Life is pretty crazy, isn’t it? All of a sudden you wake up in a new country, still half asleep staring at the roof, and try figure out how you made it there. The sun is shining between the curtains, someone yells at the corridor, and the alarm clock is not-so-quietly reminding the lecture starts in fifteen so snoozing is not longer an option. Even now after two months, waking up here in the UK feels weird.
University of Hertfordshire. When uni started in Finland two years ago, I made sure everyone knew that this is where I would end up in for my double degree year. And here I am, and it is not what I had expected.
The first two months have been amazing. Crazy. Full of adventures. Filled with countless spontaneous trips and social gatherings, and lectures and group meetings and LRC evenings. Have luckily not needed to pull an allnighter there, been close though with the deadlines approaching…
I’ve met people from so many countries I’ve lost count, made friends with truly spectacular individuals and laughed until I had tears in my eyes. Have even managed to return the first assignments in time, join sports clubs, and sort out a part-time job for the rest of the year. It’s been exhausting of course, this life of mine, yet I wouldn’t change a minute of it.
Going abroad teaches you not only about the world and other countries and cultures, but of yourself.
You are actually much stronger, much wiser, much more equipped to deal with changes and conflict than you knew. There is this strange energy you have the first weeks of being abroad. You make friends without realizing, get to know the weird habits of your new flatmates, get all settled in to the tiny room you now call home. You learn to read the situation and know what topics are okay to talk about with whom, start to know your way around the campus and the city, and maybe learn the art of small talk the locals seem so fond of. Yet there is not really something as me-time, because let’s face it there is no time to waste staying home alone, what if you miss out! The weeks pass by and then one day it’s Friday night, you’ve been home all day doing nothing, and for the first time you actually can just take a deep breath and stop to think.
I smile when I think of the things that have happened, the kindness of strangers that have now become dear friends. The time I was really ill – freshers flu is a real deal – and came home and my amazing flatmate had bought medicine and left it outside my door. Or the night it was freezing outside as we waited for the bus home and someone gave me their jacket even though they probably needed it more. The spontaneous travels, the laughter-filled wine Fridays, the “I’m coming over right now, let’s talk” phone calls from a dear friend. Teaching people to cook, and running around the campus trying to figure out where the pizzas are being delivered to . We study on campus, we live on campus. It’s all here – and it takes less than two minutes to walk both to the shop and to the lectures from home! It is overwhelming and stressful and tiring at times, yet I feel I would have missed out on so much had I stayed somewhere else.
Overall, I cannot say I miss Finland. I miss certain aspects of it, like family and my close friends that are now scattered around the world doing their exchange. And the academic world here is quite different from what I’m used to so there is real pressure to do well for the final year… But with the support Herts has to offer, and thanks to my lovely local and international friends, I think the next few months will be just as great as the last two.