October 11, 2011
Greetings from Exeter, Devon, England! It is absolutely beautiful here and I’m having an amazing time so far! I’m studying at the University of Exeter for the fall term of my junior year, studying Business and Linguistics through William and Mary’s exchange program with Exeter. I’m living in a flat with 11 other international students who are also here for just one term. It’s been really interesting to meet people from all over the world who have come to the same place to further their education, and we’ve bonded quickly, which has been exciting. I have flatmates from as far away as Australia and Korea, as well as a few others from America and Canada, and many from various places in Europe. The girls I’m living with are all really friendly, and since none of us have meal plans here we’ve been sharing meals, letting everyone get a little taste of each other’s culture. We’ve also done several group outings in order to get to know one another. I went to a football match (or soccer game, as we would call it in the US) with my flatmates last week and this weekend we’re going to take the train to Bath, which is about two hours away, to go sightseeing and exploring as a group! I’ve also joined several societies on campus, such as the Literary Society and the Evangelical Christian Union, in order to meet British students outside the classroom.
This area is incredibly gorgeous. Exeter is in southwestern England, so the weather is a bit nicer here than in the rest of the country from what I’ve heard, and we’re very near to the coastline. The campus is situated at the top of a series of steep hills, making for some beautiful views but also a lot of walking, especially because going into town requires going down one hill and up another. It really is uphill both ways! I’m definitely going to get my exercise here, particularly when I have to carry groceries back up the hill from town. The city centre itself is lovely as well. It’s about a fifteen to twenty minute walk from campus into the middle of town, where there are shops, pubs, an adorable alleyway that is supposedly the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books (fun fact: J.K. Rowling attended Exeter), and, just off of High Street, a stunning cathedral. When the weather’s nice, which surprisingly it has been nearly every day so far, students and townspeople sit out on the lawn, called the “close,” and read or have picnics. It’s beautiful.
Exeter is renowned for its business program and in the few weeks I’ve been here so far, I’ve met a lot of other international students doing similar studies to mine, in addition to the many British students involved in the program. British university terms start really late, so I’ve been here just over two weeks and have only had one full week of classes so far. Interestingly, they only do three years of undergraduate study in the UK. Consequently, because “junior year” doesn’t directly correspond to anything here, all of my modules are spread out throughout the different levels. I am in one Management module with mostly first year students, and a Globalization and International Business module with second years. My linguistics classes, on the other hand, are all third year modules. Classes generally meet less often than they do in the States, but they seem to be fairly comparable in terms of the level of study and what is expected of students. Independent study is more heavily emphasized, so a significant portion of the coursework consists of reading outside of class, although often including discussion based seminars. This is nice because it gives me some flexibility in my schedule to make the most of my time here in England, not only academically but also in terms of travel! I have no classes on Mondays, so throughout the semester I’ll consistently have a nice built-in three-day weekend. This extra free time outside of my modules has already allowed me to visit the Jurassic Coast of southern England, lined by breathtaking cliffs of red stone; Salisbury, home to a beautiful cathedral with the tallest spire in Great Britain and the oldest working clock in the world; and Stonehenge, which was incredibly cool to get a chance to see.
Speaking of “modules”, I’m learning many fun differences between British and American language and culture. Classes are called modules, never courses, because a “course” here refers to a major. Additionally, no one says they’re “going to class” or refers to studying at the university level as “school” or “college” as we might in the US; “lecture” or “seminar” is always specified; and this level of higher education is always called university or just “uni”, whereas “school” is used only to refer to primary or secondary education. I’m also having to get used to calling an ATM a “cashpoint,” mentally converting pounds back to dollars to make sure I’m not overspending (living in the UK is expensive!), and shopping earlier in the day than I’m used to because virtually all the shops close by 6:30pm every day here. Making these minor adjustments in speech and shopping habits is completely worth it, though! I love every minute so far and I can’t wait to share more about my adventures as the semester goes on!