Opiskelijavaihdossa ja harjoittelussa Leeds Beckett Universityssa

Living in Leeds

Living in a student village isn’t cheap. Actually, it’s more expensive than searching for your own rental flat and that’s why it is really common that after the first year in University the students find a new flat to share with one or few flat mates. So I would say, if you want to save some money, do not choose the option to stay in the student halls. However, if you want an easy, safe and social option, the halls are a great choice. Especially in the beginning of the exchange experience, the flat mates can be the closest (and I don’t only mean literally) social network to you.

I was lucky enough to receive a room in Arena Village, which was the first choice in my application. Personally, I really enjoyed staying in a 25-floor-building situated next to our University and the city centre. I shared the flat with 5 flat mates, but we all had our own rooms and bathrooms so the need of privacy was covered easily. The rent was £144/week and the rent for the semester could be paid in two parts. The application process itself was simple and the instructions were clear on the website. The information of the accommodation reached me well before the start of the term, which left time for other preparations such as changing the address. Communication with accommodation team via email was always quick and clear.

Arena village became quickly to feel like a small community of local, international and exchange students. Before I knew it, I learned to know the faces of the people who lived in the building. Some of them remained as strangers whereas some of them ended up becoming my closest friends in Leeds. In Arena Village, or Arena as we call it, there was always something going on. The accommodation team arranged regularly different events in the common room downstairs and on other times, the students themselves kept the building busy and buzzling. Not only that, Arena Village provided a study room, small gym and possibility to do the laundry.

Living in the UK in general is fairly expensive and it takes a moment to get used to English pound – the course is so close to euro that you might easily catch yourself imagining the prices lower than they actually are. However, as I lived in Helsinki before moving to Leeds, the price level somewhat the same. If anything, the food and drinks were even cheaper for me as a Finnish person.

Studying in Leeds Beckett University

I studied two semesters in Leeds Beckett University, which is the partner University of Diaconia University of Applied Sciences. As I study Social Services with the option of Youth Diaconia, I found The Programme of Youth Work and Community Development suitable and supportive for the profession, in which I will graduate. Tentatively, I chose the modules taught in that programme based on the information provided on the website of Leeds Beckett University. Eventually I ended up changing some of the modules, because not all the modules I had chosen were available. My supervisor and responsible teacher was unbelievable supportive, understanding and flexible. The international office oversaw official documents and the staff there were also helpful and efficient. As a result, I studied modules with many different classes and courses – all of them under social sciences. Altogether I carried out 5 modules during my exchange, three in the autumn and 2 in the spring.

The premises of Leeds Beckett were modern and versatile with two separate campuses altogether – City Campus in the centre of Leeds and Headingly Campus 20 minutes away from the centre. I did all my modules in the City Campus, which is more modern, more spread into few buildings around the centre and next to University of Leeds. I preferred studying there, because it was close to everything. However, Headingly Campus is something you would imagine a British University would look like – a huge architecturally appealing campus village surrounded by beautiful nature. The view itself and the amazing sport facilities made me want to visit Headingly Campus often during my leisure time.

Studying itself in Leeds Beckett could be described as quite traditional. All of my modules consisted of weekly lectures taught mostly by the same teacher. Occasionally there were visiting lecturers teaching the lectures. In my programme the weekly lectures lasted only from 2 to three hours and the lectures consisted of learning theory and having discussions and minor individual or group tasks. The grade built either solely around an individual essay or the combination of group assignment and the essay. In each module I was the only exchange student and because I studied with many groups in which all the students knew each other from before, it caused difficulties to gain friends from the local students. The workload on the courses I undertook was the right amount and the independent assignments enabled adapting the tasks to fit my personal schedule. All the teachers were friendly, easily approachable and supportive and treated me equally to other students, which I appreciated. Studying in English didn’t cause much difficulties to me as I had studied in English also in Diak and my language skills were advanced. However, approximately during the first 2 weeks I needed to put extra effort to listening, because both the teachers and the students had strong and differing the accents.

International Placement

My international exchange was a combination of University studies and the practical placement. I did the placement as part of my studies In Leeds Beckett in a module called Professional Practice. Doing the placement in co-operation with the local University had huge advantage compared to having done it myself only with the support from Diak. At the start of my exchange period I did not have a placement place searched for the autumn in Leeds, but as I undertook it as a module in Beckett, the responsible teacher i.e. supervisor there helped me with the process and I would not have survived without her constant support. I was asked the preferences and criteria of the place and the target group I would like to work with and based on the wishes, my supervisor started searching places for me with the help of her colleagues. And what surprised me was that they actually did it immediately: as I was sitting in the office they were calling different people and sending emails.

If the start of my studies in Beckett was smooth and effortless, the process with the placement was completely the opposite. Surprisingly, there were some difficulties in finding a suitable organisation for me based on my wishes. The start of my placement was delayed, because days went by without promising news about my forthcoming placement organisation. Finally, all the effort paid off and I was relieved to be announced that, after nearly two weeks of living in the uncertainty, the charity organisation Leeds Faith in Schools offered me a place.

To summarise the core objectives and the nature of the organisation briefly: Leeds Faith in Schools (LFIS) is a 20-year-old Christian charity organisation situated in Leeds, UK. Effective school work is done in 19 high schools across the city where different staff members deliver lunch groups, assemblies, PSHE and RE lessons, mentoring and coaching for young people. The aim is both to get young people connected to the local churches of the communities near to them and empower young people’s physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

After LFIS confirmed their offering, I wished to start in the placement as soon as possible. However, similarly to process of sorting out the placement place, there was a process persisting with my DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service). Even thought I had ordered my Finnish criminal records extract translated in English and taken it with me to Leeds, according to The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, DBS is required from anyone, who wishes to hold activities with individuals meeting the defining of vulnerable groups. The application process is highly bureaucratic, which involves filling in official forms and gathering identity documents. In my case, the process consisted of lack of knowledge, misunderstandings and contacting multiple different people and offices. The process hindered my work in the LFIS, because under the legal restrictions, they were not allowed to let me in to schools to work with the young people. As a result of the slow process, approximately during the first two weeks I ended up working in the LFIS office. In the beginning staying in the office felt as a disappointment, because I was looking forward to the actual direct activities with the young people and the tasks I was given did not recognize necessary or challenging, although I enjoyed the company of the team members.

Fortunately, after all the struggles in the beginning, my experience of international placement was positive! The working team of 7 members welcomed me and took as part of the team starting from the day one and I was able to participate and all the activities LFIS provided and they trusted me to have individual meetings with some of the young people we worked with. I even ended up joining the team for a weekend trip to Birmingham to an event for Youth Ministers. The placement lasted for 10 weeks and I was working the whole day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I attended after the lectures in Leeds Beckett. I became friends with the team members and I couldn’t be happier that I ended up doing my international placement in LFIS. The experience gave me courage and now I would feel a lot more confident in working abroad. For me personally this growth in professional development is particularly important because I dream of international carrier.