Olivia’s Top Exchange Experiences

Olivia Sykes 5

As a Bachelor of Humanities student, my degree did not fit into a specific school at the University of Leeds. Instead, I selected modules in a number of subjects, including English, Politics, French, and History, to satisfy some of my degree requirements and electives. Although I enjoyed many of my modules, my favourites were Gender, Politics, and Culture: Readings of Jane Austen in the School of English and Professional French in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies.

The tutor for the Jane Austen module was wonderful and incredibly engaging. It was also on a subject that particularly piqued my interest, as I have been a big fan of Jane Austen ever since I was twelve years old. My home university does not offer a course that allows students to study Austen’s works in-context, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to study them in this way while in Leeds. The tutor even took us on a field trip to the Brotherton Library to see some of the older editions of the works that we studied in the course. It was a dream come true getting to hold a second edition of Wollestonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women and nineteenth century editions of Austen’s novels.

My French module was also great. The tutor was very kind and used a lot of technology as teaching aids. The fact that the module was quite specialized and small enabled me to make friends with a number of my classmates. Even though it was a bit challenging for me, my French improved significantly by being in the class.

The libraries were my favourite part about the University of Leeds’ campus. My home university only has one, so I was in awe and thrilled by the variety of texts contained within the university’s four libraries. In addition. The Brotherton Library is absolutely stunning. The architecture and its collection, both old and new, are incredible. I did not even mind being obliged to spend hours studying in it, as it is so beautiful.

I also really enjoyed becoming involved with some of the groups on campus. I participated in some of the Get Out, Get Active events and joined the Leeds University Fencing Club, as I wanted to try a new sport while I was abroad. I really enjoyed being a part of the latter club, as everyone was so friendly and welcoming, which made it easy to make friends. I also liked going for a pint with everyone after training, as it made me feel more British.

Leeds is a fantastic place to live. For me, it is the ideal size. It is quite large, so there is plenty to do, yet small enough that you can walk nearly everywhere.  My favourite place to walk is through the ginnels and the forested area near Hyde Park and Woodhouse Moor. Even though Leeds is a big city, it has plenty of quiet, green space, which can be a nice place to take a break from the bustle of the city centre.

Olivia Sykes 6

As a fairly large city, there are many things for one to do at night, including a variety of pubs. My personal favourite is Foleys Tap House on the Headrow, as it is fairly low key, serves twenty-four, different local brewed ciders at any given time, which are rotated out on a regular basis, and has a deal that allows one to purchase a delicious tea or coffee and cake for less than three pounds.

While studying abroad in Leeds, I tried to visit as many UK cities as I could. My three favourites were Ilkley, York, and Edinburgh. Ilkley is a small town located about a half an hour away from Leeds by train. It was a special place for me to visit, as my great, great grandfather immigrated to Canada from there in 1910. It is quite cute with plenty of shops, cafés, and nice places to hike.

York was also lovely! It is a city located about forty-five minutes from Leeds by train. It has a rich history that dates back to Roman times. When you step inside the city’s walls and walk along its cobbled stone streets, it almost feels as though you are going back in time. My favourite place to eat in York is a place called The York Roast Co. They make a delicious roast dinner that they serve in a gigantic Yorkshire Pudding.

Aside from Leeds, Edinburgh was my favourite in the United Kingdom. Like in York, the history is incredibly rich and visible in the city’s architecture. The people are extremely friendly and kind. I never lacked for company while visiting it! There are also plenty of nice outdoor spaces, like Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat, and interesting places to see, like the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, the Writers’ Museum, and Holyrood Palace.

I also took the opportunity to travel to Europe and Africa, as the flights from the United Kingdom are quite inexpensive compared to those from Canada. During my time as a study abroad student, I visited Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Florence, Rome, and several cities in Morocco. It was truly incredible to have the opportunity to experience all of these different places.

I had a truly amazing experience as a study abroad student at the University of Leeds. Not only did I have the opportunity to take interesting modules and visit places that I had dreamed of one day seeing, but I also experienced considerable personal growth. I learned more about other cultures by interacting with my numerous, fellow international students, became more assertive, and truly improved my self-confidence, all of which are qualities that will serve me well in the future.

by Olivia Sykes – Carleton University – Canada


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