Week Thirteen Wrap-Up: Parties and Partings and Packing

And that was it. My last week of classes and my last full week in Exeter. I still remember quite clearly the very first time I walked to campus (it was dark and rained like cats and dogs), my first impressions of Exeter walking along the high street, my first couple of lectures. It seems like just yesterday I had all these firsts and now it’s come to me counting up all the lasts.

My professor for Modern Irish Literature, Dr. Ellen McWilliams, was so sweet and lovely and threw a little party for our seminar group with munchies and goodies. I think the last time I had a party in school was probably way back in elementary school. In my Dream Palace seminar, Dr. Lisa Stead also gave us all little treats at the end of class. This semester was the first time ever that Dream Palace has run so it felt kind of cool being a part of pioneer class for the module and sort of making a bit of history. If you’re in year 2 and wavering as to whether or not to take Modern Irish Literature or Dream Palace next year, I say go for it. It’s 110% worth it and you’ll get so much out of either or both of those classes!

This week was also filled with lots of food – Christmas dinners with music societies, farewell dinners with friends, and also trying to finish all the rest of the food I have left in the fridge. It was lovely to catch up with people and actually sit down to share food and conversation but at the same time, it was all bittersweet. This week was probably the last time I would see a lot of people again in a long, long time (I refuse to say that this week was the last time that I’ll ever see them).

There are a number of people I’ve gotten to know fairly well and gotten to be good friends with in flute choir, concert band, and a couple of my classes. It’s a little hard knowing that I won’t be around in the New Year and for the next term. Perhaps that’s one of the downsides of only being on exchange for one semester because it’s almost as if you are only a part of the experience and you can’t immerse yourself in everything as fully, but I would imagine that if I were here for the full year, it’d be even harder for me at the end of everything to leave.

I have, indeed, started packing; I gave myself a little pat on the back for that when I hauled out my suitcase and started putting stuff inside. I don’t leave until the middle of the week but I thought I’d thank myself for it later if I didn’t start packing the night before. There are a good number of charity stores here in the area so luckily I’ll be able to give away a decent number of things instead of throwing them out. I can’t exactly say I’ll miss my room here terribly but it’s given me a roof over my head and a space to retreat to for the last three months, so there will be a bit of fond sadness when it comes time to leave.

This weekend, one of my friends and I also took the chance to make one more weekend getaway to Plymouth. The weather wasn’t as cooperative as we would have liked but the skies didn’t open up and pour – they only threatened rain the whole day – so we took what we could get. Plymouth is a lovely seaside city that’s only an hour or so away, and we enjoyed the waterfront views and Christmas festivities and also did some shopping (Yes, Plymouth has an actual shopping mall! It’d never occurred to me until that point that Exeter doesn’t have one…) The friend I went with is one of the closest friends I’ve made here; we literally live on opposite sides of the world so it’s going to be really hard saying goodbye to her later on this week. It was great to explore Plymouth but it was particularly nice to have gone with her and made a couple more special memories before we have to part ways.

A couple of girls on my floor have already left the flat to go back home, and I think a fair number of people in my block have gone home as well. There are still people around but it still feels pretty empty and hollow in halls now. Exeter overall feels emptier and quieter and I think that’s really saying something because Exeter errs towards the quiet side to begin with. Maybe it’s just the sense that school is over for the year and it’s time to go home. As much as I’ve loved being in Exeter, I think seeing everyone go home is getting to me a little and making me miss home a touch more. However, I know that I’ll be returning home soon enough and I’ll have with me so many amazing memories, lots of fabulous experiences, and many friends with whom I will continue to keep in touch.

Week Twelve Wrap-Up: Concerts and Conducting and Checklists

IMG_3855 - churchHappy December! Time is really flying for me. I can’t help but find it a little odd that it’s December and there’s no snow, but the gales of wind and sporadic showers of rain are doing their very best to make up for it. I found out the other day that they have wind warnings here and I thought it was just the strangest thing. But then I thought about how we have cold warnings at home and how out of place that concept is in a place like Exeter, and then the wind warnings made a touch more sense.

For those of you concerned with my academic wellbeing, I have indeed started one of the essays I promised I’d start writing in my last blog post. I’m quite excited for this actually (I know that sounds super lame). But I’ve really loved Modern Irish Literature and I’m quite happy with the topic I’ve decided to marry (I borrowed that brilliant expression from my lecturer). I also get to tie a bit of Canadian literature in it as well, and Canadian literature was one of my favourite English courses I took back home, so it’s quite honestly the best of both worlds.

