Unlike in Finland, to the UK all exchange students come in the same 2 days, the weekend before the orientation week starts. The university organizes picks up from the Heathrow airport and brings you right on campus, where your accommodation is. This day I remember clearly and at the same time, it is like a bright flash in my head that I still can not understand completely. Luckily, I didn’t have to go through my first days alone, Kirill, my friend from JAMK was also intended to share this year with me at the University of Hertfordshire. We landed early morning September the 8th, more than an hour of customs line, 40 mins drive to Hatfield and here we are, in front of the building that seems to have the correct name as in our accommodation form.
The university consists of two campuses – College Lane and De Havilland. I lived and had all my courses on the second one that was devoted to business and law school, as well as students who study philology and journalism. On campus, you could find the big building with the library (Learning Resource Center) and classrooms, the giant sports hall next to it, cafeteria, and the small accommodation office with the common room and shop, and if you walk further in the evening you can see the lights of the student pub offering drinks and food. All this is surrounded by the blocks of orange 5-floor houses, where all the students live in the flats of 12 rooms each.
On the first day, the whole campus was full of volunteering students and signs directing you to food, shop, place where you can collect your keys, and register for the courses. Following the banners, we have found the accommodation office, took our keys and welcoming snack, and headed to our building. My room was small, having just a bed, desk, chair, and a small wardrobe. However, the greatest advantage of the flat in De Havilland Campus is that each room has its own bathroom, so I didn’t need to share it with anyone else (even though the bathroom was exactly the same as those tiny ones you have in the cabins of the ferry Helsinki – Stockholm). The kitchen, shared with 11 more students – my flatmates, was spacious and filled with appliances – 3 kettles, 2 toasters, 2 stoves, and a big freezer. I put my luggage to the room and didn’t have even a second to drop my mom a message that all is fine when I was surrounded by unfamiliar faces. The greatest advantage of this accommodation for an exchange that university puts all international students to the same flats, so it appeared that just 30 minutes earlier three more people moved into the rooms next to mine. This is how I met my best friends for the whole year – Dimitra from Romania, Elijah from Japan, and JF from Canada.
In 20 minutes we were already walking to the shop nearby to buy some food, as we were all starving after the flights, and things that we needed first to survive the night, like a duvet and pillow. After massive shopping, back on campus, we had time to move in properly, eat, chat, and decide on the first evening plans. That’s were moments of names, facts, stories, questions, and happiness, as my greatest fear of being alone disappeared.