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.

My Exchange Adventure

Mackenzie G, Bachelor of Industrial Design
Aston University, Birmingham, England (Semester 1, 2016)

One of the many trips around the UK. This time a weekend in Scotland with people from all around the world.

My Experience
Do you fancy seeing the world? Feel like shaking things up? Want to make uni a lot more fun? If this sounds like you then go sign up for student exchange!
Student exchange is an opportunity to live and study overseas. You get to meet people from all parts of the globe, see places you never would and have the time of your life all while completing your studies.

Earlier this year I flew over to Birmingham, England to complete my first semester of third year industrial design at Aston University. For four months I lived and studied abroad in a country I’ve never been to. There I learnt about product design, made worldwide friends and had an absolutely great time all the while completing my studies.
Aston University was my uni of choice for its industry backed reputation and central location.

Although the content they taught was more on the engineering side, they provided knowledge that I would likely not learn elsewhere. Submitting assignments, sitting exams and general university life was not so different to how we do it here which made adapting to their system a breeze.

Similarly studying in an English speaking country was not a problem at all. The accents and weather were the biggest difference initially but were soon overcome. So no intense culture shock here compared to the more foreign locations available. That said if you want to take it easy, Canada, USA and the UK are more comfortable options should English be your native language.

Life abroad at university is fun. Aston accommodates foreign exchange students very well with regular events and trips around the country. The majority of exchange students hung out together and with people from all over Europe, South America and just about everywhere else we felt a great sense of community exploring and learning together as foreigners.

For me I chose not to work and relied upon loans and savings to keep myself financially supported. So not needing a job meant I had more time to study and even more time to explore the UK and just have fun. With my crew of international students we visited most major UK cities, Liverpool, Manchester, London, Edinburgh, Dublin and so on. Unique to the English semester is a three week mid semester holiday. Being so close to France and in the middle of winter that meant skiing was up for grabs. So my mid semester break consisted of a week-long ski trip with the uni and two weeks of hot, beautiful sun in the Canary Islands. Luckily for me it wasn’t all about studying. Maybe your university has something similar. You can make your student exchange custom made for whatever interests you! Something not thought about often when considering student exchange.

The Application Process
Getting sorted for a student exchange is no easy task. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back. A lot of research and hard work is required but the effort is worth the reward. A lot of the time my effort was independent simply because there were questions that only I could find the answers to… mostly specific university queries. Although it was difficult my motivation kept the ball rolling, something we tend to forget when going through this process.

The opportunity to work alongside students from different cultures on the other side of the world is worth every ounce of effort.

Finances
A common concern is money and to how fund such an extravagant adventure. Fortunately there are awesome financial assistance options available from QUT. The OS help loan and the mobility grant made my venture possible. Applying for and receiving these are nothing short of easy. With a minimum of $8000 AUD available anything from your own pocket would only be for an extended holiday!
When it comes to budgeting research is key. Finding everyday living costs is essential especially if you’re thinking of living in the UK, Switzerland or any other expensive locations. The small things really add up.

As far as accommodation goes share houses are the best option. Cheap and entertaining they’re nothing short of fun. My house was intensely multicultural which furthered my travel education but also provided another social circle. Comparatively the on campus accommodation at Aston is rather pricey but more student orientated. Again research is key here.

The appropriate visa will make returning to your host country a breeze. This allowed me to skip between the UK and France with ease.

Visas
Before leaving Australia ensure you have the appropriate visa and ensure your passport meets federal requirements. Ensure in advance so you’re not caught rushing around last minute.

The study visa for the UK was a frustratingly slippery slope. Students who have studied there offered mixed advice and the visa website was just as helpful. Trying to save a few hundred dollars by not getting one is risky business but its best to play it safe. Upon entering the country I was told this wasn’t required but soon after relieved by my enrolling member of staff as she reassured me this was a necessary requirement of the university. Nothing too special with passports, just make sure there is plenty of time left on it before it expires.

