One of the best parts about Richmond University is its multiple campuses. They give students a chance to experience different sides of London throughout their four years here. However, when most people think of Richmond’s various campuses they only consider the Richmond Hill and Kensington locations. There is actually a third, much lesser known, Richmond campus roughly four hours away in Leeds. This campus is home to RIASA – The Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy. Students at RIASA work towards getting a Richmond degree while also training for and playing football on a regular basis. This program attracts a significant number of Americans who are looking to break into the European football industry while still getting a university education.
Students at RIASA use the facilities at Leeds Beckett University, similarly to how The Swedish School operates within the Richmond Hill campus. Though students at RIASA technically attend our university, almost nobody knows that they exist. This is partly due to the fact that the only time RIASA and other Richmond students ever cross paths is at our annual Honors Night. This is where I encountered them for the first time. My roommate and I were fascinated by their existence, and insisted on talking to them and figuring out exactly what this Leeds program was. During the post-honors night Roebuck festivities, my roommate and I struck up a discussion with a few of the guys, one of whom lived pretty close to my roommate back in the US. They remained in contact over the summer, and in September of this year we took a trip to visit him in Leeds and see RIASA in action.
Upon arriving in Leeds we discovered that we really were not in Kansas anymore. Undenounced to us, we had booked our trip during Leeds University’s freshers week. As you can imagine, there was a little more insanity than usual on campus. This, coupled with the fact that my two friends and I were staying in a dorm with twenty random guys, made for a real adventure of a weekend. When we arrived at the dorm we were greeted by the faint sound of rap music, which was a constant throughout the weekend. The kitchen looked exactly like what you think a kitchen taken care of by twenty teenage guys would look like, their dorm rooms the same. We were pleasantly surprised, however, by how ridiculously cheap Leeds is in comparison to London. Because Leeds University is so large, the surrounding town is very student friendly, with a ton of great, cheap places to eat and, most importantly, drink. Though Leeds may not be well known for its rich cultural heritage, it was still an interesting place to visit.
We also learned a bit more about the “Leeds Boys”- as we have come to call students in the RIASA program-while we were essentially living with them. First off, we assumed that everyone in the program was American. Though the majority are, there are also a few international students from Europe all the way to Bermuda. We learned that their mascot is not a stag, but a much more intimidating lion, and that they have multiple teams that play at a semi-professional level all over the United Kingdom. They are all majoring in International Sports Management, so, though they all dream of playing at a professional level once they graduate, they also have a degree that still allows them to be involved in the sports industry. Though they may be a few hours away, RIASA students are still very much members of the Richmond community, and I think we should do more to unite our Richmond, Kensington, and Leeds campuses in the future.