AMANDA MITCHELL // COLUMNIST
My first month at the University of Hertfordshire has come and gone. It’s surreal to think that I have been living in the UK for an entire month. Living on campus at UHerts has been the time of my life and I’m not looking forward to going home yet.
During this first month, my flat mates and I have grown inseparable. We cook meals, go on group dinners and even travel to other countries together. This has been a blessing, as other students tell horror stories of how their flat mates will avoid contact at all cost. As a flat, we have separately broken off into smaller groups and travelled to Copenhagen, Milan, Paris, Vienna and Barcelona.
Although kitchen utensils tend to go missing from time to time, and condiments often get used faster than their owner’s intention, my life on campus has been exceptionally uncomplicated.
Schooling in the UK is very different than in Canada. Classes take place once a week, and final grades are only determined by two assignments. If classes have a final exam, then there will only be one assignment. It’s strange to write essays worth 70 per cent of my mark for a class, which tend to only be 1,500 to 2,500 words long. I’m not sure I like this way of schooling more than at home, as it can become very stressful to have an entire grade determined by just two assignments.
The atmosphere is vastly different from Capilano University. Like other universities of its kind, UHerts possess all the charm of a large school. There is constant partying, shouting in the hallways and bedtimes being pushed until 2 a.m. My memories of serene bedtimes in a quiet house in Vancouver are slowly fading from my mind and earplugs are a must.
On a brighter note, UHerts has been excellent for organizing day trips to local tour sites for international students. So far, I’ve been to Cambridge, Bath, Stonehenge and Windsor Castle. My weekends are also consistently spent in London, which is only 20-minutes away from the University. The perks of living close to London are ceaseless. In my first month I’ve already been to three West End musicals: Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, and Les Misérables. I’ve also discovered cheap, local places to eat on the weekends, as well as every possible site related to Harry Potter.
One of the reasons I chose to study in the UK was because of its central location. London is situated closely to many different countries, which are very easy to travel to. Paris is only two hours away, as is Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, Aberdeen and even Copenhagen. Flights in between European countries can be as cheap as $25 CAD, which allows travel to be quite reasonable.
Contrary to my so-far incredible experience abroad, it’s difficult to be away from family and my significant other. Maintaining long distance relationships is more difficult than I originally expected. Especially when you are used to seeing certain people every day – it’s a disturbance to ordinary life when those people aren’t by your side anymore. For me, I live at home and spend every moment with my family. Further, my long-term boyfriend lives in the basement suite of my house and is essentially part of my family as well. The eight-hour time difference from Vancouver to the UK also doesn’t help with arranging FaceTime calls. Talking face-to-face routinely happens on Saturday and Sunday nights UK time, as mid-day Vancouver time on weekends is usually the only time when everyone is home.
It’s strange to think of my life back home. In the UK I have so much free time to do as I please, whereas at home I go to school, work and volunteer. I enjoy having time to myself, as this is out of the ordinary for me. Although it’s only been a month, I consider the UK to be my second home and I am growing to love it just as much as Vancouver.