Horns meet World. World meet Marie Guermond. Marie was a Peer Advisor at the International Office and is now at the University of Exeter Study Abroad Office in Exeter. The University of Exeter offers research and study in sciences, social sciences, business, humanities, and arts.
Since graduating from the University of Texas 10 months ago, I’ve moved to England and I now work at the University of Exeter Study Abroad Office (good news my fellow liberal arts people – we can get jobs too!). So, we must consider the following: as a UT grad, I’m considered a Texas Ex. Exeter gets its name from the river Exe that flows through the town. So really, I’ve gone from Tex to Exe … and I’m now a full-fledged Texas Exe!
Lame word play attempts aside, I’ve been here since January, and I thought I would just tell you a little bit about what I’ve learned so far, if only to spare you the trouble of Googling “where on Earth is Exeter?”
No, Exeter is not London. Or in London. Or around London, and it doesn’t really need to be either. London is about 2.5 hours east of Exeter by train, and honestly I haven’t been there yet – why would I? For one thing, Bristol is just an hour away by train and it has officially been voted as the coolest city in all of England. Dartmoor, Cornwall, Bath, Wales, the Stonehenge… all are relatively close, and you can even walk to the beach from Exeter (granted it will take 4 hours, but still)!
The University of Exeter is different from the University of Essex, Exeter College in Oxford and the Phillips Exeter Academy. Exeter is in Devonshire, in the Southwestern bit of England – aka the Sunny Bit where all of the pale and glowing Northerners come to catch a glimpse of the sun and sand and happiness for a few weeks during the summer. Have I mentioned that it’s not in or anywhere near London?
As a Texan who hates driving, one of the things that I appreciate the most about Exeter is how walking can get you anywhere you need to be in 15 to 20 minutes. I’ve never had two movie theaters and three train stations at a walking distance from my house before! The town is also so compact that from its situation on a hillside, the university campus overlooks not only the 12th century cathedral in the center of town, but also the estuary that leads to the sea and the green rolling hills of the surrounding countryside.
Also, I finally understand the trope of English people talking about the weather all the time: it’s constantly changing, so there’s always new material for small talk! In my almost three months here, I’ve definitely developed a new appreciation for sunlight and springtime. While it does rain, it’s mostly a light drizzle that doesn’t merit an umbrella, but when the sun shines … the whole populace is suddenly overwhelmed by cheeriness. The campus is a particularly nice place to be in the spring, when the flowers first come out.
Enough about the place, what have I learned about the English and their quaint traditions? Lesson Number One: tea is a very serious affair, but tea without milk is worthless. Therefore, you must stock up on milk as much as possible, as if all of the British cows were suddenly going to vote to simultaneously leave the island.
Since I’m originally from France, I’m genetically programmed to make pretentious and obnoxious comments about the inferiority of British food, but I have to admit that I’ve reviewed my stance on fish and chips. For best results, find a dingy hole in the wall with a couple of plastic chairs, and ask for a huge slab of fried fish over a generous portion of chips, both dripping with vinegar, in several layers of newspaper that will rapidly develop grease stains. Settle yourself on a bench on a deserted pier, to better shiver alone in the cold humid wind, and then engage in battle with enraged seagulls with a tiny cardboard fork as your only weapon.
The thing about living on an island is that the sea is never far! And some brilliant people came up with the idea of a 630 mile long distance footpath that goes all around the Southwest Coast (in Cornwall, Devon, and Dorset). It’s perfect for indecisive people like me who don’t want to choose between a walk in the countryside or next to the sea; it’s also possible to enjoy nature with a healthy sprinkling of pubs and tea rooms in the various path villages.
Finally, trains in the UK are kind of like that annoying cousin who brings up politics during Thanksgiving dinner. You love them, you hate them, and you can’t picture your life without them. My favorite parts are the train stations with quays so small that the carriages won’t all fit and the train doors that can be conveniently only opened from the outside. Also this scenic seaside train route 20 minutes from Exeter:
So that’s it really. But maybe I’ve been lying this whole time, so who’s up for a fact checking mission next semester?