Dinah: It’s Not Over Yet

My Autumn semester has finished and guess what?

I was supposed to be winging my way back to New Zealand but I am STAYING ANOTHER SEMESTER. My family have supported me staying and I am very happy. I have chosen two more modules that sound fascinating.

One is a British-based Art History module in art from 1850 to 1900. It includes architecture, photography design as well as pure art (whatever that is!) and the second module is an English one where I will be studying the American short story. I have deliberately chosen modules not available at University of Auckland .

The other great thing about staying longer is I will have more opportunities to explore the surrounding countryside and cities. There are so many more places I want to visit. I feel like I have only scratched the surface and there is so much more to see. Bath, Bristol, and Tintagel to name a few. Also, the National Trust has many amazing parks and buildings I want to visit. Rather than having exams, the modules here at Exeter are often marked on course work only which means predominantly projects and essays. These will spill over the end of the teaching semester. My semester finished on the 13th December but my 4,000 word essay for one of my English modules is due on the 9th January. However, essays can be completed and submitted from home if you return before the submission date. It is different for exams. You have to be at the university for the exams so that is worth checking before you choose your modules.

Other news. The shopping is so good. Far too good! I have spent money on clothes and shoes because there is such a huge choice and everything is reasonably priced, especially when there are sales which are happening now. However, there seem to be reductions all year round. It is a tough time for retailers so I feel it is my duty to help finance their continued existence! Food is also very reasonable. Cheaper than in New Zealand and a lot of choice.

I discovered the excellent Exeter Picture House the other day. It shows excellent films, both main-stream and more independent foreign films etc. It also has an excellent bar and café where you can have a drink and a delicious pizza before a film. Here in England, movies are called films and movie theatres are called cinemas.

Since catching buses and trains everywhere, I have had some fascinating conversations with people. Don’t take any notice of people who say that the English are reserved. They are rather shy but if you smile and comment about the weather then you are away! I have talked to old ladies, young guys, bus drivers and guards on trains. I traveled on a bus once where there was just the bus driver and me. We had a chat about what it was like to be a bus driver (he said he loved it) and the fact that I was getting a taxi service at a budget rate AND plenty of leg room. When you tell people you are from New Zealand they love it! Often they will tell me about a friend or relative that lives in New Zealand and many have traveled to New Zealand on holiday. It really is such a small world.

Well, that is it from me. I have enjoyed writing this blog and if it has inspired some of you to apply to Exeter for your exchange, then my job here is done!!

Dinah: Student life at Exeter

It is now Week 10 of a 12 week module so I have nearly finished and what a semester it has been! The best thing is I am recognising people now and giving people a wave and they (usually) wave back.

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Exeter Quay

The Campus is not big and I know my way round now. The same goes for Exeter. It is not a big city and it doesn’t take long to get to know it. I would recommend the Phoenix Theatre for live shows and it also shows films as does the Film Club at Exeter University.
I met some fellow-students at the popular Ram Bar at the beginning of the semester where the unanimous verdict is it is a friendly , open university with some wonderful lecturers and with a great choice of modules. I discovered it is difficult to talk, though, with a mouthful of Nachos, most of which end up on the front of the person you are talking to. I made a mental note to eat something solid next time , like a Cornish Pasty (part of the local cuisine and very solid indeed).

 

Modules

My modules have proved ‘interesting’. Neither were my first choice because they were either full or there were timetable clashes. Poor Dave Bassett, on the Exeter International Exchange Team, was haunted by the Art History module I wanted to take called The Face. He tried his best to get me onto the module but there were already 8 people on the waiting list. I have ended up taking two English modules and missing out on Art History .

If I had been here a year, it wouldn’t matter so much and that would be my advice. If you are able to afford it financially and you don’t think you will get homesick, opt for a year because one semester is only enough time to get used to everything and start to make friends. Having a whole year will also give you a chance to take some modules that you might miss out on with only one semester.

One of my modules, Virginia Woolf ( Stage 3) is challenging but then what did I expect? That is the nature of the beast (Woolf ha ha). I got back my first essay the other week and the standard is high with a lot of required reading and research. The other module, Creative Writing, Writing A Poem, (Stage 2) is excellent. I really encourage anyone who enjoys creative writing to apply for either Writing A Story or Writing A Poem. The lecturers are very good and both my lecturers are published poets.

Societies

I went on another trip with the West Country Society to Boscastle in Cornwall. The brilliant thing about this Society is that you get to travel to places impossible to reach with public transport. It is great to get out of the City sometimes and explore the very beautiful countryside and villages. These trips will involve some walking, usually uphill but then you get to go down again and go to the pub.

