I’m in the Erasmus exchange program for one year, and now that my first semester is done, it’s time to reflect on my experience.
First of all, since I can remember I always loved the United Kingdom. The culture, history, language… everything was attractive to me. And after 3 years of higher education in France, I needed to experience something else to keep enjoying studying. The chance to do the Erasmus program appeared, and I took it. Studying in the United Kingdom wasn’t a possibility for me, it was my choice.
When it came to city choice, this was harder for me to choose as I needed to think about what I wanted (or not) in a city. What I knew is that I wanted to live the fullest and most authentic experience possible. Leeds is not well known in France, but I saw that it was a medium sized city, in a region I didn’t really know which I liked the sound of. And, Northern cities have a reputation for being very friendly, so this was the cherry on the top of the cake!
While France and the UK seem quite similar, there are so many cultural differences. The educational side is very different in so many ways. What strikes me the most is how much you get involved in the university life compared to a French University. LBU offers the full UK student experience I was looking for: loads of societies and sports clubs to get involved in, to meet people and to experience the authentic journey as a student.
I did get involved in the female Lacrosse team and my teammates were so friendly, and I’ve discovered a new sport. Playing in a team is definitely one good thing to do! Unsurprisingly for a French person, what I feared the most was… British food! I was pleasantly surprised, despite the few odd dishes (beans on bread, why?). The culinary offer in Leeds is very diverse. I discovered a lot of new flavors and products, thanks to the incredible number of restaurants here and the variety of tastes. A very positive thing is, as a vegetarian, the meatless offer is very good here (plus there are plenty of options for vegans!).
I decided to move in a shared house with 6 housemates, in Headingley, 10 minutes away from Headingley campus. Again, I did this to get the full student experience. My first few weeks have been super busy, juggling administrative tasks, new places and new people. It has been amazing and stressful at the same time, as everyday was completely different from the other. I attended international meetings to get all the information, and that's when I started meeting other exchange students like me. One by one, I met other people during the pre-school week and at house parties which I’d be invited to by the friend of a friend of a friend…
To feel comfortable somewhere, I need to know the place. So, from the beginning, I made a huge list of things to do in Leeds. I did it thanks to the articles of the student blog squad and leeds-list.com, which are full of good ideas: parks, museums, cafes and restaurants. After 4 months, my list continues to grow. Leeds is a city that is very rich culturally: cinemas, theater, museums, and that's really what I like about it here. The cherry on the cake is that all the establishments offer attractive discounts for students (for example discount if you are under 30 years old at the opera, student discount at the cinema and free museums.)
Despite all the positives, Erasmus can also be hard sometimes. Being away from what you know (family, friends and city) can be a bit difficult to handle, but in the end it’s all worth it.
I’ve learned so much about myself, how I can be open-minded and strong, how I can like things I never thought I would try, and how I can go out of my comfort zone. I learned so much about others, because of all the different people, culture, and languages I’ve been around for four months.
I can’t wait for the second part of my experience!