Hello! How are you doing?
After half a year of preparation for my Erasmus exchange semester in the UK I finally arrived in Coventry a week ago. The past week was full of different events. I’m going to tell about it here.
On the way to Birmingham
It all started on Friday, September 18th. My trip to Coventry was not a very short one. First, I had a two-hour flight from my hometown of Saint Petersburg to Copenhagen airport where I was supposed to change planes. Then I had to wait 3 hours there until my next flight. (I was so close to Malmö! I really wanted to get on a train and visit the city where I was living for a whole year.) After wondering around the airport and looking for a plug adaptor, which I found almost immediately, it was finally time to board the next plane which took me to Birmingham. The flight was 2 hours long again. After going through border control, which wasn’t that long and scary as I read on the internet, I took a taxi to a hotel where I spent my first night in Coventry because I couldn’t access my dorm that day.
The next morning I took my suitcases, checked out from the hotel, and headed to my dormitory. Luckily I had GPS navigation on my mobile phone so it wasn’t hard to find my way there.
Finding accommodation in Coventry was kind of a problem for me. Even though Coventry University arranges accommodation for exchange students, it is quite expensive. So initially I didn’t want to apply for it. Instead, I was hoping to find something myself. Unfortunately, it turned out almost impossible because most of the contracts for rent here are signed for 6-9 months minimum, while I needed a place for 4 months only. After several unsuccessful attempts to arrange accommodation myself, I realized that I had no other way but to apply for the university accommodation and accept the cost of it. I got a room offer in just a couple of days after sending the application. Then I paid rent for the whole stay at once, and was happy that I didn’t have to worry about it anymore.
Place where I stay in Coventry
Singer Hall of Residence
It’s called Singer Hall of Residence. There are around 50 blocks. Almost all blocks have 3 floors, and each floor has a flat with 6 single rooms, 1 kitchen, 1 shower, 1 bathroom, and 1 toilet. I share a flat with 5 girls – 4 of them are Dutch and 1 is French. So far we get along pretty well. 😀
The location of the halls is really good. Singer Hall is situated almost in the city centre, it takes around 7 minutes to get to the university from here. Living here also guarantees a free membership for a sports hall. (I have yet to check out the place, though.)
In general I am really content with the place where I live but there’s always a ‘but’. When I moved in, I found out that the kitchen was unequipped. There were no plates, no cups, no cutlery, nothing at all… So we had to either bring everything with us or buy it here. And as we are here for 4 months only, buying new stuff didn’t seem appealing at all. Oh well… we had no choice. At least we didn’t have to buy a microwave and a kettle – they were provided. So the first weekend in Coventry I spent unpacking and shopping for necessities in IKEA.
On the territory of Singer Hall, you can also find a communal area, where the reception, postboxes, and a laundry room are. Unlike dormitories in Sweden, you have to pay to do your laundry here. And yeah… it’s not cheap.
Saturday was an official arrival day for freshers and exchange students. It was also the first day of the Freshers’ week – a week full of parties. On Saturday there was a “Welcome Party” for all new students in a nightclub somewhere in Coventry. However, no one among people I know went there. Everyone was just exhausted after traveling.
On Sunday, when I came back to my new home after a trip to IKEA, I came across some extremely cheerful people who were collecting residents of Singer Hall for a pub crawl (another event of the freshers week). Not being a fan of that kind of having fun, I decided to skip the event and have a quiet evening reading a book instead. As I heard from some other exchange students later, the event went well, and everyone was amazed by how much the Brits could drink. 😀
Induction Week for Exchange Students
The first week of the university was an Induction Week. So on Monday morning all exchange students headed to the university to listen to information about the upcoming semester in Coventry. Finding the building where the first lecture was taking place was a bit of a challenge. The university is quite big and we just didn’t know where to go. After some time walking back and forth between the university buildings, our group of lost exchange students, which by then grew from 3 to 10 people, eventually managed to find where to go.
During the day we attended several lectures where we were welcomed at the university, told about how to use the library, how to enroll, and were also given some general information about living in Coventry.
In the evening there was another party for freshers that I decided not to attend. But again I heard that it was fun.
Societies Fair and Enrolment Problems
On Tuesday morning we had some more lectures. This time we received information about different modules and courses that we could study at Coventry as exchange students. All the courses were in the faculty od Business and Law. I picked some courses in the departments of social sciences and languages. I chose 3 different courses: Journalism, Ethics and Democracy, Foreign Policy Analysis, and A History of International Crime.
