On my long flight to London, all I could think of was what I had left behind and what I had to look forward to. I had left behind my wife and newborn baby and had taken a break in the midst of a career which I can say was on its upward curve…. this I could sense by the farewell speeches given for me at my office. A wise person has said that, “You should work hard so that they have at least something to speak about you in your farewell” and I strongly believe in it. And what I had to look forward to was an exciting course. ”Sustainable Energy Technologies is the future of the world”, everyone who heard about my choice of course had said. A new country, new culture, new people around and new classmates…. it was all worth looking forward to. I had always dreamt of this… studying in the UK… and what was so difficult to comprehend was how suddenly this dream was being realised. Too many thoughts crossed my mind, enough for a nine hour long flight. I could hardly manage a wink of sleep, too excited and apprehensive.
The bus journey from Heathrow to Southampton, just a one and a half hour drive, seemed too long. An older gentleman sitting beside me could probably sense my excitement and asked, “Is it your first time here”? We started talking and he told me that he had been to India three decades ago and he had very fond memories of his stay there. He was quite inquisitive about my decision to come all the way here for a course but looked quite convinced at the end of our discussion. I know how to convince people and would not have let him go otherwise! The uneventful bus journey was soon over, thanks to our lively discussion. It was a pleasant evening in September when I landed here. But by the time we reached Southampton, I could sense a slight drizzle. I was surprised at this sudden change in weather. On a lighter note, I did not know then, that weather takes the centre stage of life in the UK. Anything and practically everything revolves around the weather here. Had it not been for the weather, people would have nothing to talk about, as every formal or informal talk here begins with the uncertainties of weather. Probably the old gentleman could sense my amusement and quipped, “English weather and English women, very unpredictable my boy”. I had a hearty laugh and was totally impressed by his sense of humour.
First glimpse of Southampton
I reached Southampton almost towards the end of Freshers’ activities. I was quite aware of the importance of Freshers’ week. Back home in India, I had received numerous mails from the University and the Students’ Union regarding the whole list of activities planned for us. Unfortunately, due to pressing requirements back home, I had missed a couple of them but was determined to make use of whatever activities were lined up ahead. It is pertinent to mention that it is a must for every international student to attend Freshers’ Week as it really helps you in settling down and finding your bearings here. The University does arrange for everything possible, right from reception at the airport to arrangement for transport to Southampton. There is a whole series of activities planned every day like campus tours, enrolment in various societies and housing week for those planning to stay in private rented accommodation and the day winds up with events in the in-house club. We got full opportunity to settle down, acclimatise ourselves to the new surroundings, make friends and gel before the ordeals of the academic year began.
I was dropped off by the National Express bus at the Highfield interchange. Here was when I got the first glimpse of the University… my home for the next year or so. It looked so majestic. To say the least, I was quite impressed. There was so much energy around, the cheerful faces of students everywhere. What was even more impressive was the friendliness of the international students at the University. I was greeted by a group of students from China who asked me if I needed help. They helped me get a taxi to drop me off at my rented accommodation and even let me use their mobile phone to speak to my flatmate. The University truly looked like a global village… a conglomeration of various cultures yet there was so much unity in diversity. The first impression of the University was awe-inspiring and as they say, “the first impression is the last impression” and this first impression has lasted indeed.