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Leeds Exchange – by Jordan McPeake

What would The Hobbit have been like if Bilbo had never left the Shire?

For the first semester of my third year I studied on exchange at the University of Leeds, formerly the workplace of J.R.R Tolkien (the author of The Hobbit, of course).  It’s with little doubt that I say those six months were the best and most valuable of my short life thus far – as everyone who has returned from their exchange will say to you, repeatedly.

I consider my exchange to encompass more than just my time in Leeds. I think of it as all the friends and memories made, all the sights seen, and all the places explored. Everything from taking a daring midnight swim just outside Barcelona’s beachside clubs to the quiet songs sang between friends in my bedroom in the small flat I called home. A home shared with four of my best friends, of which three I had never met before moving in. Even now – after returning home and settling down to find that nothing much has changed in Adelaide – I have the lessons learnt and the friends made on my exchange still with me. The past six months have opened my eyes to world. I know what’s out there now. I know what it’s like to leave one home and have to make another. Exchange prepares you for taking big risks and making big commitments in life, and it shows you the rewards that are on offer should you have the courage.

But, back to The Hobbit

If Bilbo had stayed in the Shire he would have been comfortable and safe. He wouldn’t have had to travel so far and fight dragons and giant spiders and shit. Things would have been nice. But his story wouldn’t have been worth writing about (I’d like to point out that I do understand that Bilbo Baggins is a fictional character). It would have gone something like this: “Bilbo stayed in the shire and lived safely and comfortably for the rest of his life. The end.”

Most of us in Adelaide are very lucky to live comfortable lives. It really is a lovely place to live. Even now, after seeing so many extraordinary cities I still feel that Adelaide is one of the best and most beautiful. But how will your story go? Will it be worth telling?

Going on an exchange is the best way to get out of Adelaide and have your own adventure. You’ll see and experience things that you’ll never forget. And it will give you the confidence and the desire to keep exploring and keep taking the risks that will get you the most out of life.

Sure, it’s not all roses and sunshine, especially in Yorkshire! Things might get tough. Maybe you won’t see the sun for a few weeks after leaving the Australian summer. Who knows, you might get locked out of your hostel room in nothing but your boxers (carrying your quilt for some reason) after an unfortunate sleeping walking incident? You shouldn’t have to fight any dragons though… But after all, they’re the best parts of the story!

Make the most of life and your time at Uni. Make it a story worth telling.

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