The Dutchess Diaries: the story of an Erasmus student in Notts

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The one topic everyone’s been talking about lately is the upcoming holidays. It might sound strange, but this year I actually felt a pang of sadness when I realised how fast the one-month holiday is approaching. Saying goodbye to my friends for four weeks feels weird. We have spent so much time together ever since we all arrived here in September. Back then, we were still nervous about settling in a new city and having to make friends while being away from everything that is familiar… Yet, with every day that passed we got more used to our lives in Nottingham and over time it has come to feel like a real home to all of us. While I am  really looking forward to seeing my family and friends back home again, I still cannot seem to get rid of the feeling that my exchange is just passing by way too fast…

Rather than thinking about how fast time is running away with me, I have decided to just try and make the best of every day I have left here. Over the past few weeks I have celebrated Bonfire Night, visited a classmate from Rotterdam in Leeds, traveled to London again, went to a number of really nice parties and took some time to enjoy the Christmas spirit that seems to be all around us. By the time you’ll read this, Bonfire Night will probably a faint memory to you, but for me it was quite a memorable night. In the Netherlands, there are – officially – only eight hours each year during which it is permitted to light fireworks: from 6 pm on December 31st  to 2 am on January 1st.  I find fireworks really special, and when I found out that there would be a fireworks display on November 5th I got almost embarrassingly excited… Standing there that night, surrounded by people who were all staring up at the glittery sky, I felt really happy.

The week after Bonfire Night was reading week at the School of Arts and Humanities. For some, this was the perfect time to finally catch up with the huge pile of readings that had accumulated over the first weeks of the term… For others, it was the time to catch up on some sleep and TV-shows. I, however, decided it was the perfect opportunity for me to visit two friends: one who is studying in Leeds, and the other who is studying in London. It was the first time ever for me in Leeds, and I really liked it! The city itself looked really pretty because of all the Christmas lights that were in the streets, and besides that, it was nice to catch up with someone from my home university to hear how she is experiencing her British student life. The visit to my best friend in London was –  just like the first time I went to see her – a bit like coming home. Even though I only stayed for two days, we managed to visit so many things. It felt as if I had been there much longer: we walked around the O2 Arena, visited the Tower of London to see the red sea of poppies that had been planted for Remembrance day, ate a kangaroo burger at Borough Market, took selfies with the Tower Bridge in the background and trolled along the Thames to finally end our day with a glass of cider in a cute pop-up lounge near the London Eye.

Despite the fact that London really must be one of the most magical cities in the world, I was also happy to return to Notts after two days. The week after my two mini-getaways, I had to go to my classes again on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. After that, I went out for dinner on Wednesday, saw the last part of the Hunger Games in the cinema (which was, like the two previous movies, great!) and  went to a Spanish party on Thursday.  I ended the week with the Christmas lights switch-on and the fireworks display on Friday. In spite of the light rain, it was such an enchanting evening. On top of that, we had a little party on Friday night to celebrate the 23d birthday of a friend. That night, singing ‘’happy birthday’’ with all my friends, after which we indulged in a heavenly sweet chocolate cake – those are the moments I never hope to forget. Because once again, it made me realise how lucky I am to call Nottingham my (temporary) home and this crazy bunch of people my friends.


May-Anne Oltmans




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