When moving to England there are certain things everybody comments about, a little bit about the weather, a subtle comment about Netflix’s The Crown, perhaps even a nod towards the imaginary that they really love their tea. Additionally, you will most likely know a lot of things from the culture that undoubtedly moved you towards considering and eventually choosing a university on this lovely little island. For me, I knew quite a bit about the culture, my school was a ‘British School’, I had visited quite a few times, and some of my closest friends had done their undergrad in different British universities. So over-all, I felt I had a decent picture or understanding of how my time there would go.
Nonetheless, the theory of living in England and the practice of living in England are quite different things and within the reality of it, there were a few things that actually took me by surprise. These are things that are probably no secret to anyone, I even knew about some of them coming here, but, again, the way they played out made them come as a surprise.
I don’t know what preconceived notions you have form the academic life in the UK, but I always thought it was very serious –so to speak– with lots to do all the time. And while I wasn’t wrong and there is a fair share of assignments to keep you occupied, I came from an academic background in which we had minimun six classes, twice a week for two hours each session. Can you see where I’m coming from? Here, I feel, they have more of a “less is more” philosophy. You will have different modules- each one with its own load, but it will definitely give you more than enough time to focus on other activities and other parts of the “uni experience”. Not that I didn’t before, but here the system is designed to give you that time, or so I feel.
Now that we’re discussing the academic side of things, I thought I should mention this. Again, I don’t know where you are coming from and if it is a thing from where you are; in my case it wasn’t, at least not like this. I could always go talk to my teachers if I had a good relationship with them and discuss other things besides their class, I could find support in them if I needed to. But it wasn’t built into the system like it is here, it was more of a personal decision. Even if I don’t meet up very often with my tutor, here I know that I have the space to do so. In this dynamic, the university is recognising that teaching goes beyond the classroom and that undoubtedly, these are people that have more experience than you, so their teachings can expand further than the academic part of life.
3. University societies
There are two things about societies that really surprised me. First, there are societies for virtually everything you want! Harry Potter, fashion, cinema, sports: chances are you will find a society that is right up your alley. Which is amazing given that you’ll get to meet people with whom you already share an hobby. Second, they do love to play dress up. When I say love, I truly mean love. They take any chance they can find to have a themed social. From themes like the Ancient Greek, going through seventies, to “anything but clothes”; it seems fair to suggest that dressing up is a thing here.
4. Pancake day
This is British tradition that I had vaguely heard of, but I am incredibly happy is a thing. A day where you can eat pancakes to your heart’s content? Don’t mind if I do. Even though I had prepared my lunch for that day, when my mate informed that there was no way we were going to eat our regular lunch and pass out on this date, I was on-board. Truly, the best part of your life begins when you realise you can have pancakes for lunch. We went to one of the restaurants on campus and even though we had to queue for a bit, it was completely worth it! Honestly, I would choose Exeter all over again just for their amazing pancakes.