England has been a place I have wanted to visit and study in since I was a kid, so it’s safe to say that the expectations I had for my exchange had been built up for quite some time. Luckily the reality is so much better than I could have ever imagined! I have been here since early January and can safely say that I feel very much at home, and very much in love with this rainy, green country.
I chose to study at the University of East Anglia, two hours north of London and a city that most English locals refer to as ‘farm land’. I chose it initially for the highly recommended writing course they run, but have come to realise that Norwich has a lot more to offer. I think it’s beautiful—the campus has a big lake that is perfect for going for walks around, and a forest on the edge of the university (which makes me feel a little bit like I’m in a Harry Potter book!). The great thing about the campus is that it’s a weird combination of modern architecture against a very quaint background: fields of green grass and a forest in the background of the jagged ziggurat buildings. The university also has a club called the LCR, where student nights and gigs are held–I was lucky enough to see some really great bands like Foals, Miles Kane, Palma Violets, and Peace play there recently!
One of the coolest things was waking up to see a thick blanket of snow outside. I was unsure about how I would feel about the weather, and it is no doubt 10x colder here than at home, but I think I would prefer this cold weather over 45 degree heat!
The town itself is typically quaint and ‘English’, with lots of cute little cafes and tea houses, bars, pubs, and even has a castle. The people are really friendly too—on my first day, I arrived late at night and was helped to my accommodation by a very friendly member of campus security, who even carried my 30kg bag up three flights of stairs!
I also find the different accents really cool. It’s so strange how someone living a few hours north can have such a thicker accent compared to someone from London.
Getting around is really easy. There are cheap buses, coaches and trains to cities all over the country. I went to Manchester in February and had a really great time because it was quite different from Norwich and London. There were a lot of great restaurants and galleries to visit. I’ve also been to London a number of times now, and I really love it—the Tate modern and the National gallery are some of my favourite places, as well as Camden and Portobello markets. I’ve even managed to see a few great bands like Bloc Party play there, and will soon be seeing Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Grizzly Bear play at a mini festival at the end of May.
At the same time I’m really glad I chose to study in Norwich; it’s a nice difference to be studying on a campus like this rather than in the city because I feel it might be a bit too similar to home.
I’m also fortunate enough to be studying a subject on medieval kingship, and went on a class trip to Leicester to visit the site of the newly discovered remains of king Richard III, which was a really amazing experience. That’s another thing about England I love, the fact that there is so much interesting history! It’s really nice to be studying English history, especially a subject on kingship, because it is something I wouldn’t really have the opportunity to do back in Australia. It’s bizarre how certain things in English history are common knowledge here, basic things such as the names of all the different kings. I’ve really enjoyed learning about them!
The best thing about my exchange is meeting new people and travelling to different places. A lot of the friends I have made over here don’t seem to realize just how close they are to other countries and find it funny that I want to travel to so many different places while I’m here. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Paris (a mere two hour train ride away!), Berlin, and Bologna in Italy recently, which was all achieved pretty cheaply as well. After exams my friends and I have plans to travel to Barcelona for Primavera music festival, as well as Scotland, Istanbul, Denmark, and Germany.
I find it hard to believe that my exchange is nearing the end. I’m not ready to come back to Australia, but at the same time I know that this is not the last time I’ll be in England. I don’t think they’ll be able to keep me away for very long!
Madeleine Er (communications in writing and cultural studies)