Study History of Science, Technology and Medicine in the UK

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When I decided to apply to the University of Leeds, a friend told me that "Across the Pond" was an institution advocated to help students to access UK universities. That was surprising, and I searched on its webpage about how to receive its support. They quickly contacted me, and I had the gentle advice of my advisor, who supported me throughout the whole process, from seeking programmes and applying to getting the visa. It was a very kind, complete, and professional help key to a successful application process. My advisor explained to me the academic culture in the UK, what documents I needed to apply and what kind of opportunities I could have for studying and funding my studies.

Studying at the University of Leeds

I travelled from Chile to the United Kingdom to study for a MA in History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Leeds. It was my first time travelling abroad, or in other words, a whole new experience. I decided to do it, nonetheless, because the University of Leeds has an extended tradition of social studies in science, technology, and medicine, which was the topic that I had focused on after I had got my bachelor's degree. The university has a school, a museum, a centre of studies dedicated to this field, and an excellent staff that research from early modern Western medicine to physics and electricity. Thus, I chose Leeds because it would be a unique opportunity to develop my academic interest in a fruitful environment.

The registration process had a great welcoming team that oriented me from the first day, and they even took time to give me tips to adapt better. Of course, cultural shock is real: sometimes you feel confused, but my recommendation is to have enough confidence to ask for help. The University of Leeds, for example, has many offices dedicated to helping students, and they can give you advice during those hard times. Also, there is a student's union where one of its members was always available to answer questions about where to get the best advice. Don't be afraid of asking for help: you won't be the only student with doubts that you could consider "basic" or feel ashamed to have.

The university's facilities were excellent: they were similar to my university in Chile (such as a library, a kitchen, and a gym) but with a good infrastructure where you can enjoy the best availability of resources to engage with your student life. Also, the Library advised you to enhance your academic skills for doing essays or your dissertation. The campus is very walkable, allowing to enjoy the site where you will dedicate most of your time.

Accommodation and cultural adaptation

I was lucky to find a room in a university's residence, thanks to a person from the university who came to Chile to meet me and asked how she could help me. That was an amazing opportunity provided by the University of Leeds, where they understood why I didn't apply before the official deadline for accommodation (mainly because of my ignorance) and helped to allocate me in the best place possible.

The first night there was shocking, however. The people in my apartment were kind and welcoming, but the difficulties understanding English appeared rapidly. Although I have a good English level, it is a different experience to speak it constantly and without the chance to ask if you committed a mistake. In addition, as I said before, I hadn't travelled abroad until that moment, then, the experience was very new for me. Over the days, I learned to adapt myself to this new environment: I identified where to buy groceries, where to go shopping, how to use public transport, etc. My advice: get a SIM card quickly for your smartphone. These days, mobile phones are necessary to access maps on the Internet to find places, or to call someone, even in your residence or the university, if you have any problem, especially in the first days.

The cultural adaptation started in the first weeks. Although there are cultural differences, in my experience, I saw more similarities across the pond: I saw a wide range of personalities than in my country, and if you can find people with the willingness to help you (as you can find in your home country), you will adapt easily.

Enjoying Leeds

Leeds is a marvellous city, with many cultural activities in its Library or the Museums. I especially remember the "Light Night Leeds", a light festival where you can find the most typical buildings of the city covered in different lights to play with the citizens or to enjoy an artistic performance. This was my first time walking throughout the whole city, just for my spare time, and I could feel involved with the people in all the activities. At that time, I felt at home, a new home.

Other kinds of places to enjoy in Leeds are its varied restaurants. You can find full range of cuisines in the city, from Indian and Chinese food to Mexican or typical British restaurants. I loved the “Pizza Express” near my residence, where I could forge a friendly relationship with their attentive staff, and the variety of products provided by restaurants in the centre of Leeds.

- José

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