In other news, the concerts have started! As a music kid, the end of term is typically that crazy time when you have so many rehearsals, so many sectionals, and then the actual concerts themselves, but you’re also juggling culminating assignments at the same time. It gets a little insane but in my opinion, it’s 100% worth it and makes for an experience like no other.

I played in my first Christmas concert here with the Exeter University Concert Band in Topsham. St. Margaret’s Church was a lovely venue and the concert went quite splendidly if I do say so myself. I’ll also be playing in the joint flute choir/clarinet choir concert next week, making my debut as an alto flautist AND a conductor. The flute choir’s conductor has very graciously let me take a turn at standing up in front of all the wonderful flautists and waving my arms around and trying to look like I know what I’m doing. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pull it off – wish me luck!

I’ve finally started making some headway on getting Christmas presents for people. I’ve made my lists and checked them twice so it’s about time I start taking some action. The thing is, they have so many lovely crafty Christmas-y things here and it really is a struggle for me every time to be judicious and not purchase every cool little trinket I lay my eyes on. I’ve managed to get some wonderful, unique little gifts from the Christmas market as well as the craft markets that seem to pop up every weekend, so I think I’ve been making decent progress on the present-acquiring front. The present-wrapping part will take a bit more work – it’s not exactly my strong suit but I shall do my best.

I’ve also had to start sending some of my friends off in the latter half of the week as a couple of them are leaving Exeter already. I love get-togethers and gatherings but I’m less fond of the fact that they’re for the purpose of saying goodbye. I’m not someone who is very good with goodbyes; I’m more of a see-you-later kind of person.

Next week is going to be hard when pretty much everyone is going to be leaving because classes will be over. I think this is one of the best and worst things about exchanges – you meet so many incredible people with whom you become such good friends, but it feels as if your time together is finite. However, I think it’s something really special to be able to make friends with people from other countries with whom you wouldn’t have had the chance to get to know otherwise, and hey, whenever you go globe-trotting, you’ll have a few extra couches you know you can crash on.

Week Nine Wrap-Up: Movies and Music Stash and Moments of Reflection

Compared with the last couple of weeks, I think this week’s recap is going to sound far less exciting. It wasn’t that it was a slow week, far from it actually, but I did more sitting down to hammer away at my papers than spelunking and adventuring. All in all, it was a rather stressful week, but there were still a number of highlights.

I went to see Spectre this week and it was the very first James Bond movie I’d ever seen. It was a decent movie but I’m not sure if it’s really my cup of tea. I also discovered the incredible deliciousness of sweet and salty popcorn. Back home, we just have…popcorn and you can choose to add butter but no such thing as sweet popcorn exists. I was a little excited about this novelty to say the least. My friend who came with me told me that they have sweet and salty popcorn back in Singapore too; I think I need to pitch this to movie concessions when I get back. We’re totally missing out.

The thing that really stands out for this movie-going occasion is that I finally went to the Odeon, which is, literally, a three-minute walk away from my accommodation. What’s also really special about it is that the theatre has been in Exeter since 1937; it survived the world wars and the Blitz, and to my knowledge, it’s the only theatre of that time in Exeter to have done so. The venue was different from the Odeon in Scotland that I poked my head into as well as the Cameo, and very different from the theatres I’m used to at home. It was smaller overall (although I’ve heard that there are different screen and room sizes in the theatre, another thing I’m not used to) but it was still a nice atmosphere. The seats seemed comfier too, but as always, I wished that they came with a little popcorn holder. I’m really surprised no one has acted much on that idea, but perhaps I’m the only person who thinks that popcorn holders are something of a necessity. Or maybe people just don’t eat popcorn much at the theatres nowadays.

I think a lot of the time, we get sucked into the mindset that if we’re in a place for a long time, we end up taking some things for granted. It’s sort of like when you live near a tourist-y landmark or some kind of attraction; you don’t really take the time to go out and see it even though it’s right there. You get stuck with the mentality of thinking that it will continue to always be there and there will always be a chance for you to go see it and you just keep pushing it off. Now that I’m really starting to feel the end of my exchange come up (there are only 4 more weeks of study!), I’m trying to get out of that rut and do all the things I keep thinking I can push off.

