Check out one chapter from Malwina’s Kent story, as experienced as part of the European Erasmus Exchange for Postgraduates (Master) programme. Malwina came to the University of Kent in 2010 from Poland.
The beginning of my Kent adventure in this region of England was warm and sunny. I was lucky enough to feel the Summer. Weekend trips around the area were one of the best attractions. Lovely Whitstable, Herne Bay, Sandwich, Broadstairs, with delicious seafood and Faversham, Ramsgate, Folkestone, Dover, Maidstone, mostly within reach of city buses or half an hour’s drive…, beautiful cliffs by the North Sea, rocky beaches, delicious fresh fish, mild sun and pleasant wind. It all made me feel like I was on an eternal vacation, and who doesn’t like them?
Autumn was also full of charm and typical British rainy weather happened literally several times. For the past 10 years, I remember an image of the Autumn campus, full of mystery, with delicate lanterns’ light, which created the atmosphere of peace and, at the same time, great excitement. October and November on the Canterbury campus were full of the most beautiful evenings I have experienced so far in England. Every day, when dusk fell, a social life began – full of dance, positive energy and lots of friends. One such memorable event was the Halloween celebration, with a lot of creativity expressed through atmospheric decorations, fancy costumes and pastries, such as small meringue ghosts – thanks to our neighbours culinary talent.
Before 2010 this was the worst time of the year for me, I never liked it. However, after my stay in Kent, I see a magical time in it. The vegetation on campus remained lush and green, many of the shrubs shining with red fruit balls that we pinned in our hair at Christmas Eve dinners.
As Winters in this part of England are not necessarily cold, the heavy snowfall and the ubiquitous icicles hanging from the roofs of college buildings and campus dormitories caused a great stir among the University staff. Classes were suspended for safety, deadlines postponed for submitting term assignments, warnings at every step to walk carefully and to watch out for ice taught me something completely new – taking much more care of myself. In Poland, before the warming of the climate, severe, frosty winters, full of snowdrifts, were a standard. Therefore, due to unfavourable weather, no one cancelled the classes or showed special sympathy to late students. The culture of England with the famous “mind the gap” in the London Underground showed me tenderness towards myself, a more understanding look and a sense of warmth, even on cold winter days.
Besides, winter in Great Britain is a peculiar thing, about which it would also be worth devoting a few books of various literary genres. One of the scenes that touched me greatly took place on the way from the University hills to Canterbury located in the valley. We were walking with a friend in the early morning. It was completely dark, but we wanted to catch the first bus to London. It was probably 6am and we were gliding in down jackets through the frosty air, passing houses with well-kept gardens full of Christmas decorations. Suddenly, we saw cosy lights in a classically British, semi-circular bay window. At that moment, thanks to this scenery, I felt the magic of Christmas, the charm of the winter season. It was like an invitation to plunge into an armchair, cover with a blanket, light the fireplace or candles, and enjoy the long evenings that encourage strangeness in the warmth of a home fire.
Spring. I have not experienced it in Kent, but I have fond memories of it from my stay in Scotland. Only Spring was missing from this seasonal rhythm on campus, but my professional work did not allow me to extend my stay at the University for the next semester as many of my local friends did. I was no longer a “young” student, I was full time working Ph.D. student, just turning 30.