Why I came to Exeter on Exchange, without Instagram

Convincing someone who loves to travel to leave the country is relatively trivial. Those who have already hit the road generally have a hunger for exploration, a desire to see the world and/or present it on their Instagram accounts.

I’m not really a pictures person.

I do love new experiences and looked forward to being a part of british culture, a place that’s always on time and incredibly polite. As much as adventure calls, embarking on this exchange was still expensive and time consuming. I couldn’t justify it as just an opportunity to see something new and share images; I justified it as an opportunity to slow down time.

Making the most out of the time we have

Here is a quote from a book called Moonwalking with Einstein, it’s a book about memory: “Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorable into the next – and disappear. That’s why it’s so important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.”

This quote deals with retrospective time judgements, estimating and perceiving time after something happens. Remember the early days of our childhood, when the end of summer actually felt like two months? As children each day brings new memories, something to remember it by. As we grow up this slowly stops being the case. Secondary school went by a lot faster than primary; university is flying when our lectures blend together week by week, semester by semester. Of course, this effect could be mitigated by changing you routine (but your timetable is fixed) or creating new memories (but you’re too busy with school).

Everything is new here

Here is Exeter, there’s so much novelty and that was intentional. I wanted to be at a university that was completely different from my school I came from. Many of us are accustomed to the fast paced life of big cities with a university crammed in the middle. Exeter is not like that, it’s a smaller, student based town with the university sitting on top of a hill.

I met an inbound exchange student back home on our school Ultimate team. He showed me pictures of himself on campus and the scenery actually matched the images I saw online and in brochures. That was when I decided to apply. Sometimes, a change in scenery is all it takes to change your way of life.

Since getting here I’ve met more new people in the first month than the past year. Exploring such a historical city, seeing the cathedral for the first time, the train rides through the countryside with nature surrounding us can never be forgotten.

Even with all these new experiences, I’m still living a life that I was familiar with back home. I’m just living it in a different way. As I told my friend, I joined the Exeter Ultimate Frisbee club URIEL to return his favour for playing on my Canadian team. I’m still learning maths and thermodynamics, but in a fancy new lecture hall while being taught in proper English accents. I still eat dinner with my room(flat)mates but our meals have more “chips” and just a few more drinks.

Most importantly, flipping my life rightside-left has taken me away from all the routines I was so familiar with. The process of building new habits, a new life in Exeter has made each moment memorable. And memory is a good thing for perceiving time. If this week was full of new and exciting things you end up having many anchors in your memory to recall time by “on Tuesday I went to…at lunch I saw…that night I met.” When we go on an exchange and make all these memories, time will appear to slow down as we do it.

What are you waiting for?

To all of those who don’t want to see new things or explore different cultures, that’s fine. I completely understand. But don’t you want to live a “longer” life? Considering the alternative is another year of familiar routines and another semester that flies by after you’re done exams, these precious years we have just before adulthood will continue to elude us, unless we do something about it.

Recently a friend came here to Exeter for a visit, he was blown away at the environment here.  I asked him “It seems like forever, what have you been up to?” To which he replied “You’ve only been gone for a couple months Josh, not much has changed.”

For the people back home, maybe that’s true. But for me, a lot has changed, and change is something to remember.

   January 24th, 2018    Life on Campus, Preparing for University, Year Abroad

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