Well, I had always heard that the one year postgraduate courses are intensive, yet exhaustive and you won’t even realise how time flies. So, as an international student, whilst you have not even found a firm ground and some peace of mind from the numerous chores: finding a decent place to stay, striking some sort of bonhomie with the new flatmates, attending Fresher’s events, getting used to lectures…. sometimes six hours in a day, coping with the initial jolt of the course as you are amazed at the level of peers in the class, finally deciding on your optional modules (one word of advice here, always go for modules you have genuine interest in, weigh all the pros and cons before selection and definitely do not go for a module just because your friends are bent upon choosing that…. else you shall repent later..... believe me…. I can say so from my personal experience) and the pain of preparing your own meals and so on and so forth ……that suddenly you find yourself getting absorbed in the vicious circle of assignments and course work and find yourself circling dates in your diary and chasing deadlines.
But you’ll realise that you have to make the most of your time here as opportunities are a little too many at university and some sort of time management will be required – and the sooner the better. So, there are numerous clubs to join as per your interest be it salsa, theatre or photography and numerous activities to choose from. Well, one of the things which caught my attention as I was settling in was the host UK programme. On this programme, an international student gets an opportunity to spend a weekend with a British family and this programme is run in collaboration with the University. Well, I applied and was so glad that our university was running such a programme for the benefit of international students as I thought there would be no better means of understanding a different culture.
So, I was offered an opportunity to spend a weekend in November with a family in Oxfordshire in a small town called Abingdon. Needless to say, I was already too worked up with assignments and deadlines and was desperately looking forward to some respite and I immediately agreed. Coincidentally, a classmate from Ghana and myself had been invited together by the same family. I was particularly excited at having got such an opportunity and was thrilled to get a message from the host explaining how to reach Oxford from Southampton and the directions to meet her.
We were promptly received at Oxford bus station by Mrs Hancox, our host for the weekend. On our drive back home in the evening, she told us about the plans she had made for us during the weekend and it all sounded good. It was a really enriching experience for me as this was the first time I was spending some time with a British family. After a warm welcome at home by Mr Hancox and a brief chat about ourselves, we settled down for dinner. We were served a typical British dinner – fish pie and roast potatoes with wine and a lemon cake for dessert and to say the least – it was awesome.
With the Hancox family
Post dinner, as we sipped our coffee, we had a very lively discussion about our cultures. Mrs Hancox had visited India once long ago and she was quite curious about the growth story of India. She was well-read and was quite impressed at my decision to come to the UK for my Masters at such a difficult stage in my life.
The next day we visited a local school and attended their Christmas fair. The mood was jubilant and one could sense the arrival of Christmas. We did participate in a few games and even won a prize for Mrs Hancox. Later in the day, we went to Abingdon city centre and the cathedral. We spent the whole afternoon walking around with Mrs Hancox as she explained the history of Abingdon. In the evening, we attended an opera in a church, which was being conducted to raise money for a church in Russia. It was the most beautiful part of the whole stay. I had never attended an opera before and stood mesmerised at the performance. We even went to a local pub in the evening for a drink. It was quite an eventful day carefully planned by Mrs Hancox for her guests and all I can say is – kudos to her planning.
The town of Abingdon
The next day, we went to Oxford town. I had always wanted to visit this place as back in India I had heard a lot about Oxford and Cambridge and these two university towns had a special place in my heart. It was a great experience to visit Nuffield College, which our great economist Prime Minister had attended.
As the day came to an end, and we reached the Oxford bus station for our return journey, I realised how quickly the weekend had passed. I was truly grateful to the Hancox family for spending a memorable weekend with me, making me feel a part of their lives and giving me an opportunity to soak up the British culture.