Hello again! Today I thought it would be fun to write about my first week at Surrey. As I have mentioned in my previous post, I had never traveled outside Canada or the States before and I have always lived with my parents, so this was a big move for me. Thankfully, in 2015 I had the amazing opportunity to work at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida for three months which was a good trial run for how I would acclimatize myself to living away from home. I have to admit that the anticipation in preparation of leaving was quite intense and it was some of the hardest goodbyes I’ve had to say. On the bright side, I knew that I would be home in three months for Christmas and I knew how it felt to be away from home for that long – I told myself I could handle this. Fast-forward through lots of paperwork and packing, and it was finally departure day. I said goodbye to my parents and my boyfriend at the airport in Ottawa and put on a brave face through security. Everything went really smoothly and I was able to stay relatively calm through the two flights despite having never traveled over-seas before. Let’s just say I am a bit of a crier so many tears were shed that day. However, what was really reassuring was knowing that the International Welcome committee from the University was waiting for me at the Gatwick airport in London. This is a free service that the University offers to you before you arrive. They have someone waiting for you ready to explain how you will get yourself and your luggage from the airport to your accommodation. They even purchase your train ticket and have a van ready to get you from the Guildford train station to practically your doorstep! At this point I met a fellow grad student named Kellie. She and her father were travelling all the way from Colorado and were also making their way to the school. They were both so warm and king to me which almost felt like having family there with me to share this experience. I am so grateful to the both of them and am so happy that Kellie and I have become friends. How amazing that I made a friend within minutes of being in England? The first day was a bit of a whirlwind as there are quite a few things to get done immediately, from getting your keys, to unpacking, to getting food and essentials, and realizing you’re in a new country! This was made so much easier thanks to the really friendly and helpful people I met along the way. Someone from the University was always there to answer my questions and I always had someone offer to carry my gigantic bag.
What made my first week truly great however was the amazing free activities the International Welcome committee put on for us during the first few days. These were activities that you were able to book before coming and were totally worth it.
The first activity I participated in was a trip to Loseley Park. This is a magnificent 500 year old estate with a beautiful garden. We were even treated to some free British scones and tea which I thought was really exciting! The tour was really good and it was a beautiful day out which just added to the excitement of the day.
The second activity was a coach tour of Surrey. I believe that this trip was really important in making me feel like Surrey was my new home. We got to drive through several little towns and got to stop at the Polesden Lacey estate and the Box Hill lookout. Furthermore, I made three friends that I still hang out with all the time, Emily, Carla and Heather. I am so grateful to have been able to participate in this trip.
Finally, we were also invited to a free fish and chip dinner where we were warmly welcomed by the Student Union and staff of the University. There were further welcome events for the accommodations and the different programs, but more on that in future posts.
In all, I can confidently say that it was a fantastic first week here at the University of Surrey despite some emotional ups and downs that go with moving to a new country. I find it incredible how easy it is to stay connected with home thanks to modern technology which really helped me through some of those downs. But I have to say that I am really grateful that I have been experiencing several ups since then.