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Madi Allen

Look around campus and you’ll no doubt see a foreign face. However amidst the pack there will undoubtedly also be another sect of student who are British-born and yet have moved here from a country far away. It may seem scary to come to a university that is quite so far from home, like Madi Allen, who grew up in Dubai, but here she explains why she took the plunge and came to Leeds.


HC: Tell me about Dubai

I was born in Hampshire but moved to Dubai when I was three due to my Dads job. When I moved there it was a flat place with only sand, it was tiny and it was very unwesternised, it was really family orientated and the westerners stuck together playing cricket or having picnics on the beach at the weekends.  It has expanded enormously and urbanisation has been a huge factor – you go to the mall instead of the beach, it’s become completely commercialised. It’s been amazing to see how much it’s changed. It used to be very culture orientated now it’s really westernised. Because it’s continuing to expand there are two halves, the old, Deira, and the new.  However, despite the changes Dubai still withholds its Muslim traditions, you can’t hold hands in public and have to go to a separate section of the supermarket to buy pork. We also drive everywhere, nobody walks! The education system is also different – it has the British curriculum, with the same exam boards, but Arabic was obligatory from reception till year nine, like a modern language is in many schools. It was a British school but had students of many different nationalities. There is also a huge age gap in Dubai, as a graduate if you want to start a new career better opportunities are usually available elsewhere. Leeds is a far more student friendly place.


HC: Why do students from Dubai come to England to study at University?

In Dubai the universities aren’t very well developed and are still up-and-coming. As well as that a degree in England is better recognised around the world, there is better range of courses on offer here, and I’m doing Psychology which wasn’t even offered at my school. Options in general in Dubai are limited compared to here but I can definitely see this changing in the future as Dubai continues to grow.


HC: After Leeds do you plan to move to Dubai or stay in England?

In the UK the job and work experience opportunities are far greater than in Dubai. Maybe when I’m older I’ll move abroad again but for now I’m pretty settled in the UK.


HC: What made you choose Leeds?

Leeds is renowned, even as far away as Dubai, for its social life which was massively appealing to me. Leeds University also has a really strong Psychology departmentso I’m so glad I made the cut!


HC: What has been your favourite thing about Leeds so far?

As I expected it’s been the nightlife. My favourite night so far was Knees Up at Warehouse on Halloween, it was so much fun! As well as that I feel pretty lucky to have landed the accommodation I’d wanted, staying at James Baillie has been great! I love being half way between the city and Headingley. Sometimes it’s nice just to go down to the pub, still being sociable, but not being stuck in the city centre. Plus I love my house mates!


HC: Any regrets? Looking back would you have chosen a different city?

I miss home, my family and my cats! It is just so far to travel back and the tickets cost roughly £500which is a lot on a student budget! Also, it’s so cold here! I don’t even want to know that it’s going to get colder! I definitely don’t regret picking Leeds though, it was my top choice and so far I have been having the best experience! Bring on the next three years here :)


On starting my time here at Leeds I expected to meet students from outside the UK, however I never anticipated meeting one from Dubai, a British citizen yet every bit the international student, to whom Leeds is as unfamiliar as it would be if they came from Asia. Leeds attracts such a broad range of students because of its social and academic reputation and the welcoming northern vibe! Granted the weather is nothing like Dubai, but Madi’s experience here seems to prove that Leeds gives you exactly what you want, the time of your life!

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