Until now I had always bore the pressure of intense competition and never had time to think about myself. After entering university, I realised that I’m now socially regarded as an adult, though I cannot really sense that myself. I yearned for time to myself in some remote isolated environment where I could reflect along and become a ‘real’ adult. Moreover, I had always thought of living overseas one day in a foreign country. Studying abroad seemed to be the best way to fulfill both my desires, so I decided to prepare for an exchange.
Inspiration for artists, the United Kingdom
I visited London a few years ago, and it left a great impression. At the time, I thought, if I were to live in another country, it’d be the UK. For some reason, I loved the typical misty, foggy, and rainy weather of the UK because it seemed to reveal a genuine and unique atmosphere. The weather inspired me to think and write about various things. Also, because I am a fan of the series Sherlock, I hoped one day to look around places mentioned in the episodes in person.
To all Harry Potter and Sherlock fans, the UK is the place for you. You should visit there at least once in your life. Among the places to visit are Platform 9 3/4 at London King’s Cross station, 221B Baker Street, and The Shambles in York (or the Victorian Street in Scotland)—better known as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series, but there are many other places that were used as filming locations in movies and dramas. Moreover, the country inspired countless artists, so there are endless galleries, museums, and parks worthy of visiting all over the UK. Thankfully, I had an opportunity to visit them as an exchange student in the UK.
Sheffield is the third-largest city in South Yorkshire, England and has two universities: the University of Sheffield where I studied and the Sheffield Hallam University. With two universities in the city, most of the people living in the Sheffield are students. They study until late night at libraries, jog around the school residences every morning, and go to pubs and bars with their friends in the evenings to relax.
Sheffield also has a magnificent national park: the Peak District. One of the most famous places in the Peak District is Chatsworth House. It is better known as Pemberley, the mansion of Mr. Darcy, in the film <Pride and Prejudice (2005)>. The mansion has several water fountains, parks, garden footpaths, state rooms, a grand hall, and a sculpture gallery which all together unite in harmony to stimulate artisans’ desires. The city centre of Sheffield is usually crowded with family, friends, and lovers. Its clock tower at the city hall resembles a miniature Big Ben, and at Moor Market, people can buy fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, and cheese at reasonable prices. The city is also home to various restaurants, pubs, shops, and cinemas providing all the services and goods in a kindly manner.
At the University of Sheffield, I took 50 credit modules during the spring semester and 60 credit modules during the autumn semester. One module equates to 20 credits and normally consists of lectures and a seminar. Seminars are based on course content; for instance, after learning content one class, the next class students will talk about issues or ideas raised in the lecture. Therefore, lecture revision and additional independent study are necessary in order to participate actively in class.
To prepare for course seminars, I spent a lot of time at the libraries during the weekdays. I read required researches and books and also read supplementary readings to better understand the lecture’s content more precisely. I returned home at dinner time. I shared a kitchen with my flatmates in the school residence, so we often cooked together. If I didn’t cook at home, I went to a pub or restaurant to eat. After dinner, I rested, did additional study, or went to the gym for about an hour. That was my daily routine.
Traveling about UK at weekends
During the weekend, I travelled to other cities and towns in the UK with the Give It A Go (GIAG) program. GIAG is a programme hosted by the university. Students buy tickets, which are sold in box offices, and the school provides a coach ride with entrance tickets to various attractions such as the Harry Potter studio, Alnwick Castle, and Cadbury World. It operates continuously and always changes its itinerary so students can visit several places in the UK relatively inexpensively without the headache of transportation. GIAG also provides a Residence Life discount for any student living in the school residences.
However, because GIAG moves as a group, time matters. Therefore, I needed to rush at times. I had to look around the whole place within the specified time limit. There were cities I would have like to have had more time to explore, but I need to rush. Then, on other days, I took the train or a bus to revisit some cities I would like to have had time to travel more with friends. I went to Edinburgh, York, Manchester, Chatsworth, and Bakewell. I had to book a ticket in advance, and though it was slightly more expensive than a GIAG ticket, I still could fully enjoy the visit and had the freedom to decide whether to stay longer or make it just a day trip.
Visiting Europe during the vacation
For most of the UK, one only needs a day trip. However, exchange students can spend most time of their vacation if they wish to visit other European countries besides the UK. As an exchange student during the spring semester, students will have a 3-week Easter break in April, and exchange students in the autumn semester can make use of the Christmas holidays. I went to Paris for a week during Easter break, and I will go to Austria, Germany, and London over the Christmas holidays. I took the bus to Paris, but I will travel by air to Frankfurt. By booking early, students can travel around various countries in Europe at affordable and reasonable prices. Moreover, students can visit tourist destinations for free or at discounted prices if they show their university IDs in the European countries, so it’s best to do a bit of research before going.
Searching for the answers
‘How should I live?’ This is a question I will not likely ever be able to answer. It will always change after each experience I have. However, the year I spend in the UK as an exchange student will lead me closer to the answer. Studying, exercising, traveling, and going to exhibitions are definitely things I could do in Korea as well. Nevertheless, as a person who focused solely on being accepted into university and then job preparation in Korea, I feel liberated from those worries and live freely in Sheffield. If you decided to become an exchange student, I hope you take all you can from the experience. You will be entering a completely new environment where no one knows you. There I hope you think about your response to ‘what kind of life should I live?’ and try to capitalise on the experience as an exchange student.