It is finally time to start my spring semester with the Advanced Studies in England (ASE) programme. I was very lucky in that I could coordinate my travel plans with my friend Maddie, so we could navigate the airports together. Traveling was a little bit like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, sans the terrible mishaps. Flying with British Airlines was a nice experience. Plenty of refreshments and great entertainment options for the flight. Going through immigration was easy enough; and the official who stamped my visa even asked about my “Got Xena?” shirt. From there we were able to grab a bus to Reading, followed by a train (with some finagling) to Bath. We later learned that there were some much cheaper travel options from the airport to Bath, but at least we were able to try a variety of transportation.
I was immediately struck by just how Englandy England actually is. I feel like there are preconceptions about the architecture and landscape that I were expecting to be disproved, but honestly everything fulfilled my expectations, even to excess. Many of the cities have older architecture, everyone has amazing accents, and public transportation is everywhere. The one thing in particular that surprised me is just how green the English countryside is. It’s absolutely lovely.
Once in Bath, I arrived at our townhouse. Everything is built up, so my room is on the third floor, up a rather small staircase.
We have nice wooden floors, a kitchen/laundry room, a lovely living room with a fireplace, couch, tv, and other furnishings. My room is rather small (the bed in particular is tiny) but still nice enough. It’s been good meeting my roommate and housemates; we’re a pretty solid group. We helped keep each other up watching the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie to help combat jet lag and adjust to the new timezone.
The next few days involved a lot of information. We learned a little bit more about the history of our program and some statistics regarding our group. Interestingly, there’s about a 1:5 ratio of male to female students, which is apparently typical of a European based programme. We also went on various tours of the programme buildings and the Bath shopping areas. Everybody involved in the administration seems really passionate about the the upcoming semester, which is great.
The week also involved various diagnostic papers; a sort of pre-assessment so our professors have a writing sample to gauge our level of knowledge/skill before the course starts, and so we get to preview their grading style. The papers were a bit of a throwback to AP English and History essays from high school.
We had the opportunity to visit Bath Abbey and get a sort of highlight tour, learning a bit about the history of the church from a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide.
I was also able to meet the company I’ll be interning with and get situated for next week when I start. I really think this will be a great way to build my digital media skill set. The internship coordinator is a really wonderful gentleman, who is quite passionate about supporting local businesses, and seems to have a vast wealth of historical and artistic knowledge.
On Friday we visited Bath Spa University, where we can potentially join their clubs/sports. The campus was absolutely gorgeous. Two lakes, swans, beautiful trees, gold tipped gates, and land owned by Prince Charles.
We also had a welcome reception that evening in the Victoria Art Gallery. Here we were able to meet and greet our tutors over wine and art.
The major orientation events concluded on Saturday with a tour of the markets, where numerous vendors sold all sorts of items, from produce to soaps to movies.
It’s been interesting getting set up here. My housemates and I have a nice system where we have sections of communal food that anyone can use, and sections of our own personal food. I’m also very lucky in that a few of my housemates like to cook, which makes dinner much easier (and probably much more palatable). We’ve been exploring many of the cheaper local grocery stores. Food is fairly cheap here, but food expires fast. A lot of the fruit have labels indicating that they expire in just a few days. But so far this has been an indicator of freshness, and I’ve been pretty impressed with everything I’ve had so far. The cheese is absolutely delicious. I’ve been having cheese almost daily, and it’s wonderful. I greatly amused my housemates with my lack of familiarity with white cheddar (I thought orange was the default).
I think the programme itself does a really wonderful job of getting us adjusted. It seems to me that the different residences mesh fairly well together personality-wise, which gives everyone a nice base to start from. Then the various activities help us get to know each other and make new friends. And they greatly encourage us to be involved in the community of Bath. All of which has made the adjustment to a new place a much easier one.
All in all, I look forward to starting my classes and internship, meeting new people, and continuing to travel and explore new places!