Exchange at the University of Leeds – By Kelvin Dean

Travelling to the UK, I had already set myself the goal of ingratiating into the British culture as part of my semester abroad. This presented many advantages and disadvantages throughout my early experience.

I chose to forego student hall accommodation. I wanted to avoid the trap of residing amongst other international students instead of locals as well as residing outside the confines of the university.

Not having that initial stable accommodation though put a lot of pressure on quickly finding a suitable house. In the end I couldn’t afford to stay in temporary accommodation too long and settled for an unimpressive house with several housemates. Though the house and neighbourhood were not without their quintessential British charm. The rent was also cheaper than the halls thought the utilities could vary.

It was also shared facilities but it turned out I was overly optimistic about the general respect housemates would attribute to them.

Still walking distance to the city and campus, this place gave me access to much cheaper grocery stores and quieter neighbours.

The university was extraordinarily helpful with orientation and arrival. Their welcome pack even included a SIM card ready for use. The events to meet other international students has also been a great resource for making friends in the same situation.

Travelling alone, the largest source of anxiety was finding friends. I joined several university societies and discovered many people who quickly became regular mates. Everyone was very friendly and eager to learn more about another country. Most nights I can expect to have plans with one society or another, always keeping me busy and in company.

The course structure is very different. I didn’t expect myself to have so much free time with only about 5 hours of contact time per week. Some courses only lasted a term and some were entirely group based work.

After finding the public transport incredibly unreliable I took the opportunity to walk to most destinations. I discovered so many stores, pubs, and landmarks this way that I’m sure even the locals would be unaware. Exploration is absolutely encouraged.

The university union was also incredibly useful in recommending and providing various day trips outside of town. These affordable trips often include tours which give great insight into the country’s history. More so than can be gleaned from pop culture or history books.

Living literally on the other side of the world could cause difficulty communicating with home. There were early morning and late night calls far more often than regular times.

The night life here is also a bit of culture shock. Many shops and restaurants stay open til late on weeknights, some even wait until then to open, which is in great contrast to Adelaide. Every night I can expect to encounter crowds bar hopping, going for dinner, or shopping so the city always seems open which is very welcoming.

Opening a bank account and registering with a doctor were also easy and of great reassurance.

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