At this week’s concert band rehearsal, sweaters and polo shirts came in, so I am now a proud owner of an Exeter University Concert Band sweater. It’s quite spiffy I would say and for me, it’s a really nice memento of my time here and my concert band experience. Here, they call club uniforms and sweaters and such “stash.” I don’t mean to offend but I just think it’s the most bizarre thing. Stash. I don’t think I can ever call any piece of clothing I own, stash. Stash is either a verb or a noun in the sense that you have something of a hoard of something…but clothing isn’t stash. That’s one thing I don’t think I can really get behind. I guess at home, our equivalent of “stash” is “swag,” but frankly, I find that quite odd as well. So I’m just going to stick to the generic term of sweaters and shirts.

The latter half of last week, a number of tragedies struck that resonated with me a lot more, being in the UK than being at home. When I’m in Canada, there’s literally an entire ocean that separates me from a lot of the horror that goes on and somehow, that makes it seem less real for me. Here though, there’s only a channel that separates me from the events and everything about the disasters hits much closer to home, figuratively and literally. The attacks on Beirut, Baghdad, and Paris are awful and my heart goes out to everyone who has been affected in any kind of way. I don’t think I can say that I can truly comprehend their grief and trauma, but I hope they can find reconciliation and peace in some form once again.

On ne peut pas expliquer les raisons pour les tragédies comme celles-ci et j’admette que c’est difficile d’accepter toutes les conséquences qui les accompagnent. Cependant, j’espère que tout le monde peut faire face à ce désastre avec le courage et la solidité. De plus, j’espère que le monde, comme une coopérative, peut poursuivre un chemin où on ne doit pas être témoin des actes de terrorisme.

Week Eight Wrap-Up: Turning Points and Twinkle Lights and Tar Barrels

IMG_3604 - bonfireThe term is half over and my time is Exeter has reached its midway point – that’s crazy! I think right now, I’m at that weird stage where I’m thinking, I have all these things I still want to do and not enough time to do them, time needs to slow down. At the same time, I’m in the midst of essay season right now and all the work is piling up on me and then I think, it’s okay, it’ll all be over soon, I just have to push through for a little while longer. It’s a bit of a strange in-between to be in.

After my last week of travelling, I will admit it was a little strange to be back in class, especially the Monday. Having a pen in my hand again felt quite weird and I found myself having to reorient myself a lot in class to fit the mindset of being in a lecture. Tiredness also blanketed much of my week, but talk of upcoming deadlines very quickly made sure that I knew quite clearly that I was back in university and I needed to get my head back in the game.

Essay season also means that it’s concert season coming up again soon and I’m really excited for it. I play in two different music ensembles and the planned concert venues for both sound pretty great. And to round off the seasons, the holiday season has descended upon Exeter. I see all the lights starting to be hung up around the city and the storefronts have already transformed their window displays to exude holiday cheer. Also, Christmas markets seem to be a really big thing here and I’m seeing lots of advertisements for that. I definitely want to experience one for myself and see what all the hubbub is about. I feel like overall, Europe is quite lavish with the holidays and all the decorations and everything – there’s absolutely a different feel to it and I’m looking forward to being here to experience it.

I also experienced my first bonfire night ever this week and went to Ottery St. Mary’s tar barrels. Ottery St. Mary is this quaint little village that upholds the tradition of townspeople carrying flaming tar barrels through the street. Yup, people literally run up and down the streets with flaming tar barrels and it’s every bit as crazy as you imagine it to be but it’s also quite incredible at the same time. It’s hard to explain the extraordinariness of it – it really is something that needs to be experienced. I saw one of the men after they had finished and despite wearing protective gear and such, they did get burned some and I’d imagine it to be just a little exhausting. For them though, it’s a tradition and way of life, and it’s definitely an honour to be nominated to take part in this. Ottery is the only town in the country that gets to do this, so that in itself is pretty remarkable.

It was also really cool for me to see a real live bonfire; I mean, I’d seen campfires before but that really has nothing on a bonfire. Bonfire night originated in the 1600s; in the November of 1605, there was a Gunpowder Plot in which a group wanted to blow up parliament with explosives. Guy Fawkes, one of the conspirators who was charged with guarding the explosives, was caught, and the plot was ultimately unsuccessful. People lit up bonfires around the city to celebrate this and the tradition has carried through. I remarked to my British friends here that I’d never seen a bonfire before and they looked at me quite incredulously; I found their reactions pretty amusing but then again, I must have looked the same way when they told me they’d never heard of portable heaters.

