What it is like in Leeds

MARCH 27 — As a student here, there will be late nights, really late nights, and nights so late you may as well eat breakfast before you sleep. 

It is true when the British tell you the parties in Leeds are the best but truth is the party is in the British and every city is the best.

Leeds is up north where there is less hustle and bustle than in Manchester, but more than in Cardiff. There are fewer ways to entertain yourself than in London but also fewer ways to go broke. 

In Warwick University where I study now, there is too little of anything. But Leeds, Leeds has just enough. 

It will be difficult to talk to people at first but know that the accent you hear is more pleasant than Liverpool’s. Here, breakfast is lunch, lunch is dinner and dinner is supper—is that not cool? 

And sometimes if you’re nice to a friend from the North and she finds you lovely, she will call you a petal as she chugs down her ninth cup of Yorkshire Tea.

Before you say “hello”, “morning”, or “how are you”, say “y’alright” as half-question half-statement without expecting a longer conversation than “I’m alright, you?” And instead of “goodbye”, drop her a “ta”, while if you are thankful with some beer, then “cheers” yeah?

Usually when outsiders come to Leeds, they will think of York, Yorkshire pudding, and the Lake District. Two of them you can visit, and one of them you can eat. The Grand Theatre and Opera House, that’s lovely too, though not as lovely as the old school cinema experience at Hyde Park Picture House

Buildings in Leeds are strange; one is called Parkinsons, and another, Roger Stevens. Its staircases are fused with its lecture halls but don’t forget the EC Stoner corridors. One of them is allegedly the second longest in Europe!

Outside university, there is a pub called The Library and a church-turned club (it is called Halo) but it definitely isn’t holy. It is here Asian societies profited and held their Halloween events. 

And speaking of churches, you may hear that people get stabbed often in Hyde Park. But really the only time I got stabbed in Leeds was in the heart. Surely that is metaphorical — or is it? 

Once I tried to take pictures of a crime scene outside a church. Someone reported a foul smell and found a body in a garbage can, badly burnt. I took pictures but the policeman then told me my phone would be evidence if I continued. So I did, discreetly.

Homegrown band Alt-J performed in Leeds once. But if you don’t get to see them, take comfort in the fact that Charles Xavier and Chris Pine used to walk these streets. If that does not impress you, J.R.R. Tolkien used to study English, and Terence Gomez once taught here too, presumably about how a few Malaysians got dirty rich. 

So many places, so little time — you are supposed to study, not waste time! But if that is so, applying for and getting rejected from internships are no better. Like the sticky nightclubs and messy relationships, all of them you will endeavour.

It takes time to navigate your course while figuring what you want to be. It will be hard to juggle studies and events as you please. While separating work from life may seem impossible, but if you pull through all these difficult times without a first class honours, fret not, the journey is as good as the destination.

In December, when it is Christmas, it will not snow despite Daily Mail’s warnings of snowstorms. But in January, February or March, it might so stay put in your dorms. In April, Easter break begins, but May and June are for exams.

By July or August, it may be too hot. Only radiators, no air conditioners, so bloody hot. And by September there will be new juniors just like you a year ago. Show them around the city, they might enjoy it? No guarantees though.

You may introduce them to the market’s Hong Kong duck rice or fish and chips, Thai Aroi Dee or dessert takeaways.

You may introduce them to the Malaysian societies, and some of them will be interested. Others, however, will challenge themselves by living without Malaysians instead. 

You may also explain to them that there is no one Malaysian society, but three: Kelab Umno, Malay, non-Malay, want to change it? Let it be. If you manage to understand this before you launch into a righteous patriotic rant, you could volunteer to bring them closer together just as I, and other society presidents, with their committees.

Sometimes, religion trumps collaboration and this is so when organising Malaysian Night, the annual play. It may be difficult to follow requirements to separate males from females in the audience, or a Malay depicting a billionaire playboy. But it presents an opportunity to learn, that there is much more to a Malay than his culture. And much more to his culture than his religion.

If you stay in Hyde Park, live near the row where you have a continental supermarket, a burger place, a Chinese takeaway, Dixy’s Fried Chicken, two DIY shops, a barber as cheap as a fiver, and an alcohol store. Here you may just create the best memories of your time in Leeds—or your worst. 

But it will not matter because with the right friends, 7am post-clubbing discussions, groggy hangovers, failed examinations, mental breakdowns, and complicated girls—all of this is better with them. Everything is better with them. 

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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