International Welcome Week

So sorry for the lack of posts this week, but I’ve been pretty busy! A quick recap for the perpetually curious.

Sunday: Made it back from Colchester in one piece, if perhaps a little wobbly. The great pink behemoth suitcase managed to both crack and partially melt a wheel, which rendered it about as useful as a grocery store cart. It got the job done, but I had to fight with it the whole way. Also ended up getting back to the flat WAY late due to some issues with the university coach service, but I met a fellow museum studies student from Austria and we both live nearby each other.

Monday: I signed up for the local GP office before leaving Leicester, but had been texted to come in at some point for my online log-in information. With that info, I could just log on to their website and make an appointment with the available staff of my choice. They even have a twitter account! (And Americans like to grumble about how backwards the NHS must be… So far I’ve been nothing but impressed.) Got in and out quickly with another super cool coursemate and we both headed over to sign up for the welcome week and get our little bags of goodies. (Turned out to be pizza coupons and SIM cards, but you just don’t turn anything down when it’s free at a university. Students are natural scavengers.)

Tuesday: Well, the two of us had intended on just going to the informative lectures about life in the UK, but when we saw the signs for the visa checkpoint (a requirement for registration and where one could receive a letter to open a local bank account) we decided to try and get ours done then instead of Friday like our papers had written on them. I am a bad influence for suggesting it, but it totally worked! With that out of the way, we both went to open bank accounts. She went with Lloyds Bank and opened an account that day, whereas I was leaning towards Santander because of their budgeting app. Santander had a wait though, so I had to come back the next day.

That evening, we had tickets to Film Night at the Attenborough Building, but were quickly disappointed to find a small, half empty room and that Pirates of the Caribbean was the film of choice. On my bad influence spree, I instigated a runaway to a nearby pub with two coursemates and introduced them to hard cider. That was really fun. 🙂

Wednesday: Finally, more students were arriving in the city, so a group of us did a tour of the city centre while I went to my appointment with Santander. Come find out, Santander wants £5 a month “because of international student status.” Needless to say, I declined the offer and went over to Lloyds Bank who saw to me immediately and didn’t charge me a pence. My new debit card should arrive next week and I can deposit my change cheque from the university immediately. Excellent service there!

After the bank was dealt with, we all walked around and pointed out city landmarks and good places to shop for different things. Everyone was somewhat familiar with UK culture already, so it was an easy and pleasant wander around. It’ll be nice to work with everyone in that group when term starts.

That evening there was a traditional Irish Ceilidh dance lesson, which is really similar to square dancing in that there’s one person that calls the dance moves for the group. It’s a bit more touchy than square dancing though, which only ever really sees arms linked together for the most part whereas this had some swinging around of partners. But it’s really fun! Ran into some issue with it as the night progressed though, as I’ve realized that international welcome things are really only geared towards people that don’t speak English as a first language. People were grouping up together and cheerily talking to strangers in their own languages, which made things a bit awkward for me. I shuffled out after awhile of it, but ended up over at my new friend’s flat where I met her flatmate and we all talked for a few hours with pizza. They’re awesome. 🙂

Thursday: Slept in this morning, at least until the building’s alarm test went off. I think it’s safe to say that it’s loud and jarring enough to wake the dead. Got word back that my iPhone 5 had been unlocked (Score one for UK phone unlocking laws!), so this 4S I came with can be put out to pasture. Within 5 days of getting here, the 4S decided it was actually on a speaker dock all the time (it wasn’t) and now the only sound it makes is for phone call rings and thankfully when people are speaking to me on a call. I thought I could just deal with it, but then the battery started dropping like a rock and now the phone likes to turn off at 40% and tell me it won’t turn back on until I plug it in because it’s just *SOOO dead.* Need to speak with Three Mobile and have them send me a SIM to fit the 5 and hopefully not encounter any more fun like this.

Fully alert, I took a shower and headed to the university to get a look at the clubs and societies available. There are a lot that look like fun, but realistically I’ll probably only join the Museum Studies Society (duh), as well as the History Society or the Archaeology Society. Should be more than enough with those three to get me some extracurriculars in.

Headed back to the flat via the city centre and wandered around for a bit. I think I’m finally using landmarks to get around correctly on the first try! Got back, cooked up the veggies in my fridge and froze them, let the boiler man check my water heat as the building requested, and packed a bag again. Now I’m on a train BACK to Colchester, but I’m choosing to justify this quick turnaround because it’s going to be almost a month before another visit is feasible.

Well, looks like the train is about to pull in to St Pancras Station, so I need to collect my things and scuttle over to Liverpool Street Station via the Tube to make my next train. Hope all is going as well for y’all!

— Kate

experience hogwarts at night like all first year students do