Hi there! I’m Evelyn and I’m a final year French and International Relations student. I’m mildly terrified about graduating in a mere – eek – six months and the nostalgia is already starting to kick in. I know that in a year’s time I’ll be looking back through photos from my time spent at Leeds with a tear in my eye (I have hayfever OK?) wishing that I’d done more with my time spent in this fair city, but knowing that there are only so many hours in the day and I spend too much time on Netflix.
I originally picked Leeds for two reasons. Firstly because I’m a city girl at heart – despite how much I like a good hike I love being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a creative, thriving, energetic city and Leeds is just that. Despite not being a huge city in international standards (I’m looking at you Beijing), Leeds constantly remains one foot ahead of everywhere else and as a member of both the student and the local community you are inundated with opportunities, events and activities that you could get involved with. I like how there truly is, as cheesy as it may sound, something for everyone in Leeds – be you a film fanatic, a member of cricket’s barmy army or a budding art critic. The other reason I picked Leeds is to do with the university. I had the opportunity to study exactly what I wanted thanks to the flexibility of the Joint Honours program and have participated in a fair few of the clubs and societies at our fingertips. Since I started at Leeds I’ve made shorts with the Film-making Society, played netball with the French Society, campaigned with Oxfam Society, been life-drawing with the Art Society, made chutney with Green Action and worked on the committee of the Union Music Library. I would say that over the 3 / 4 years you spend at university you really have to throw yourself in at the deep end, and not worry about how others may think of you or if you don’t know anyone – the students union and all the student run societies at its core are there for you to find like-minded wonderful people to spend hours chatting with about drone music if you want to.
But I didn’t spend the entirety of my degree in Leeds – I just returned from a year abroad in Montreal, Canada. This is the reason I would urge people to study languages at university. Not only do you improve your communication skills, learn a new language blah blah blah but you get to spend a year of your degree abroad. This is an incredible opportunity that no other courses offer. Granted, any student can go on a study abroad year, but you have to apply for it and might not be accepted (as happened to some friends of mine) but it is actually obligatory for a language student to up sticks abroad for a year to “improve their language skills”. Now, no student moves to France / Japan / Russia / Spain etc to spend hours doing grammar exercises let’s be honest. I spent the majority of my time hanging out with other international students, eating poutine (not as gross as it looks) and falling over in the snow. Ah, the snow. What no one tells you before you go to Montreal is just how much snow they get or how cold it can be. It is FREEZING. From late October to early May last year the city had at least a smattering of snow. But Montreal is good at making you think that it’s not the next ice age outside by having some of the best festivals and events in any city I’ve been to before or since. I spent nights at music festivals dancing in -35 temperature with my beer freezing over on the top, ice skating in my local park and volunteering at a film festival. You just have to try not to let the cold get to you, layer on the woolly jumpers and go out. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t go to bars and get drunk pizza on the way home. However much I may make Montreal sound like Hoth, I spent one of the happiest years of my life there and was gutted to leave. While moving half-way across the world may sound daunting, it’s actually much like moving to university from home – you have to throw yourself in, risk making a few cock ups but come out of it with lasting friendships, new cultural understandings and incredible, sometimes happy but hazy, memories. It can be hard, it can be scary and sometimes you may want to just hop on a flight back to mummy and daddy but stick with it, and it’ll be fucking amazing. Also flights home from Canada are kinda expensive. If you have a thirst for travel, for trying new things and for exploring then bloody well GO and explore the world, and why not learn something while you’re at it? THANKS UNI.
So that was definitely one of the most sickeningly positive things I’ve ever written, except for maybe my personal statement expressing my love for all things French and my insatiable passion for international relations. But I suppose that I have had an incredible time at uni, and can leave in June happy knowing I’ve made lasting friendships, had so much fun it hurts and occasionally learnt something. I’m looking through my photos from my year abroad now and am getting a bit teary eyed, I guess I must be allergic to these new 50p candles I bought.