Week Six Wrap-Up: Cream Tea and Conversation Workshops and Country Hopping

This week’s post comes a little early I’m heading off on Friday for some travel – yay for Opportunities Week! But I will make sure to get some reading done or I’m going to come back from my mini vacation to a mountain of work and that’s not a mountain I want to scale.

Cream TeaI had my very first cream tea ever at Tea on the Green, which identifies itself as Exeter’s most traditional café. It was so lovely and quaint and right in the courtyard of the Cathedral so it had the loveliest view. I went with one of my friends from my flat and we got to sit upstairs, right by the window! I always knew tea was a thing in England, but cream tea is something particularly special to Devon, and its surrounding area. As I have been led to believe, traditional cream tea consists of tea/coffee, scones, clotted cream, jam, and preserves. I’d never ever had clotted cream before so in my head, I imagined clotted cream to be like whipped cream. Unsurprisingly, the notion in my head was nothing like the real thing. Clotted cream is more like butter in its texture but it’s not salty; rather, it’s a little sweet, like cream (brownie points for pointing out the obvious?). I’m envious I don’t get clotted cream back home. The cream tea came with two scones per person; I never thought that two scones could be so filling but they really were! It was a delectable little meal/break for the afternoon and definitely an experience in and of itself.

I signed up to be a language teaching assistant and we had our first orientation meeting today. I’m really excited for this! This scheme is for international and Erasmus students and essentially, teaching assistants help language tutors lead one-hour conversation workshops in their native language with a small group of University of Exeter students studying Modern Languages. I have to say, as an English student, one of the questions I get asked the most is, “Do you want to be a teacher when you’re done at school?”, and every single time, I stifle a sigh and answer, “No, that’s about the last thing I want to be.” I’ve really never imagined myself having a career as a teacher, and plainly put, I just don’t think I’m cut out for it. Yet somehow, I’ve found myself in a sort of teaching position a lot the past few years. I used to teach at a music school, I worked as a writing advisor for my home university, I volunteer with a local after-school music program back home… All these things just add up and I’m almost starting to get the sense that I’m just in denial. I had someone tell me once that if life consistently puts me on a certain path, maybe I should just go with it, so maybe I should just go with it.

A friend I met here is hosting a photography exhibition this Saturday (The Glorious Art House, in case you’re wondering) showcasing the different traders and histories that make up one of the busiest and most eclectic streets here. As I’ve likely mentioned before, I think the heritage here is just absolutely incredible and I think this whole exhibit that she’s helping put on is super amazing. In my opinion, there’s so much value in knowing about the history of a place in which you live; it really opens up your perspectives and makes you see the place in an entirely different light. It also makes me wish I did a part of my degree in History back home.

Super excited to be heading off to Scotland and then Ireland for some adventures during Opportunities Week! I wish I could pack Exeter’s sunshine with me, but I’ll have to settle for hoping that the sunshine decides to come along with me on my trip.

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?