England is the love of my life. I have had a long history with this country for years now especially after my father moved to London. This exchange has only strengthened my love for this country and for the people living in it. And the best part of this is that I got to do all of it with my best friend.
I went to Leeds to study web design. I know we have it at TAMK as well but I wanted to see how it would be taught elsewhere and since I had not taken any of the TAMK courses on the topic yet it was a new learning experience. I also did a visual design course since it seemed interesting and they didn’t have any other web design courses that I could have done with my skills.
It was difficult to set everything up to get to the country and start the studies but once we were past that my time in Leeds turned out to be one of the very best. I got to meet so many amazing people, most of them exchange students as well, and some locals. It paid off to be single on exchange, I am just saying, since that way I met way more locals than through the university. But some very good friends were made even from the very beginning and I hope I can continue to keep in touch with them.
We chose not to stay in the student accommodation but got an apartment just for the two of us. It probably made a difference in the exchange experience but to be honest I was not that excited about sharing a bathroom with five other people. The location was good and the place served us well throughout our studies. It was even big enough to host visitors, and we both had our sisters visit us. The only bad thing was the whole floor mats that made me sick and stuffy for a long time.
The teaching was quite different compared to my home university. The teachers in England required a lot more from us and it was much more student oriented. I only had three courses and for each of them two contact lessons in a week that lasted for about an hour to two hours. So, I was at the university for an hour on Mondays from four till five for example. Talk about freedom. The assignments were interesting and we got professional teaching and tutoring. This way I got to enjoy the endless possibilities on my free time and travel a lot more.
The university had made a deal with a localish travel company. For a fee they would take us around England to see some of the most well-known sights such as the Stonehenge, Bath, Whitby, York, the Lake District and we even travelled to Edinburgh. I loved how easy the travelling was made for us who wanted to experience it. One of the best things during my exchange and even though I have been to England multiple times before I got to see many new places. On my free time I travelled to Manchester, London and the nearby cities of Leeds as well as within Leeds as much as I could.
I noticed that we Finnish people are not that different from English people. The sense humour is very similar and we both come from cold, windy and depressing countries and adjust accordingly. Also, the citizens of both countries, England and Finland, like to drink. The pub culture is different but the idea is the same. We love our alcohol. I cannot even count the hours I spend in a pub just doing homework at 12 am because that was the normal thing to do. I could never do that in Finland.
Some differences between England and Finland that I can think of:
- Alcohol is cheap in England. Like actually cheap. And well cheap for a Finnish person at least. No wonder people spend their free time in pubs.
- Pub food is amazing. You really don’t have to go to a fancy restaurant to have good food. You can as well find a decent burger and a drink for a total price of one pound if you know where to go.
- Only white bread in England. Almost. Like why?
- Because English people must pay tuition the quality of teaching is quite high. That’s how they get people to choose their universities.
- The public transport is a joke in England. Like overall, not just in Leeds. Compared to Finland, Tampere, where I usually live and where it works fine, this was a nightmare. But then again, no way I would have gotten a bike and rode it in the traffic.
- The streets are narrow in England.
- The whole floor mats are disgusting. So hard to clean and just make you stuffy. One of the worst things about living in England.
- People are friendlier, in a way at least, in England. So weird getting called “love” by strangers.
- Oh, and don’t forget your manners or you will hear about it in England. Always say thank to everything, literally to everything, and don’t forget to add please if you’re asking for something.
- Having tattoos and piercings is quite common in England. So, I fit in quite well. Almost everyone had at least one of either. And it was so cheap to get one done as well. Well at least cheaper than it would in Finland.
I loved almost every second of staying in Leeds. Good food, nice people, great teachers and most importantly amazing friends. I will leave my heart in England.