What subjects did you study at Leeds?
The modules I studied were all at the School of Media and Communication. I studied three modules in the semester I spent in Leeds:
Radio technologies, industries and cultures
TV documentary journalism
Understanding the audience
What made you choose the University of Leeds as your study abroad destination?
After careful consideration, I chose the University of Leeds as my study aboard destination for multiple reasons. Firstly, I knew that I wanted to study at a university somewhere either in England or in Ireland, because they have always been my favourite countries (not including my home country) and I have always been interested in spending a longer period of time there to really submerge myself in the culture. I researched many different universities, but chose Leeds specifically because of its large variety of interesting modules. Of course it had also just been named ‘University of the Year 2017’ and I had read many great things about its quality of education, so this also played a role in my decision.
How would you compare the academic style at the University of Leeds with the Vrije University Amsterdam?
The main difference I noticed between the manners of teaching was that I had a lot more space to plan my self-study in Leeds: in Amsterdam I usually have more contact hours and longer classes, whereas in Leeds I only had a few hours of class a week, so I had more time to myself to work on self-study. For me, this way of teaching was very refreshing, and it definitely helped me learn to plan even better and to use my time very efficiently. Another thing is that essay-writing in Leeds was different to what I was used to in Amsterdam, as the expectations were different and the referencing systems also differed. I definitely learned a lot, just from this different teaching style at the University of Leeds, and I hope that I will be able to use my new skill set back in Amsterdam!
How would you compare the campuses?
Back in the Netherlands, I do not live near campus – I always travel at least 1.5 hours from my home to the university when I have class. In Leeds, I lived in student accommodation for the first time. Because of this, my perception of campus may not be fair. I think it’s important to know that I may be a bit biased due to the much smaller distance between my accommodation and the university. However, I did enjoy being very close to campus: I lived at the Montague Burton residences in Leeds, which are only a 5 minute walk from the university. I enjoyed the fact that there are so many different buildings on campus, all for different schools, and that there are many different libraries scattered around the city, but still in close proximity. This is different at VU University, as the library is in the main building, and not a separate building. Other than that, I liked that the teaching schools/buildings all had their own look and didn’t look too modern – it really made a difference. The only thing is that at VU University Amsterdam I usually don’t have to move from building to building for classes, and if I do the walk is only about one or two minutes. In Leeds, this was a bit different, but you do get plenty of time to move between teaching spaces.
Did you join any societies at Leeds? If so, which?
Leeds has a large variety of societies, but I only joined ESN, which is the Erasmus Student network. Many different international students joined, and they organized many different social gatherings to get to know other international students from all over the world, and they also organized trips and such, which was lovely.
How would you compare the city of Leeds with the local area of the Vrije University Amsterdam?
The thing about the University of Leeds is that it’s located very near the city centre of Leeds, and Leeds is quite a big city. Of course Amsterdam is a huge city, but unfortunately VU University Amsterdam is not located near the city centre, so the local area is not very interesting: there’s not much to do other than maybe going to the gym and being on campus. To really do something you really need to hop on a bus or catch a metro or tram, whereas in Leeds you can be in the city centre within a 5 to 10 minutes-walk. It’s lovely to just be able to walk into town to grab a drink with some friends or visit a café to do some work in a different environment than the library or your student room.
What was your favourite memory of studying at the University of Leeds?
I really enjoyed getting to know all the different people I met, who all came from different countries and had different cultural backgrounds. I loved learning so much from others. I also really enjoyed sitting in class and just looking outside and seeing the beautiful architecture of buildings – that made the feeling of being in another country come up and made the whole experience feel real. Other than that, it was fun to be taught by British people, people who have experience in their field, and sometimes even hearing from guest lecturers who are big names in the field. My favourite thing about studying abroad was definitely exploring Leeds and other cities in England with newly made friends – and that would not have been possible had I not chosen to study at the University of Leeds.
Would you recommend Leeds to other students at the Vrije University Amsterdam? If so, why?
I feel like I have already made clear through my responses on the previous questions that my answer on this question would definitely be yes. I would recommend Leeds, as it is a vibrant city, where you can meet people from all over the world and learn more about British and other cultures. Overall, my experience in Leeds was very positive, and I am very grateful to all the people who made it possible.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s important to understand that you will experience culture shock. I didn’t believe this at first, because how different can it really be, only being a one-hour flight away from home? Well, very different. But that’s part of the fun! I think it’s also important for students who are thinking about studying in Leeds to know that there are many helpful and nice people who will help you without hesitating if you have questions, and also to remember that everyone who first arrives there is nervous about being in a different country without family or friends from home, so everyone is in the same situation. It really helps to remember that, because it can make it easier to connect with other international students. And it’s so lovely to have people be in the same situations, because they will understand if you get homesick and will make the sad times bearable. But that, of course, applies to studying abroad in general, not only in Leeds. To anyone who ends up studying at the University of Leeds, I can only say: make the most of your time there. Make memories, try to remember as much as you can, and don’t forget to take pictures to capture special times – because you will want to look back at your time there!
by Lisa Voorn – Amsterdam Vrije University – Netherlands