Hey there everyone! My name is Matt and I’m a second year History student lucky enough to be studying at Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall. There’s a lot to say when it comes to Penryn – and what I’ve included here is really only the surface of it.
On my first visit to campus back in year 12 (4 years ago, what!?) I got completely drenched, it was quite the first impression and cost me a brand-new set of clothes! What struck me immediately though was how I could see myself running from building to building in the Cornish downpours, unfortunately I’ve since realised it’s not as romantic as it sounds – but still a great laugh. I like to think what really sold it to me was hearing about summertime when a huge inflatable waterslide is installed randomly for a day on the hill outside Tremough House, but truthfully the place just clicked with me. So, contrary to the advice of my history teacher and sixth form leader, I put Penryn as my first choice, and can say confidently that I’ve spent the two best years of my life here.
I’ve tried to split my broad experience into a few categories, which I hope will be useful for anyone considering studying at Penryn or who just wants to hear about what it’s like:
Social Life: I’ve never been one for the aspects of student life that could be seen as typical, which is one of the main reasons I applied to Penryn. Naturally, I recognise my preferences aren’t universal, and I’m not saying you can only apply for Penryn if you don’t like drinking. The campus has good opportunity for that kind of social life; whilst it’s not the kind you’d find in a city location, it is there and, admittedly, it’s very good fun. However, what I love about Penryn is the equally strong alternative where going to the beach at sunset with a guitar is just as fun – if anything, it’s essential. I’ve sat on the docks with fish and chips chatting to my friends, and I’ve been in a club at 2am having the best time surrounded by people considerably more drunk than me. There’s honestly something for everybody. When you don’t want to leave campus The Stannary often holds events or drinks deals, and there are a huge variety of societies too which are well worth getting involved with. If there isn’t a society you vibe with, start one up! By far the best thing is that not once have I ever heard judgement for which route someone wants to take. You’re free to be who you want to be.
My first taste of Falmouth – I soon realised the gloomy days are just as fun as the bright ones
Campus: Campus itself is gorgeous, very much thanks to the commitment of staff and students for sustainability. The amount of colour and nature in the grounds year-round makes walking to a 9am lecture in the autumn mists actually not too much of a burden. In the instances when you’re still reeling in from the night before having had barely a few hours’ sleep though, be glad that everywhere on campus is nearby and you can easily just pop into the campus shop for a coffee or roll out of bed 5 minutes before your lecture – this gets harder to pull off when you live off-campus, so make the most of it! With all this, as well as how nice the flats and rooms are (double beds!!), living on campus is a treat and there’s always a friendly atmosphere. There are benches all over for enjoying the sun and that slice of cake you bought from Koofi (the campus café) with zero guilt. Yet my favourite part is that because it’s a comparatively small campus you can never get far without running into someone you know. From making plans spontaneously to even just a quick ‘hi’, seeing a familiar face is always a boost no matter what mood you’re in.
Facilities: If you’re not inclined to nap after that 9am or if you need to inevitably panic-write the last lines of your essay at midnight, the library is open 24/7 and is a great atmosphere for working. In fact, it was recently renovated so is now even more homely and accessible – plus, the link with Falmouth University means there are a tonne more resources than would otherwise be available. If you’re feeling exceptionally braver than me, there’s the Sports Centre for a post-lecture workout. It holds a hall, gym, and fitness studios – essentially everything you need to be active, save for maybe a swimming pool. But hey, there’s the sea! The link with Falmouth also brings with it access to AMATA whose studios play host to numerous performing arts societies. AMATA also hosts comedy nights, performances, and concerts from outside organisations, and tickets are usually reduced for students. Penryn would not be what it is without Falmouth University. As a Humanities student I never thought I’d spend my Friday evenings in a studio dancing, let alone getting involved in my Falmouth friends’ projects and being influenced by their extraordinary creativity. It’s like one big collaboration, and we all help each other. I should also mention the campus shop which stocks everything you could ever need on short notice, and campus staff/security who are always available in case of flat emergencies – looking at you, dodgy toaster which kept tripping our electricity.
The view from the library makes it difficult to stay focused!
Local Area: Falmouth is the largest nearby town and is only a 10-minute bus journey away. It’s no city, sure, but the quirky shops and tea rooms and of course the beautiful harbourfront make it a convenient place to escape university life and just generally stroll around. There are also general housekeeping shops and banks, both of which do come in handy as a student. By night there is an array of restaurants, and the town is home to a number of clubs for the partygoers. Penryn itself is about a 15-minute walk from campus. It is steeped in history and has a real community feel – their Christmas light switch-on is very atmospheric. You can’t live near Falmouth and not pay a trip to Gylly though – the local beach is about 10 minutes from town centre and is a great place to kick back and relax, or even try your hand at some water sports. In the off-season the beach becomes a favourite with dog owners too, just saying… If shopping days are more your thing then Truro is the best place to go; it’s about a half hour bus ride or 20-minute train journey from campus, and you’ll find your typical designer brands there amongst more unique ones. Bus services from campus also run to Redruth and as far as Penzance, and there is a free (yes, FREE) minibus service which runs to the local Asda on Mondays and Thursdays. With all of this going on as well as innumerable walks, activities, and community volunteer positions, and despite what I was told at least, it really is impossible to be bored here.
Penryn Christmas Lights switch-on
Community: To me, this is the most important asset Penryn has. I’ve alluded to it already, but I wanted to reinforce it to end. Unlike bigger campuses, at Penryn you really get to know your course members and leaders – I’ve never actually been in a seminar with more than 15 people. This makes learning a lot less dry and a lot more engaging (it also makes making friends a lot easier!). Equally it means that support is available from your lecturers whenever you need it, whether academic or just personal. I’ve been to lecturers with the intention of discussing my essay for 5 minutes and staying for half an hour just chatting about life. I can only speak for the Humanities in that respect, but the feeling of being ‘known’ on campus is definitely universal and means you’re never far away from someone to talk to. Really, we’re just one big family – and I can’t think of anywhere else I would feel the same way!
So there you go, life at Penryn in a (admittedly quite large) nutshell. Cornwall really feels like a home from home for me now, and that’s thanks to my experience at Penryn. I’ve made some lifelong friends here and can’t wait to meet the people I’ve yet to. Personally, the atmosphere has allowed me to be myself – something secondary school never gave me – and although there have been rough days, living by the sea makes them just that little bit easier to swallow. Just try not to get too distracted by being able to see the coastline from the library – or don’t, it’s a gorgeous view after all!
The last evening I spent in Falmouth before coming home after second year – with views like this it’s hard not to miss it
Matthew Slack June 9th, 2020 Cornwall, Exploring Devon and Cornwall, Higher Education, Life in the South West, Penryn Campus, Undergraduate