I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my study abroad year recently.
I have moments sometimes, sometimes whole days, when I miss Ottawa acutely. They’re becoming more frequent now, as the nights come around quicker and my breath fogs up before me on morning walks to campus. I’ll miss the Canadian winter enormously, for however terrifying -27 windchill might sound, I adored the snow, the ice-skating, the hot apple cider clutched between mittens and maple syrup taffy. It was a truly magical time, of snow flurries and the slow build to seeing my family again, and anything England has to offer just can’t quite top it.
I’ve also been thinking about Canada as I’ve received a couple of emails from students interested in Ottawa as a prospective destination. It’s encouraged me to reflect again on my experiences, and impart the best advice I can.
This was a post I shared on my study abroad blog on August 24th, exactly a year on from when I departed for Canada. I think quite a lot of feelings I expressed then are still very relevant now.
(NB: Hello there! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here for Exeter student blogs – I’ve only just come back from a year abroad studying in Canada as part of my degree. If you’d like to read more about how my year went and see what I got up to, I kept up my own blog at https://tesstakesoncanada.wordpress.com/. I’m back for final year now, but will most likely talk a bit more about Canada in future blog posts and how I’ve found readapting to life back in sleepy Exeter! For now, here’s how my Freshers Week 2017 went.)
Out of the front door and into the sun I go.
One of my favourite parts about our student house for final year (four bedrooms, brown carpets everywhere, living room sparse of all but essential furniture, a broken washing line in the garden, but a blackboard in the kitchen my housemate has already decorated with stars and smiley faces) is the view from our top step. Over the recycling bins and bikes belonging to the neighbours, over the rooftops and past the telephone wires, there’s a perfectly framed view of the Cathedral, towers imposing and ancient, the Devon hills that have been here even longer, just visible on the horizon. (more…)
Term two of second year has gotten off to a great start. I’m so glad to be back in the buzz of university life, have a schedule of basketball practices and Exeposé meetings to structure my week around and get stuck back into my degree. I was thrilled with how well received my One Second Everyday video was when it was shared on Exeter’s official Facebook page; 276 likes, 37 shares and over 5,000 views and counting! Looking back on it has made me realise how much fun I had last term – and how important it is to make the most of daily things; the walk to campus on a beautiful day, or weekend pancakes with my housemates. I will definitely be keeping it up for 2016, and now that I know the ropes of making a good compilation hopefully this one will be better than ever!
Today though, I thought I’d make a post on a more academic vein than I usually prefer to opt for. There’s no doubt that university life involves so much more than the degree, but it’s also important to appreciate we’re only here because of our degree.
At the beginning of this academic year, I was asked by the Student Blog team to have a look at creating something with the One Second Everyday app to document day-to-day life as a student in my second year. It’s been an ongoing project in which I’ve been taking a second long video each day of what I’ve been up to – whether it be a day in the library actually getting some work done, a basketball away game, my parents coming to visit and taking me to Cornwall or just nights in fooling around with my housemates. By choosing just a second a day I’ve obviously had to be very selective, and this video has by no means caught the best (or the worst) moments of this term where I’ve invariably not had my phone to hand, but it is nonetheless, I think, a lovely collection of memories and short but sweet insight into student life.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, sorting housing was without doubt one of the most stressful aspects of first year for me. We waited, just as all the Guild-endorsed promotions told us too, until after Christmas, and then spent a nightmarish few weeks charging around house viewings, ringing up landlords 24/7 and securing our current residence by pure luck that our email arrived 2 minutes before another interested party’s.
It was not a fun time, least of all because we had no idea what to expect and what we should be looking for. Everyone had different ideas, but we quickly realised we were going to have to collectively lower our expectations. Dramatically. ‘Student living’ is a catchphrase for a reason. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy living where I am now (although I think I could be living in a shed and still have a good time with my housemates) but there’s certainly things I’ll be bearing in mind when I go looking for final year housing. Just because you are probably going to end up somewhere a bit grotty, as is student tradition, doesn’t mean you should be sacrificing all comforts, and it’s best to be as knowledgeable as you can be.
So, from my experience here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re going about choosing and securing your student house…
It’s getting to a tough time of term. The deadlines are piling up, reading week is a distant memory, and the Christmas holidays are pretty near – but not quite close enough. This past week for the first time since I’ve been back this year, I’ve genuinely missed home – the home-cooked meals, having a kitchen you’re not afraid to walk about barefoot in, my dog, being able to have a bath, and my family.
The events in Paris have cast a shadow over the past week, but they have also put everything into perspective. Deadlines and early starts might be a pain, but never have I been more acutely aware of how lucky I am to be studying at a world class university in such a safe and tolerant society.
Failure happens to all of us at some point. Whether it’s a GCSE you knew you always hated, your first, second or even third stab at a driving test, or aiming for and just missing out on a spot in the first team. This time last year I wrote a post about choosing and applying to universities, and I’m aware it’s once again the season of personal statements, UCAS and acceptance emails – but also a time when you might be experiencing your first taste of rejection too.
