…if you’re able to that is. Studying abroad for even a semester does not come cheap. Once you’re in your destination of choice, there is so much around you that you
want need to experience that having a good financial situation is necessary.
If studying abroad is your dream, there are ways to make it happen. Bursaries through your school should be available, taking out a loan (either through a bank or through your student assistance program) or using savings.
If you’re on the fence about it, see below for my interview with one of my best friends, who spent last semester in Leeds, England (she’s back now, thank god).
Hey Kels, what made you decide to go abroad and leave all of your awesome friends behind (not bitter at all I swear)? Studying abroad has always been something I wanted to do every since I was in high school. ‘Leaving my friends behind’ wasn’t a deterring factor for me because I knew I that when I came back at the end of the five month- or however long, my friends would always be here. For me, I wanted to go on exchange because I love traveling also because everyone I have ever spoken to about going abroad has had an amazing time.
What was your first thought when you got to Leeds? The first couple of weeks in Leeds were very different to what I am used to back in Canada. The two nights I remember being in my dorm room and my neighbors playing god awful music up until 5 am and thinking, ‘oh god, what have I gotten myself into?’ But then as the week progressed I barely spent time in my room and went to events held by the university. The first weekend there was definitely a culture shock in terms of nightlife. The going out culture is just so different in England compared to Canada. In England, the people are rowdier and more aggressive, however they are harmless and as time went on, I got used to it and even grew fond of the English crowd.
Was it difficult to make friends? Not at all. You first and foremost need to keep in mind that you really need to put yourself out there and be open to new things and meeting new people from different walks of life. Going to Leeds I did not know anyone, including the people from Mac- that is in part my own fault because I bailed on the mandatory pre-exchange meetings, oops. I made my first friend at the airport in Toronto because I recognized a Mac sweater and found out that she too was studying abroad at Leeds. Once in Leeds, it was very easy to make friends through exchange events and parties. I met some of my best friends by accident on my way to a pre-drink when they asked me and my other friends if we were lost and needed help. Ever since then we became really close and traveled around Europe together.
What did your typical weekend look like? To be honest my weekends were not as wild as my weekdays. For kids on exchange, the weekends meant rest, local day trips or weekend trips to different cities/countries. I barely spent any weekends in Leeds because my friends and I would travel. When I did spend a weekend in Leeds, there would usually be club events on Saturday nights that would be held from 9pm up until 5am- those were a lot of fun and my personal favourite kind of nights. Sunday would be ‘recovery’ day and brunch that would usually take place at no earlier than 1pm.
What was different about studying abroad than studying at our university? The main difference for me was the grading system and the fact that as an exchange student my classes were pass or fail. Obviously I still tried to do well, but at the end of the day all I needed to do was pass, which was a 40% according to the grading system at the University of Leeds. Also, the attendance was taken in every single course, or as the English say ‘module,’ and if you miss a certain amount of classes, you were called to a meeting with your parent school. I never had to attend such a meeting however I did receive a warning email-whoops.
What was the hardest part about leaving home? This may sound a bit harsh, but it honestly wasn’t hard for me to leave home at all. I consider myself pretty independent and I already live in student housing during the school year, so while moving to another country for five months isn’t exactly the same thing, it did help me prepare for living on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I missed my parents and my friends a lot but I FaceTimed them to make the transition easier.
What was your favourite memory of being abroad? There is not one single memory that I would consider my favourite. I think for me the best part about studying abroad was making lasting memories with my new friends. Its nice to have made friends with people from all over the world and how you could become so close with someone in such a short amount of time. You see these people basically everyday for five straight months, travelling and living with them, so you really get to know them- perhaps even more so than the friends you have back at home. My favourite memories-nothing in particular, would be the nights going out in Leeds either to my favourite club called Mission (Thursdays are the day to go) or grabbing ‘a pint’ at Hyde Park Pub, as long as the company was good, every night was sure to be memorable.
What have you learned from studying at Leeds? Academic wise- not much. Personally, I’ve learned a lot about myself while studying abroad. I really learned to become more self-reliant and self dependent- I cooked and cleaned for myself all the time. I feel like going abroad has changed me as a person, for the better of course. I feel like I have a better attitude on life and I’ve realized what’s important. I definitely value things differently after going on exchange. I self admittedly valued material things beforehand but now I would much rather spend my time and money on experiences with the people that I love because those mean more to me than any material object. Most importantly, I’ve learned that I truly can do anything I set my mind to. For me, studying abroad was nothing but positive learning experiences and having successfully completely 5 months abroad (I passed all my courses-yay!) I know my next adventure awaits.
For more amazing pictures check out Kelsey’s Instagram here