Zoya Jiwa

“The climbing wall is sort of like a puzzle. You just need to figure out the best way to make your way to the top. You don’t need to take huge strides or grip too tightly to the wall. Climb gently and gracefully. Take tiny steps."

I glanced down at my indoor climbing instructor, Helen. 15 feet up the wall, I processed her wise advice and took deep breaths.

“Small steps,” I whispered to myself.

I carefully placed my feet on colorful rocks and slowly lifted myself up, one step at a time. Before I knew it, I was reaching for the cold metal bar the top of the wall. I looked down, smiling and waving to my classmates.

This July, I had the delight of participating in Leeds International Summer School (LISS) 2016 amongst 90 others from around the world. Although I initially felt uneasy going into the programme, any nerves I had quickly transformed into excitement. In essence, LISS was a tremendous opportunity to study at a different university, be immersed in British culture, and connect with a group of thoughtful, bright students. I participated in two class modules. The first focused on sport and health in the UK (including indoor rock climbing), and the second one focused on entrepreneurship and innovation. Both involved engaging field trips to nearby sites, from exploring the intricate and fascinating formations of Brimham Rocks to visiting sustainable social enterprises within Yorkshire. In both classes, I collaborated with my classmates and new friends to work together on group presentations. Simultaneously, individual assignments were included, allowing space for separate research and personal reflection.

Although part of my time was spent in classes, the highlights of my LISS experience were the weekend day trips to nearby cities and towns, such as York and Whitby. I never grew tired of wandering through cobblestone streets, sitting in charming cafes, and taking in stunning coastlines. While the Social Assistants offered helpful suggestions of what to see and do, I appreciated that we always had the option to sightsee on our own.

My time in Leeds was similar to the climbing wall: it was about taking small steps outside of my comfort zone to make the most of my experience. The four weeks flew by, and before I knew it, I was waving a tearful goodbye to my close friends who were strangers just one month before. I’m grateful for the countless moments of learning and laughter that came from these friendships and this programme. If you are looking to study in the UK while fitting in a great balance of social and cultural activities, I would recommend applying for LISS!

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