Venturing out of Heidiland
Three years ago, I decided to leave my little nest in Switzerland and embark on a journey to a place called Bournemouth. Growing up, I got to appreciate picturesque scenery of mighty Swiss mountains and elongated lakes, as well as to indulge in abundant amounts of the finest Swiss chocolates. Even though I was pretty content with my life, I still had this hunger for something new lingering in my belly that “Heidiland” wasn’t able to satisfy. Since graduating from high school, I have developed this desire to move to the UK to attend university, not only for educational purposes, but also to pursue my aspirations of facing new challenges in new surroundings whilst hoping to embrace new people in my life.
Culturally, I was already familiar with UK popular culture growing up thanks to having access to British TV channels. However, there was so much more that I learnt about the culture once I started living there. It’s different when you are a tourist. Usually most tourists would flock to places like London and spend about a week there, only getting to know a small fraction of the culture, rather than experiencing what it’s like to actually live in the UK.
For instance, one of the phrases I became familiar with during Freshers Week back in 2012 was “fancy dress.” As someone who grew up speaking US English (I’m technically American), I initially associated the term with black tie/cocktail-like events. But in fact, I was in for a treat once I experienced my first fancy dress. The term misled me since I didn’t expect to attend a night out dressed as a purple haired witch accompanied by two wild cats, Princess Fiona and a lurking ninja. I soon learnt that dressing up was quite a popular thing amongst students in England.
Whilst expanding my culinary taste buds and being introduced to things such as crumpets, Jaffa Cakes and marmite, I have had debates with some of my British friends about certain meal-time phrases. For instance, one of the most popular debates was the whole “pudding vs. dessert” ordeal. Now as a proud speaker of US English, I was pretty patriotic about this one. Pudding is a type of wiggly dessert, but the term doesn’t describe ALL other desserts. I have embraced all other aspects of UK culture, but to this present day, I simply refuse to call dessert “pudding”! Sorry, just no…
I was compelled to not only adjust to cultural changes, but also get used to living away from home for the first time. But not just me: 49 other students in my halls of residence building had to do the same! Having to adjust to a new living space with complete strangers can be a bit daunting. Naturally, your initial thoughts consist of light-hearted fears such as “will I make any new friends?” “What if they don’t like me?”
However, those people around me who started off being complete strangers – mostly those who resided on the same floor as me – became the most integral part of my first year at university. And thanks to having that commonality of not knowing one another, friendships developed and so did the celebration of birthdays, Halloween, bon fire night, Christmas, building forts out of cardboard boxes and ordering from Pizza Hut on a weekly basis.
Getting used to a new environment and finding a new routine is the beauty of starting a new chapter in your life. You will have successes, you will have fuck-ups, but most importantly you will learn. You will learn about yourself in ways that you would have not been able to without being obedient towards mommy and daddy. You will understand what responsibilities come with independence whilst enjoying the taste of its freedom.
This is why my dear Freshers of 2015, I wish you nothing but good luck whilst you embark on your own journey and hope you are also able to make your university a home away from home. And especially if you are a foreign student, I hope you are able to embrace the British culture as much as I have (except the term “pudding”)!