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Student Abroad: Geordie Edition

“I am delighted to attach a confirmation of a place to study at the University”. There it was; the letter I had been waiting for for months – the end to all the worry about grades. I was actually going to Newcastle for my MA, and what used to feel so very far away, was suddenly mere weeks from happening. Accommodation was sorted quite quickly; as opposed to Leiden Newcastle actually has plenty of rooms available. Living on campus, however much I would have loved to do so to get the full campus experience, was a tad expensive (and did not look that nice either).

So here I am! In a nice flat shared with 4 other postgraduate students. Culture shock still has to set in despite not understanding any bus driver, and after a couple of nights out – Newcastle style. It has been nowhere near Geordie Shore so far, but that might have been due to my choice of venue.

What does seem weird is the complete lack of outerwear when people go out – it is 10 degrees and few people are wearing more than just short dresses and high heels. The cheap alcohol might contribute to this, especially the so-called ‘Trebles’ – a triple spirit with mixer – which you can get for as little as 2 pounds. In fact, you have to specifically order a single one, or you will receive at least a double drink. Fortunately, to the delight of this beer-hating student, England is also land of ciders and ginger beer. Cherry, berries, grapes – you name it, they put it in a cider. They even have raspberry flavored ginger beer, which is quickly becoming my favourite.

Contributing to the seemingly temperature-oblivious locals are the taxis. Since few people even consider bicycles a mode of transportation, and busses stop running after midnight, the most popular way to get to and from the city centre at night are taxis. What is posh and expensive in Holland, is often cheaper than the bus.

People’s love for clubs is a bit of a change from home, where most nights out took place in my association. Those exist here as well, but none even remotely similar to the Dutch 'Studentenverenigingen’. We have the Students Union, a beautiful building right in the middle of campus, which has its own bar, a venue, and any resource a society might need. The stairs always smell like pizza, delicious sandwiches or coffee, which might be mostly due to the Domino’s, Subway and Starbucks we have on campus. My self-control is growing weaker every day! The Students Union in itself, however, is not the main way to meet people. That is what the societies are for. So far, I have joined the dance society, the ballroom and latin society, and the modern language society. All of these organize so-called socials, very often bar crawls, but also activities linked to the theme of the society, such as a visit to the ballet.

Of course there is much more to this year abroad than just nights out. With only a year left of my time as a student, the realization is slowly setting in that I will eventually have to go out into the ‘real’ world of jobs. Luckily, I am loving my classes so far. I have taken quite a departure from linguistics and literature, and modules now include Subediting and Design, Strategies and Management in PR, and Language and Cross-Cultural Communication.

Despite this change in subject, I have noticed that my years in Leiden have actually prepared me quite well. A lot of the basic knowledge that is expected from me now I picked up during my BA, and the ‘academic skills’ lectures have been extremely familiar so far. It also cannot hurt that the search software of the library is the exact same one as Leiden uses. Alas, thinking that the amount of reading would be less, now that I have no literature classes anymore, was a big mistake. While few things are specifically compulsory, the recommended reading is often several books per week. I guess that explains why the library is open 24/7.

Somewhere between library sessions and socials I have actually managed to settle in quite nicely, even noticing changes in my English. The year might pass by much too quickly!

by Franziska Mattler