I feel like for weeks I've been writing "the last few weeks" and "the last few days" and now it is quite literally the very last day of my exchange. Tonight after midnight I will take a taxi to the bus station, from there I'll take the bus to Gatwick Airport, from there I take a plane to Helsinki and then another bus to Turku. These past 4 months have been exciting, challenging, at times hard but mostly I feel gratitude for getting to know so many new international friends and for getting to travel around the UK. So in this last post I thought I would just summarize a few of the highlights of the trip, as well as offer some advice to anybody thinking of going on exchange!
The first few days were a little bit nerve-racking. I was alone in a city I had never been to before, living completely alone, no roomates or boyfriend, for the first time ever. I quickly noticed that all of the practical stuff - finding buses, fixing student ID cards, buying comforters and pillows - was no problem at all. The other thing I worried about (and I would soon find out that I wasn't the only one) was making friends. How would I find the other exchange students? What if they're into completely different stuff? I had read online that since I was coming in the middle of the semester, there weren't as many activities organized as say when fresher's is. Luckily, I didn't need to be worried at all, NTU organised some lunches for new exchange students and all of us there instantly clicked. So my advice for future exchange students is to just go to events, even if you don't know anybody. Basically all of the other international students are in the same boat as you, so even if you don't have the same interests, you can at least connect on that!
Now the one thing which I will certainly remember from my time in Nottingham (however maybe not so fondly) is my accommodation. I live in a student hall, and after much deliberation I chose Raleigh Park because it was cheap, relatively close to the city center, it was easy to book, they had short term tenancies and there were security guards on duty at all times (this criteria mostly calmed my mother down). Even though living in a student hall has been messy and sometimes very noisy, I still think I made the right decision. Money wise it was a cheap alternative, and I would rather save while living here (4 months is after all not so long) and then invest in something better at home. I also felt quite safe living here (despite people stealing my stuff from the fridge and an actual fire which left somebody hospitalized (if there's one thing I've learnt about English students is that they seriously need to take some home economics classes...)), and the security guards were actually really helpful. I also didn't know until after I moved here that Radford (which is basically the area I live in) is actually considered a bit of a dodgy area (I also learnt that Nottingham used to be called Shottingham so yeah, maybe could've looked into it a bit more before coming here, lol). But in the end, I survived and now I get to move into my new apartment at home, yay!
The best thing about going on exchange is the fact that it is truly the one time in your life when you can - and should - travel. In the last few months I have been to York numerous times, climbed mount Snowdon in Wales, tasted whisky in Scotland, looked at street art in Glasgow, seen the Phantom of the Opera in London, hiked in the lake district, had the best pulled pork ever in Leeds and so much more. It has truly been awesome and what has been even better is that I have done it all with my boyfriend. I feel truly lucky that me and André managed to do our exchanges at the same time and not so far from each other. We have managed to see each other almost every weekend, and our travels have given us memories (and instagram pictures) for a lifetime!
Lastly I'm so happy for all of the friends I've made. Friends from Sweden, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Malta, China and Thailand (hope I didn't forget anyone..). It has been so interesting to compare the different customs and traditions in different countries, even those of other European countries. Yesterday for example I found out that Germans apparently feel embarrassed to buy toilet paper? What a weird, random and funny thing. So to anyone of you reading this - thank you for being my friend and if you want to come and visit Finland, there is always room on my couch!
All of that being said, I am so ready to go home. I can't wait to see my family, my friends, our dog Maya. I can't wait to start working (really need the money, exchange is not cheap ya'll), I can't wait to see my relatives that are visiting us in the summer (that's you Tessa!), can't wait to cook food in my kitchen (and not just with a frying pan from poundland), can't wait to just sit on the couch and watch TV, can't wait to start playing basketball again, can't wait to stay up late and it is still light outside because the sun doesn't set in the summer. Nottingham was nice and all but in my opinion, Turku is just the best city for me!