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.

Ciao Italy!

Andrew P., Master of Business Process Management
Politecnico Di Milano, Italy (Semester 1, 2016,)

Host University

I went on exchange at Politecnico di Milano (Polimi) in Semester 1, 2016 at the Leonardo campus. It is a widely respected university in Europe with a rich history in engineering.

Note in Europe, their semesters are reversed which means our 1st semester is their 2nd. Polimi semesters start around 3 weeks after the QUT equivalent so you might (will) miss the first few weeks of your next semester when you return.

Most units will consist of two 2hr lectures and one final exam during the exam period. You get 2 attempts to pass the exam. This all-or-nothing final examination approach threw me off compared to how it’s done in QUT so you’ll need to self-manage your own studies from day one (my lectures were not recorded). If you are going in your first semester (QUT), try extending your stay to include their September exam session which will allow you to have 2 extra attempts to pass the exam as a precaution.

I found an apartment before arriving using a website called Uniplaces. They provide an intermediary in case you find the apartment not to your liking. I paid for a single room in a 2-bedroom apartment which cost me 500euro per month. This is average price you should expect to pay. Luckily, I’ve had no problems with my accommodation (and I’ve heard stories).

Host Country

I enjoyed my time in Italy and you can survive speaking only English but I would definitely recommend learning Italian before and during exchange. It definitely makes the experience so much more rewarding. I had a lot of fun interacting with my fellow international students via Polimi’s free language classes.

Milan is an expensive city to live in, compared to Brisbane. Try and buy whatever you need at the street markets scattered throughout the city.

Highlights

  • I’m a football fan and it was great to watch (and attend) quality games within normal hours!
  • The sun doesn’t set until 9pm which allows you to make the most of the day. It’s definitely something I immediately miss upon returning.
  • Joining the ERASMUS group and making new friends. They do plenty of trips and social events. Great fun!
  • Italians have a tradition called Aperitivo. By purchasing a beverage, you have full access to the buffet they set out in the afternoon. It’s a social and financial lifeline for students!

Tips

Before Leaving

  • If you’re planning on taking a credit card (recommended) try getting one that gives you complementary travel insurance if you use the card to pay for your flights or accommodation. I knew a few students who went travelling after the study period.
  • Don’t forget your stationary
  • Pack light, you’ll be bringing back more than you can imagine.
  • A laptop is essential.
  • Try to get as many transfer units as possible. There may be circumstances in which you won’t be able to do some of the units that you applied for. Be prepared to have overlapping units.
  • I used a Citibank Plus account for cash withdrawals and a 28 Degrees account for credit card purchases and highly recommend both.

During Exchange

  • Apply for an ATM Transport Card. Renew every month for 22euro at the Metro Stations.
  • I signed on to Vodafone prepaid plan as it also allows cheap data roaming in other countries (5euro per day). The other big telecoms Wind and TIM do not provide this.
  • Applying for a Permesso di Sogiorno (Permit to stay) is a very daunting experience. I actually got my card a couple of weeks before I was set to leave!