February 6, 2015, by International students

Finding home away from home: volunteering in Nottingham

Moving to a country like UK, which has a totally different culture and environment from my home country, Indonesia, was challenging at first for me. I thought I would miss the sense of living within a close-knit community, and of course, the tropical sun that I could always enjoy every day at home. It turned out that I was right about missing out the warm weather, but absolutely wrong about not finding a friendly warm community. Almost six months being 7,500 miles away from home, I feel like I am finding a second home.

Team TuesdayThat is the feeling I get through joining Tasty Tuesdays in Lenton. As the name suggests, this weekly event of serving out free dinner for people living around Lenton, Nottingham, runs every Tuesday. This service is organized by Lenton Centre, the Crocus Cafe and two churches in the area – the Thomas Helwys Baptist Church and the Holy Trinity Church. Nottingham Students Volunteer Service also provides supports by sending some volunteers. Every Tuesday, around 20-30 people come and gather for dinner, from 6–7:30pm. Some people even prefer to stay until around 8pm to just have a chat with each other.

Helping out serving dinner and doing the dishes for several times, has given me a chance to get to know and joke around with some people. Sometimes, I still get some difficulties understanding some of their thick British accented jokes and fast speech; at other times, I will teach them some vocabulary in Indonesian language. But most of the time, I will feel happy to be able to just sit with them, and listen to their stories, ranging from how they get to England, to their dogs or kittens. When I am lucky, I will also get tips and tricks about how to train pigeons and to do the dishes right!

Another thing that I enjoy from volunteering at Tasty Tuesdays is that the conversation I have with many interesting people. The people I talked with range from a minister who has been to Nepal for missionary work to a kind lady who is passionate about free-range eggs. One of many memorable conversations I had was a snap chat with a modest friendly lady, who turned out to be a Nottingham South MP, Lilian Greenwood. She came to Tasty Tuesdays to both help out and to hear first hand from people about problems or things currently happening around Nottingham South. There, people shared their concerns about parks, trees and other matters. For me, finding an MP coming down to a community centre and listening to people’s problems is something new. I learned from her example that to be a good leader is to be willing to reach out people instead of waiting people to contact them first. I found that Tasty Tuesday is not only a place to enjoy dinners; it is more of a place where people can come and share stories, thus tying up the woven of community among them.

Lilian Greenwood MP

Lilian Greenwood MP

This kind of connection with local people is what I thought I would miss from home. Volunteering at Tasty Tuesday, getting to know some people, listening to their stories and just sitting with them, is one of the things I have never expected when coming to UK. This sense of belonging and community atmosphere that is offered by Tasty Tuesday is what has broken my stereotype of non-friendly Britons and offered homey atmosphere in Nottingham. What is better than studying at a place where you could find a home away from home, isn’t it?

Puput Arfiandhani, an international student from Indonesia studying MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at The University of Nottingham.

This post is also available in: Indonesian

Posted in Cultural integrationFoodVolunteering