Exchange to the University of Exeter – by Daniel O’Loughlin

To say that the 24-hour international flight to London was daunting is an understatement. Here I was, a desert rat from Alice Springs who had never flown for more than the two hours it takes to get from Central Australia to Adelaide. The shape of my backpack was more a lumpy-Ninja-Turtle-shell than the streamlined cylindrical sported by the seasoned travellers. Upon arrival in London, I casually followed my sister through the train doors of the Underground Tube whilst failing to take notice of the threatening beeping that pulsated the airwaves. The doors slammed and boom – my abnormally-shaped bag was jammed (with me attached) in the doors of a train. It was a fantastic start.

My sister and I became London tourists for a few days; relishing a tour of the Lord’s Cricket Ground while screwing up our noses at the Abbey Road crossing – the number of tourists imitating the iconic Beatles album cover was cringe-worthy (Lennon would be writhing in his deathbed). Notting Hill Carnival on the Sunday proved very fun indeed as the streets were filled to the brim with cheery patrons; beer goggles firmly fastened and hip joints well and truly lubricated. After a massive night, I spent the next day struggling for six hours on a train to Cornwall – my new home for the next few months.

My introduction to the little village of Falmouth, situated in Cornwall was spent via a few nights in a backpacker accommodation. I quickly learnt that most of the town either owned a dog or a boat or both. My housing was organised through the means of the university’s Facebook page (gotta love the 21st century), and I soon moved into a five-bedroom cottage, with four others to move in at a later date. I set up my shoe box-sized room with the essentials: decent speakers, a guitar and golf clubs, all ready to start studying at The University of Exeter Penryn Campus. There was no hot water upon arrival so I spent a good week without a shower. Smelly man.

I then planned a 75km solo hike from Porthleven back to Falmouth along the South West Coast Path. I caught a bus to Porthleven and completed the trek in three days. My shoulders and feet were left wondering what on Earth had just happened. It was an incredible experience with both geographical and mental ups and downs. At times I questioned what the hell I was doing whilst others I found myself in the best mood ever. With my iPod pumping ear-joy, I pounded the path and danced through the fields with the cows.

The next weekend I went to Little Orchard Cider & Music Festival. The plan was to go with my new housemates but that fell through due to some technical difficulties. I decided to lone wolf it. I became acquainted with a legend on the bus and in exchange for a few beers and banter, I crashed with him and his mates at their campsite. We spent a day at a cyder farm ‘tasting’ the local brews, with the music and festivities carrying on into the night. The next day no buses were running so I spent a few hours walking seven miles along a windy bitumen road to a town called Truro where I then caught the train back to Falmouth. It was safe to say the start of the university’s ‘freshers’ week the following morning would be interesting.

I’m quite a reserved character so the initial challenge of introductions and meeting new people was somewhat overwhelming. The novelty of getting asked “What do you study?”, “Is that a New Zealand or Australian accent?” and “What year are you in?” quickly wore off. The Australian slang that infiltrates my everyday conversation is definitely not commonplace here; words like ‘texta’ for ‘marker’, ‘crook’ for ‘sick’ and ‘how ya going?’ for ‘you right?’ were greeted with quizzical looks. My monotonic mumbling did little to help the hazy communication boundaries.

I decided to join the Ultimate Frisbee team for the university and henceforth partook in the beginners’ tournament. This was a great opportunity to interact with people outside of the learning environment. I was humbly granted the ‘Spoon Award’ for the tournament for the following reasons: “dumb stuff, being really drunk, and general class clown”.

Overall, it’s safe to say I am having a challenging but very enjoyable exchange experience. I encourage it to anyone who feels like learning more than what is just taught in lecture halls.


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