Officially founded in 1963, Newcastle University typically enrolls around 27,000 students per year. Luckily, they added me to their long list of eager students for the fall term of the 2017-2018 school year.
Stepping onto campus for the first time was like being pushed onto an old-time college film set, with the ornate architecture of impressive buildings towering over me. Not entirely unlike the Ivies back in the States, massive archways lead from one part of campus to the next.
Starting my semester this fall held all the regular promise and excitement of the beginning of a new school year multiplied by ten because it was happening across the pond in England, where I’ve dreamt of living for as long as I can remember. But even though every day here seems to have the hazy edges of a perfect dream, reality really packs a strong punch.
The teaching style of the U.K. university is based around independent study, so while my schedule (called a timetable) may only list one or two hours of lecture per day, I am expected to be fully versed in the material supplementary to the lecture discussion. Most uni students treat studying like a 9-5 job, meaning that all of their energy is spent on school work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. It seems like a daunting way to live, but after trying it for a few weeks, it’s clear why it’s such a common practice. Designating certain blocks of time during the “work day” makes it easier to accomplish a lot of little goals each day, which in turn makes important papers much less of a burden the day or two before they are due.
Time management also helps when it comes to meal planning and prepping, as there is no meal plan. Coming to university abroad, this was probably the thing that shell-shocked me the most. My choices are to either: A) eat out for every meal (which adds up very quickly), or B) schedule an hour to run to the supermarket to buy groceries for a few days and then schedule another hour each evening to actually prepare the meal.
I’m not going to lie, I have called my mom on FaceTime for some help in making my favorite comfort foods. But being able to make things for myself, like chicken soup while I was sick or homemade meatballs ‘n’ gravy on a Sunday night, has been quite empowering. It’s nice to know that I can support and provide for myself, even all the way across the world.
Aside from the few (okay, it was more than a few) learning curves I’ve encountered, living in this city has truly been magical and I could not be more grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had already. I’ve checked things off my bucket list that I still cannot wrap my head around. The sweet, however, is laced with bitter… I’m especially bummed that I’m missing Thanksgiving, and that I can’t just hop on a bus back home to surprise my little brother at his high school football game. But in spite of everything, I am thrilled to be living out my dream and I would’t trade this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of the Wawa hoagies in the world—a bold statement for a Jersey girl.