Isabel Gibbons was the first Student Rep for UCEAP students at the University of Leeds during our pilot programme in spring 2016. Read about her experience being a Student Rep at her English Host University, and apply to be a Student Rep here.
Pizza, donuts, smoothies, coffee. I walked into town with my notebook and questions, watching the morning traffic begin to warm up the city, or the buzz of rush hour begin to leave it empty. I looked forward to these meetings and the sense of home and familiarity that accompanied them. I had been in Europe since the summer and in starting my next chapter abroad I wanted to use what I had gained. I walked to the first meeting expecting to share and support my friends. By the end, these meetings and my friends had had done just that to me. All the Cali kids had been thrown together, jet lagged, in a new country with new currency and new dangers, like left lane driving. The Leeds kids were close from the first day. But as life goes, we strayed and separated as the semester wore on. These meetings were a chance to relight that flame. A chance to meet up once more and feel companionship and home.
I would arrive early at the pizza place, the donut shop, Starbucks, and set up my notes and snack. As soon as the first familiar face arrived the stream of conversation would begin. Advice on travels, funny stories, career goals, and gossip all would intermingle with our sugary snacks and my copied questions, penned onto a yellow legal pad. UCEAP received advice, criticism and answers from the student meetings, hopefully all helpful. As a Student Rep, I received a chance to reconnect with friends and my home I had not seen for many months. I was able to share and use the knowledge I had gained from my first time around the study abroad block, a rewarding gift for someone who went blindly in the first time, with no language or familiarity. I was given a leadership experience, one that was relevant to my knowledge and goals. But more than just this, I was given laughter, friendship, and a smile on my face as I walked out of town each month, watching the traffic.