Last September I embarked on the incredible experience of an exchange semester at Leeds University. I chose this University for a number of reasons: the availability of my Biomedical Science subjects, its high reputation within the UK, for the chance to live in Leeds and be close to the beautiful Lake District, and its prime location between London and old Scotland town, Edinburgh. Leeds exceeded my expectations not only with its beautiful campus but also the city of Leeds was full of great shops, markets and exciting events.
The highlight of Leeds University is its student Union, which went above and beyond in all areas. The Union housed countless groups and clubs available to join as well as hosting several social events throughout the semester. Inside the union was a multitude of warm cafes and always students/staff to answer all of my questions about accommodation, subjects, timetables and transport around Leeds. At the beginning of semester, there was a program running called “give it a go”. It allowed you to try all sorts of activities in different groups to get a taste of what clubs you might like to join or to just have fun and make friends. It included pillow making, cooking, day trips to other Yorkshire cities, sport games, movie nights, fundraisers, horse riding and heaps more. Get Out Get Active was another fantastic group open to anyone that operated throughout semester. It hosted, hiking, kayaking, orienteering, cycling and climbing trips almost every weekend that you could tag along on.
I joined the Hiking Committee and saw breathtaking sights around Yorkshire that I would probably never have seen on my own. We travelled to the Lake District for a weekend, and also many day trips to the Yorkshire Dales, Ilkey Moore, and more. The two images below are just a glimpse of these magnificent locations. I always used to think of London exclusively when I thought of England but my study abroad semester there showed me the English countryside and mountains are just as unique and exhilarating.
I had a blast living at Oxley Residence, which was a dormitory style housing with beautiful buildings and grounds (pictured left). The rooms were single with an en-suite and a large desk, and while I hadn’t had any room in my suitcase for room décor, it soon felt like home. I shared a hallway and kitchen with 4 other exchange students and made life-long friends with them and the other students at Oxley. I personally didn’t experience culture shock, I easily slipped into life at Leeds. The only part I found particularly difficult was the weather. I had packed all my warmest winter clothes but soon learnt Australian winter clothes are not English winter clothes. Walking in the rain when its windy and cold without a proper coat is not fun even in beautiful places. To any students travelling to a European country for semester 2 exchanges, BRING A THICK WINTER COAT. It is a must have and don’t be fooled into thinking the jacket you wear in July in Brisbane is going to last you.
At the time of my exchange semester, the Australian dollar to the British Pound was not favorable for those transferring to the pound. I saved a few thousand dollars for spending money not including rent since I knew the number would be halved when transferring to the pound. I used a travel card from my Australian bank, which I would recommend to travellers since you can transfer money via Internet banking to any currency (so I still had Euros when I travelled to other countries in Europe). The cost of living in Leeds is not nearly as expensive as in London, but due to the worth of the dollar it was still expensive compared to Brisbane. I recommend to future exchange students to make a budget – factoring in transport, food, any further travel and extras – and be strict on yourself to keep it. Living overseas I found the app International SOS – introduced to us in one of the pre-departure talks at QUT – very helpful. It gave me regular updates on the cities near me as well as serving as a sense of security.
Study abroad was once in a lifetime experience that I recommend to all QUT students. It helped me grow as an independent person and a proactive student. It did fuel my wanderlust and I am now itching to travel again to more countries. Being a student in another country is so different to simply being a tourist. You have the chance to fully immerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle, and are given so many amazing opportunities that you share with people from all walks of life. My study abroad semester is a time I will always cherish; along with the friends I made there whom I cannot wait to meet again is some far off city! I highly, highly recommend exchange to any student with a sense of adventure, a longing for culture and a wish for a life-changing experience.