Choosing what to study at university is a daunting task for most people but Emilia Lewandowska, from Warsaw, had no such concerns.
Growing up watching Sherlock Holmes and CSI, coupled with her love for technology and coding, she knew from a young age she wanted to pursue a career in forensics and security.
She says her best friend was already a student at Leeds and raved about the city, the people and Leeds Beckett University. “She was the one that found out about the BSc in Computer Forensics and Security. After reading I would be taught how to pick locks and hack computers, I was ready to sign-up for the course even though I had never been to Leeds.”
“After reading I would be taught how to pick locks and hack computers, I was ready to sign-up for the course even though I had never been to Leeds.”
Falling in love with Leeds
She admits that moving to Leeds from Warsaw wasn’t easy. “When I arrived I felt overwhelmed because there was so much to take in. Everything was new from the culture to the teaching style. But it didn’t take long until I felt comfortable in my new home, Lewandowska says.
“It’s not a myth that Yorkshire people are super friendly. I mean I cannot remember a time when someone hasn’t offered to escort me when I have got lost.”
She says she has fallen in love with Leeds and hopes to stay after her studies. After all Leeds is the IT Capital of the UK and there are some excellent career opportunities for computer security specialists. Plus, the weather in the UK is much better than the weather in Poland!
“It makes me smile when my British friends don’t want to come out because it’s cold and it is only 1°c. In Warsaw it is regularly below freezing in winter and people just continue with their daily lives.”
Lewandowska also comments on some “lost in translation” moments she has had with her British friends, including the double meaning of “having tea”. She recalls arranging to meet a friend after they had had their “tea” and being baffled why it would take the friend over an hour to drink one cup of tea.
“It makes me smile when my British friends complain about the cold weather in the UK.”
The friend explained she as having her evening meal and that it was referred to as “tea”, especially in the North of England.
Getting involved in university activities
All in all, Lewandowska has settled in well to university life. When she started talking about the various committees and societies she is involved in, it is proved that this student means business. She is doing everything to ensure she has a strong alumni and is armed with skills that will make her more employable.
“My advice to any international student is join as many relevant and interesting societies as you can, you might find you only stick with one but that is OK,” she says.
Lewandowska couldn’t find a society that really interested her, so along with two of her friends, she set up a computing society that focuses on giving students access to industry experts and local businesses.
Not only is she the secretary of the computing society, but she is also a course rep, a faculty rep and an active member of the National Union of Students. In fact she was elected to represent the concerns of students at her university on a national level.
If that doesn’t sound hectic enough, she is also an international student ambassador and a buddy for new students. That allows her to use her past experiences to help new students.
“My advice to any international student is join as many relevant and interesting societies as you can.”
“When I arrived I was lucky enough to have a friend but it still took me a while to figure things out,” she says, “Through the buddy scheme I can reassure other students it won’t take them long to settle in. It will give them the confidence to ask for help when they need it.”
Eating home food in Leeds
One of the questions she gets asked a lot by new students is whether they can find their local cuisine in the city and her answer is always ‘yes’. She says: “Leeds, like most of the UK, is very multi-cultural. Finding restaurants serving cuisine from around the world and shops that sell authentic ingredients isn’t a problem.”
In fact Lewandowska has a local Polish deli she visits a couple of times a week to pick up her favourite Polish sausages amongst other things. She says: “Student life can be hectic but it’s important to eat well. I try to avoid ready meals and prefer to cook my own food. You just have to be practical and maybe cook something that you can pop in the fridge and easily reheat or take in cold to university.”
“Through the buddy scheme I can reassure other students it won’t take them long to settle in.”
Whilst talking about how busy student life can be, I ask her how she chills out and a smile appears on her face. “Well I have a cat and it’s great to just curl up with her. I love animals and in Poland I have two cats and three dogs. I hope to bring my cats over soon, well that is if my parents let me, as they are very attached to them as well.”
Lewandowska has also embraced the quintessential British social activity of going to the pub. “I just love it. It’s a great way to meet new people as friends always bring people they know. We normally go around a few pubs and it took me awhile to get used to this,” she admits, “In the beginning I used to think we are settled and it’s cold out there, why are we bothering to go to a different pub? But I have resigned myself to the fact this is what happens in Britain and I don’t mind it so much!”