My floor did a couple things together this week with a pasta night as well as a wine and cheese. Those were lots of fun and it really makes me feel like we should do more of these sort of get-togethers. I’m thinking perhaps pizza at the Old Firehouse should be our next little thing. It’s crazy to think that in a couple of few short weeks, we’re going to be off on our own separate ways and that’ll be it. There are just all these little things that remind me how exchange is going to be coming to an end soon, but I’m trying not to dwell on them too much – I just have to live in the moment and make the most of everything!

Week Five Wrap-Up: Milestones and Me Moments and Movie Theatres

Tuesday October 13th marked me having been in Exeter for one month – I can hardly believe it! It seems like everything has just flown by. I feel like I’ve been here a lot longer than I actually have, and I can bet I’ll feel like I hardly spent any time here when it is time to leave.

This week was a bit of a milestone week as I also handed in my very first couple of assignments on Thursday. Exeter uses an electronic submission system and while it’s very sustainable of them, I have to admit that handing things in online scares me a little. I’m someone who likes things to be more tangible and I quite revel in the feeling of having a printed copy of my essay and giving it away to the professor for him/her to decide my fate. Submitting something electronically gives me the impression I’m giving away my efforts to an abyss. To be fair though, I did like the fact that I got to hand it in whenever I pleased instead of waiting for class time and having six pieces of stapled paper feel like the weight of the world in my bag.

In light of having made it through my first due dates here relatively unscathed, I treated myself to a little break after the big deadline day. I took advantage of the lovely, crisp weather and poked around Exeter, walking into the little eclectic vintage-y stores in which Exeter seems abound and sitting down with a delightful cup of coffee and taking a “me moment” in one of the many coffee shops on High Street. I love the vibe here; people really know how to sit back, take their time, and enjoy things. They also know how to make incredible coffee.

An especially enjoyable part of my week was when I went on a city walk with my film class to look at past and present cinema venues in Exeter. Britain had a pretty big cinema culture in the early 90s so there were no shortages of theatre spaces back then. Unfortunately, during the Blitz of WWI, a lot of the original buildings were destroyed, but it was still really interesting to go around and see how the locations had changed. It surprised and disappointed me a little to discover that a lot of the old cinema venues weren’t commemorated in any way, shape, or form. Granted, given the number of venues there used to be (about ten locations all within a ten block radius), I guess it wouldn’t be very practical to have a plaque for every single one, but I feel like there is a lot of heritage and historical value there that’s worth preserving. However, I will acknowledge that I may be sappier than most people when it comes to stuff like this. The walk also made me think about how much I knew about the spaces I live in back home and I realized it wasn’t much. This is definitely something I’ll have to change once I get back.

Opportunities Week (or Reading Week as I’m more used to) is coming up soon and while some time will need to be set aside for a bit of work, I’ll also be taking the opportunity to travel around. I’ve been making some plans this week to figure out where I will be going and what I should see; I’m looking forward to acquainting myself better with more of England! One thing I was quite baffled to learn was that Opportunities Week is not something that all the students at the University get; it depends on what you study, what year you’re in, and probably a slew of other factors of which I’m not aware. Fortunately, I am one of the lucky ducks who gets the luxury of Opportunities Week so I’m not going to deny that I’m quite pleased.

It’s starting to get cooler now but I’m loving it because it means that autumn is really here. This is probably my favourite time of the year, and I’m glad Exeter isn’t one of those places that just goes straight from summer to winter. I love the feeling I get when I step outside and it’s cold but not cold to the point where I feel cold, I love seeing all the green of the trees transform into brilliant reds, fiery oranges, and golden yellows, and I love watching the magic of 5 o’clock light give the city a magic touch. Perhaps it’s the season but I must say that Exeter has also given me its magic touch; my time here is almost half over but I can hardly imagine leaving!

Week Four Wrap-Up – Parades and Prehistoric Monuments and Palatial Baths

Exeter proved me wrong this week and didn’t rain cats and dogs like I had predicted. Now usually I don’t like being wrong but in this case, I can make an exception. Besides, I think I got the better end of the deal because it was, once again, lovely and gorgeous outside for most of the week.