Transport

Public transport here is very good. There are frequent buses and two train stations. I bought a Stagecoach Smart card which cost 140 pounds but was cheaper than paying 4 pounds eachday which is what I was doing initially. I’m staying in an area called Heavitree , so called because they used to hang people from a tree and it was a heavy tree. If you are staying in the Halls here on campus then of course you won’t need a bus card.

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Henry Moore Sculpture

That’s it for now. I’ve got to go and eat another Cornish pasty. I love them!

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Dinah: First impressions of Exeter

The University of Exeter is just outside the historic city of Exeter, set in beautiful parklands and is also one of the top universities of the U.K. It was my first choice and I was lucky enough to get a place for the Autumn semester, where I am taking two English papers (equivalent full-time).

Last week was Freshers Week where every society you could wish to meet is there, including the Disney Society and the Hide and Seek Society ( I still can’t find them!). It is a bit overwhelming but worth going to the Freshers Fair on Saturday at the end of the week as all the Societies are there and you can sign up for  the ones you want. I chose the West Country Society (they take you places, like Dartmoor ) and the Creative Writing Society, among others.

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Quarry at Dartmoor

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West Country Society excursion to Dartmoor

One word of advice. The Freshers Week begins on Monday so if you are thinking of going next year in September, try and arrive on the Friday or Saturday rather than the Monday so you can beat the crowds and get your Student card processed. There is no Freshers week in the Spring Term.

Everyone has been so welcoming and apart from being confused as one of the lecturers a few times ( I’m a Mature Student although I don’t feel very mature!!) it has been uncomplicated. There is a lot of support at the university if you feel lonely or stressed, mainly through the Student Guild which is the name of the Student Union. It also happens to have a good bar, the Ram Bar and is a meeting place for many of the Societies  in Freshers week.

Last week we also had a Welcome Talk from International Exchange and then another talk with our Sudy Abroad Team. Mine was the Humanities Study Abroad consisting of the dynamic duo of Steve Bassett and James Leigh. They are very helpful and will make sure you are happy with the modules you have chosen . They will also sort out any timetable clashes.

I also went on an afternoon trip last week with the West Country Society, to Dartmoor. What a beautiful area, complete with Dartmoor ponies who hang around the picnic and carparking places (they are all fat).

This week lectures have begun. You have a couple of weeks to change modules if you are not enjoying the ones you have chosen but for me it Is a case of ‘so far so good’. I am very aware that there is a high standard here at Exeter and you really have to work hard but there is academic support with lecturer’s office hours etc.

One final thing. I went on a tour of the library last week which was the usual scenario. Most of the books are on-line, there are computers everywhere and its all high-tech. Then students were asked if they would like a tour of the ‘Old Library’. “Yes please” I said and I am so glad I did. What an amazing place, quiet and with a great collection of books, the best film museum AND Daphne Du Maurier’s desk. “Who” you may ask? She was an author who wrote Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel  ( both made into films)

I touched Daphne Du Maurier’s desk!! I really did.

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Venice: Reflections and Highlights from Abroad

Hello!

Having now been back in NZ for just over a week (and thoroughly enjoying the sunshine), it’s time for a reflections post. It’s very strange to think everyone I met is currently well into their second semester while I’m now on holiday. To end the series of blog posts, I wanted to reflect over my favourite aspects of the exchange.

My highlights include –

Making friends with such a diverse range of people. Being in smaller classes meant that I was immediately placed with people who had similar interests to me, but the societies and events held by the universities meant that I was introduced to people who I would otherwise never have encountered. The smaller campus meant I was able to connect better and more quickly with people, something I really appreciated. I am still in touch with all my friends from overseas, whom I look forward to seeing again in the future when I return to visit family as well.

Becoming familiar with a new country. I had visited England before and have family over there, but now both Cornwall and London are very familiar to me, which I love because it will make settling over there easier next time, because I would love some day to return and work over there. It’s such a great opportunity to explore other countries in doing this exchange, and not only gives great experiences for the present, but gives a great opportunity to build foundations for future experiences, in either the same place or even different places.

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A beautiful, frosty morning on campus

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Christmas tree in a café in Truro

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Part of the elaborate Christmas light display in Truro

Experiencing a different culture. Cornwall is a staunchly independent county and you can tell from the unique history of the place, including the mines and how being coastal affects the lifestyle of the citizens, and most importantly the signature cream teas and pasties. Living in a town with multiple beaches felt very similar to home and drew people of a similar calibre, all who like to be by the sea and surrounded by beautiful countryside. The more rural and distinctively traditional environment made for a very different culture to the big cities, which I loved because it felt more open, and the environment was just as much part of the experience as the people were.

