How did I spend my time in Leeds for Christmas?
Chinese New Year is coming this weekend, which is the most important festival like Christmas. However, compared with Christmas, there is no official holiday for Chinese New Year. It may feel boring if you stay in a ‘ghost town’ (since Leeds is a student city, which means during Christmas most of them will go back home). You can have a look at my experience and maybe it will be helpful for you to plan what to do in the holidays in the future.
Semester one usually ends before middle of December. Similar to the preparation for lecture, it is necessary to plan ahead for holiday, as well. What I usually do during the Christmas break is: travel, meet with friends, and revision for my essay and exam.
First of all is travel. I travelled from 23th December 2019 till 1st January 2020. As an international student I have to apply for a visa earlier, while documents include transport tickets, hotel, proof of deposit, and travel plan. Consequently, I finished all of the planning sections one or even two months before leaving Leeds, due to some countries may run out of visa appointment quickly. In this case, travel is a good way since it can bring you more experience that you can never learn from books or lecturers. Similar to most of the skills we’ve learnt, you need to feel it by yourself, unless you believe that you can ‘see the world’ only by watching mass media or talking with other friends. Just like different people analyse the world and live in a different way, even if you go to the trip with a group of friends, each of you may come out with different feelings about the world. The best thing to do is visit your friends hometown in other countries, who can show you around and talk about local history cultures, or somewhere interesting but only local residents know. Most important is don’t forget to reflect what you have seen and write them down. For me, this Christmas I traveled to Amsterdam Paris, and Brussels. Based on my knowledge for social policy and sociology, I am curious about why there is less homelessness and crime rate compared with UK? Why French people are usually angry and protest on the street? Is it the similar reason with other countries too? And what is special for wealthy area in Brussels, compared with Asian countries I visited such as Thailand and Japan.
Sometimes you may give the answers based on stereotype, or there is not enough evidence to support your opinion. Don’t worry, once you start to think about it, that means you already start to think and use what you learn from University. It is up to you to do more research, ask professor for help, or leave it and until one day you may suddenly understand that you are right or wrong. I believe comparing different cultures during travel is part of the learning journey for international students, this is what we get from university education, rather than a certificate to help you get a decent job. Plus, you don’t even need to travel abroad if you are worried about the price. A few days in other cities or towns around the UK will be good enough for you to experience the differences and talk with more interesting people who may change your worldview.
Another good option before traveling is to meet and cook with your friends before they go back home for Christmas. I cooked with a group of friends for different kinds of foods such as Chinese hot pot, Japanese sushi, and Italian pasta! You can learn more about different cultures and how to cook their foods at the same time. It provides us more chances to talk with each other, compared with restaurants where people usually focus on their phone and forget to talk.
After the lovely trip, it’s time to focus on study. You will feel lost during that time you don’t have any lectures and you need to manage your time properly. Based on my own situation, my plan is preparing for exam during the morning and early afternoon, before apply for an internship. It is better to ask a friend to study together so that both of you will be productive. I prefer to go to gym, do some shopping in city centre, or watch a movie with flatmates at night. It is easier to feel down during winter so I recommend socialising and meeting with people as often as possible. There are lots of shops that have discount during that time and feel free to treat yourself after a long period of study. Mental health is more important than your exam. All the shops in Leeds are open during Christmas as usual with a lot more discounts compared with Black Friday, especially for Levis, which is one of my favorite shop but even no discount during Black Friday. If you have enough time, a few hours productive revision is better than a whole tired day with slow process.
There are several ways to enjoy the holiday, list your priority tasks and make the most of it.