This has been the craziest month of my life. Packing up my belongings and trying to fit my life in a 23kg bag to move to the other side of the world for an adventurous five months. Moving to the UK was a dream come true for me. During the last year of high school my school organised for a sort of motivational speaker to visit for the day. I remember two things from that day; always keep eye contact when shaking someone’s hand and the fact that when we were asked to write out our bucket list, ‘move to England’ was at the top of mine.
This whole adventure started on the 10th of September. It was my first time leaving Australia and to say I wasn’t prepared is the biggest understatement of all time. I arrived in London the next day and it still didn’t feel real. A month later and it still doesn’t really feel like I’m on the other side of the world. By the time I got to my hotel in London Victoria, I had about twenty four hours to explore before I was back on a bus on my way to Sheffield.
I only stuck to a small part of London; it was so hot and I was dressed for a nice autumn day. My hotel was quite close to Buckingham Palace, so that’s where I first ventured to after dropping my suitcases off at my hotel, showering and changing for the first time in what felt like forever. Buckingham Palace was different than I expected, but I couldn’t tell you what I expected. For two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, there weren’t that many people milling about the gates. For someone who loves lists and planning, I had no idea what I wanted to do in London. My phone didn’t work and I had the most basic map that I picked up from the National Express ticket machine at Heathrow. I ended up just walking and hoping for the best. A stroll through St James Park and through the Horse Guards Parade, I found Trafalgar Square. The streets around here were absolutely packed- the Tour of Britain or something was on. I could see the London Eye in the distance but didn’t really have a clue how to get there, except to just follow the streets and trust my instinct. This adventure had me walking past some really posh restaurants and some stunning old buildings but I finally found the embankment and the London Eye! Oh, and when was Big Ben and the House of Parliament so close to the London Eye? I honestly had no idea. It was around four o’clock now and I was kind of exhausted so now was the time to try and get back to my hotel. Key word there was try. I was so lost and it was kind of overwhelming. I couldn’t even use my map because I couldn’t even find the name of the street I was on. It was kind of a disaster. It took a bit and a couple of mini freak outs but I finally found the street I was staying on. Miracles do happen! A night in and a cheeky Nandos were on the cards for me before I crashed for the night.
I woke up the next day to the view of great weather. It was another warm day but I was keen to get out and do my last bit of London exploring before I had to be at the coach station. In the time that I had, I only managed to walk past Wellington Arch and into Hyde Park. I didn’t even walk that far into Hyde Park; I was too scared of getting lost and missing my bus! I just hung around the park for a bit before walking back and picking up my bags to start the four-ish hour journey from London to Sheffield. I don’t know what other towns the bus drove to but I can guarantee my face was against the glass the whole time.
The bus got to Sheffield around 4.30pm, and with some help from a worker at the bus station, I was in a taxi and on my way to Endcliffe village where I was staying for orientation week. Disaster struck around dinner time when I realised 1) walking into town to get food would be an hour round trip, 2) I didn’t even know how to get into town and 3) after going to the local shop to buy a microwaveable dinner, I couldn’t find the kitchen in my flat… Turns out the room I thought was the kitchen was actually the fire escape. I eventually found it, so crisis averted. The rest of the week, aka orientation week, passed in a bit of a blur and if I were asked to do it again, I probably wouldn’t (it was a bit boring).
My first day trip from Sheffield was to Leeds; the city that could have been. Leeds Uni was actually my first preference for the UK. I still think the classes I wanted to take at Leeds would have been better, but after visiting the city, I’m kinda glad I got Sheffield instead. Again, I didn’t have a plan or any place I wanted to visit in particular, so it was nice just walking around an unfamiliar town. The first thing I noticed about Leeds city was that there were shopping arcades everywhere! Kirgate Market was a bit crazy for me but I really enjoyed Leeds City Museum (there were mummies!), Leeds Minster and the Corn Exchange.
Sheffield University offers this really cool program called ‘Give It A Go’, where they organise trips around the UK for students and their families, in some cases, to explore some of the more popular sites. That’s how I came about visiting Chatsworth House. That place was soooooo cool and so grand. Our ticket for the day got us into the house and the 105 acre garden. The inside of the house was so stunning, each room had painted murals on the walls and roofs. There was something interesting every way you looked. Since the current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire still live in the house, only a small part of the house is available for public viewing. My favourite rooms were the bedrooms, the library, and the dining room. The gardens housed the biggest veggie patch I’ve ever seen in my life and even had a maze… Casual.
Another week of classes and life passed and before I knew it, I’d been in the UK for a month! To celebrate, I went on another GIAG trip, but this time it was to a town called Bakewell and it was a tasting tour. Writing this post a couple of weeks later, I can still say that Bakewell’s one of my favourite places I’ve visited so far. It was the first proper town I went to that wasn’t a city and there were actually fields of grass and animals and I loved it. Bakewell was founded in Anglo-Saxon times and is still known as being a market town. The church was also built in 920. I can’t even wrap my head around dates like that. The GIAG group was taken around the town for a couple of hours before we went back to the visitor centre to try some local treats. There were the usual things like sausages and cheese but I also got to try a pork pie and a homity pie. After chowing down, we went on another stroll to try some handmade chocolate and a Bakewell pudding. Can’t say I’m a fan of that one… We had the afternoon to roam around the town by ourselves so seeing as it was a Sunday, I decided to sit down and have my first roast dinner in the UK.
So, that about sums up my first month of my semester abroad. It only gets crazier and busier from here!