An Outsider’s Place at University

Although full of thousands of students all around the same age, university life can often be isolating for those of us who feel like an outsider. It is obvious that Leeds as a city is one of the most diverse in the UK, but within campus walls it can sometimes be hard to remember this. Personally, when thinking about the classic ‘model’ person who is in a higher education environment, some common ideas that spring to mind are, middle-class, white, cis gendered, and able-bodied. All of which are fabulous things to be, but when you identify outside of these lines, a little support is sometimes necessary. 

Being a mixed girl from a working-class family I know all too well how hard it is to fit in here without feeling like you are hugely compromising your identity. Over the last year, I have learned a lot, and although I can’t say that uni feels 100% like home, it’s getting closer each day.

I have compiled a list of a few ideas that will help you if you are feeling a little isolated at university too.

Host a potluck with your flatmates

Tired of your flatmates asking, “what’s that?” while you’re cooking a traditional dish? Why not have a potluck with them? This will allow you all to cook something you love for each other while also learning about different cultures and foods from around the world. Food is a universal language, so this sort of activity can help you to build further connections with those you are living with. 

Join a society

LUU have hundreds of societies to join that can help you to meet more people like you and help make your time at university run as smoothly as possible while also having a good time. For almost every country and religion, there is a society to go with it. By joining one of these, you can meet people who may be having similar experiences to you, this may be about feelings of homesickness, culture shock or even wondering where to get hair products. 

There are also various societies where gender and sexuality are at the focal point, such as, the LGBTQ+ society, QTIPOC, Feminist Society and Black Feminist Society. These are safe spaces for many students to express themselves in any way they are comfortable with, which can often be a relief from day-to-day life. Socials can be a fabulous way to have fun with people you identify with too. 

Explore Leeds

You are going to be here for 3 years (or more) so make sure you get to know where you are living. Go to the local markets, get a bus somewhere and try all the yummy food you possibly can. This way, you will be able to find those hidden gems that you can even take your friends to. 

Feeling homesick? Make the most of discounted travel 

If you are really missing your family or it’s your friend’s birthday, it is a cool idea to go home for a weekend. If you are lucky enough to only live a few hours away from Leeds by car, megabus can be the cheapest way to travel. For instance, Leeds to Manchester can cost as little as £2.50! If like me, you’re not the biggest fan of long bus journeys, the perfect way to get home for a discounted price is with a rail card, which saves you 1/3 off trains. Also, if you live on an LNER route, you can save up to 40% further off with unidays. If your home is overseas, it may not make a lot of sense to go home for a weekend, but you could always go with a friend to visit their family! You could explore a new town affordably this way. 

Don’t be afraid to talk to a professional

If feelings persist and become a big hindrance to your everyday life, it is perfectly okay to seek further help. The LUU Help and Support team are based in the foyer of the union and are always ready to help you if need be. Even if you feel like your problem is only small, they will be able to get you in touch with someone who can support you.

Hopefully these tips will help you to find your place at Leeds and enjoy your time here as much as possible. Make sure to share the ideas with friends who you think may be struggling or need a little help too. 

Ellie Lewis – LUU Health and Wellbeing Ambassador