The most noteworthy this week was how unproductive I think I was. This is the strange time in the term when all that’s left to do for classes is the summative papers, but those are due in January of 2016, which seems a very long way away. At the same time, those summative assignments are worth a scarily significant portion of our final grades, so it’s probably in my best interest to move it closer to the forefront of my mind, rather than pushing it to the back. I will make plans for them this week. This is now in black and white; I can’t shirk from it now!
Homesickness is by far the largest difficulty I have had to face during first term. After ten weeks here things have become noticeably easier, though there are still days I wind up longing for the familiarity and comforts of the place my life existed until September. And this is perfectly natural. When you’ve been working for years toward one thing (which subconsciously you imagine will deliver you to a life of partying and sophistication a la Brian in Starter for Ten) there’s bound to be some degree of collapse when you finally get there. Sometimes starting out somewhere new can feel like too much and too little at the same time, and nostalgia for the security of the past is not a sign of weakness and failure.
Some students breeze into university life – straight from boarding school or an extended period of travelling, perhaps – without giving what they’re leaving behind a second thought. But I for one was never going to be one of those people. I have spent two decades in my small, rural hometown, living, working and learning. My friendships date back to nursery and infant school; a childhood’s worth of memories rattle around the houses I have lived in. Tearing myself from the world I had built up over the years was never going to be easy, though that isn’t to say it would be impossible.
Here is some advice I have acquired for those struggling with homesickness at university. It is a ‘sickness’, after all, and treatment exists…
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.
I can’t believe I’ve been in Exeter for about 10 weeks already! Time sure does fly! It’s been a wonderful time filled with mostly highs and a few lows.
When I arrived I searched for a bucket in vain (at home we use buckets at lot for having baths, don’t ask me why it’s just what we do) and had to settle for a mopping bucket and take off the top. While I did find it a bit small it gets the job done.
First up I attended one of the Global café meetings and I was surprised to find that scones were not quite what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, they are quite tasty but in my head a scone felt and tasted like a hard, thick biscuit. I did quite enjoy them especially with jam and tea.
Then I met my Global Chum (Exeter does like Global stuff!) a lovely final year student called Jo. She had just come back from a year abroad (it’s a really cool thing most students can do in different countries) and was really busy but made time out to show me round Exeter and even took me to the lovely Quayside which had unbelievably gigantic seagulls.
The 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.
Year after year I would defer my admission for my postgraduate degree. I always had a very good reason, it was either I was pregnant, had just got a new job, or just couldn’t afford the fees. So when I got my offer to study at Exeter I was determined it would be the last time I would apply for a postgraduate course. Either I would go through with it, or forget about furthering my studies and focus on other things. After all, I did have a lot to focus on, a great husband, amazing children and a decent job in a top government agency; what more could a girl ask for?
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’.
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.
I 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.
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 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.
When I touched down in the UK for the first time after a life in Sub-Saharan Africa, I had so many expectations and insecurities on adapting to life in the country. Fortunately the world is not so different as we sometimes think. After a month in Surrey, I departed the bucolic setting to satisfy my yen for a city life in one of the greatest cities on earth, London! Skipping through some hard times and now one year later, things have worked out in many ways, significantly I have found an invaluable partner and some stability in the big city; but it seemed the right time to take the next step, which is when I applied to the University of Exeter.
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.
Having said my goodbyes and arriving at the central station in Munich, I was not sure what to expect of the year ahead of me. I had set goals such as integrating myself with the locals, improving my German and taking advantage of Munich’s central location to travel around Europe. Each of these goals was given attention throughout the year and was a stepping stone in helping me to develop as a person.
Is it really four years since that fateful day? I’m talking about that day. That day when, surrounded by my peers, many of whom were drowning in anxiety and perhaps a little over-exaggerated hysteria, I sauntered into the school hall, whose smell of cheap wax and Wotsits I can still smell to this day. There, lined up before us, were three folding tables, with a smiling woman from reception behind each one. After she sifted through the envelopes in her box labelled ‘J – Q’, and handed me mine with a saccharine smile, I realised that somewhere inside the envelope in my hands were the four most important letters of my life. Four letters which were rather unfairly now the pinnacle of my academic life. Four letters, which, behind my back, had in a way begun paving the way for the rest of my life. It was strangely monumental.
Well, I’d like to put that much weight on that moment I opened my A Level results, but I’d already received a text message from the University of Exeter first thing that morning, so I suppose I didn’t need to subject myself to the smell of crisps and awkward conversations with the headteacher that afternoon. ‘Congratulations!’ the text read, telling me that I’d already secured my place. It took a while to register, as I rubbed the sleep from eyes, before deliberating falling back into bed or heading down to find out how I’d really done. I did the latter, of course.
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.