Leeds Survival Guide, Part 1: Arrival

The idea of travelling and experiencing a life away from home seems fantastic; until you arrive in this strange place with no clue of what you’re doing here.

I’ve been in Leeds, England for about a week now. It’s been scary, but it’s also been an incredible amount of fun.

Coming from Australia, I assumed that I’d fit right in with British culture. I already speak the language so, how different could the UK really be? Very. And this is what they call ‘culture shock’.

From accidentally pulling an alarm chord (I thought it was the light), not knowing how to unplug a sink (turns out there’s a lever at the back) and adapting to the Yorkshire sayings (blog on Leeds lingo up soon), I was definitely in shock.

Even seeing a squirrel for the first time had me amazed!

It’s funny how such a common animal can be so foreign to some.

Although, within all of the bewilderment, there was one powerful thing that got me through: making new friends.

If I could give one major piece of advice to all those studying in the UK, it would be to get out of your little dorm room and go to every, single ‘Freshers’ event you can.

With international café meetings, food adventures and an array of parties, there are so many chances to meet other students who are as new and confused as you are. Below are some of the incredible people that I befriended at these events.

All the international friends that I met at various freshers events.

These new friends who share my shock of this new culture are keeping my homesickness at bay, giving me the chance to explore more and simply smile more.

My first week in Leeds is almost over, but with about 30 new friends on Facebook, I’m feeling much more comfortable in this new place. It’s time to let the real adventures to begin.

Travel: Before or After?

Whilst semester one at QUT is yet to start, here at The University of Exeter my fifth week has begun. I’ve been abroad for almost 3 months now, so how has this side of the world treated me so far?

Before I arrived in Exeter I spent a month doing the typical Aussie thing and took a Topdeck Tour around Europe, and what do you know?  Around 3/4 of the group were Australian. Doing a tour before or after my exchange was something I mulled over for quite a long time, but from the moment I got on a bus with a group of strangers I knew I’d made the right call doing it beforehand. My tour group became a second family. You can’t spend 18 days in close quarters with the same group of people and not become close. Together we travelled to 8 different countries and saw parts of the world older than Australia itself.

On my travels I saw the Colosseum in Rome, cruised the canals in Venice and reached Jungfrau, the top of Europe, in Switzerland. This tour enabled me to see parts of the world I wouldn’t necessarily have seen by myself. I climbed the never-ending stairs of the Arc De Triumph, ate snails and avoided Haggis like the plague and explored the nightlife in Edinburgh.

Canal Cruise, Venice

 

Hogmanay Torch Procession, Edinburgh

But it wasn’t simply the sights that had me amazed on the trip. My Trip Leader (don’t ever call them a tour guide), somehow had all of Europe’s history stored in his head. So on the long drives between countries he shared his knowledge and I learnt more on those bus trips than 2 years of high school history could ever teach me.

Because of this trip and with a great deal of help from our Trip Leader I learnt how to integrate myself into other cultures. In most countries I was taught the basics, hello, goodbye and thank-you, other than that however I was on my own. It forced me, along with the help of my new-found friends, to figure out our own way home on public transport in Rome or a walking route in Florence. I learnt the awkwardness of a checkout exchange when the only English the server knew was chocolate and I learnt to become more street-wise in Paris. Being forced into these situations made me so much more aware and appreciative of other cultures, which in turn made me more confident in my abilities to travel alone and study abroad.

Navigating the trains in Paris

The streets of Florence, and its beautiful Cathedral

My trip across Europe will definitely be a highlight of my exchange. It enabled me to see the places I wanted to go back to (almost everywhere) and was the perfect way to become accustomed to different cultures before settling down in England. I felt more excited than ever to start my exchange and even made some friends along the way. So if you’re stuck on the before or after question when it comes to travelling, the answer is before. But, who knows, you could end up doing both!

My incredible tour group in Amsterdam