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.

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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

 

Ashlynne: Reflections and Advice

So I have officially been back in New Zealand for a week and thought this would be a good time to reflect on my entire exchange (while I try not to melt in the heat). This post is quite difficult to write because I can’t really believe that my exchange is actually over. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I have made so many lifelong friends and memories, and Leeds will always be a second home to me.

I thought I would use this final post to give some advice to anyone who is looking at going on exchange. My first piece of advice is that if you are thinking about going on exchange you need to go. My five months that I spent on exchange to Leeds were some of the greatest that I have had in my entire life. It was an incredibly life changing experience that I wouldn’t change for anything, and so if you are undecided about whether or not you want to go on an exchange my advice would be to definitely go!

Another piece of advice that I have is to step outside of your comfort zone. Obviously moving to the other side of the world alone like I did is scary enough, but once you get settled in, try some things you wouldn’t usually do. For me this meant a couple of different things, one of these was travelling alone which I had never done before. And although it was terrifying at first, I did it. And it was an awesome experience where I made a lot of friends and memories and now I can eat alone at restaurants and ask strangers to take photos of me without too much fear! An exchange is an awesome time where we have an opportunity to try and experience so many new things so I would recommend trying these new experiences as much as possible.

Also, be prepared but know that things probably will go wrong. On an exchange and travel in general being prepared is important. You’ve got to know what’s going on otherwise it will probably be a very stressful trip. However prepared you are, things are going to go wrong and there’s nothing you can do to change that. For me this was when I got a stomach bug three days before I was meant to be leaving for a two week Europe trip. So my advice for this is that you’ve got to be able to adapt and don’t get too upset that things didn’t work out the way you planned!

Make the most of your time on exchange because it will go super quickly. Even though sitting here writing this I know I’ve been gone for five months it really doesn’t seem that long. In some ways it feels like it was only a few weeks ago I was arriving in Leeds and setting up my rooms, but unfortunately it’s all over now. So my advice is to make the most of your time on exchange, make lifelong friends, go on incredible adventures, because before you know it you’ll be back home with amazing memories, ridiculous amounts of photos and far too many half-baked plans to see all your incredible friends again.

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Halloween party with some new British friends!

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Explorations in London including Winter Wonderland

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Christmas Ball with friends!

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My final (very emotional) day in Leeds.

 

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Ashlynne: Travels Around the UK

Hi!

So as I write this blog post I only have a month left of my exchange! It’s amazing how fast it’s gone, I can’t believe it’s nearly over! Since this is my second to last blog post I thought I would talk about all the places I have visited while I’ve been on exchange. So I’m going to write these by order I visited them (mostly because I can’t possibly rank them!).

  1. Winchester

So Winchester was the first place that I visited in the United Kingdom because I have some family there. Winchester is a super lovely, but very small city. I would definitely recommend visiting if you’re ever in London as you could as a day trip. The city centre is full of lovely churches, old buildings and rivers which are very picturesque.

  1. York

So after arriving to my new home in Leeds, York was the first place that I visited as it is only a 20 minute train ride away. If you’re in the United Kingdom York is somewhere that you definitely have to visit. York fulfils every dream of the cute English town you’ve ever had. It is full of cute little walkways and cobbled houses. If you do go I would definitely recommend heading to Betty’s for a traditional English afternoon tea.

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  1. Snowdonia

Snowdonia is a lovely mountain range that is just over the welsh border. I went there for a day with a few friends from uni and a day was definitely not enough time. We spent the day walking up a couple of different hills and mountains and I saw some of the most incredible landscapes!

  1. Alwick and Durham

So my day trip to Alwick and Durham were satisfying the Harry Potter nerd within myself. Durham and Alwick castle are both in the north of England close to the Scottish border. Alwick castle was where most of the outdoor scenes from all the Harry Potter films, it was absolutely incredible to walk around and actually feel like you’re in Hogwarts! We then went to Durham next which was where a lot other Harry Potter scenes were filmed. Even if you’re not a harry potter fan I would definitely recommend Durham as a place to visit, it has some amazingly old architecture and really cute cafes and restaurants.

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  1. London

So London is an entire world within itself. I spent a week in London just before Christmas and I could have easily spent another whole week there! London is a crazy city where there are always something new to see or do. One of the best things I did in London was a massive walk of the city, I started by the Tower of London walked across Tower Bridge, stopped at the Borough markets for lunch, stopped to see Shakespeare’s Globe, saw the Tate Modern, walked across Millennium Bridge and then ended the day at St Paul’s Cathedral – it was an awesome way to see the city! Another awesome thing I did in London was going to a play on the West End, I saw Matilda which was absolutely incredible – I would definitely recommend going to the West End if you’re ever in London, and the area where all the plays are in Covent gardens is one of my favourite parts of the whole city!

  1. Scottish Highlands

So I’ll start the next two paragraphs by saying how much I absolutely love Scotland – out of all the places I’ve visited in the United Kingdom, Scotland is definitely my favourite. So I did a guided tour around the Scottish Highlands which I would definitely recommend, the best places you want to see are quite spread out so you either need to do a road trip or do a guided tour. My favourite place that I visited was the Isle of Skye in North-Western, it was this small beautiful island and I hiked up a massive mountain, the Oldman of Storr, which had the most incredible views of the island.

