Nestled in the northern quarter of England, my first two weeks in Lancaster has been, interesting. Coming from Iowa, you don’t see much greenery in the fall as you drive on the highway throughout the entire state because we love our corn and soybeans. In Lancaster, however, all you see is bright green fields filled with cows, sheep, and horses. Riding on the TransPennine Express Train, I was mesmerized by the contrasts this country has compared to the States. Making my way from the train station to the bus station, you immediately feel as if you have gone back in time and living as if this city was just built. Preservation of buildings, monuments, and traditions have kept this city from becoming over-modernize with new state of the art architecture. Even the newer additions to the city have kept in mind the atmosphere and dedication to keeping history alive.
When I arrived to campus, I was amazed and impressed with the layout and particularly the student accommodations. As a fifth year undergraduate student, I have had my fair share of living in dorms/apartments/frat houses, and I can easily say that Lancaster has the best accommodations I have ever seen. Being your typical American, I would call my accommodations an apartment, but here, you refer to it as a “flat”. My flat is comprised of thirteen rooms, with thirteen students like myself. In addition, I have a large kitchen, dining room, living room, and five individual bathrooms. A majority of my “flatmates” are from different regions of the U.K. and some coming as far as China, Germany, and the Netherlands. It was comforting to know that I was not the only international student in the flat and I quickly made myself at home.
Their Residence Life and Housing is also unique here compared to other universities. They categorize their students into specific colleges. No student is hand picked based on academics, athletics, or achievements, but instead randomly placed in one of the eight colleges. I was placed in County College, known to be the largest college and home to a 250 year old oak tree, which also serves as my view every morning when I wake up. I admire the dedication this school has to the collegiate system. Every college has their own administration and faculty dedicated to the service of students. As someone who has served as a Resident Assistant for two years, this system surprised me, but I am pleased with how it runs so smoothly.
The first week at Lancaster University was called “Freshers Week”, which is their version of a freshman orientation, and as a 23 year old super senior, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was occasionally asked if I was a grad student, or one of the upperclassman chaperoning the events due to my supposed maturity and calming attitude towards university. Nonetheless, I acted like a freshman branding my lanyard and orientation packet the whole week as I got my class schedule and became familiar with the campus and all it has to offer. Lancaster University is home to just over 12,000 students (Iowa State back home is 36,000) and is ranked among the top three universities in the entire country of England, with highly ranked spots in business as well. Although I have only spent two weeks here, I have already made myself at home and befriended a lot of great people. On a typical day, I can be sure that someone will question my accent, someone will be confused by a word that I use (I say vacuum = they say hoover), and someone will ask me if I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. 99% of the time when I answer, Hillary Clinton, I hear a sigh of relief and small little grin of approval. It’s surreal that I have only been in Lancaster for two weeks now, but it feels like a month. Classes have started this week and I am slowly transitioning my mind back into study mode.
All in all, I am safe, I am having fun, and I am going to be sad when I have to leave this place in December.