February 26, 2016, by International students

“I have two sisters in Nottingham now”: Making a British friend

Being someone who grew up going on road trips with my family back in Malaysia, that is something I truly miss since arriving here in Nottingham. When Georgina sent me a message suggesting to visit Chatsworth, I couldn’t be happier when I looked at Google Maps – because it means road trip!

Picture 1

Georgina posing with a peace sign (She’s more Asian than I am)

When I read about the International Family Link Programme via an email I received in October 2015, I instantly applied for it as I knew this was the best opportunity for me to experience Great Britain – through a local’s eyes. I was delighted that I was selected to be part of this programme and I was literally counting down the days to meet my host, Georgina Barclay. It was a pleasant surprise when I found out I was paired with Yumiko, another student from Japan. Meeting both of them at the Introductory Event felt almost like a blind date, you know you’ve been paired with someone but you don’t know who they are! It was a lovely evening and I’m glad to know I have two sisters in Nottingham now.

Picture 2

Yumiko, Georgina and I at the Senate Chamber Room in Trent Building

The journey to Chatsworth was a nerve-racking one for Georgina. She had just passed her driving test and this was her second time attempting a motorway. It didn’t help that the GPS brought us through a longer more adventurous route but the whole journey was a beautiful one as we saw endless green lawns and lots of dairy cows. The picturesque view left me speechless and I couldn’t wait to see what was awaiting at Chatsworth.

When we arrived at Chatsworth, I was in awe. Being close to nature was one of the things I wanted to do while studying in the UK and to be at Chatsworth was a wonderful feeling. The best part is, I didn’t even tell Georgina about it. As we walked along the garden, she shared with me childhood stories and how she would visit this place every other year with her family and their dog for day trips. That brought warmth to my heart as it reminded me of the times I’ve gone on day trips away from the city with my family and my dog. Learning about her life and listening to her stories gave me a good idea about how it’s like growing up in England.

Picture 4

To the left is the Chatsworth House

After a leisurely walk, we attempted the maze thinking it would be an easy one. We burnt quite some calories spending close to an hour trying to solve the maze but it was fun. It felt almost like we fought an army to finally reach the centre of the maze. We had lunch right after that!

Picture 5

After solving the maze. Standing on a pedestal overlooking the tall maze.

Perhaps one of the best parts of the trip was when we had a heart-to-heart talk about our future plans. It struck me that all of us are not that different after all. We may have been brought up in different cultures, speak different languages and look rather different but we share similar hopes, dreams, dilemmas and challenges in life. We sleep, we eat, we laugh and we cry. We aren’t that different after all, are we?

Picture 6

Looking happy after some hot chocolate

After our lunch break, we went into the Chatsworth House and I was in awe again. I have never seen so many Christmas trees in my life. There was at least one tree in every corner of the house! I loved its quaint charm and the theme wasn’t unfamiliar to me since I grew up with The Wind in the Willows.

Picture 7

My favourite room in Chatsworth House

On our trip back to Nottingham, we listened to a mix of English and Asian songs while we got stuck in the traffic. We talked about random things and I also had some mysteries solved. I finally knew the reason behind why ‘Leicester’ is pronounced the way it is including ‘Gloucester’, ‘Derby’ and ‘Edinburgh’. I have also always been really puzzled as to why people greet each other saying ‘are you alright?’ instead of ‘how are you?’. The whole journey was filled with lots of laughter.

Christmas at Chatsworth surely is a very memorable one for many reasons. This is by far the best Christmas present I have received from anyone and I truly appreciate the effort that Georgina has made in driving me all the way to Chatsworth to experience a different kind of Christmas. It was unfortunate that Yumiko could not join us as she has gone off to Timor-Leste as part of her PhD research the week after the Introductory Event. I am looking forward to Yumiko’s return in February and hopefully we will make another road trip with the three of us this time.

I would like to extend a big heartfelt gratitude to the team behind International Family Link Programme for giving me the opportunity to be part of this wonderful initiative. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to experience all these.

By Wei Choo, an international student from Malaysia studying MSc Work and Organisational Psychology at The University of Nottingham.

If you’re a current student and have made great friendships at Nottingham, you can share your photos and stories in the #MeantToBe competition for a chance to win weekly prizes.

Posted in FriendsTravel