this is our dear member Merle’s Erasmus Column. She is studying at the University of Sheffield for one semester and will document her stay for you guys. She will talk about her experience of living in England and the British student life. Maybe this column will be of great help to make a decision whether it is a good idea to study abroad for a bit.
This is the first part and it captures her first couple of weeks and the university’s Orientation and Introduction Week. Enjoy!
Arriving in Sheffield
Everything went smoothly until I actually arrived in Sheffield: My flight was delayed but that’s nothing new considering that I chose Ryan Air as my trusted airline. I bought my tickets from Manchester to Sheffield without difficulty, didn’t miss my train and arrived in Sheffield on time.
Then shit started to get down: I missed my bus that would have taken me to University to collect my key from my roommate. Not much of a problem, I took the next one, got my key and took a bus to my new home. But, buses in Sheffield, or, to be more accurate, the system in which the buses operate, is just crazy. The bus driver does not announce the stops and if you don’t press the button quickly enough, he will drive by it. If that wasn’t bad enough, I had to learn the hard way that the signs at the stops are too small to decode and before you know it, you’ve missed your bus stop. Of course, that happened to me and I had to walk all the way up the hill with my 20kg suitcase to get to my new home.
When I arrived at the house I realised that it looks a lot smaller from the outside than it actually is when you’re inside. It’s quite beautiful, contorted, has a backyard, although one that is pretty much untrimmed, and has frighteningly steep stairs. My room is bigger than I imagined but when I entered I realised that there is no blanket and no pillow either… Great! It was already 4 p.m. and stores close at 5:30, so I rushed back to the city because I really didn’t feel like freezing to death during my first night here in Sheffield. I actually managed to buy a blanket and a pillow as well as two bedsheets (mine were too small, because you know pictures of beds aren’t all that accurate) before the stores closed.
When I finally got back home I ran to the next supermarket available in the area and got myself a pizza and some cider to lighten my mood. It was a long day and I hadn’t eaten a thing. I ate my pizza and talked to my flatmate for a while before going to bed to enjoy my cider, watch some Netflix and to get some deserved and needed sleep. When I think about it now, my first day could have been way worse. The next day I woke up in the morning and the weather was actually quite beautiful.
I realised that there is no coffee machine in the flat, so I just made myself some cereal and went outside to explore Sheffield for a bit. My first stop was: Tamper Coffee. I’m a coffee addict, so it’s no surprise that I google searched “best coffee in Sheffield” prior to arriving. Tamper Coffee sounded like the perfect place for me: The guys who own the café I went to (there are actually two in Sheffield) are from New Zealand, which I was really excited about because the best coffee I ever had, was at Memphis Belle, a café in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. And as expected, Tamper Coffee didn’t disappoint me, my latte was perfect.
I spent the rest of my day strolling through the city and eventually decided to walk back home and not take the bus. It was pretty exhausting, to say the least, and my legs did hurt for a while, but at least I avoided another bus dilemma. And it was totally worth walking those extra miles. There truly is something magical about looking down on the city centre when it’s illuminated by the setting sun.
Orientation and Intro Week
A couple of days later, on Monday, Orientation Week started. When I arrived at the Student’s Union of the university (the SU has been named best Student’s Union in the UK for the last 10 years, and they tell you that whenever possible), I got in line to get my orientation badge and welcome package. While standing in line I met Clara, also an Erasmus student from Germany who studies in the Netherlands. We got our badges and went to the box office to buy tickets for some of the events: a visit to Chatsworth House on Wednesday in the Peak District (Pride and Prejudice was filmed there), and a “Welcome Barbecue” as well as an event hosted by the SU called “A taste of Britain”. We also signed up for Campus and city tours and a lecture on culture shock. The “Welcome Barbecue” was hosted by the SU on the same night. There we had some really nice burgers, after staying in line for about an hour (that’s one thing you need to get accustomed with, British people stand in line for everything), and met a lot of really nice people while drinking quite a lot of beer (and that is generally pretty expensive).
On Wednesday we went on a day trip to visit Chatsworth House located in the heart of the Peak District, England’s oldest national park. Chatsworth House is massive, it takes you a whole hour just to get through the house, which is surrounded by acres and acres of beautiful gardens. They even have a maze and host seasonal events there, for example Christmas markets or fireworks on new years eve. Clara and I went to a couple of events on Thursday and Friday but most of the time was spent with the new people we met (quite an international group actually, people from France, Denmark, Hungary, Spain, England and Germany), just relaxing, exploring the city and drinking beer at the Student’s Union Bar, Bar One.
Intro Week started the following week with a welcome talk on Monday (praising the SU again, but also revealing some interesting information on how studying works at the University of Sheffield). On Wednesday the registration process started. All Erasmus and international students had to choose their modules at the Octagon Centre and had to finalize the registration process by collecting their University Card (U card) at the Goodwin Sports Centre (lots of standing in line, again). Everything went smoothly and we’re all now officially enrolled as students at the University of Sheffield! On Thursday and Friday all the different sports and activity societies introduced themselves. There are at least 100 different societies, rugby, quidditch, theatre, capoeira as well as a DJ society and a society for Irish dancing, just to name a few. Apparently, you can even start a new society, if the ones presented to you don’t sound appealing enough. To be honest, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the range of possibilities and the huge number of people around me, but joining a society is probably an amazing way to meet many new people.
And that’s about it. Of course, some Freshers Party took place during the week, but I avoided them (I’m more of a Pub person) but if you’re into these kinds of parties you should definitely check them out! Again, a great way to meet new people. I would also recommend arriving in Sheffield a week before Intro Week and take part in the Orientation Week as well. Orientation Week is not compulsory (Intro Week is) but it’s where I met all the people that I now hang out with. Also, be aware that you will drink waaay too much beer in your first two weeks. We spend most of our time at Bar one when we probably should have gone to some of the events.
To be continued…
article and pictures by Merle