When and what did you study in Leeds?
I studied Civil Engineering in Leeds, from January to June 2013.
What made you choose Leeds as your study abroad destination?
I talked to a past study abroad alumni from my home university and it sounded like something I would enjoy. Since the exchange pool is so large, I knew it would be amazing to meet people from all over the world. I also liked the idea of a smaller city, as opposed to London, because it would have a more intimate feeling because I wanted something that I could call my home (which I now do!), not something that was a tourist attraction. It was also perfectly situated in England for weekend trips to London, Manchester, Edinburgh, etc.
What were your favourite aspects of academic life in Leeds?
I planned my module schedule at my home university to allow me to take more general courses so that I could explore different content besides my specific major. My favorite class was “Traditional Alcohol Beverages”, which taught me the process and nuances of beer and wine making, and to brew your own beer final project was amazing. As an exchange student my favorite aspect was the community and the people! All the British folk were lovely and excited to learn about where I came from, and additionally it was exciting to learn about them, as well as my fellow internationals. The student union was obviously the best place ever. Old Bar was a great meet up spot and the perfect evening hang out spot. The union literally had everything!
What were your favourite places to visit in Leeds?
For me, Leeds became a home. I never felt like a tourist so I never did tourist things. The people and their hospitality made it extremely easy to feel comfortable and at home. Everyone I met was willing to help if I had questions or felt lost. I also loved exploring the bars and clubs and just talking and learning about the people. I absolutely adored the Headrow area and even though I only had a limited time with Trinity Leeds since it opened a month before I left, I loved it! I fell in love with Nando’s while in Leeds, which I will never forget. I miss it every day. And the Otley runs were legendary – Best nights ever!
Did you visit any other areas of the UK during your studies at Leeds?
During the semester, over the weekends I got to go to Liverpool, Manchester, Lake District, Edinburgh, Scarborough, and London. Some of those were university excursions, and all of them were amazing. All of them were unique and it’s hard to pick a favorite because I loved every single minute of them. And when I got back to Leeds I can honestly say I felt like I was back home again. During spring holidays and after final exams, I explored the rest of Europe, and got to Paris, Geneva, Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam, Athens, Prague, etc. (there were a lot). My most memorable was finally spending time with my family in Paris. I finally got to connect with them and got to know them more than just my “cousins in Paris”. What I discovered while traveling was that for me, it’s not the sights so much that I love about a new destination, it’s the people. So, for me, I love Paris because I get to hang out with my family and again, feel at home.
What are you doing now, and how do you think your study abroad experience prepared you for further study/your career?
I’m currently working at a data software company near Los Angeles. For me, the biggest personal take away from my experience is that I became comfortable in my own shoes whenever I got to new places. It made me fearless when facing the unknown. Without my experience, I doubt I would have left the east coast to chase bigger ambitions and I can honestly say that after Leeds I became a completely different person, in terms of tolerance towards others, but also a greater belief in my own abilities.
How do you reflect on your time studying abroad?
In addition to all the above, I must mention my friends that I met. I’m very confident in saying that every person’s study abroad experience is completely open to what you want it to be. I had a goal of trying to meet and befriend people from all different backgrounds and cultures and all my friends were open and easy to talk to when I first met them. And because of today’s technology I can say that I’m very close with almost all of them. Whenever I travel, I get to go to their home towns and I get to be a tourist while at the same time feeling at home. We get to reminisce about Leeds and everything we did. Even though we’re in a different location I still feel at home because, the way I see it, people who experience Leeds, carry it with them when they leave, so whenever we meet again, we’re back there again, and it is one of the coolest feelings ever. And it’s giving me major travel lust right now!
by Michael Fratoni – Drexel University – USA