“You’re studying in Leeds? What made you choose that?” I can’t tell you how many times I heard people say that before I got here in January. I think because most students choose to study abroad in London if they come to England. People assume that it’s the only city. That idea couldn’t be more wrong. England has a lot of amazing cities and excellent universities. Leeds was a perfect fit for me and I recommend it to everyone!
A Mixture of Past and Present
An American student could be forgiven for not having heard of Leeds, seeing as most media seems to assume that England is London and nothing else. But in fact, Leeds has a fascinating history which is reflected in its beautiful art and architecture. Leeds used to be a major part of England’s textile industry, which is expressed in some of the architecture you still see today. In fact, a couple of the University of Leeds academic buildings used to be factories. It connects the University to the city’s history in a beautiful, tangible way. The University has repurposed an old church into an academic building as well. It’s really incredible to see history and progress side by side like that every day. Students interested in the architecture should try a self-guided walking tour like this one; it has some really fascinating information! Another aspect of Leeds history is that it experienced it’s first major growth period during the reign of Queen Victoria. This is evident in that it seems like half of the streets are named after her. She and her husband also have statues in Hyde Park—which sits between Leeds Uni campus and several student accommodations—so I and many other students get a daily reminder of their importance to the city while studying in Leeds. Despite it’s lack of media representation, Leeds is a major city with a rich history to go with it.
Leeds is also a modern metropolitan city, without being overwhelming for students who—like me—have never lived in one before. Prior to my study abroad experience, I had never taken a bus, and I was worried about navigating by myself. Leeds proved to be an amazing place to learn. When compared to London, Leeds is an easier and less expensive city. London’s public transportation systems are amazing, but they’re extremely complicated. I was glad not to have to be stressed about that during my first few days here. It’s also obviously easier to be a student in a less expensive city. I can go out with my friends without worrying that I’m going to blow my travel budget. This doesn’t mean that Leeds doesn’t have a lot of tempting places to spend your money. Leeds is home to over a thousand retail stores, some of which are the brands’ only location outside of London. There really is something here for everyone, no matter what you’re into.
Studying in Leeds —The Unique University Experience
Leeds is home to three major universities and over sixty thousand students; half of these attend the University of Leeds with me. It is an amazing place to be a student. Though the student accommodations are scattered throughout the city, the campus itself is confined to one part of town. This is so helpful when I’m trying to run from one class to another in ten minutes. The campus is always full of life and activity. Every week there’s a small market where students can buy local baked goods, produce, and other treats. On other days, there’ll be a university or society advertising outside the student union, often offering discounted or free food for interested students. I like that the campus feels a little like a village in itself. Class sizes are much larger than I am used to, but my university at home is one twentieth of the size of the University of Leeds so that was a given. I miss having close relationships with my instructors, but I never get the feeling that professors here are unavailable, just a little busier. English university courses are structured differently from American ones, because they’re a lot more student-driven. Rather than having several assignments spread out across the duration of the course, there is usually just one large essay and an exam at the end. This means that students have to discipline themselves a lot. Leeds is no different. Professors lecture and assign reading and essay topics, but the rest is very much up to the students. Lecturers might offer helpful tips, but the hard work is really on us. Whether or not this system is better is up for debate, but I am glad to have been exposed to it because I believe it has made me a better student.
For more information about the University of Leeds and everything it has to offer, I strongly recommend going to their website. It was really helpful to me for getting a feel for the university. As I said, I could not recommend Leeds more highly to students looking to study abroad; it’s a beautiful city with an incredible university!
Carley Roe is a psychology major at Sewanee: the University of the South and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler in England at the University of Leeds in spring 2017. She served as an International Correspondent for IFSA-Butler through the Work-To-Study Program.