Unfortunately, I spent more time than I would like to admit in my room as a good part of my week was given away to doing Skype interviews back home. Time zones definitely did a fantastic job of boggling my brain as I tried to keep myself organized; with having my laptop still on Canadian time, my little clock on my nightstand on UK time, and my wristwatch forever stuck on 12 o’ clock until I get some new batteries into it, it proved to be a bit of a challenge. However, that’s over with now and fingers crossed I’ll have a job when all is said and done – I have to fund my exchange experience somehow!

It’s Thanksgiving back home so I thought it would be good to stick with the tradition of giving thanks for all the wonderful things I have, so here’s a quick recap of some of other the lovely moments that happened this week besides interviews:

  • Lunch with all the girls in my flat. We’re all one-semester exchange students from different parts of the world so it was really nice to get together and chat with one another. It’s been almost a month since we all moved in and we hadn’t really done much as a group just because there were so many little finicky things we had to take care of in the beginning, so it was high time we finally did something altogether.
  • Meeting my global mentor for the first time. She just finished a year abroad (and in Canada!) so it was really great to hear about her experience.
  • Having some really wonderful flatmates who made me dinner one night after a particularly long and trying day. It was an extremely sweet gesture for which I was immensely appreciative, and I loved having had the opportunity to get together for a wonderful meal with great company and conversation.
  • Rehearsals. Because no matter what or when, music just always makes my life better. And I also got to try out an alto flute at flute choir this week. It was really, really, really, really cool and just so, so much fun! I hope I was able to adequately convey my level of enthusiasm there.

In addition, I had a fairly eventful weekend of fun. I went to the Exmouth Illuminated Carnival (Exmouth is about a half hour train ride away from Exeter and it’s super convenient to just hop on a train to get there) with one of the girls in my flat and we milled around the carnival area for a bit, then stayed on into the evening to see the parade. The procession was great with the creative lit-up floats and assorted displays of talents (the majorettes particularly wowed me with their baton twirling). One of the best parts for me was seeing all the younger kids looking so excited to either be a part of the parade or just watch it. There’s just such a really great community feel here. I come from a suburb back home and I live downtown during the school year; therefore, being in Exeter and the surrounding area is a change for me in terms of the way and pace of life, but it’s definitely a refreshing and welcome one.

The fun continued on into the next day as I took part in a trip organized by the University to see Stonehenge and the city of Bath. The morning looked a little gloomy and foggy but by the time we got to Stonehenge, the sun had decided to come out to join us in our fun. We only got to spend about two hours there and I really wish we could have had more time to really see everything. Yes, at the end of the day, maybe they are just rocks but there’s such a rich history that goes along with it and the surrounding area is absolutely beautiful as well. I also wish we could have gotten to stay on into the later hours of the day; the stones in this prehistoric monument are aligned on the solstice axis, making it a must-see during the sunrise of the summer solstice and sunset of the winter solstice, but I’m sure it would have been incredible to see it even just on a normal day’s sunset!

After our visit to Stonehenge, we boarded the coach and set off for Bath. We arrived around 3:45pm and were instructed to reconvene at 6:45pm to return to Exeter. For me, one of the most peculiar (and perhaps mildly frustrating at times) things about England is that everything closes so early. Stores and tourist sites and the like will all close up shop at 5pm, sometimes 6pm if you’re lucky. I’m sure this is rooted in some cultural norms and habits that are valuable, but I still haven’t fully gotten onboard with this yet. I’m the kind of person who could spend an entire day, or probably even an entire week, at something like a museum, so I felt like the 3 hours we had wasn’t nearly enough time to go around the city and truly take in everything. Nonetheless, sometimes you just have to make the best of what you have. My friends and I chose to spend our time going through the Roman Baths and venturing around the city’s centre and waterfront. Bath’s 18th century Georgian architecture was absolutely stunning; this is going to sound a little incredible on my part but I felt like the ancient spirit and energy of the place was still alive in the city in all the buildings. All in all, the day was a thoroughly enjoyable one, albeit a tad rushed at times, but it was still lots of time and I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to venture outside Exeter and see more of what England has to offer.

So after a weekend of playing hard, it’s time to get back to the grind. I’ll be handing in some assignments this week for the first time as a University of Exeter student and I’d prefer not to make a bad impression here or give a bad rep to Ottawa. I have to admit though, sometimes I wish travel could be a course. I know some universities have Harry Potter as a course so why not travel?

