Hello! Since this is my first blog I’d figured I should introduce myself. My name is Ashlynne, I’m a third year BA/BCom student who is studying in Leeds for the semester. I have lived in Auckland my entire life so moving out of home to the literal other side of the world was an exciting but scary step for me!
Preparing for Leeds
The best piece of advice I can give about going on an exchange, regardless of where you are going, is to start early. I spent hours going through different universities, and hours trying to finalise my papers for Leeds, and then hours packing and preparing for life away from home. So make sure you start early so that you have plenty of time, and realise that no matter what you’re probably going to forget something anyway!
My first few days in Leeds were some of the weirdest days that I’ve had so far. I was hit with the very sudden realisation that I was all the way in England completely alone in a city where I knew absolutely no one which was pretty terrifying. The best way I found to deal with this was to get out and adventure around town! Leeds is a pretty big city with 800,000 people so there’s always something to do here and because it’s such a student based city there are so many events for students which are great places to meet new people!
University of Leeds
One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed during my time in Leeds is the differences between universities. Despite the fact that Leeds and Auckland are fairly close together in international rankings there are so many differences between the two. Back in Auckland I do 5 papers a semester and so had about 25 hours of classes a week, in Leeds I’m doing the equivalent of 4 papers but have 7 hours of class a week. The focus here is on more individual learning, so we have to do a tonne of readings, rather than on teaching.
Another difference between the two universities is the classes. I do fairly popular papers back at Auckland and so I’m used to classes with 200 people at least. Here in Leeds my biggest class has just under a hundred people and my smallest class has 30 which is so bizarre to me! Also here classes are compulsory so during seminars and some lectures a roll is passed around that we all have to sign, and if you have too many missed classes you have to have a meeting with your faculty – which seems so weird to me because I haven’t filled out a roll since I left high school three years ago.
Something that I think is really important to talk about is the cultural differences between NZ and the UK. The UK is a super attractive place to do an exchange because although it’s in Europe the culture is perceived as quite similar to NZ, despite this there are quite a few differences between the two. The one I find quite difficult is smoking, smoking is a lot more culturally acceptable here than it is in NZ and so you have to get used to the smell of smoke in the air quite a lot. Another big one for me is homelessness. Homelessness and beggars here are a lot more prominent than in New Zealand, its still taking me time to get used to this one, and here people often come into bars and pubs and will come up to your table and ask you for money which I still can’t really believe.
So when culture shock gets the best of you (which at some point it definitely will) my best recommendation is get out of the city and travel. I found the university here runs a lot of trips to places around Yorkshire but I’ve done some trips by myself too. In the bit over a month I’ve been in the UK I’ve managed to see some of Southern England, Wales, York, the East Coast, and explore lots around Yorkshire too.
If you have any questions about Leeds or studying in the UK in general feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Instagram @ashlynne.jury
Until next time,