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Me and my sister trying Cornish pasties

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My friend Vanessa and I enjoying one of the many cream teas

Having the chance to be part of societies – both horse riding and choir. Again these activities allowed me to meet more people. In choir, I chose to sing in the alto section, something I’ve never tried before, to sing in a church which I’ve also never done and also to perform outside in the town centre on stage for a Christmas lights festival – to be a part of the university and the local community. Horse riding was also a chance to mix with university students and locals in a different way, a break from campus learning more about something that I’m interested in as equally as I am to what I’m studying. It made the exchange more well-rounded for me.

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With my friends, Sophia and Antonia, dressed in robes for the Armistice 100 performance at the Church

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One of the beautiful horses at the stable

Having spend most of my time lately catching up with friends and describing all of the adventures from the past few months, I’ve attempted to come up with a way of explaining when asked ‘So how was it?’, a simple enough question but one that never fails to make my mind instantly go blank. I usually start with ‘The best and craziest experience of my life’, which sounds cheesy to essentially rehearse what is also a cheesy line, but it makes for a good starting point and encompasses the trip without intense detail. Because it was definitely one of the best experiences – getting for once to experience a country on my own terms, and crazy because it in no way compared to anything I’ve ever done before. But as I’ve also discussed in earlier posts, it was also the hardest thing I’ve ever done. No one can underestimate leaving your family and friends and everything you know behind, to face the unknown places and people. But there is a certain charm revealed to you pretty early on when you notice that people this far away also drive cars, drink coffee, are keen for a good laugh and want to make friends too. So overall, I would recommend travel to absolutely everyone, and that my experience overseas was made all the better because I had the secure knowledge that I was going over to study in another university, which had a routine very similar to that of being home. I know even now, preparing to go into my final year of my degree that this exchange will remain the highlight of my experience at Auckland University, for it has allowed me to live a life on the other side of the world that I would never have had access to otherwise, and proven to me that I am capable of living independently and setting up a life for myself both for and outside of academia, and that the world isn’t such a huge and daunting place after all.

Even now, anytime I am apprehensive towards my ability of doing something ‘serious’ or scary, instantly I remind myself that I went on an exchange, went overseas knowing no one, and returned on the other side of the experience so happy that I had pushed myself to achieve that and learned to love a place previously unknown to me.

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Enjoying the view at St. Ives

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Myself and Greta, at our favourite cafe

I hope that this post, as well as the others, has provided you with an insight into the exchange experience, and encouraged you to investigate it further and hopefully inspires you to go on your own trip! I would like to thank the 360 team for providing such a fantastic opportunity for the UoA students – I am very grateful to have had the experience and to have been given the opportunity to write about it.

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Venice: Classes at Exeter

Hello!

I have returned to Falmouth for a few days to submit my final assignments and pack up my flat before heading back to New Zealand! It is very surreal that this exchange is almost over.

Seeing as it’s almost over, I thought I’d write a little bit more in detail about classes. The semester was 12 weeks long, divided up in two parts, the first 5 weeks long, then a week long break called ‘Reading Week’ before another 6 weeks of term. My timetable was very different to Auckland, because I was taking four English Lit papers, whereas at home I would do other liberal arts papers. It was a good experience because it really absorbs you within the English programme but I am definitely looking forward to studying a more varied selection of classes this year! My first two papers were called From Modernism to the Contemporary and Romantics to the Victorians (all very pretentious I know). For each class there was one 1 hour lecture and a 2 hour seminar, so I only had four classes a week but the so called ‘free time’ in between was rapidly taken up by all the readings we had to do and assignments started pretty early on. For both papers I had to do two formative assignments (meaning the grades wouldn’t count for my final grade but you had to complete the assignment to pass the course) and they consisted of a 500-word essay and group presentations – the topic was your choice out of all the texts we studied for the course. For someone who is usually intimidated by presentations, I really enjoyed them because it was a great way to get everyone engaged with the text each week and meant that because students began the discussion at the start of the class, everyone was less intimidated to contribute. Also they were in seminar groups so they were smaller than the already small lecture classes.

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Tremough House

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With a couple of my flatmates in our decorated kitchen

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The Stannary – student bar/cafe

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Peter Lanyon building – where I had most classes

Initially I was daunted by the thought of getting to know classmates because everyone knew each other, having gone through all the compulsory English classes in first year (it’s a much more condensed programme here) but everyone, as I’ve mentioned earlier, was so friendly and welcoming, and it was easy for me to mirror the confidence with which everyone shared their opinion of the text because even the most basic opinions were welcome to develop more insightful conversation. I did have a good laugh though, because during the 10-minute breaks in the seminars, more often than not the conversation wouldn’t drift to what everyone had done during the weekend, but rather whether or not Rochester was a good guy or not in Jane Eyre (I observed these [genuine] debates because silly me I haven’t read Jane Eyre). So it’s a very different environment but so enjoyable being surrounded by people who are confident and passionate about their interests but no matter how ridiculous debates like that would get, were always ready to laugh at themselves in the end.

