“Well, you can come along anyway!”, one of the students in a light-green Leeds T-shirt said to me at the train station, when I was lost and completely exhausted after more than 24 hours of travelling from the other side of the hemisphere, Japan.
Even though I did not use the meet and greet service, which all international students arriving in September can use to get help calling a taxi at the station, I was lucky enough to come across them who were waiting for different international students, and who kindly offered me help to get to my final destination, CitySide. However, I strongly recommend you use this system beforehand to attain the guaranteed help from the local students. Or, if you already have a local friend from Leeds, ask them to come to the train station and pick you up in advance. For me, as I had been travelling for the longest period of time ever and had huge suitcases and a rucksack, it is difficult to describe how thankful I was for the local students who were genuinely nice and helpful to a stranger.
Getting your official documents
For those who need a BRP (Biometric Residence Permit) like me, is the first thing you should do after arrival at your accommodation. However, getting BRP can be quite challenging, at least for me, it was. To get your BRP, I had to visit a place called Great Hall on campus, but before that, you need to be in the virtual queue on an app called ‘Qless’. The virtual queue opened at 9 am, when, as you can imagine, all the international students who had arrived tried to join the queue at the same time. The queue closed apparently when it got more than a certain number of students and opened again when the number reduced. In addition, do not forget your passport and Registration Certificate from Minerva when you visit the Great Hall!
To get your student ID, no matter how tired you are, you should smile when the photo is taken for your ID card; otherwise you will regret every time you see your ID card, like me.
Meeting and greeting your flat mates
For those who are staying at one of the University accommodations, the first people you meet and socialize are very likely to be your flat mates. If other flat mates have already arrived before you, just knock on one of the doors and greet them on the day you checked in to let them know that you are there. Exploring the new city becomes much merrier and more enjoyable if you go with them. They might know some places you need to go such as supermarkets and other stores to buy your necessities.
Cooking is one of the things you might want to improve if you are living in a self-catered flat and if you are hoping to live as cheaply as possible, like me. I have sometimes practiced cooking in Japan for this one-year study abroad, but was a little worried, because the ingredients I need for Japanese dishes might not be available in England. Turned out, there are a bunch of supermarkets which sell Asian and other international foods and seasonings here at Leeds such as Morrisons. Therefore, I suggest Japanese students that they bring only very rare ingredients such as Dashi broth (which I have not found in Leeds!) from home. This, however, might be unnecessary for those who want to integrate in the English food culture during their time at Leeds. One of the awesome things about having flat mates is that you can experience real and authentic international foods cooked by the people from that country. For me, the cauliflower Sabji with mango pickles, which was cooked by my Indian flat mate last week, was one of the best foods I have ever eaten (see the pictures below!).
Attending events held by LUU
Attending some of the activities and events held by the Leeds University Union is the best way to meet other students who are not from your flat. Even if you think you have a hobby or an interest that might not be very common among other students, you will definitely find something that gets your attention in the booklets made by the LUU, where you will meet the people with the same or similar interests. I attended Jewelry Making event, and made two bracelets using the technique of Kumihimo, which, surprisingly, was originally invented in Japan. I went to the event with one of my flat mates, and met an Australian student who were also present. I also went to the IKEA tour, when I made many Chinese friends and an English friend who is going to participate in the same German course with me, which was very cool. To attend the events or activities, you have to apply online and pay the fee (if necessary) on the LUU website beforehand.
Another thing I would recommend you do is to visit Global Café in the Common Ground in the LUU building. This is the place, where I met so many international students who are studying at Leeds temporarily like me, and who are experiencing similar problems and feelings like I am. Meeting with them helped me not just to relieve the pressure of managing the living and English language skills but also to make new friends from completely different cultural backgrounds, especially from many European countries such as France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and so forth. I was surprised that so many of them have localized Japanese foods such as Sushi and subcultures like cartoons in their countries. The pictures below were taken at a Japanese restaurant called Sushiwaka, where we visited together for a Japanese dinner last week.
There are many more ways to meet new people and find your friends at Leeds, not just at LUU but also at the orientation or induction sessions and the events held by your parent school to get to know your tutors and course mates beforehand. I attended three of them: one held by the School of East Asian Studies specifically for Japanese students: another held by the tutors of German courses: and the other held by the School of Language, Culture, and Society (SLCS) for international students. It was nice to see other Japanese students and exchange essential information about our VISA and living, and also to see our beautiful Princess Kako (who is studying here in Leeds for a year!) at the meeting for Japanese students.
In the event called Kaffee und Kuchen held by some German tutors, we were offered many hand-made scrumptious cakes, coffee and tea (see the picture below!), all of which were free. I was astonished to get to meet two students who are going to study Japanese and German in Leeds. I also had a chance to talk to the professor who is to teach my course and talk to her about my German proficiency and ask her about the course activities, which was the great opportunity to introduce myself and to get the insight of what the course will look like.
In the induction for the international students by SLCS, we were informed of a lot of useful systems and offices in Leeds that offer help to the international students to solve any problems regarding their lives, health, modules, English language proficiency, and other issues. Take, for example, the Student Support Office, which is located in the Michael Sadler Building, and LeedsforLife website, where you can find the information about your personal tutor and language exchange partners, and also create your own plans to enhance your employability through recording the schedule for different opportunities available on and off campus. More importantly, this induction was so interactive with the moderator that it felt completely natural to talk to a person who was sitting next to me. Eventually we exchanged our contacts and visited an authentic and lovely tearoom (see the pictures below!) together with a bunch of other students at a later date, which would not have happened if I had been as introvert as I always was in Japan.
This has been the greatest and the busiest two weeks in my life, struggling to manage my independent life in a new city, meeting a lot of new people, and exploring similarities and differences between non-Japanese and Japanese cultures. While having problems and struggles about living independently, communication skills and self-confidence, just being as open and flexible as possible has helped me made these great experiences so far, and I am sure I continue making unforgettable memories here in Leeds. Cannot wait for the courses to start!!
by Reiko Naka – Hosei University – Japan