Hannah: Leaving Leeds, My final Month and Reflecting on My Exchange Experience

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….

It’s officially 2020, 1st of January, and your exams are in two weeks.

Nothing like the New Year to bring you back to reality, but that is what it’s like studying on this side of the world. I never realised that I took the six-week Christmas break for granted until I found myself cramming in a Laidlaw Library cubicle just as the new decade had begun. Gone are the Christmas Markets and celebratory trips across the country, instead Cafe Nero is your new home. If anything, exam season widened my palette. I finally stepped into the UK’s favourite establishment: Greggs. I will be careful here, because if you say more than two bad words about Greggs you will be forced out of the country. It is the land of sausage rolls and very plain whitebread sandwiches, and the only establishment to dominate the news cycle because of the not-so-terrible introduction of the Vegan Sausage Roll. Mind you, not the best place for a pre-exam snack if you don’t want to roll your bloated body to the exam room (I know, take my visa away). As I take a breather from exams, Christmas, and the sense that everything is coming to an end, I will reflect on the highs and lows of the past month (Greggs experience included):

6am journeys to Oxford are worth it. Not the 6am part, but Oxford, definitely. 

If I were to rank my favourite places in the UK, Oxford wins hands down. As soon as I pulled into the train station I couldn’t help but say, ‘This is cool’. Eloquent first words in the land of academia. To continue this academic theme, I visited a library with a special chamber designed for the Monarch, because even the monarch wasn’t trusted with taking books out of the library. We all know monarchs are notorious for overdue library fines like the best of us. In all seriousness, the Bodlein Library is incredible. Nevermind that Harry Potter was filmed there; it’s place in the School of Divinity was established in 1602, and it’s founding batch of books started in 1327 with the first purpose built library in Oxford. A trip to Oxford wouldn’t be complete without a trip to one of the colleges, so of course Christ Church College with an alumni list ranging from Lewis Carroll to Albert Einstein’s brief time in Christ Church. Other noteworthy sights was the beautiful St Mary the Virgin, Iffley, boasting its establishment in 1086. And of course, some minimal stalking around C.S. Lewis’s former home, his own back garden or real life Narnia, and his local church (the church cat followed me for ten minutes, so really the highlight of my visit). Did I take a 6am train and had to be at the station at 5:30? Yes. What is worth it? As long as the train passengers didn’t mind me snoring my way to Oxford, I had a fabulous time. I cannot stress enough that Oxford is a MUST if you end up in the UK.

Finally living my Downton Abbey fantasy

On my birthday, my friend decided to take me on a surprise adventure. Usually, I would be worried if I found myself on a half-hour road trip through the Peak District, with harsh rock faces, away from city comforts. Soon, we pulled into the grounds at Chatsworth House, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. All I cared about was that it was the filming location of Pride and Prejudice (2005), but I’m sure it’s 312-year history was also very important. Nothing like a good manor house in the middle of the Derbyshire countryside to make you feel truly enraptured by Britain. It’s the stereotypical Downton Abbey fantasy New Zealanders can’t help but get a glimpse of. It was truly beautiful, so very British.

Reflecting on my time in Leeds

Even though I loved and explored the wonders of Oxford and lived it up with the Duke and Duchess at Chatsworth, when I arrived back in Leeds I had a weird sense of returning home. I pulled out of the city centre and passed the University’s Parkinson building, then passed The Library pub with surprisingly good pancakes.I looked out at Hyde Park and their bare winter trees, passing streets where so many of my friends live. I smiled as I passed Hyde Park pub and the Hyde Park Bookclub, two very good pubs only a short work away from my accommodation. 10/10 would recommend seeing live music at the Bookclub. As we pulled up Cumberland Road into Devonshire Hall, I was reminded that at least I wouldn’t miss walking up this hill. This exchange has been an experience of very high-highs and very low-lows, but I have come away in love with Leeds, in love with the UK, and in love with the opportunities this experience has given. I will miss this place, but I’m also looking forward to bringing this new and improved Hannah back to New Zealand. 

…The fact that I can do a pretty convincing Yorkshire accent now doesn’t hurt too!

Hannah: Festivities Abroad

Festivities Abroad

Christmas may be over a month away, but Christmas decorations were already taking up Sainburys’ precious aisle space days before November 1st. After making the unfortunate decision of getting a Halloween costume just days before the big night, I walked through the grocery store with Christmas music playing and nothing scary in sight. I think back to early October, where a shop for a pint of milk required squeezing passed piles of pumpkins and Halloween themed custard. Welcome to my second blog post, where I struggle to come to terms with the revolving door of festivities that take British culture by storm.

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Costumes in Leeds are normal, but apparently Halloween is special here too:

I remember my first day in Leeds, walking around Headingley on a Saturday afternoon. Soon you are greeted by groups of Lifeguards, Spice Girls, even Bananas. Don’t you worry because every single Saturday shopping trip will also force you to interact with these strange dressed-up creatures. These brave souls are completing the famous ‘Otley run’ where they visit 16 pubs while dressed-up, as if disguising themselves from potential run-ins with classmates. You would think this regular weekly dress-up would discourage people from Halloween.