Getting a rejection from a university that you’ve probably visisted, researched, and then given the highest honour of one of your five UCAS slots hurts, there’s no doubt about it. If the university is a prestigious one, it can feel like a personal blow to you – a failure that despite your grades and hours spent drafting and re-drafting your personal statement, you still somehow ‘weren’t good enough’.
Cooking easy, simple meals is a must-have skill at university, and one that’s taken me a while to get the knack of. Being in self-catered Lafrowda last year, and now having the entertaining challenge of sharing a pretty small kitchen with 6 people, I’ve had quite a bit of practice of the student staples. There are all kinds of handy tips you pick up over time, like the wonder that is the Schwartz packs of chilli con carne spices, and how it’s much cheaper to buy a curry paste and cocount milk than a jar of curry sauce, so I thought I’d start sharing some of my culinary wisdom (if you can call it that) on here.
(I really need to branch out from the whole list thing in my next post)
We’re into week 4 of first term, and things are getting back into a routine of sorts. I’m beginning to learn my housemates’ timetables (since mine doesn’t exactly require much memorisation), we’ve made the trek to Morrisons’ for weekly food shops a few times, had our first house party, set up a cleaning rota that would be impressive if it survives the month, and already had our various existential-degree-related crises. The whole 4 hours a week thing is taking some getting used to, but I think I’m getting the hang of structuring my own time. I’m busier than I thought I would be with society committee responsibilities, playing basketball and now writing an online fortnightly Features column for Exeposé; but I’m not complaining. Busy is best for me, and I’m more than happy to accept the late nights and early starts as long as it doesn’t mean I’m languishing in bed till midday everyday feeling purposeless.
All that being said, I’m (typically) writing this the day before my first deadline of the year, so I’m going to keep it short and sweet for once! Second year is already shaping up to be very different from first, so I thought I’d have a look at some of the main differences I’ve noticed so far.
The first week of term has flown by already in an exhausting mix of 7am alarms for painfully early 8:30am lectures and evenings spent at various second year house-warmings. Despite being shattered already, to say I’m glad to be back is a huge understatement. I’ve missed Exeter so much – I’ve missed the Forum and the pricey AMT milkshakes, I’ve missed the library and the satisfaction of finding 6 entire shelves full of relevant texts to your interests, I’ve missed being surrounded by young people and familiar faces; I’ve even missed the hills. The amount of reading and research that needs to be done this term is looming and my housemates are already attempting to secure placements for next year, but at the same time I can’t help but feel bizarrely content to be back in the buzz and minor stress of it all. Summer, despite the occasional interludes of lovely holidays and travelling, was for the most part quite a long and lonely experience, and it’s so good to be returned to my Devon home.
It’s the week before Freshers’ and I’m all officially moved into my shared student house in Exeter. I’m the first one here and am currently rattling around this house for six on my own, so I’ve been keeping myself busy the past few days unpacking my stuff, thoroughly sanitizing the kitchen, decorating my room and attempting to mentally prepare myself for second year. Although I am slightly nervous about starting the new year, I am mostly hugely pleased to be back, and I’ve got a good feeling about second year being better than my first, despite the threat of ‘everything counting’ degree-wise and the inevitable drama shared housing is bound to bring. Before I get to all that however, I thought I might make a post about how I’ve spent some of the past 3 months away.
A level results day is fast approaching; there are university guides and advice on Clearing appearing in the papers, some of your more confident friends might be preemptively joining Freshers’ groups on Facebook and there’s that slight anxiety in the air when asking any recent leaver where exactly they’re going in September. (I was always overly deliberate when answering that one, “Well hopefully I’ll be going to Exeter, but it could all change!!” – just in case anyone got the wrong idea and started assuming things.)
For the millions out there with conditional offers for places at university, that awkwardly placed day in August (following an entire summer of deliberately not thinking about the whole thing) can feel like a life-defining moment, a major turning point in your academic career. The exams are over, the coursework is in, the UCAS form long since submitted; at this final hurdle it’s as simple as a yes or no answer, in or out, and there’s not a lot you can do about it either way.
My experience of A level results day was an overwhelming one, just as I imagine it is for most people.
As you may have picked up on by this point if you are regular peruser of this blog (or, actually, if you have seen pretty much any of my other posts) I am a huge fan of lists. In-keeping with this trend, and in sight of the fact I’m entering my final week at uni for this academic year, I decided to create the Ultimate Bucket List for a first year student here at Exeter.
Disclaimer: Some of these aren’t specific to Exeter and are more general first year university achievements. There is also a distinct lack of clubbing/alcohol related challenges due to my own personal preferences on that front, but a quick Google has revealed the internet is full of them if you’re interested in that side of things.
So, from the bizarre to the admirable, to the must-do to the plain silly, in no particular order, here are 19 things I think it’s worth doing as a student in your first year at Exeter…