Arriving as an overseas student, Fresher's Week parties, starting the course and making friends - Ankur's first experience as a new university student.
I can't believe it's Christmas break already. All the weeks since university started seem to have flown past so quickly. If I had one word to describe the journey so far, it would probably be hectic. If I got two words, the second would probably be an emphatic fun, and if I got three words...you get the point.
I'll be honest with you, the first couple of days at the university were quite depressing. As an overseas student I had to arrive a few days before the moving in weekend, which sound great ("Oh cool, I get more time to sort out stuff") until you actually end up at the halls of residence and realise that the whole campus is dead and there's nothing other than potted plants to speak to.
Nevertheless, the volunteers from the international team and the students union were oh-so-helpful with every little thing, so it was quite easy getting adjusted. The real party (figuratively and literally) started when everyone else began arriving that weekend.
Freshers' Week was jam-packed with introductions where we were "warmly welcomed to the University of Surrey" so many times that I've lost count. An astonishingly high number of these intros were on safety, but you probably would never again get to see the halls of residence warden putting up a picture of Darth Vader instead of his own photo to make a safety lecture "more engaging".
I signed up for a few societies during our Fresher's Fayre, and surprisingly I actually bothered to stay involved with events conducted by most of the societies I signed up for. But let's not forget the Fresher's week parties!
Moving to academics. It's been a fairly smooth ride for me so far, probably because most of the syllabus being covered during the first semester are topics that I have already studied in my A-level equivalents. Fair enough, the point is to get everyone on the course introduced the same basic level of proficiency. This is especially important when you have such a diverse student background as ours - we have around 150 students from so many countries. The so-called real work starts in the next semester.
The one thing that I have faced a steep learning curve in has been the electronics labs. I haven't covered this subject before, and it obviously takes time to pick up the basics. This is the case with most overseas students actually, so we pointed it out the university and they've decided to do an introduction to electronics-type workshop next year onwards. I still remember walking into the first lab class all charged up and getting baffled at the very first step on how to use a breadboard.
Also, I ended up breaking a drill-bit when drilling a PCB. Oops. I've improved vastly since then though.
Moving on to lighter stuff, I've had a great time at all the parties and pub crawls that have been held. Beyond studies, the two things that take up most of my time are the students union newspaper The Stag where I'm the copy-editor, and the student TV production MAD TV, where I'm on the technical team. I get to film in and around campus, edit footage, proofread articles for the newspaper and rush to meet deadlines. I've made some great friends with fellow team members, and many students recognise me from my work in both outlets.
I've also joined Spanish language classes, and have a part-time job with one of the university's organisations involved in conducting workshops and such. I told you that life has been hectic so far, but I'm loving it!
The one thing that has stood out so far is the ability to interact with an incredibly diverse set of people. You can sit down to have a cup of coffee with someone from a country you don't know much about by the end of a conversation, each of you walk away with that little bit more information about the world around you. Making friends with people from different countries, that's definitely been the most interesting aspect of university life so far.