“I heard you have cannibals in New Zealand, is that true?” – And so began my first week as an exchange student at the University of Nottingham, England. I didn’t expect that to be the first question I was asked about New Zealand, but it was definitely a hilarious way to start my exchange. (In defence of the American who asked me the question, about two minutes later I asked if he had a gun in his house (he does)).
This blog is about my orientation week at the University of Nottingham – hopefully it will give those of you planning on going on exchange a bit of insight into what it’s like!
Accommodation – Broadgate Park (university accommodation, self-catered flat)
I spent a lot of my train journey from Manchester wondering what the make-up of my flat would be. Would they put me in with a bunch of English students, just exchange students, a mix? If the greeting from my first flatmate in a strong American accent didn’t clue me up, the heavy French accent of my second flatmate confirmed our whole flat was international students. As we found out later, they’d chucked all the exchange students in one block.
I love our flat! The five of us hit it off right from the start, including a bonding ritual where we all ate a pickled onion from the jar we were given in our orientation pack. The flat itself has six rooms and a shared kitchen and bathroom. I’ve had to wait for the shower and toilet a few times and there’s no lounge to chill in, but it’s still a really nice space! If anyone has stayed in university accommodation at UoA, the rooms are probably the size of a University Hall room and definitely bigger than places like Huia and UHA. Broadgate Park is about a five minute walk from the entrance to campus and 15 – 20 minutes from most buildings and lecture theatres. It’s got its own little dairy style supermarket and a café that sells Starbucks drinks but isn’t really a Starbucks. There’s also a fresh fruit and vege stall that pops up a few days a week which is great so you don’t have to carry them back all the way from the nearest Tesco.
I thought Broadgate was closer to the city centre before I got here, but it’s actually a 25 minute bus ride (although the bus only costs £1). Luckily, we are close to a suburb called Beeston. Beeston is full of little shops and cafes, including tons of charity shops where we bought lots of the pots and glasses for our kitchen (we also bought a High School Musical 3 mug that everyone fights over, and a mug celebrating Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s Engagement – because you’re in England now, love). There is also a PoundLand and a Tesco Extra which are potentially my two favourite shops I’ve encountered in England – everything is so cheap and there’s so much more variety than at home! Fresh fruit and veges are crazy cheap compared to New Zealand.
Orientation at the University of Nottingham
I could only move into my accommodation the night before University started (Sunday 29th January) which was frustrating, as I didn’t have time to settle in before uni started. On Monday morning we had to pick up our module enrolment papers and then had a Welcome Meeting at 11am. It was at this meeting we were told that classes had already started that day. I was lucky that I’d had all my classes confirmed before I got to England but it was still really stressful realising I should already be in lectures. Everyone was blindsided by the fact we had had barely any information from the university and suddenly just had to start. We didn’t really get that much information at the Welcome Meeting that I found useful either.
Luckily, I had a meeting at 10am on Tuesday with the Law Faculty. It was for all the law exchange students in the Spring Semester (which turned out to only be five of us: two Australians, two New Zealanders, and one girl from Hong Kong) with one of the law school administrators and the Professor in charge of exchange students. They gave us a lot of information about the law school specific things which was so helpful. Both of them were incredibly welcoming!
The only other orientation event that the University put on was the Refreshers Week Fair which was where all the clubs and societies at the University have stalls where you can sign up to their clubs. The Travel Society definitely seems like the best society I’ve joined so far – they plan trips around the UK during the year that you can go on. Tomorrow I’m going to York which should be super fun! At the fair I also got a lot of free pizza from the Dominos stand which was definitely the highlight.
While the orientation put on by the University was pretty lacklustre, I know that they dedicate a full week to proper orientation events in September (the start of their university year). I imagine it would be a lot better then than in January where all the English students have already been there for six months. So if you’re not sure of which semester you want to go Nottingham, I’d definitely think about going in their first semester (our second) which starts in September because you get the full O-Week experience.