For those same papers, I had to write two 2,000 word essays over my reading week because the exams are held this May, when I’m back home so that was the only problem with the courses, because I hadn’t anticipated a higher workload so early in the exchange but all the teachers were very helpful. Those two papers finished in the week after reading week, and my other papers were Literature and Conflict and Transatlantic Avant-Gardes and again the readings consisted of a variety of novels, short stories and poems so there was something for everyone.

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Penryn campus’ own secret garden

It took a while to get used to the grading system as well, especially because my final grade was dependent on only one essay and everything is marked under a different system, where a First is the highest grade boundary, a Second is middle ground and a Third is the lowest grade boundary before failing. I’m pretty sure this is the case for all UK universities. But once you understand that, as well as the fact that everyone says ‘You alright?’ instead of ‘how are you?’ (as a genuine greeting, not because they think you look unwell!) then you’ll be sorted.

A slightly different post this time, but hopefully it helps for any queries about the courses and papers themselves and the finer details to studying in a different country!

Until next time,

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Venice: Seeing the Sights in Cornwall

Hello!

During my time away, I wanted to make the most of Cornwall and seeing the sights within the fiercely independent county. Falmouth and Penryn were the places I visited most frequently (Penryn is lovely to walk through and it looked amazing all lit up with Christmas lights late last year, but aside from one great café – Earth and Water – there isn’t much to do there). Falmouth is popular for students because of the bars and pubs, and my favourites include The Games Room and The Chain Locker but there are plenty more as well as fantastic places to eat like Harbour Lights fish and chips or The Meat Counter for the best burgers and fries ever. There’s also a lot of small independent shops, which are perfect for buying nice gifts, a lot of nautical themed clothes shops and plenty of vintage stores. There are hardly any high street shops which was great for getting a feel for the town, especially because the owners of the independent stores were always keen for a chat and it made the overall experience so much more unique. Cornish cream tea is also everywhere (not complaining at all) but my favourites include Dolly’s Tea House (for the best cream teas as well as two dogs that hang around the café) and De Wynn’s.

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Walking through Penryn

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Falmouth Harbour with my sister

Myself and a friend took a day trip to St. Ives in early October, and it took about an hour by train with a couple of changes but it was very easy to figure out. It’s a beautiful coastal town, with incredible tidal beaches, where you can walk right out across the sand and into the harbour amongst the beached boats when the tide’s out to get into the town. Although it was ridiculously windy, we walked a lot along the rugged coast, getting sprayed by the massive waves and walked up a hill to an old stone church perched right at the top, overlooking the whole town on one side and a wide expanse of ocean on the other. We felt very much like Elizabeth Bennett, if she’d lived in Cornwall. We visited the Tate St Ives, which is right on the coast, so the most beautiful if niche location for a gallery. Walking into town, there is an incredible and ancient history, some buildings having been around for 500 years! Fudge as well as cream teas seemed to be a key feature in the town’s cuisine, so I would recommend investing in that if you ever find yourself there! Cornwall has been made famous because of Daphne du Maurier, and for any other book-lovers out there, Virginia Woolf had a summer home in St Ives as a child, and her novel To The Lighthouse was inspired by that location.

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Walking into St Ives via the harbour

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Admiring the coast

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At the church on the top of the hill – St Ives

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View of St. Ives from the train

I also took the bus into Truro a couple of times, which is around 25 minutes away from Penryn campus. The buses to Truro and Redruth, as well as some other places come right into campus and you get cheaper fares with your student ID, otherwise the Penryn train station is only a ten-minute walk from campus and you can get pretty much anywhere from there, with a couple of changes. Truro is another lovely small town, with a main square/high street and traditional cobbled roads, with a beautiful and enormous cathedral as one of the main attractions. There are more high street shops there, so there was a little less character than Falmouth but still well worth the visit. Charlotte’s Tea House is a converted Victorian building, refurbished to look like it’s still the 1800s and the view overlooks the beautiful main square. I went a second time with a friend at the end of November to check out the Christmas markets and that was when all the town showed off their independent stalls as well as selling mulled cider and street food, so along with performers out on the street and the whole town glowing with Christmas lights, it felt very very festive!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this (virtual) tour of Cornwall, and that it inspires you to someday visit this beautiful corner of the world.

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Truro Cathedral

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Admiring Truro Christmas lights

Until next time,

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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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