Bongu [hello]! Since my last article, I have arrived on the beautiful island of Malta, and over the last few weeks I have been trying to settle into the island life and learn how to navigate my semester abroad.
So much has happened already, Brexit for one (thankfully though nothing has changed yet)! I’ve started lectures, and made it through the orientation period, and I will be moving soon so I can begin to settle properly. I thought I would keep this article on the theme of trying to navigate somewhere completely new, beyond the literal meaning. So, in the sense of finding my place within this community as an international student (a role previously foreign to me) how to navigate the ‘social norms’, food, drink, and a whole new campus and way of teaching/studying. All this forms part of coping with the initial culture shock of arriving in a new country.
For me, the moment my plane dipped below the clouds to land at Malta’s international airport in Luqa, it dawned on me that I was landing in this country and would likely not return to the UK until July.
In terms of social norms and navigating conversation, the only reason anyone appears to know where or what a Norwich is, is if they follow football and therefore know NCFC, or at least one of their national players who have played there. Within the first few moments of conversation with any new person (usually following the ‘where are you from’ segment), Brexit is immediately the topic of conversation, usually out of genuine curiosity. Thankfully there was a campus tour, and I feel I have taken for granted how well I know UEA now, and how confusing a new campus can be. Luckily all of our teaching takes place in the relevant faculty building.
Another huge difference, is that here are only a very small handful of ‘student associations’, most of which are academically focused, a stark contrast to the 250+ societies at UEA. This provided a new challenge for me, as I have been active in many societies and clubs at UEA and this is where I made friends and really settled into university life. There is a strong Erasmus Students Network (ESN), which provides many opportunities for international students, and arranges club nights/parties and occasionally hikes and sporting opportunities. Luckily, I enjoy most sports and being active, so I have been able to connect with other students through ESN who like playing pool, and have found a touch rugby team made up of overseas visitors.