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Siroos Saeed

MMath, BSc Mathematics (International)

Where did you study for your year abroad?
I studied at the University of California’s Santa Cruz campus for my year abroad. I chose California because it seemed like a place which would have a lot going on and so many places to nearby to visit like LA and San Francisco.

Santa Cruz wasn’t what I think of as a typical American university, because it didn’t have an America Football team, or any other major sports team. The atmosphere on campus felt quite laid back and a lot of people were more inclined towards arts. I went to an American Football game at Berkeley and that was huge, it was just a regular league game but there were tens of thousands of people in there stadium there to watch. 

How different was the teaching and course structure in California compared to Leeds?
In America students have a much broader education and take a broader range of classes but that means that enrolling for your classes can be really hectic because a lot of classes are always oversubscribed. I did some quite advanced maths classes so they generally had space but in other classes there were hundreds of people who wanted to enrol so there was a waiting list for some classes. 

You could add P.E, dance or craft classes into your timetable so I took Tennis, Surfing, Thai Boxing and Meditation classes. Some classes counted towards your grade and others you could just take because you enjoyed the activity.

What was the campus like?
Most people were living on campus  which is different to in Leeds were you only live on campus in first year depending on your halls. The campus itself was massive; easily one of the biggest in the U.S. There was wildlife, like deer and raccoons, simply wandering the grounds, which were filled with enormous redwood trees. The University even had it’s own farm which produced much of the food for the dining halls. 

What did you get up to outside of studying?
I did a lot of surfing and played a lot of tennis whilst I was over there and travelled as much as I could. I really liked L.A, everything there is just open 24 hours a day, places just don’t close and you can get anything you could ever want whenever you want it.  San Francisco was really cool, it’s a lot less hectic than L.A, I think I’d like to live there one day.

Did you enjoy being immersed in a different culture?

Initially I didn't think there is going to be much of a culture clash because we all speak the same language but you find it is quite a bit different. It’s not something I felt I needed to adjust to but I did find myself having to repeat things a lot because you don’t realise how many words we use in the U.K. which are completely different to what Americans would say. I think I probably recognised more of what they were saying because of all the America TV and films we watch over here but they don’t watch as much English TV over there apart from Doctor Who, they love Doctor Who!

How do you think you have benefited from the experience? 
I definitely feel more independent and confident since doing the year abroad. You don’t know anyone when you go out there and by throwing yourself into different clubs and travelling as much as possible, you really do broaden your horizons. We have lots of clubs and societies in Leeds but over there it’s on a completely different scale. Whilst I was there I ended up becoming president of the public speaking society which meant I was running activities and managing the club day to day which I hope will look good on my C.V.

Would you recommend doing a year abroad?
I would definitely recommend doing a year abroad, it was the best year of my life and it’s not an experience that you can have after university. Usually you will be working and not be able to take a year off to travel so I would say take the chance whilst it’s there and you have the support of the University around you.