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 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!