There’s also an organisation in Nottingham called CityLife which organises events and trips for international students which is awesome – we went on a pub crawl last week which was tons of fun and a good introduction to Nottingham nightlife (as a side note, they have Taco Bell in Nottingham which is the perfect post town night snack).
Highs of my exchange so far!
British accents – no explanation needed.
Everything is Robin Hood themed and it’s brilliant. Nottingham has wholeheartedly embraced its part in the legend of Robin Hood, with everything from cafes to public transport cards being named after him.
Squirrels!! I was with my American friends when a squirrel ran past us on the footpath and I squealed it was so exciting! They all laughed at me. The same thing happened when it snowed the other day.
The university grounds are gorgeous – we have a lake!! There’s also just lots of trees and greenery which are stunning.
The city itself is absolutely lovely! It’s quite small so it’s easy to walk around, but there’s lots of cute little shops and cafes. They have a Ferris Wheel at the moment that’s up until March 12 which is awesome (although it was closed for maintenance when my friend and I went into the city solely for the purpose of going on it). It also has Primark which is just full of cheap clothes and homeware stuff which is perfect for decorating your room or buying cheap clothes to supplement the limited wardrobe you can fit into your luggage.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem – the oldest pub in England, it was where crusaders had a pit stop before heading off on their journey. It was also where I attempted to finish a whole pint of beer but couldn’t quite manage it (I’ve stuck to cider since then – most of it isn’t a patch on NZ cider, but Strongbow Cloudy Apple is definitely a favourite). But also the pubs in general and pub culture has been amazing – going in for a cheeky pint after shopping in the city has become a bit of a tradition.
We found out that we get a month break at Easter which means a couple of friends and I are heading to the Continent itself for a few weeks and then hopefully heading up to Scotland! Can we please have mid-semester breaks this long, UoA?
Honestly, the friends I’ve made in the last two weeks have really been the highlight of my exchange so far. If you’re reading this and you talked to me about my exchange before I left, you know my number one worry was making friends. Obviously, I needn’t have worried. I’m constantly surrounded by awesome people (even the Australians are cool which is a big surprise!) and it’s just so amazing.
Being flung head-first into uni without much help from the University itself. I ended up missing a whole week of one class because I didn’t know what was going on. There was a lot of running around to get things sorted out which was a hassle, especially when trying to settle into a new country. Everything would have been made so much easier if we’d been able to arrive a few days before actually starting classes.
The weather. I know I shouldn’t complain, because I fully knew I was coming to England in the middle of winter but I don’t think I was quite prepared for how grey everything is all the time! My Australian friend is taking Vitamin D tablets because she’s worried she’s not getting enough sun – which I laughed at, but you know, it’s probably not a bad idea.
The time difference! Being 13 hours behind makes it really hard to call friends and family at home. I can sometimes get in for a bit before class in the morning if I wake up early enough, or on weekend mornings in New Zealand (so night for me) because people are actually home and not at work. I’m really jealous of my German and French flatmates whose family and friends are only an hour behind!
Things that surprised me about being on exchange
The first person I met in Nottingham was a New Zealander which really just proved how small the world was. I was struggling with my suitcase in the rain trying to get to the reception of Broadgate and the girl who came up to show me where the reception is was a law exchange student from New Zealand (although Canterbury, not Auckland because the world isn’t that small).
I am so much more patriotic – this extends to talking about rugby more than I ever have in my life, arguing several times with two Frenchmen about how Richie McCaw is a national hero and not a cheat.
It didn’t actually surprise me that much, but I only really miss home when people send snapchat from the beach. (If you’re reading this and you send me beach snapchats please stop, I’m dying with jealousy because it’s usually about 4 degrees here). Maybe I’ll get homesick later on, but it definitely hasn’t happened yet (sorry Mum). I do miss Watties tomato sauce though – British Ketchup just isn’t the same.
I’m basically loving England! The exchange experience is incredible so far and exactly what I hoped it was going to be before I left. As you can tell by the length of this post, I love talking a lot, so please ask me any questions you have about Nottingham (or England and exchanges in general)!
(Full disclosure, I haven’t heard anyone actually say this)