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Exchange at the University of Leeds – By Alexandra Craddock

Nine times. That’s how many times I’ve had to hang up on my grandparents for ringing in the middle of a lecture. Nine times, I have had to explain the concept of time zones. Although the family back home in Adelaide may not have adjusted, I am happy to report that I’ve finally gotten into the swing of life, here in Leeds. I won’t lie, Prospective Study-Abroad Students, the first few days were tough. As I lay, curled up in the foetal position, sobbing to my mother over Skype, cursing her for letting me, a tiny baby, too immature for the real world, move to the UK, ALONE. But, you get over it. The days get easier. It’s gotten to the point where I have homemade quiche in the fridge, my readings are (mostly) finished and my new friends and I are planning a sneaky trip to Newcastle. Gather, students, let me share the tales I have collected from my first few weeks studying at the University of Leeds.

Despite smooth-sailing travel-wise, arriving in Leeds was a fairly unhappy experience. I was weepy, jet-lagged and arrived to accommodation with nothing to my name bar the 20kg of weather-inappropriate clothing I brought over from Australia. I got lost trying to find the university, was overwhelmed with the crowds of confused international students and sweating under the turtleneck I decided I needed to wear, despite the day being unseasonably warm and sunny. Luckily, Leeds Uni has you sorted. An enormous study abroad checkpoint had been set up, with friendly, green-shirted students there to sort out stressy little me. I was given more booklets, flyers, posters and free pens than I knew what to do with. They directed me to the closest supermarket with a wealth of maps and I was on my way. Despite this, getting back to my accommodation, dragging a week’s worth of food, bedding and toiletries with me was the catalyst for sob-fest numero dos. Although this is all sounding a bit melancholic at the moment, please bear with me, it’s onwards and upwards from here.

The first week at the University of Leeds is international student-central. We’re all over the place. Tours are abundant. Quiz nights every night. I think I had more free tea and biscuits in that week alone than I have consumed in my entire life. This was the week for forming new friendships, navigating around an unknown city and learning to cook more than just pasta. Then came the almighty Freshers Week. I’m still having nightmares. Let’s keep it brief. There’s an influx of 18 year olds, they don’t know how to cook, they don’t know how to hold their liquor and they’re loud. But don’t hold this against them. My flat is made up of one other international and three young freshers and they’ve taught me more about British colloquialisms, food and TV than I could have ever prepared myself for. Plus, they’re all lovely. I hit a very big jackpot with them.

Freshers Week went by in a blur and suddenly I was thrust back into academia. The university itself, is beautiful. Half of the buildings are old, terraced, brick houses converted into classrooms. I still feel as though I am intruding on a quiet suburban street as I struggle to find lecture theatres. Luckily, classes here are of a similar structure to Adelaide and other than the labyrinthine university grounds, my actual studies are, thus far, going well. If I happen to run into trouble over the year, the University of Leeds offers endless options for advice and aid for any issues I may have, which is a massive weight off my shoulders. With the academics under control, I’ve had the chance to fully immerse myself into this busy city. With an overwhelming amount of societies (I am a proud member of the Food Society, which I only joined because at the society fair they had free brownies), volunteering opportunities, weekend trips away and, yet again, more quiz nights (I WILL WIN, ONE DAY), it’s impossible to be bored.

Since arriving in Leeds, I can’t deny I’ve had some lows. But having hurdled over the initial homesickness, actual sickness and loneliness, I’m happier and happier as the days pass. Every weekend is booked solid with trips away. One of my new roommates is a qualified pastry chef. I have so much cheese in the fridge and no parental supervision. It’s clichéd but true, when I say time is literally flying by in a whirlwind of train tickets and Polaroid pictures. I anticipate the coming winter months with bated breath. My new friends say I simply cannot toboggan down the hill from uni to our accommodation, but I am ready to prove them wrong. I’m ready for my first white Christmas, with mulled wine and a roast dinner. From there, it’s semester two. More classes, more new people, more exploring to be done. Then summer rolls around. Barcelona anyone? Why not! Back to right here, right now, though. I’m having a ridiculously good time and cannot sing the praises of my study abroad loud enough. Now I just have to get my grandparents to understand Greenwich Mean Time.

 

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