Venice: Challenges at the Beginning of your Exchange

Hello again!

This post is in fact going to be published very close to when my Christmas holidays start – which sounds crazy to me! I am very excited to experience my first winter Christmas.

I briefly mentioned Fresher’s Week in my first post, so I’ll start there. I fortunately arrived several days before everyone else, so I had time to get my bearings before having to decide how I wanted to spend the week. I was the first to arrive in my flat, which now holds eight people, but as soon as I heard someone else moving in, I made myself knock on their door and introduce myself because I knew that despite how nervous I was, anything was better than ignoring them and then meeting later on – having to have an even more awkward introduction. And I’m so glad I started with that, because it made it easier to get to know the other flatmates as they slowly filtered in. There are five girls and three boys, and the nationalities range from French, Scottish, British, Egyptian and Romanian! We all get along really well (which is amazing) and although we all do different courses we often eat together and have had several movie nights – making the flat a nice place to come back to each day.

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I am living on campus in Glasney Parc, on the Penryn campus, the name of one part of a ‘student housing village’, the other area being Glasney View. They have a Lodge and a café called Koofi where they also sell pizza (ideal) and also a Store where you can buy pretty much anything (but mostly for emergency food runs). Living on campus has been an entirely new experience and I do really like having everything so close by but I do make an effort to go into town frequently for a change of scenery or for walks on campus, because they essentially have their own estate-like grounds, which is so beautiful!

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The view from my bedroom window

Although it was initially easy to stay with other international/exchange students I did want to get to know the UK students too, which was made very easy with the considerably smaller classes they have here. It was initially intimidating because everyone had been in the same classes since first year so they all know each other, but as soon as it got out I was from New Zealand, everyone was fascinated about Lord of the Rings/Narnia country, and so that broke the ice easily!

Making friends wasn’t actually one of the things weighing on my mind before coming over – probably because I was so preoccupied with getting here. From a few happy coincidences, and bumping into people I met on the bus down, I spent the time exploring campus, finding the supermarket, figuring out how to get the bus into Falmouth, and from there finding my favourite cafes. I won’t sugar coat it, because it was a challenge, waking up every day not knowing how it was going to unfold. But if you have managed to get yourself overseas on an exchange, I can assure you you’re capable of making the most of your time here and giving yourself a chance, because the people I spent time with and the places we found (a beautiful beach bordered by a castle on a hill, beautiful walks, amazing independent shops etc.) wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t put myself out there, remembering everyone was in the same position.

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Fresher’s week outdoor screening of The Greatest Showman
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One of the many cream teas

After about a month of being here, my parents sent me and article from the New Yorker about a girl who had made a video around a year ago about being lonely at the beginning of her university experience. I don’t like the connotations around the word ‘lonely’ but I’m learning to redefine it. I’ve attached a link to her interview and video and would highly recommend watching and reading it. The way she phrased how she felt at the beginning of the semester was exactly how I felt. Because no matter how much you get involved with, there’s always going to be the weird ‘in between times’ that no one really prepares you for.

Link:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/09/well/family/advice-from-a-formerly-lonely-college-student.html

New York Times

One of the big differences I noticed was the society culture here. There was an enormous variety of activities, all listed on the FXU website (Falmouth Exeter Student Union, who run sports and societies). I had already looked ahead at some things to try out, but otherwise was prepared to be (relatively) spontaneous. There were a couple of compulsory events I had to attend, like introductory talks, including a Cream Tea Welcome Talk (that was the legitimate name, find me a more Cornish event, I dare you). After trying out a few things and going to some meet ups for different societies, I decided to sign up for a membership to the horse riding society and the choir, Viva Voce. I have choir every Wednesday night at the Chapel Lecture theatre, which I absolutely love, and I also got the opportunity to practice and perform at the Church in Falmouth, once for a WW1 Remembrance Day service earlier this month and I have a Falmouth Lights event in a few days’ time. I have loved having the opportunity to sing alongside my friends and in the community choir, because it’s made my time at university so much more diverse and I feel like it gave me an opportunity to see a side of the town I wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. I’ve had three horse riding lessons since arriving and joining that society has definitely become a highlight, getting to drive out to Redruth with the other people in the group for a couple of hours, getting a change of scenery and obviously spending time with the horses! It was hard to choose a smaller number of societies to join that I knew I would actually commit to, but it helped that I don’t have the opportunity to do either of these things at home so it made my decision easier.

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Walking to Castle Beach with friends

Until next time,

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