Week Three Wrap-Up: Windows, Winding Roads and Walter Brennan

As of late, I’ve found that I’m beginning to notice less the stark differences between here and home and rather, more embracing what is here that I would not have, or see, or be able to experience back home. I feel more like I’m a participatory observer versus an outsider looking in, and it’s a refreshing perspective.

Last weekend, I looked outside to see my very first lunar eclipse. I stayed up to see a part of the eclipse and then gave in to sleepiness, but I managed to wake around 3:30am when there was supposed to be the supermoon; therefore, despite my tiredness, I managed to get my eyes open and myself out of bed to look out the window. The entire spectacle happened at much more reasonable hours for my North American friends, but from what I heard, I think I had the better view so I guess you win some, you lose some.

When I’m back home, light pollution basically zaps any and all chances of seeing celestial extravaganzas. But here, as long as it’s a clear night, you look up and you can see the stars, and they are absolutely beautiful. I can’t say that it’s exactly comparable to stargazing in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a million times better than what I am used to. My dorm room has this big lovely window that’s reminiscent of a skylight and I remember being really excited about it when I first moved in. The excitement fizzled out fairly quickly when I realized I couldn’t keep it open 24 hours of the day because it would mean that I’d rise with the sun every morning. But I’ll really have to find a clear night to stay up to slightly ridiculous hours and pretend to be a stargazer – I won’t have this kind of view forever! If I were an Exetonian (I learned that term during quiz night this week), I really think I’d get into the whole business of real stargazing.

Anyways, I think that’s enough starry-eyedness about something as inconsequential as a window. So besides having the good fortune of being in a part of the world where the lunar eclipse/blood moon was visible, I also got to visit Cornwall last weekend, courtesy of some lovely friends, one of whom possesses a car. I do have a driver’s license back home and I do drive every so often; however, I could never imagine myself driving here. The roads are much narrower; a three-lane road here (not that there seem to be many of those) would likely only be a two-lane back home. On the drive to Cornwall, we took some roads that really only had space for a single lane of traffic to proceed at a time, but that same road allowed traffic to travel in both directions. Add in the hilly terrain that this place is known for and it made for an adventure that was packed tight with thrills. Cornwall was beautiful – we went through the Teign Valley and made a stop at the beach. Or I guess, one of the beaches. Honestly, there are so many beaches here on account of us being so close to the water.

Being close by the waterfront also means that I’m always treated to really incredible views. The weather was absolutely lovely this week, with sunshine and blue skies nearly every day and so I got to bask in the full splendour and beauty of this place. Some days are a little more brisk and the evenings a little cooler but it was nothing an extra layer couldn’t fix. I’m utterly sold on Exeter’s magnificence…but now that I’ve said that I’ve bought into it, it’s probably going to start raining cats and dogs next week. I’m sure that will be wonderful.

The rest of the week was business as usual in terms of class and rehearsals, coupled with a few interviews. I have to say that I quite like how they run classes here. Classes won’t go beyond 6:30pm, and I believe it’s to allow time for extracurriculars, which is super fantastic. There are also more breaks during lecture here. I have one lecture that is a straight 3-hour block and I personally struggle a bit with the longer lectures. However, over here, the Professor gives us a break at every hour. I think after three months of this, I’m going to find it extremely hard to go back to 3 hour lectures at home with only one break at the halfway point and classes that can go from 5:30pm-7pm, or, heaven forbid, the dreaded 7pm-10pm.

A particular highlight for me this week was when we got the chance to go through some archive materials from the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum for the film class I’m taking. Yup, the University of Exeter has a museum on its premises (not to mention a theatre not unlike the NAC), and it’s about one of the grandest discoveries I’ve made, along with the fact that the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and the Exeter Phoenix (an art gallery) are both about a 5-10 minute walk away from the heart of campus. And they’re open every day. Free admission too. Now that, is incredible. It pains me terribly to say that I have not very thoroughly made my rounds through either of those magnificent places, but I intend to do so soon!

But back to archive materials. We’re learning about fandom and fan culture in cinema during the early 1930s, and we were going through fan magazines, scrapbooks that fans made of their favourite stars, postcards, and fan mail. I think I suppressed it pretty well in class but I was buzzing with excitement on the inside. I don’t know how I could have not been excited – I mean, I was touching a piece of history! Maybe I’m a bit of a busybody and I enjoy other people’s life stories, but for me, it was such a treat to have been able to go through all those items and get an inside look at a piece of the culture at the time. At the end of the lecture, the Professor mentioned that the collections were open for viewing during business hours. I think I’ve found my new haunt.

