Phew. Long break between my goodbye post and this one. Apologies folks, I’ve been busy with trying to get a hang of this place so that I don’t get lost while trying to go from place A to place B. I’m past that disorientation stage now so I can afford to write this blog post.
I arrived at Heathrow on a direct from Delhi, Jet Airways. Boy, everything almost got screwed up when I left all my original documents (visa, allocation letters, etc) back at home when I got to the airport. Thankfully, dad rushed back home and got the documents within time. Must commend the driving skills of my driver to go to and fro RK Puram from the airport within 20 minutes! :O On-board I spent most of my time watching movies on the in-flight entertainment system. I was very concerned before boarding regarding what Jet Airways’s policy is on excessive laughing; the movie specials for this month included The Hangover and Angels & Demons. I have an answer to that question now, and it is – no, they won’t throw you off the plane without a parachute.
My flight landed at Heathrow around 6.30pm local time. Proceeded to immigration soon, where I was glad I packed a chest X-ray in my hand baggage. Because of this swine flu outbreak they’re pretty strict about health control. My immigration was processed within 30 minutes, but those who hadn’t brought a chest X-ray suffered a lot since they had to wait for many hours in a separate line.
Our university had a meet-and-greet scheme at the airport and I soon tracked them down by the blue t-shirts with the university logo they were wearing. The uni was operating a bus shuttle from the airport to campus every 90 minutes, so I waited for some time at the airport along with other Surrey students. We finally left at around 21:15 and reached university at exactly 21:42. Should’ve seen how excited I was when I saw the time. :D
It was night when we reached the university, and yet the first thing that you see when you reach is this majestic statue of the university logo – a stag holding a key. This is a new sculpture which was unveiled this year in February.
From that day till today, I’ve been busy setting things in order here. When I arrived, the whole campus was pretty empty because only international students had moved in, but since yesterday a lot of UK and EU students have been moving in so the liveliness of this place is definitely going up. I hadn’t registered for a lot of trips organized to the local area (I didn’t know we had to register online, and by the time I had they were fully booked) but I went on my own to Guildford High Street. Really nice place! It’s not a particularly large town since if you want you can walk to most parts within 30-40 minutes, but we have a local bus service here operated in association with the University of Surrey which you can take for going almost anywhere (I got a yearly pass). Found out that human nature is the same everywhere (or maybe not). And one look at the number of Audis, BMWs, Mercedes, et al along on the roads should be enough to tell you that this is one of the richest parts of England.
Folks at the university – staff, new students, old students, members of the student – are all really friendly. We were taken around on campus tours after which I finally know the place well enough to navigate around. Except for the teaching buildings, which all have weird names like AA, AB, AX, AZ, BB; those aren’t even codes, simply the names of the buildings. On campus, we have around 8 or so restaurants / cafes, a laundrette, a supermarket with post office, a bank (NatWest, I opened an account with them yesterday), a bookshop, a massive library collection…
There’s a Tesco supermarket nearby which is huge. Think of something you can buy – and then some more – and you’ll find it there. Including packed chapatis and and ready-to-eat Indian food. I was a bit perplexed when I saw the Maggi packs at Tesco marked as ‘Manufactured by Nestle India’. Doesn’t Nestle bother to make Maggi locally? I’ve mostly been eating microwave dinners since I don’t know how to cook.
At the university, I’m staying in Stag Hill Court. It’s close to practically all important places on campus – Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, most of the restaurants, Students Union offices, administrative buildings. This is where all the action is, so I’m happy! Students are allocated rooms in individual ‘house’ units, with 10 people staying per house. We get free insurance, free Internet connection with blazing fast speeds. We also have individual VOIP-based landline phones in each room operated by Freewire with extremely cheap call rates; a free TV channel package is also thrown in with this bundle. For a quick tour of my room, watch the video above (or click through on the link).
We had an international welcome and dinner day before yesterday where we got to socialize with all international students. Yesterday we had a party at Chancellors (practically next door to my house) where a new band called The Likeness played cover versions, especially good ones from the Foo Fighters (Learn To Fly too!). Now that UK/EU students are also moving in, there are lots and lots events lined up starting from Monday onwards.
More Surreyal experiences later!