Adam Jarret

Independent Cultural Immersion Project

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Leicester

England

After my initial week in London was over, I made my way to Leicester and began to explore what would become my home for the next academic year. The international students arrived a week before the British students in order to take part in extended orientation programs designed to help us feel comfortable in our new surroundings and get through all the red tape so we could finally start to settle in. Very early on in the trip, I drew a parallel between what I was experiencing and the journey taken by the Holy Cross students in the Passport and Oddessy programs. I got a chance to meet other people about to embark on the same journey, and talk about each other's expectations for the trip. I actually began to get a bit annoyed with a few of the other Americans who seemed to do nothing but complain about minutia. In the end I can say that I primarily hung out with British people, as opposed to other international students, both because they were the people I was living with, and because there was part of me that wanted to put them under the bell jar. I did manage to make enough American friends to play a good old-fashioned game of American Football on Thanksgiving. On a side note, the Brits don't celebrate Thanksgiving and seem to have absolutely no idea why we do either. Pretty much everybody I talked to just assumed that we made up another eat-a-thon holiday, because it seems consistent with out culture.

 

 

I lived in university housing during term time and made fast friends with my hall-mates. We Skeffington House boys were a cohesive bunch and spent many a night on the town, along with the usual college-style mischief. The other residents were all first-years (I was the only American), which was fantastic because it meant they, like me, didn't really know anybody in Leicester. By the end of term we were about as close as you can get and I will miss them very much. I've invited everyone to come and visit me in America, and I hope someday a few will brave the exorbitant costs of trans-atlantic travel and let me repay some of the hospitality that they've shown me. I promised them many a cook-out (which they made fun of me for, because they only use the term barbecue) because in the final weeks before I left the weather was gorgeous and we all had nothing to do all day but sit around and grill.

 

 

There was one family in particular that welcomed me with open arms, and invited me into their home to stay three times over the course of the year. The Moss family treated me like one of their own; whether it was taking care of my stuff when I had to vacate my dorm room, or taking me to my first ever Rugby game (picture on the left: Jame's brother Dan, James and me with their father behind us), they always did everything they could to make me feel comfortable in my host country. From the very beginning, James always made sure to come and get me whenever people were going to a pub or club so I didn't feel left out, and was the first to offer me a place to stay for the first part of the Christmas holiday. Catered student accommodation buildings in Leicester are rented out for conferences over the breaks, which means everyone has to move themselves and all their stuff out of the dorms twice over the course of the year. This is something of a burden on international students, because while we can pay to rent a different room, it's a huge hassle to pack up all you stuff and not have a permanent place to put it. I owe the entire family a huge debt and sincerely hope that I can pay it forward someday.

Leicester is a funny place (for example, the picture to the right was taken in a pub). I say it is a funny place because it is unique even by English standards. Its a big industrial city with the heart of a little village. It's not the most beautiful city in terms of the breathtaking architecture of Oxford or Cambridge, but it does have a very homey charm and a great sense of history. For better or for worse I got a very "Worcester" vibe from the place; maybe a little sketchy in parts, but over-all not a bad place to live. What makes Leicester great in the eyes of students, is that there are so many of us. There are two fairly large universities in a very close proximity, which translates into a plethora of student nights with cheap drinks and plenty of people. The other aspect of Leicester that makes it unique is the enormous immigrant population, predominately of the muslim faith. This was a sort of learning experience in itself because it unfortunately brought out the more racist side of some of the people I met. It sort of re-solidified for me the idea that racism is everywhere and the only thing that changes from place to place is who hates who, which is a pretty sad thought.

I realize that I haven't actually talked very much about the University itself or the classes I attended. To be perfectly honest, this is because academia was far from the focus of this trip for me. I don't mean to say I flew 4,000 miles to have a year long party, but I was far more interested in what I could learn outside the classroom. I had more than a few people ask me what I was doing in England (the English have both a love and distaste for their own country) and the best I could tell them was that I was on an adventure. I would always start by telling them that I was here to study, but would have to eventually concede that there was no class I was taking here that I could not take at home, and that I was just after the change of surroundings and the chance to experience something different. I can say that the classes I took at Leicester were for the most part very enjoyable. I took a course in Criminology which focused on policing society both by discussing the actual laws that govern the police and the theories of how society should be policed. I also took a history course that focused primarily on the Enlightenment and the writings of Kant, which I enjoyed very much. During the second semester I took an English Literature course that dealt with post-modern writers like Beckett and Carter which I was greatly interested in, and a Computer Science course that dealt with the structure of Operating Systems and Networks. I took German to fulfil my HC language requirement during my time abroad as well. The professors were very accessible and friendly, but people ran into trouble on the administrative side of things. I didn't realize how spoiled I was by Holy Cross giving me one card that provides me with swipe access to buildings and rooms and serves as my library card/student id and keeps track of my meals and serves as an on-campus debit card. At Leicester NOTHING is on the same system. I have separate cards for every single aspect of my life at Leicester; my meal plan, the library, the sports hall, etc. The other thing I never thought about enough to think I'd miss is the STAR system at Holy Cross. This is the online service that Holy Cross students use to register for classes. The British start to specialize in education much earlier than we do and therefore pick a course of study at the start of University, where they take almost all of their classes. The curriculum is much more standardized, and deviating from it requires actually finding the professor for a signature. Since JYA students take a mishmash of classes, it was a scheduling nightmare! I don't mean to frighten any prospective Study Abroad students who might be reading this, because everything almost always works out. Whenever you have to deal with paperwork in the UK, you just have to breath and trust everything will come together eventually. In the end, you get to meet some fantastic people and make some great friends which makes each and every hassle worth it.

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