student and my very varied modules last year included – EU law, Criminal Law, Employment Law, Land Law, Torts Law and Constitutional.

Teaching at Leeds is also very different to my experiences at QUT – we have shorter, more frequent classes (most students live on to or very near to campus) so the timetable is a lot more full on. Lectures tend to be 50 minutes, supplemented by seminars, which can be anywhere from 1.5 hours to 2 hours or labs/tutorials for sciences. Classes run between 9am and 6pm – so the academic day is condensed into this.

Academic life at Leeds will keep you busy but it is always fun, engaging, practical and interesting but you will certainly still have time to explore the wonderful city of Leeds!

Parkinson Building – the most famous building on the Leeds campus and the location of Brotherton Library

 

Accommodation in Leeds

As an exchange student in Leeds, you are guaranteed University accommodation regardless of whether you are studying for one semester, or the whole year (as long as you apply before the deadline). There are both on and off campus options with varying layouts from shared bathrooms to en-suites. There is also choice of catered or self-catered options. You will have your own bedroom in a flat shared with other Leeds students. This means it is so easy to make friends as there are so many people around, both home and international students.

The view from Charles Morris Hall

Typical lounge at Mary Morris Halls of Residence

A basic membership to the on-campus gym, The Edge is Included if you stay in University accommodation too.

The Edge gym

There is information about each of the residences here: https://accommodation.leeds.ac.uk/residences

Alternatively, there is the option to live in private accommodation. Unipol is a charity which works with students to help you find suitable private accommodation. Hyde Park is an area a 10-15 minute walk away from  c ampus and is filled with students.

A typical house in Leeds

A typical street in Hyde Park

The Union

A huge part of my student life at Leeds is centred around the union, which you will automatically become a member of as a student at the uni. The University Union is a charity that is run for students by students, helping provide opportunities, help create change and really allow students to love their time at Leeds! Activities are run throughout the year, enabling you to have fun and try something new, including specialised events for international students. The building itself, which is right in the centre of campus, contains shops, bars, cafes, nightclubs and study areas, to name a few. It is also home to the 350 societies the university has on offer. From football to food and wine, as well as every course having its own society, there really is something for everyone!

The Union building, right in the heart of campus

I myself am part of Leeds Modern Dance Society, where weekly classes are held for all levels of ability in tap, jazz and contemporary. Dancing with this society really has completely enhanced my university experience, from weekly socials to all the different friends I have made, and so to have 350 societies to choose from, Leeds is pretty special! I’ve put some pictures below of the type of events held by societies, including competitions and weekly socials at bars and nightclubs. This part of Uni is quite different to QUT – there is a much bigger sense of community and much more emphasis to join as many societies as you can! Here’s a link to the union website so you can browse all the things it has on offer! https://www.luu.org.uk/

Modern Dance Society at Newcastle Dance
Competition in Feb 2018!

The annual dance show held in the Union!

 

The City and Social Life

Leeds is located in Northern England with great transport links to other parts of the country – only 2 hours from London and 3 from Edinburgh by train. There is also an airport close by where you can find cheap flights to Europe for the holidays, making it the perfect destination for your semester abroad!

The city itself is a vibrant, multi-cultural haven that will draw you in with its wide selection of shops, restaurants, music venues and nightclubs. There is always something going on and so you’ll never be bored, and because Leeds is such a cheap city, you’ll be able to take part on a budget! Despite the hustling bustling city being the location of most students’ free time, the Yorkshire countryside is also right on your doorstep and so you can easily visit beautiful country villages if you fancy a change of scene.

With multiple colleges and universities in Leeds the student population is HUGE! It’s very different to Brisbane student life, and sometimes it’s quite easy to forget that others’ lives there too (maybe don’t go shopping on a Saturday afternoon if you want to miss the mad family rush!). The city has adapted to the student body well, with so many facilities catering to student life.

Leeds is such a great city for a year abroad!

Leeds Trinity Shopping Centre – the biggest shopping centre in the city which is home to more than 120 national and international brands as well as cinema’s, bars and restaurants.

Leeds city centre – a haven of activities!

Ilkley Moor – a peaceful destination only 40 minutes away for
when you want to escape the busy city

We hope this has given you just a little idea about what life in Leeds is like. We truly love it there and hope this has inspired you to consider it as your study abroad option!

Hope to see you in Leeds sometime soon!

Katie, Nichola and Molly x

Leeds Survival Guide, Part 4: Travel

I’m now one week away from travelling back to Australia and I realise that I’ve picked up a lot of great advice in regards to travelling while studying in the UK. Take it from someone who spent her birthday in Paris, Christmas in Amsterdam and New Year’s in Edinburgh, I have done my fair share of travelling, and I have the pen collection to prove it:

From York, Manchester, Lincoln, Wales, Durham, Paris, Lake District, London, Tenerife, Amsterdam, all the way to Scotland

So, here are some of the top travel tips that I have learned so far.

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