Leaving home to get home

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Time in the past few weeks just flew by and I still cannot believe that I am right now sitting at the airport, waiting for my flight to take me to Germany for the Christmas holidays. Part of the reason for why time went by so quickly surely is that there were so many things to do lately. All those essays that are quite different to the ones I write in Germany, had to be written, seminars and presentations to be prepared and books needed to be read. Luckily I ended up enjoying the topics of every single one of my essays and even got used to the idea of a certain word count, which was something completely new to me. But especially the interesting topics – owed to a wide range of questions all students get to pick from – made the long days at the library a lot more enjoyable, than it may sound at the first instance. After all, I still managed to make enough time to meet some new people, build friendships and spend a beautiful afternoon in York with my friend Lea. And when all the work for the first term was finally done, the last lesson of my short-fat module was over and all essays were handed in, I decided to treat myself with a long awaited trip to Edinburgh that turned out to exceed all expectations and to be the perfect end to a great term.

Getting used to the routine with classes and studying, being more familiar with the city and building true friendships with some people, also brought me to realize, that there is more than one way to arrive in a new place. At first I just arrived physically, getting off the plane, arriving to Durham, not sure yet what exactly was expecting me. Somewhat later my mind arrived, as it just needed a little bit longer than a two hour flight, to feel all of this to be real. Finally, arriving with the heart and developing a sense of ‘home’ for a newplace however did require some more time. For this I needed to know, that Iwill do well with my assignments, that I will be able to learn a lot at university, that there are people to turn to when I face a problem and that I have built up trusting friendships in this new city. Being in the lucky position to feel more and more assured of all this during the past weeks, I am now sitting at the airport with this curious feeling of leaving home and going home at the same time. It may seem a bit contradictory at first, if you haven’t yet lived abroad, but once you come here, I am sure you will be able to understand what I mean.

my regular view of the sunrise on my walks to uni – a sight I will certainly miss during the Christmas break

I cannot wait to get off the plane and take the train to Marburg, where two of my dearest friends will be waiting for me at the station, because finally hugging them again is long overdue. I also can’t wait to spend Christmas with my brother, as it just wouldn’t feel like Christmas if we didn’t decorate the tree together and didn’t prepare a delicious Christmas dinner, so of course it will be wonderful to be back again and to catch up with everyone. But apart from that I am also very much looking forward to the next term at Durham university. Of course once again I won’t know what exactly will happen in the future, but I have a far better idea of what to expect and this time, when I take the plane in January, I won’t be travelling to the unknown, but I will be returning home instead. And knowing that ‘home’ isn’t necessarily defined by just where one is from, but can be anywhere we are going to, is a wonderful feeling that was once again confirmed by this exchange year in Durham.

I hope you will all have a wonderful christmas break!

Squirrels and muscle pain

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As I gained weight the last time I stayed in the UK, I already accepted that a few extra pounds would be inevitable during my Erasmus year (‘cause bangers and mash, scones, jaffa cakes…). But hell was I mistaken. For a person who’s only used to the flat Flemish scenery, walking in Durham feels like climbing mountains. My department lies next to the cathedral and if you know Durham a bit or if you’ve seen pictures of Durham, then you know the cathedral and the castle are the highest points in the city. This all means that I basically had a sore bum for a week. But hey, I’m not complaining as it’s free exercise and to be fair the walks in Durham are just wonderful.

Next to bum training, I also play squash. I’ve been wanting to get proper squash training forever, so I went to the trials of the University’s squash club and got into the squash development squad! Yay! A tip for people spending their Erasmus adventure in Durham next year, do go to the freshers’ fair! All sports clubs and societies gather for you to be explored. There are so many clubs/societies, that I’m sure, there’s one out there for everyone. Squash, Rowing, crafting, wine & cheese society, gin society… There’s even a Harry Potter society (you can try quidditch!!!). And even if you’re not that into sports and societies, it’s still worth going as there are gadgets and free food, which is kind of a reason in itself to go, isn’t it?

As well as squash, I signed up for a ‘learning how to row’ course. I can now proudly say I know the basics of rowing. Who knew it actually takes some brain work to figure out when exactly you should stretch certain limbs and how to coordinate your movements!? But I felt I had to try it as rowing is such a typical university sport in the UK. I really liked it as I felt focussing on staying in tune with fellow rowers created peace and quiet in my head. It’s a really good way to start the day and I definitely recommend it!

Apart from sports, I also became a member of the Theology Society. They organise fun socials and next week we’re going to York to explore York minster and the Christmas markets! Mulled wine, ice skating and bratwurst, here I come!

So while hiking between lectures, squash training and fun outings, my favourite pastime is spotting squirrels. Yes, that’s right, those cute brown little mammals that have the most gorgeous tails ever. As my student accommodation lies next to some woodland, I spot a few each week and I feel like a 6-year-old all over again. I can’t help it, I get so excited when I see them. On the question on why I get all happy and smiley on the sight of a rodent, my answer is quite similar to one from the beginning of this blog post: the West-Flemish scenery I’m used to. I live near the seaside and apart from seagulls and tourists, we don’t really have any funny-looking creatures exploring our beaches.

To sum up: mixed feelings on Durham’s hills, grateful for all the possibilities to join clubs and societies, and feeling like a kid when I see squirrels.

Tot de volgende!

Kelly

some nice spots I found while walking in Durham 🙂

squash and learning how to row

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[Overview] Life in Durham

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Now almost all the blogs are about Durham and trips elsewhere–but I believe it would be hard to stick to these two topics later. We cannot always be travelling and discovering, and after settling down for a while excitement will be rinsed away and there are no more to tell about–Durham is beautiful but tiny, university life in Durham is different but not so much from our home countries. We are surprised by the differences here at first sight, but then we discover the similarities beneath them.

So I decide to write down something more personal–not only about trips, just like a diary, to summarize my thoughts and feelings during my exchange. Continue reading