16 April 2018

Sarah's Exchange Experience in the U.K.

Why did you choose your exchange location?

The UK has a world-renowned reputation for the quality of its education system. Hence, it is a hub for students from all over the world to travel to and study. This would allow me to get the best-possible cultural immersion, as I would benefit from the UK's ties with Europe, and the cultural influence from the thousands of foreign students who have made the UK their home. I chose Leeds in particular, because it had an affordable cost of living, and it had a highly regarded business school. Leeds is a very relaxed place with a carefree culture, which I enjoyed and appreciated once I had arrived.

What was the best/most memorable part of your exchange?

Travelling was the most memorable part of my exchange. Every weekend, my friends and I would take a day trip to a city in the UK. We visited 12 cities in total. During the Christmas break, we also visited Amsterdam, Tenerife, and Edinburgh. It wasn't the places themselves that were memorable, but the time we spent with each other was something I'll never forget.

What did you get out/learn from your exchange experience?

By far and away my friends were the best part of my exchange. I had a group of 15 close friends from Argentina, Brazil, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, the USA, China, France, the UK and Bulgaria. Not only did I spend my weekends exploring the UK with them, but I learned so much about their cultures. The most important thing I took away from the experience was how similar we were, rather than what divided us. I am still close to all of them, even after returning to Sydney. I plan to visit two of my exchange friends in July, and have exchanged post cards with several of them.

Sarah in Amsterdam

If there was something you wish you had done/or done differently, what would it be? 

I can't think of anything I would have done differently. One problem a lot of other students experienced was feeling isolated in the first few weeks of exchange. The way I worked around this was by communicating with other students in Leeds Uni’s dedicated exchange Facebook group, and finding people who were in the same hall as me, so I'd have someone to talk to when I arrived.

What tips do you have for students going/thinking of studying abroad?

Think about what you want to get out of exchange. If you want to travel a lot while you study, make sure your host university has good transport links to the places you would like to visit. Leeds has a major train station, and was a 20 minute drive from an international airport, so that worked well for me. If you would like to complement the knowledge you have gained from USYD, look at what the university is known for, and how it ranks. I would also look at student life. Most universities in the UK have hundreds of clubs and societies which are a great way to make friends with locals while on exchange. I joined the Leeds Uni Muay Thai Society, and I had a blast!

Sarah visiting the Christmas Markets in Edinburgh

Your exchange in one paragraph

Exchange is what you make it. You can make it all university, or you can make it about travelling, or partying. I made it about friends. When I think back on my exchange, I remember the group Secret Santa, the birthday parties, the wine nights, the day trips, the international meal swaps, and the group study sessions. Not a day goes by where I don't feel extremely lucky to have met this amazing group of people, and to still be in contact with all of them.

Written by Sarah Smith
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and exchanged at the University of Leeds in Semester 2, 2017.

Learn about studying abroad and exchange opportunities at this year's Sydney Abroad Fair on Tuesday 17th of April 2018 at Eastern Avenue.

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