On my walks to and from campus, I’m starting to see leaves on the ground now. It is autumn and there are so many trees here so I’m sure it will look fantastic once the trees colour. As of right now, the trees are all still looking very green to me still; maybe I’m looking in the wrong places or just not being all that observant overall, but I’m hoping there will start to be more autumn colours soon!

Week Two Wrap-Up: Film Screenings and Freshers Flu and Flute-Playing

I decided that it was kind of boring if all my blog titles just always consisted of dates so I tried to jazz it up a little. We’ll see how that goes. Perhaps my lack of foresight for my titles gestures at the fact that I might not be a very forward thinker, but hey, from here on out, it can only get better, right?

And the same can be said for my second week in Exeter. This is going to sound super nerdy, but this past week was the first week of classes and I have to say, I quite enjoyed it. I felt in my element again surrounded by my works of literature and lined paper. (A4 paper here is not the same as A4 paper back home, though. Here, it is just that little bit longer so the ends of all my handouts stick out of my binders and frustrate me to no end.) For folks who may not be as enthusiastic about my academic endeavours as I will soon prove to be, feel free to skip the next two paragraphs because there will be a lot of raving about the classes I’m taking.

A large part of the reason why I chose to come study in England was because of how steeped I believe English literature to be in this place. This may sound a little (or a lot) far-fetched but for me, studying English here seems almost reverent. English literature is such an integral part of so much here and it has so much significance and prominence; essentially, to offer some perspective to my Canadian peers, it’s like studying engineering back home. For the first time, I feel like what I’m studying is actually valuable because of how closely the culture here embraces it.

This semester, I’m taking two modules (or courses as I’m apt to call them): Modern Irish Literature and The Dream Palace: Cinemagoing, Audiences and Media. Both are courses that wouldn’t be offered back home for which I’m ridiculously excited (yes, again, what a nerd thing to say, I know). Perhaps a part of my excitement stems from the fact that there are really nice lecture halls here. Complete with cushioned bench seating and enough table space for people to actually have a binder and a textbook out, it feels a little like a paradise. Mind you, the chairs don’t swivel and for anyone who has had a class with me back in Ottawa or just knows my habits, you would know that I rather enjoy swivelling around in my chairs just a little too much. However, this doesn’t exactly allow me to give the impression that I’m paying attention in lecture so perhaps it’s for the best. Lecture hall excitement aside, the syllabi sounds super interesting and I would say that both of my professors are great lecturers and really enthusiastic about the subject they teach, so I’m really looking forward to the rest of my semester.

Unfortunately, by the middle of the week, I’d caught a tail end of Freshers Flu. When I had made it to the end of Freshers Week last week without feeling awful, I thought I’d gotten lucky and managed to skip that bit of the experience. However, I guess the conspirers of the universe thought it would be best if I got the whole experience so I can now say I didn’t miss out on Freshers Flu. There was a fair bit of hibernating (or hibernapping as a friend of mine coined it) going on towards the end of the week and I drank water like it wasn’t a finite resource, but I think it did the trick. Hopefully, that will be it for my encounter with maladies here.

This week was also particularly exciting for me because societies (essentially clubs or extracurriculars…goodness, I feel like I need to have a glossary or something at the end of my posts) started up. I’ve found myself involved in two music ensembles for the term, concert band and flute choir. Music has always been a constant for me in my life and I’m glad that I am able to keep that up here. There was one thing that threw me for the loop a little though. The music terminology changes, but at this point, I really should have expected it by now; everything here seems to be called something different than what I’m used to. Here, note names consist of semibreves and quavers and such whereas I call them quarter notes and half notes and the like. I’m seriously contemplating making up a little translation sheet so I can get all the terms down pat because once those semibreves come into play, I’m completely lost. Luckily, the notes on the pages themselves don’t change how they’re supposed to sound and I can still read sheet music about as well as I can read a book, so I think I’m still good on the actual music-playing bit. Music is definitely where I can always feel at home, even if I’m away, and it felt really nice to have found a music family here at Exeter who welcomed me with open arms.

For the next two weeks, in addition to classes and the extracurriculars, I’ll be doing Skype interviews to hopefully obtain a co-op work term placement for when I get back to my home university in January. It’s going to be a bit of a juggling act for me in terms of managing everything as well as making sure I get all my time zones straight; here’s to hoping I won’t drop the ball!