First week in Nottingham delivers excitement, frustration

By Phil Collins

Getting around a new campus can prove tricky at first, especially when it is as large as the University of Nottingham. For the most part, my new home is fairly easy to navigate. Most of the buildings are in the center of campus, called University Park.

Today, however, I decided to walk to a different part of campus and things got quickly complicated. This voyage is a fairly accurate characterization of my first week in Nottingham, England.

The University is divided into three main campuses, which include University Park, Jubilee and Sutton Bonington. Today I set out to find the Jubilee campus, get something to eat, and write this column. What appeared to be a simple, albeit long, walk on the map easily became a 90-minute extravaganza of wrong turns and asking for directions.

Looking back, almost every mishap along the way can be pinned on one cultural difference. In America, our streets are labeled every block with few exceptions. Here, I was much more hard-pressed to find a street sign. This inevitably led me to follow the wrong road for far too long, until I realized that I should have been on the other side of Queen’s Medical Centre, the campus hospital.

When I finally reached the other side, I found myself in an area full of businesses and pedestrians, yet devoid of street signs. So, against the routine of every comedian I’ve ever seen, I went into a news store and asked for directions. The man I talked to was happy to help and gave me the clear directions that finally got me here.

After a tiring, frustrating, just plain long walk, reading the Jubilee campus entrance sign was like stepping out of the desert. Maybe part of it is the joy of finally being here, but this is the most beautiful part of campus I’ve seen so far.

This past week has been a series of ups and downs that have ultimately left me happy to be here. It started off with a long day of travel: a seven-hour flight, three hours of waiting in the airport and then a four-hour bus ride to the University (traffic is terrible here, too).

This past week was the international student welcome program, featuring many activities designed to get us out to meet people and see the area. I’m not ashamed to say that the only activity I took part in that first night was sleep.

Since then, I took a walking tour of Beeston, an outdoor shopping centre, socialized in a coffeehouse and one of the student bars (that’s a whole column in itself), and danced the night away at a club called The Works. In the process, I’ve met people from South Korea, Uganda, India, Turkey, Canada, various parts of America, and of course England.

This week, the British students arrive and the party starts. I’m not joking. There are parties and outings every night this week, all set up by the University. They call it Week One, a kick-off to the school year starting with the three-day equivalent of Quad day.

Most classes will not start until next week. In fact, no one is even signed up for classes yet. This week I will have to physically go to eight different departments to get the classes I want to take for the year approved. This is obviously shockingly different than registering online several months in advance at the University.

I suppose it’s about time for me to head back to my dorm. Even if I do get a little lost, I look forward to what may happen and what I might find on my way home.