No, no, no. Prepare for Pumpkin carving, costumes, and attempts not to slip on the autumn leaves.

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All dressed-up for Halloween.. Due to lack of costume options, I was a Spider’s Web

‘Remember, remember the 5th of November’:

And just like that, it was Guy Fawkes. How very British! Though New Zealand haven’t let go of this tradition just yet, nothing beats standing in a field wearing three different jackets and two pairs of socks. It had been raining all day, so expectations for the soaked pile of wood to light were low. After three different countdowns and plenty of smoke the Bonfire finally lit. The display of fireworks were followed by a Fair filled with Toffee Apples and Bacon Butties. As I left Hyde Park a thick Yorkshire accent mutters, ‘Well, that was terrible’ behind me. I laughed at this very British response.

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All dressed-up for Halloween.. Due to lack of costume options, I was a Spider’s Web

Christmas trees? Check. John Lewis ad? Check.

Christmas is well and truly here. I knew Christmas was a different beast in the UK as soon as I visited three different student flats on the first week of November. All three had Christmas trees up and decorated before any of the inhabitants had started their assignments. Every single ad-break on TV has a different Christmas advertisement; Sainbury’s invented Christmas? You bet. John Lewis makes us feel sorry for a Dragon? Let me grab some tissues. Walkers have Brussel Sprout flavoured crisps? Yes, unfortunately yes. But what is Christmas without Christmas Markets! The Leeds Market did not disappoint with all the mulled wine a girl could ask for. The following weekend, I visited the Edinburgh Christmas Market where Christmas carols are played on bagpipes and the market is three-times bigger than Leeds’ already impressive market. On the ride home the busdriver played ‘Mr Bean’s Christmas’, because of course I’m ticking off every stereotype in the book.

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On that note, a very Merry Christmas from Leeds. Before I get whiplash from all the festivities, let’s forget that the New Year is almost upon us. Although, I’m sure Sainbury’s is dusting off their ‘Happy New Year’ signs as I speak.

Hannah

Hannah: Misadventures and Accent-struggles ~ My life in Leeds

Welcome to Leeds, the forecast is for rain and friendly locals who can’t help but call you ‘love’.

Four-weeks in Leeds and I’m convinced that a angry-faced mugger in Hyde Park would shout, ‘Give me your wallet, love’ and I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Prepare yourself for a cocktail of accents only Love Island has the bravery to showcase. From trouble with the misfortunate kiwi accent to plenty of Northern rain, here are the mind bending things I have noticed while living in Northern England:

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The Kiwi-accent was a mistake

It was my third seminar in my first week of the semester. By this point I was a pro- I introduced myself as ‘Hannah’ with my best Queen’s English. Gone were the days where people would call me ‘Henna’ due to the misfortune of having a New Zealand accent. Still, my tutor parroted me back as I said ‘Yes’. The hideous way we pronounce vowels had come back to bite me once again.

But do not fret fellow-Kiwis who dream of escaping to the UK, this is a blessing in disguise. For you are now the most interesting person in the room. You’re from New Zealand; so far away, so removed. And somehow this Kiwi has found herself in Leeds of all places.

You can simply say, ‘My name is Hannah and I am from Auckland, New Zealand’, and their minds would explode. So prepare to strut like a rockstar, because your weird accent could be just the ticket to making friends.

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Brits are on 2x speed. ALL. THE. TIME.

From my accommodation to the University of Leeds it is a short fifteen to twenty minute walk- for a human, that is. For a British-bred Fresher who didn’t look like they could crawl let alone walk after a week of fun; these tired faces become blurs as their determined footsteps speed passed you with some sort of motorised mechanism.

Kiwi fast-walkers cannot hold a candle to these extraordinary creatures. This is all while my feet are trying to get to grips with England’s slippery stone footpaths compared with New Zealand’s inferior concrete.

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I hope that by the end of my Study Abroad semester I too can walk with such boldness. A girl can only dream.

Beautiful landscapes: Old buildings v. New Zealand mountain-ranges

Oh, New Zealand. How I miss your landscape! Everywhere you go in New Zealand, there is a mountain range just winking at you in the background. Who knew the view from your lecture theatre could be so satisfying? But do not fret future travellers, I have found a new love.

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Old buildings! With York less than a half-hour train journey from Leeds, I had to bask in the presence of York Minster. This wonder of Medieval craftsmanship was built over the course of two-hundred-years. I have nothing amusing to say about it; it was just truly breathtaking. The midday sun pierced the stained-glass windows and all my worries over the past four-weeks dissipated. From my Kiwi eyes, the more old buildings the better.

As I reflect on the peace I felt in York Minster, I just feel so happy to be here in England experiencing all these new things. Forget power-walkers and rain-filled days; I have the pleasure to be studying in the UK at a fantastic university (seriously, the lecturers are actually fantastic and I am in no way being paid to say this!). I look forward to the future, rainy days and all.

 

Hannah