What can I say? The minute you step out of the train station, you are greeted with a big sign that says – LEEDS. LIVE IT. LOVE IT. Of course, every city you go to tries to market itself to you as much as possible. It certainly was the case with me, having just arrived from the USA where I had visited many cities and by now was tired of the mugs, hats, T-shirts, watches, etc. that all had written on them WASHINGTON or NEW YORK or CALIFORNIA. But this was different. LEEDS was where I would call ‘home’ for the next 12 months. So if I could not believe that it was a place to “live” and “love”, then I was walking into quite possibly the worst year of my life.
But it soon took only a couple of minutes to realise that I had made the right choice. I walked into my student accommodation to find the most welcoming receptionist and flat mates. We were a mix of students; International and British. At this point, I have to explain what ‘British’ means. A lot of us from outside see Britain and confuse it with England. We just see the Queen, she lives in London and so we think ‘Yay! Thats Britain’. Errr, no! Great Britain is England, Wales and Scotland and the last thing you want to do (as I found out) is to call a Welshman – English. LOL. I am glad I learned that very quickly from my Welsh flatmate, Sian, who became my best friend throughout my stay in Leeds.
Then we were off to the Uni. It was like a sea of people! I am from a small city in Finland and have never seen this many people in my town. And these were not just people; they were students. So imagine if all the ‘people’ came out at once! I soon realised that while Leeds Uni has a lot of students, the other University, Leeds Met, is located quite close-by and so it was like a combination of students.
I settled in and was given a tour of the famous (or infamous) Cluster Library. Little did I know I was going to spend a lot of time there. Oh nooo! The lecture halls and student unions were very impressive buildings. But nothing could beat the people. The people make Leeds. Warm, kind, funny, helpful. Soon enough I wanted to meet other people who were also discovering Leeds for the first time. The accent was a bit challenging as well as other things so sometimes it was nice to feel that you are not the only one who is lost. LOL. Leeds Uni helped me in this domain through the International & Erasmus Society (the IntEra Soc). They organised a weekly meeting called Cafe des Langues which was great for International students who wanted to meet each other. I used to go there every night and made some really good friends. Cafe des Langues + Eldon on Tuesdays made me feel I knew all the International students in Leeds.
Then came VIVA LA FIESTA ….
At first, I wasn’t sure what it was. From the name, you would think it was a Spanish event for Spanish people or people who like Spanish music. But then the IntEra Soc guys advertised it as an ‘International Party’. It was Halloween and the plan was to get on a bus and travel to Sheffield for a massive Halloween International Party. I thought ‘Hmmm’ but I could not say no for 3 reasons: (i) The ticket for the entire trip + entry into the club was only £10; (ii) They said you could drink on the bus. In other words – a bus party! (iii) It was a party between Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, York and some other Universities. So it was going to be an International Bonanzaaaa! I said yes and I convinced all my friends to go. It was the BEST decision I made in all my life in Leeds. I met sooo many people who I did not meet before. I made some new friends. What I LOVE LOVE LOVE about Viva La Fiesta is the flags they give out. At first I thought it was strange but I soon came to love them especially when Viva La Fiesta started organising parties in Leeds with them. With the flags, it is very easy to identify people and their countries. I loved it and attended all Viva La Fiesta parties that took place in Leeds and also Manchester (that was fun too).
All in all, Leeds was an excellent experience. I was just contacted by a Finnish girl on Facebook who was asking for advice about whether to go to Leeds or not. I told her not to even think of it. GO! I will be back, Leeds. One day, I promise. I will be back.