This post is taken from exchange student Elly Stretton’s blog Elly’s Leeds Adventure. Elly studied at the University of Leeds in Semester 1, 2017.
I’ve written quite a bit on life as an exchange student, and sometimes it can be an information overload. And sometimes we go over all the things we think are important: financing, travel, transport, accommodation, whilst leaving out other practical things that would have come in handy.
That’s why I’ve created this page – 20 top things you didn’t know (but that you needed to know) studying abroad.
1. Get a Budget: It’s invaluable!
2. Research Where You’re Staying: Really look at how far away your accommodation is from campus, where the city you’re studying is in relation to everything else, and look at living costs and public transport.
4. Don’t Overpack! Trust me on this one. If you’re studying in the UK in the winter it’s tempting to fill your suitcase with lots of jumpers and coats. But only bring ONE good quality warm coat, a few jumpers (two or three), a raincoat, scarf, boots, and a beanie. This will get you through the winter, and you can always buy other items along the way if you need to.
5. Be Prepared to Feel Underprepared: Nothing can really prepare you for that first night in your room. It might feel a bit scary, and you might feel like you have no idea what’s going on, but it gets better – I promise.
6. Self – Catered or Catered Accommodation: There are definitely pros and cons to each. With catered accommodation – I found that I bonded and made friends very quickly, as I caught up with everyone every breakfast and dinner. Portions are large and second servings are always available, not to mention you don’t have to worry about dishes and grocery shopping. But, meal times are strict and usually quite early (7:30am – 9:00am for breakfast and 5:15pm – 6:45pm for dinner, lunch not included except on Sundays). With self catered accommodation – most people found it hard to make friends as everyone eats separately, plus you have shopping costs to count for. But you get the freedom of choice for what you eat and when (which I would highly recommend if you have specific dietary requirements as catered food is limited in choice).
7. Join Clubs: It may be daunting, but joining clubs via the University is a great way to make friends and get out of your comfort zone. Leeds University was very diverse in the clubs they offered: From water polo, hiking, quidditch (yes, really) to poetry, drama and even sex clubs – there’s something for everyone.
8. Find a Hobby: Student life in the UK is quite different to student life in Australia. In the UK no one really works with a part time job whilst studying, which leaves a lot of free time during the day. I was not prepared for this when I first arrived and often found myself just kind of sitting around. Make sure you bring things to do with you! I really got into reading and walking (and Netflix is a main favourite – make sure you get an account!).
9. Day Trips: A lot of the time (especially within the UK) everything is extremely close and pretty cheap to get to. Don’t worry about planning long trips, most places you can see in a day. Leeds University offers a service called “Citylife Leeds” which I would 100% recommend. They take you on trips to all sorts of amazing locations so you can see as much as possible for the smallest fee.
10. Ryan Air: Ryanair is a saviour in disguise and I would honestly recommend flying with them whenever you can. Its a budget airline and flights are SO cheap (I got a flight to Crete from Leeds for 13 pound).
12. Nightlife: I love to go out at night in Australia, so I thought I was prepared coming to the UK. But no, they are INSANE here! Brace yourself for day drinking, clubbing on weeknights, and clubs within the University (Leeds had a club called Fruity which would open on Friday nights). I would say that if you love this life as much as I did, definitely choose the UK as a study abroad option, its a big component of student life here. If you are not into this scene I would recommend choosing somewhere else, as it may feel isolating at times.
13. Slang: You might think this is a bit silly but English people say some weird things. “You alright?” means hello, and they ALL say it. “Fairy Liquid” is dishwashing/laundry soap.
14. Potatoes: Whether you like them or not they will always be served in a meal if you go out/if you live in a catered residence. Mashed, baked, boiled, sliced (waffles, yes really) they’ve got it all and you can’t escape.
15. Portable Phone Chargers: Would definitely invest in one either before, or on arrival to your study abroad location. These are amazing especially when you’re on the go all the time with travel and taking photos, it can run your battery down quickly.
16. Multi – country Adaptors: Definitely get one of these before arrival, especially if you plan on doing lots of European travel. It saves you having multiple adaptors suited for different countries. Instead, it’s all in one.
17. Textbooks: Wait until arrival to purchase them. I’d even recommend waiting a few weeks before deciding to buy them. Evaluate the courses you are taking, I found that with my history courses all my learning came from lectures and Seminar presentations and not from textbooks.
18. Exploring: Spend the first week or two exploring the city your staying in. After the first fortnight things definitely pick up pace and you might not have the chance again later. Other exchange students: It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet people from other countries, not just from the one you’ll be studying in. You’ll make friends for life so try and make ones from all across the world!
19. Deliveroo and Uber: If you don’t have the apps yet I would 100% recommend them. They’re great if you’re ever stuck somewhere and need a ride, or need a late night food fix!
20. My Last Tip: Is just to relax and enjoy the ride. Say yes to everything, take chances, take risks – you never know where it might take you!
You can read more of Elly’s blog at Elly’s Leeds Adventure.