For my first year of university I studied in Leeds Beckett- previously known as Leeds Metropolitan. I studied Events Management, which at the time seemed like the easiest option as on my A-Level Results day (August 2014) things didn’t quite go to plan, and plan B *which I stupidly didn’t have and had to create on the day* came into play. The pressure of having to go to university really hit me hard and I jumped to the first option which was any available course I could take!
I had a few options from clearing, but Leeds cried out to me the most, I say this as I decided on this option in a moment of sheer panic as my cousin was going into her final year in the same university, so I had some sort of common ground with the city and university. That day seemed to go by in such a flash and I just remember jumping into all sort of decisions and not properly thinking them through. The words ‘Sarah are you sure this is what you want to do?’ haunt me to this day as my Mum repeatedly kept saying those exact 11 words all through the day as we frantically sorted my accommodation, my fees, and basically my whole life which was from that moment going to be my life for the next year or what was meant to be 4 years.
That day alone taught me so much, but I never realised it until May 2015. Throughout that year I had some highs and a heck of a lot of lows, but I never really realised it until my year was coming to an end. Leaving for Leeds I had the mindset of ‘this is my life for the next 4 years’ which I personally think did not help me at all, I almost put myself in a dark whole that I thought I couldn’t get out of before I had even left Belfast.
University away from home just was not right for me as throughout my whole last year of school I had been working towards studying at home and never really looked into going away for university but when the opportunity came up I jumped at it and thought about the philosophy ‘everything happens for a reason, this must be part of my journey” …….NOPE I was wrong, I do believe everything happens for a reason but for in this case in August 2014 ‘everything’ really should have been thought through a bit more on my behalf. I learnt from this that these spontaneous decisions really are not for me!
Living away from home really taught me and I am sure anyone who does live away from home how much you really appreciate home and being with your family in friends on a regular basis, oh and of course my dog. I made so many amazing friends in Leeds of whom I am still so close with, but I really am a home bird as much as I did not want to admit it for the first few months after moving back home. This decision was difficult but I knew it was the right one for me. Below are a few photos of my time in Leeds and some of the life long friends I have made.
I am writing about my experience as I hope possibly someone who may be wanting to study abroad or away from home takes this into consideration, or can take away something from this, to think decisions through, now I am not talking about whether or not you should have that last piece of chocolate….I am talking about the bigger decisions in life. Looking back on my year everything really does happen for a reason, because I learnt so much about myself and as much as I hate to admit it and mum and dad probably hate it too, I am a home bunny. Leeds as a city is an absolute dream, everything is really a 5 minute away from anywhere and the people are so friendly but the uni course and that uni life was just not for me.
When I look back now I always think about how different my life could have been if I had stayed in Leeds, I would have not had met the people I know today, I would not have the job I have now and not be writing this blog post. I was so scared to tell my Mum and Dad that I did not want to stay there and wanted to come home and spent 1 week deciding on how I would tell them, but the logistics of it all were that they just wanted me to be happy and sort of knew my heart was not fully in it. They know I am so much happier than what I was for that year and know I am comfortable in my situation now.
3 things I’ve learned from my year away:
- Don’t jump into decisions when deep down you know they aren’t the right ones, big or small.
- Take the time you need and don’t let the pressure of society get to you.
- Don’t tell taxi drivers you are from Belfast as inevitably the conversation will always turn into an in depth discussion of the troubles and a hangover and a long discussion of the Troubles does not go well and what was meant to be a £10 taxi turns into you being £25 down as the people of Leeds love a good chat….
Sarah Heath is a final year BSc in Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @sarahmeganheath, Instagram @sarahmeganjane, LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-heath-375053a6/