Customise Your Experience
One aspect not discussed enough is how you can revolve your exchange around what you want to do. My initial idea was basically studying overseas and seeing the sights. However you can leave home well before semester starts and get into some travelling, complete your semester then top it off with a couple more months of travel. Or do like I did and compete in heaps of skateboard races around Europe! It might sound like a holiday but there is a lot to learn when you’re not at uni.

Once the semester concluded I travelled through Europe and attended many skateboard races. A long time dream now accomplished. (I’m in the grey suit).

If I Could Do It Again
I would be extra adventurous. I would try out a non-English speaking country, somewhere that teaches classes in English but with a culture greatly different to Australia. Unknown to me was how much of the European population spoke English. Knowing this I would have jumped in the deep end for a totally foreign experience.

Find a real winter in the UK

Tayla B
Bachelor of Creative Industries
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

 

My experience living in England for six months studying at SHU was incredible. I had never been to England or Europe before, but having many friends living there I knew what to expect, but nothing could prepare me for the weather. I arrived in winter to freezing temperatures and I think the thing I struggled with if anything was the lack of sunlight. Once every two weeks during winter you would get a sunny day, which is nothing like I am used to growing up in Australia.

It’s colder than you might think!

Other than the lack of Vitamin D, my experience was one I will never forget. I made such an amazing group of friends, all international students, from countries all over Europe, America, Australia which made for an interesting collection of people. I was living in the city in student accommodation, which made it easy to access everything by walking and was studying in the city so class was only a 10 min walk from my house.

 

The university was super accommodating to international students and had weekly activities for us and organized trips over the country to make sure we had plenty of opportunities to meet new people. This is how I made majority of my friends, and was the best thing the university did for us.

Making friends while on exchange is the best experience

There wasn’t a lot of culture shock as it was an English speaking country, but the Brits have their own slang words that took some time to get used to!

It was a struggle to accommodate to the idea that I wasn’t on holiday the whole time- I was living there- and that it was okay to not be busy the whole time or always doing something.

The main thing that drove me to pick England was the ease of being able to travel all over the country by train and how close it was to be able to go to Europe. I spent my 22nd birthday in Paris and it was the most magical thing I could’ve ever imagined. My exchange experience was the greatest thing I have done with my education and can’t recommend it enough for anyone thinking about it.

Out & About in Leeds

Elouise: University of Leeds, Semester 1, 2016

From the moment I submitted my exchange application, right up until I hopped off the train at Leeds station I was unsure if I had made the correct decision and picked the right university/ destination. But boy am I glad that I picked Leeds, what a city!!! Although not a top tourist destination for many (even for the British), Leeds is such a liveable city especially for students. Almost everything is catered to students. There are student prices and discounts, student nights, student real estate agents, student everything!

Leeds Corn Exchange - Call Lane

Leeds Corn Exchange – Call Lane

There are so many great little bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants all through Leeds. For

Leeds City Markets - Best for cheap groceries!

Leeds City Markets – Best for cheap groceries!

quirky pubs and bars there is Call Lane which is lined with anything and everything you could want. There are also a lot of places that do live music gigs, one of my personal favourites is Belgrave Beer Hall. They also have some of the best pizza in Leeds!

And of course your time in Leeds would not be complete without experiencing the infamous Otley Run, at least once. This is a pub crawl that runs from Headingly down Otley Road toward the Uni and the city. If you join any clubs, teams or societies you will definitely be dragged along to an Otley run. The university halls also do their own Otley’s throughout the year. But they are a great way to meet people, get to know new friends and also discover the best pubs Leeds has to offer.

 

Australia Day Otley Run

Australia Day Otley Run

I won’t tell you everything, and there is plenty left to discover, but I will say this, Leeds will definitely provide you with the best night out. Leeds also has some fantastic shopping, the city is filled with large shopping centres – the most impressive is Trinity Leeds, which also has a great food hall in it full of street food and food stalls.

 

Learn more about QUT Student Exchange Options.