Don’t Forget the Memories

This is the copy of the essay I had to write for QUT exchange. I thought it was a good summary of this trip!

Overseas. A place many people have ventured, explored and loved. A place many students may not have yet. Being a student gives us such a different view of the world, but what good is that view if we don’t get to use it? Going on exchange was one of the best things I have ever done with my life. I would thoroughly recommend it to anybody wanting to go. To those who think they’ll wait until after their degree has finished, when they’re free to do what they want, remember you don’t get those discounts anymore! All jokes aside, while I was out exploring the world, the education I received while studying abroad was also invaluable. I made friends that I will never forget, and keep forever. I made a second home, and also got to travel all in one trip!
Everybody says that they make friends that they will keep a lifetime on a trip but I was never so sure. I absolutely love my friends and love making new ones too, but I still wasn’t convinced that people would accept me as I am, into their community. It took a little while of adjusting but after a bit I started talking to my classmates and made friends. I suppose this isn’t that different to attending university for the first time. Except you’re sitting in class trying to hold onto the content as you absorb the new classrooms, new people, and most excitingly, their accents! It really makes you realise you’re a long way from home. In fact, I feel quite safe and nostalgic when I hear a British accent nowadays. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.
Studying game design means that I’m slightly restricted as to where I could go overseas. There were only two different universities that offered games to their exchange students and it was a close call to get in at all. At first, I wasn’t. But then my luck turned around when two people who had been offered the only two places at Leeds Met, dropped out. I was in! I couldn’t believe that I actually had the opportunity to go and study in England. For me this was a big deal as I had never been overseas before, never been anywhere but Sydney and Melbourne. I was going to make the most of my experience.
I went over a little earlier than other students, because I wanted to work in my travels with one of my favourite things: Harry Potter. I was lucky enough to be in the crowd at the London Premiere of the final Harry Potter instalment. That also was an experience that was merely a bonus of the whole thing! We all know Australia is so remote so the chance of being able to visit different countries within mere hours literally is a foreign concept. From London, I embarked on my Topdeck Tour around Europe. This was completely unrelated to my studies but an opportunity I was determined to seize. The people I met there, the experiences I collected and culture I absorbed isn’t one I can really put into words. Much like my entire experience, it’s better told in many, many pictures! I can only say that I will never see the world the same way again.
Leeds isn’t a place I had heard of prior to researching it for my exchange. After many emails and phone calls sorting out my enrolment at Leeds Metropolitan University, everything was finalised. I was going to be living in student accommodation, which was fairly close by to the university itself, and I was starting to get excited. This was all organised while I was still in Australia. I heard some students wondering whether or not to leave the accommodation until they arrived in their host country. Honestly, it depends. I knew I wanted to try and have that student accommodation experience because here in Australia we don’t really have it, whereas as most of us know, a lot of other countries do. I loved it. I had never lived out of home before let alone in another country, and it was a totally new experience altogether being self-reliant. I suddenly had new roommates for the first time and was completely in control of my own experience. So for me, the student accommodation was the best way to go. They fill up very fast, and I didn’t want to just live in a share house, I wanted to be a part of that student life.
The accommodation I stayed in was called Kirkstall Brewery. It actually is an old brewery which used to brew beer for Australia ironically enough. Now they have turned the grounds into quite quaint little student rooms. There are over 20 different buildings, and about 30 different flats within each. The flats each contain 6 units, and if you pay a little extra can get your own ensuite bathroom which was heaven-sent! The rooms were nice and clean. They were not super modern but outside my windows in my building, Warehouse, was the old canal (which I did get to see freeze over). Every morning I would have our “pet” swan swimming by. Of course he wasn’t ours, but I sort of adopted him as a little mascot. I loved where I stayed, I loved everything about it.
The classes I had picked to enrol into in the UK had similar sounding names to the ones that I was supposed to do back here at home. I only did three classes overseas because I didn’t want to overburden myself and I am so thankful I did. I remember sitting with my old course coordinator, as she was approving my study plan. She questioned some of the titles of what I had picked as electives because they sounded similar to things I had already done. The concept of the class was very similar but the content was not.
The delivery structure at Leeds Met was incredibly different to the way that they offer my games design degree here at QUT. My degree is fairly flexible. In fact, once our core units are done in the first few semesters, we pick our major and minor, and can essentially, in compliance with prerequisites, do our classes in whatever order we choose, which involves a lot of timetabling and working out class structures before our enrolments open up. At LMU, it was an entirely different story. They don’t get general electives like my course here, it’s pretty much set in stone what they do. They’re all doing the same classes at the same time which tie in really nicely together but as I had picked them by class description, not year or semester of what goes with what other class, I was all over the place.
I wouldn’t have changed my classes though. I have never learnt more practical experience anywhere. I undertook a class that I soon discovered I couldn’t have done at home because there were too many prerequisites. They don’t have prerequisites listed over there because it’s not an option, their structure is already laid out. The other students had been working with these programs for years, and here I was fresh to it all. A third year that couldn’t even keep up with the second years! Degrees differ around the world, and I passed my semester. I got through it, and learnt an enormous amount. I went to the UK with a curiosity about how different things were over there; culture, education, life. I experienced it all. The classes I took there are among some of the best I have had throughout my degree. This is why I wanted to venture overseas; to broaden my perspectives and my education. I did exactly that.
The city of Leeds itself is fantastic. I had no idea what to expect from the little town of Leeds before I arrived but I quickly found out, it’s not a small country town or anything of the sort. Essentially, with Leeds Met Uni and Leeds Uni (where most QUT students end up going) in the town, it’s become very student-centred. It’s fairly modern, and is just positively perfect at Christmas time! If you’re over there during the festive season you’ll experience the gorgeous German Markets (everywhere in Europe seems to hold one, including Germany itself) and the astounding array of Christmas scenery and lighting. Technically, I would add snow to that list, because it was supposed to snow, but instead the UK got hit by that giant snowstorm just a mere two days after I landed back in the country. Ordinarily, as I was told, it starts to snow in November to December. It didn’t snow this year, as you may have noticed until February. Just my luck! Regardless, I cannot praise the UK enough. The people I met were just incredible. Laugh at me if you will, but everyone from my roommates to my teachers and even the bus drivers became my friends. It took me back to school, as they have their own university bus service straight from Kirkstall Brewery straight to my campus at Headingley, which is 20 minutes away. Living on the Sunshine Coast I was not used to being right at my class in such a short amount of time! It was fantastic.
All in all I do miss England. I didn’t miss home until about a month before coming home. I became independent, and took my opportunity to explore the world. I embraced everything about their country, from the huge supermarkets to the Christmas festivities, to the old fashioned architecture and the simply charming accents. I must say, it was the best way I could have seen the world first hand, for the first time. I have been now to 19 different countries. I have tasted lots of different food and culture. My outlook has changed on the world and I am so glad that QUT helped me achieve that dream. I am so glad, I got to study abroad.

By Rachel Blom


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