That was also a day for the non–EU exchange students like me to enroll to the university. Not everything went smooth with it, though. Unlike EU students, who could do enrolment online, I had to go to the Student Centre and enroll in person. For some reason the system didn’t want to let me enroll, so I had to consult the university staff several times. Only after the third attempt I finally managed to enroll. After the enrolment, I was able to collect my student ID – a card with picture (probably the worst picture I’ve ever had) that proves that I’m a student at the university here and allows to use the library facilities.
Erasmus Exchange Society
In the afternoon, the Societies Fair was held outside of one of the university buildings. At the fair lots of various societies were presented. A society is a group of people who have some common interest and usually meet up once a week to do whatever they like to do. Coventry university has more than 100 societies for each taste. I noticed several religious societies, societies for crafts lovers, bakers, musicians, dancers, scientist, mathematicians, and many others. So everybody can find something interesting to do here. All we needed to do at the fair was to leave our contact details at the society stalls that we found interesting, so the representatives of those societies could send us emails with more information later. Personally I left my email address to several societies. Among them were rock society, baking society, photography society, Erasmus society, a society with an interesting name and not very clear purpose ‘International Disaster Concern’, and some other societies that I don’t even remember now. However, to become a member of a society you have to pay a fee that ranges from 2 to 15 pounds. Obviously, I am not going to join all those societies, so I still have to choose what exactly I want to do here.
Trip to Birmingham
Birmingham New Street Station
As I eventually managed to enroll on my course, I didn’t have to go to the university on Wednesday. (There was only one session about enrolment that day). So I decided to join some other exchange students and go to Birmingham.
We decided to go there by train from Coventry. It took us around 15 minutes to walk to Coventry train station, and then 25 minutes to get to Birmingham city centre.
Birmingham Council Hall
First, we went to check out a big shopping centre, which was right in front of the train station there. But later also explored the city. We walked to Town Hall and the city library. Even though we didn’t really get to see much of the city, I still liked it a lot. So I will definitely go there again.
Also, Sports Fair took place on Wednesday. This time different sports that student could take up at the university were presented. As always, a lot of different things were displayed. Coventry University students are very lucky to have such a wide variety of activities. Among some typical kinds of sport, like football and basketball, very unusual ones, like skydiving, were presented. But as I’m here for one semester only, I don’t see much sense in joining any of them.
As I’ve already mentioned above I’m not really a party person, but on Thursday I decided to go out and have some fun. Moreover, it was an international party – a wonderful opportunity to meet new people from all over the world. The party was held in a night club. Students were given flags of their countries, so everyone could tell where the others were from. There were actually quite a lot of Swedish people at the party. I can’t say I met a lot of new people there, still I had fun and enjoyed the party a lot.
Overall Impression after a Week in Coventry and Some Other Comments
Today is Friday, so it means that it’s already been a week since I arrived in England. It also was the last day of the orientation week. Today we had a chance to sign our learning agreements as well as arrival forms. Without a doubt, the last week was a wonderful one (even the weather was nice most of the time here!)
As for the city… well, it looks nice and old. There’re a few things to see and do. Also, it’s located in the middle of England, so it’s quite easy to get wherever you want to from here.
I like many things about being here. I like that everything in Coventry is in a walking distance, so you don’t need to buy a bicycle or use busses. I also like that my new university provides so many opportunities to its students not only to study but also to be active even after their classes.
Of course, not everything is perfect about Coventry University. For example, organisation of the events for exchange students is not brilliant. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as ESN to bring all exchange students together at Coventry University. So Erasmus students should be proactive themselves, search for information, and join events for freshers when they feel like partying and meeting new people.
Also lack of information about events that were taking place during the first week from the university staff caused a bit of confusion among exchange students in the beginning. But, of course, one person can’t control everything. However, if we really needed to know something, we could always email a person who was responsible of the exchange students, and she would answer all our enquiries rapidly.
There were some other things about the UK that seemed a bit weird to me in the beginning, too. For example, sockets, separate taps for cold and hot water, and peculiar left-hand side traffic that was driving me crazy in the very beginning. Now I guess I am getting used to those things, though. At least I know where to look when I cross a road now. 😀
To sum up, I like being here. Despite all those small unpleasant things that I mentioned above, I do not regret coming to Coventry. I am sure this semester is going to be very interesting and full of unforgettable moments.
And if you actually managed to finish this, then I just want to thank you for reading!