Happy 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).
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!
The number of weeks I’ve been here has hit the double digits! And the temperatures here have finally broken into the single digit range so at last I felt like it was acceptable to break out my “winter” coat. Back home, I’m used to saving my winter coat for when it’s absolutely a necessity because if you start wearing your winter jacket when it’s only kind of cold and not freezing cold, you’ll have nothing warm enough to wear when it’s freezing cold. I don’t think I really needed to apply this mentality here in Exeter but some habits die hard.
I believe it’s also acceptable to announce to the world that the Christmas season has official descended! We had a light-up ceremony on Thursday in Princesshay, which is like the central shopping district/square; it was all very exciting and lots of good fun. I’m not sure if we have these light-up ceremonies back home; I feel like we would and I’ve just never paid enough attention to know that they were going on. I’ll have to make a note to keep a lookout for it next year. I feel like I keep saying I’ll do all these things once I get back and it’s all just going to amass into this one big list; perhaps I’m better off saying that I’ll go back home and try and be a little bit more of a tourist instead of subtly avoiding it.
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.
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.
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.
“It will be the best years of your life” was something I heard a lot before starting university. The process of moving away to study holds a kind of mythical status: whilst in sixth form, it represents an ideal of independence; for misty-eyed relatives and teachers, submerged by commuter trains and a nine-to-five, it’s a rose-tinted memory of carefree freedom. Yet in the thick of life as a fresher it can feel like something else entirely. Balancing new academic challenges with a deluge of pressures on finance, image, sexuality and social behaviour can be hugely isolating and overwhelming – especially if you have to learn to use a hob and a washing machine at the same time.
Things are doubly testing if you have done them all before and have it not work out. I started at Exeter this September after leaving another institution halfway through my first term last year and even the thought of returning to education was terrifying.
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.
Second year is well and truly underway as everyone collectively realises just how much work they have to do. Scrolling through ELE, reading lists and questions about topics you’ve never even heard of fill your screen. Perhaps these are problems you can deal with once you’ve made that colourful calendar which you’ve been meaning to devise since arriving back in Exeter 7 weeks ago.
While such challenges of second year are certainly making themselves known, this year is so far suiting me far better than last year. Originally I imagined the transition between first and second year would be going from the excited fresh faced 18 year old who is ready to see the world to a tired student who’s lack of sleep and constant stress leaves them unable to tell the difference between their toothbrush and mascara.
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.
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.