It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these and I am DEFINITELY rusty so bear with me!
I’m currently living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina as a student at the University of North Carolina. I’ve been here for 2 weeks today – it’s FLYING by. We arrived on a very delayed flight into a VERY cold North Carolina. There was probably a few inches of snow on the ground and everywhere else was a pure ICE RINK. Hairy to say the least. The journey in the car to the university was only marginally terrifying – at least it was dark! I think it was around -9 degrees. COLD. I met a bunch of other English students on the plane and we met up the following day to have a wander about and figure out where we are. This was the Monday before classes start and the whole campus was DESERTED. It was so so quiet, it felt like a ghost town. Apparently nobody really arrives until the DAY before class and especially with the snow & ice (melting pretty quick at this point) everyone had stayed at home to wait it out. We went to a cafe (cafe? restaurant? place???) and had PANCAKES. First American diner/cafe/eatery experience and it was great. It’s a long thin cafe (I’m going with cafe, it’s quickest to type) and along one wall is the kitchen (ish) and the tables are lined up in booths in the middle of the room. It’s pretty cool. Which takes me to my favourite thing ever: FREE COFFEE REFILLS!! I thought this was just something they did in Gilmore Girls but it’s real and magical (even if the coffee isn’t…). So a bunch of us did brunch (ha!) and had a look around.
First impressions of the campus: it’s ENORMOUS. It’s not just big in the way that it’s massively spread out (which is true) but it’s big as in every building is RIDICULOUS, they’re all at least 4 stories tall. And GOD FORBID any of them SHARE A WALL with another. They’re all freestanding, the same as the houses. I’m not sure why this baffled me as much as it did, I think because it’s a built up town but set out with houses built all individually and isolated like they’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s bizarre. Also it’s true- you can’t walk to basically anywhere useful. You need a car for pretty much everything. There are a couple of places that are walkable which I think are TECHNICALLY pharmacies but they sell snacks and some odd bits and bobs (and beer!! Pharmacies with beer…).
So fast forward a couple of days, classes have started and there are finally people in my residence halls. I’m in Ruffin halls – there’s about 12 rooms on each floor (each with two people living in them, of course) and a shared bathroom and kitchen space. I say kitchen when what I really mean is:
It makes no sense to me!!! They put the prices of everything on the walls and I still cannot comprehend the logic in spending $6000 ON A MASSIVE ICE MACHINE?!! Surely cupboards or a FRIDGE would have been much handier??
Anyway! I met my roommate, she’s lovely & started classes. I’m taking two biology courses, a public speaking course and a women’s studies class (!) – also a tiny one hour a week class on foreign policy- spotted by mum (!!!). The classes are rarely in traditional big lecture form – one of my biology & women’s studies are because they’re so busy – but the others are probably 15-20 of us sat around a table and it feels much more informal. I was terrified of class participation but actually it feels much less intense when you’re actually in it.
So the campus is pretty much based around a central quad – called The Pit (it’s literally a pit, a couple steps lower than everywhere else). It’s the main meeting area on campus and where every club/society/fraternity seems to hang around and try to entice people into joining them. On my first or second day of classes I watched a couple of the acapella groups and they were SO GOOD! It all felt very American. Also a couple of times I’ve gone through quite late in the evening and there’s a bunch of guys rapping & they sound so good – it’s incredible- it would feel so weird in the UK but here it totally works. It feels so Pitch Perfect at times.
Last week was the first game for the men’s basketball team this year. The UNC team are called the Tar Heels and they’re like genuinely good, like come first in the college basketball conference a few times good. So the town gets FULLY behind them. And to be honest, behind literally every UNC team – as long as they’re in the Carolina blue then so’s the rest of Chapel Hill. It’s actually pretty amazing – EVERYONE wears Carolina tops and hats and are watching the game in bars or the union or the actual stadium itself (which seats over 20,000 people WHICH IS THE CAPACITY OF THE O2 ARENA CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE – I just Googled this it’s ridiculous). ANYWAY everyone’s super into the game and there’s only a few games left this season – the last one is in a couple of weeks against Duke (the RIVAL university!!) and at the moment Carolina are on a 6 win streak its not bad at all! AND AND I was VERY excited today because I GOT TICKETS for a game next Tuesday against Pittsburgh!!!! – it’s a lottery system for students and they’re allocated randomly in pairs- I didn’t manage it for the Thursday game so I’m mega excited about next week!
We actually went to a women’s basketball game on Sunday that was a lot more low key – it’s in a smaller stadium (and to be honest a much lower ranking team) but there were still thousands of people who came out to watch and it was such an AMERICAN experience!! All those episodes of One Tree Hill literally came flooding back – all the cheerleaders and the mascots and the noise and we even had hot dogs, such cliches I love it!!! Also there was half time entertainment that was an acrobat man who piled up lots of chairs on top of a stand and did a handstand on it, I had such sweaty palms he made me very nervous. But no fall to his death so that was a bonus!
I’m just going to post this long rambling entry now – I’ll try and update it a little more often so they don’t all drag on forever!!!
Anyway, lots of love
ps here’s the campus later on in the week I arrived – TWENTY THREE DEGREES