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  1. Edinburgh

Edinburgh is probably my favourite city in the United Kingdom, or actually probably my favourite city in the entire world. It’s such a perfectly sized city which means that you can easily walk the entire city and so don’t have catch public transport to anywhere. It’s also a city that feels super old, and you can tell the history the city has just from walking around. My favourite things that I did in Edinburgh was the Christmas markets – which are definitely the best I have seen the food there was incredible! My other favourite thing was Arthur’s seat which is this hill right next to the city I hiked on New Year’s Day and it gives amazing views of the city!

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So that’s a summary of the cities I have visited during my time in the United Kingdom!

Thanks,

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Ashlynne: Life at the University of Leeds

Hey guys so since my class time at the University of Leeds is almost at an end I thought I would explain some of the differences between studying at the University of Auckland and the University of Leeds.

One of the biggest differences between the two universities that I have noticed is the difference in class time. At Auckland, I would typically be spending between 4 to 5 hours a week in lectures and tutorials for each of my classes, this would mean I would typically spend up to 20 hours a week in classes. At the University of Leeds, each of my classes has a maximum of 2 hours a week, most weeks I spend about 7 hours in class a week. This has a lot of benefits, especially for travelling because I get three day weekends every week! However, it means that in Leeds there is a lot more out of class work that is expected. Most weeks I spend two hours doing readings for each class, and two hours doing seminar preparation for each class, on top of working on assignments.

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Another difference between the Leeds and Auckland is that the massive number of societies and sports here. The Leeds University Union has over 300 clubs and societies, so no matter what people are interested in there is basically a club for everything! For my study abroad I wanted to try something different so I’ve joined the Quidditch club here, it has ended up being super fun and I got to compete in the northern regional quidditch competition! Another thing about Leeds is how important sport is taken here. In fact every Wednesday afternoon there are no classes on past 2pm so that all sports teams can have their training and games. Also every year there is a sporting competition called Varsity, this is where the University of Leeds and Leeds University Beckett compete against each other in tonnes of different sports ending in a rugby match. This year University of Leeds won which was very exciting!

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Another difference between the two universities that I have noticed is how the lectures and tutorials are run. The lectures are run mostly the same however the class sizes are a lot smaller. In Auckland I am used to having at least 100 people in a lecture and 500 at the most. In Leeds my smallest class has about 25 people in it and my largest class has 120 – this means that the lectures are a lot more interactive. The tutorials in Leeds are quite different from Auckland, firstly they are called seminars not tutorials. They are a lot more discussion based than I am used to in Auckland; in Leeds every student is expected to prepare readings or case studies and bring them to the seminar where you discuss them in small groups with the lecturer. They are also very small seminars too, most of mine have about 15 people.

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If you have any questions about studying in Leeds or in the UK in general feel free to message me.

Until next time,

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Ashlynne: Things To Do Around Leeds

So a couple of days I officially hit two months of living in Leeds. So I thought this would be a good time to talk about some things to do in Leeds and also in the Yorkshire region in general. The Yorkshire region is general is a super gorgeous part of the UK that I’d definitely recommend visiting, the cities here are pretty diverse but there is a tonne of green space and lovely walks to do in this region that I really enjoy (especially when I’m missing home!).

So Leeds where I’m currently living isn’t a very touristy city, but despite this it is an incredibly beautiful city with lots of things to do! Throughout my couple of months here I have spent a lot of time exploring the city and so here are my top recommendations of things to do in Leeds.

Head into one of the historic buildings (or just stand outside and enjoy the architecture) – Leeds has quite a few old buildings that have recently been converted into museums, art galleries and libraries. If going inside isn’t really your thing though spend half an hour wandering through the centre of town and just enjoy all the architecture of the buildings.

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Have a coffee and enjoy the view (or sunshine) – so despite the United Kingdom’s reputation for having terrible coffee, Leeds has quite a few of independent cafes which actually sell very coffee (they don’t however do Christmas themed coffee sadly, I still need to go to Starbucks for that). My friends and I often head down to a café to talk, enjoy the view and often sit out in the sunshine!

Shopping – Leeds is a fairly new and industrial city, and so a couple of years ago they built a massive shopping mall called Trinity. This place has absolutely everything from cafes to restaurants to designer stores to primark. It’s a great way to spend a day.

Kirkstall Abbey – Kirkstall Abbey is an old ruined abbey that lies just outside the city centre of Leeds, it’s a super nice place to go on a picnic for lunch and the old ruins of the abbey are incredible!

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Harewood house – this is one of the many old estate houses that exist in England, after visiting a few I think it’s one of the nicer ones! It’s about a half an hour bus ride from Leeds and its definitely worthy of a day trip. The house itself is nice and very grand, however my favourite part was the outside area that includes a small farm and many Instagram worthy places to take photos.

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Thanks for reading!

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