The Erasmus Diaries #3: Walking Around and Having Fun

Hello! I know I have been failing a little on my promise to keep you updated on my Erasmus adventures but I have to admit that university assignments have my personal time cut very short. I finally submitted my last assignment (besides exams) and have finally some time to write! I just put on my Spotify playlist and intend to at least write this post before I go back to studying and prepping for exams.
To make this easier I will separate parts of my adventure with headings, this way it will be easier to follow my "tale".

Bonfire Night

Even though I am majoring in English Studies, I had never realised that the British have this very fun tradition called "Bonfire Night". On the night of the 5th of November, all the country lights up bonfires and puts up incredible fireworks displays. This is a tradition that commemorates Guy Fawkes' failed attempt at blowing up the Parliament, and, if I remember correctly, King James I. This was related to what is often called  "the Gunpowder Plot" devised by a group of English Catholics in reaction to the anti-Catholic sentiment of King James' I reign. During this night the "Brits" burn Guy Fawkes' effigy in a giant bonfire.
Since I did not know about this amazing festival, that seems a bit gruesome to me, imagine my surprise when one week I started hearing fireworks during the night, every single day. At some point, I actually thought it was gunshots. Finally, I received an email from my residence's front desk warning students about what was going on and to remember to stay safe during the celebrations.
Unfortunately, I was not able to go to see the bonfire burning, it would have been an interesting experience. I did get to see some of the fireworks from my window and I certainly heard all of the buzz and the noise. This is a night of fun and celebration.
Honestly, this was one of the times when I felt a little uncomfortable. My teachers were approaching the subject during class and actually started making fun of Catholicism. When I informed them that I am Catholic and that "were not quite like that" I got some very amazed side-eyes. Even though the North of England is more traditionally more accepting of Catholics I sometimes feel like we are classified as a whole other breed. The jokes usually stop when you inform people of your religion but it is still an uncomfortable experience.

Roundhay fireworks, Andrew Ramsay
A beautiful picture of "Bonfire Night" in Leeds

Christmas Celebrations 

One of the things I have learned since I arrived in Leeds is that English people take their Christmas celebrations very seriously. Cities and people start putting up decorations the second Halloween is over. One day it is all monsters and witches and suddenly, everything is green and red and full of lights!
Besides the pretty lights and decorations that suddenly appeared all over the town, there was also a German Christmas Market. I went there three times and loved it each time. There were also other attractions spread throughout the whole town, which included a luminous ferris wheel. 
Christmas celebrations also include special seasonal markets where you can buy special items from local producers and find great gifts for your loved ones. If I did not have a limit on my bank account and on my luggage weight for the aeroplane I would have gone crazy on these markets. I still managed to buy some cheese for Christmas dinner and I do not regret it, Cheddar is amazing.
These pictures are a nice depiction of my Christmas celebrations. In the first one, I am at the Christmas Market and in the second one, I am admiring this giant luminous ferris wheel. (Sorry for the low quality)

And here is another snapshot that I ended up posting on Instagram!

Aysgarth National Park

I had the incredible opportunity of going on a nature trek in one of the many English many Natural Parks. The park I had the opportunity to get into was Aysgarth National Park in the Yorkshire Dales. I went on this trip thanks to an organisation called "Get Out Get Active" which is a part of the University of Leeds.
Aysgarth National Park has a very mixed terrain and it is very interesting to walk in. I opted to do the 13 Km trek that passed through Castle Bolton (not pictured in the map). This is not for the faint of heart but I missed walking around in nature and natural greenery and to get all muddy and sweaty. This is what happens when you have been a Scout for ten years and spend a few months without camping.
I went on this trip without really knowing what I could actually expect from it. I bought the ticket one week before and decided that I just needed to get out of Leeds in order to clear my head. Well, it seems that travelling an hour and a half by bus and walking around the whole day finally did it!
This trip and this walk were very important to the upkeep of my mental health. This is actually a great tip for students, and for other people too: you should try to get out to a different place, out of town at least once a month. This should be a place where you can completely disconnect and relax.

Besides great green pastures and plains, there is also a river that crosses this area, making up the famous Aysgarth Falls. This is a very magical place! The public path we took crossed some enclosures so I got to hang out with sheep, goats and horses (that were very well behaved and very scared of humans).
If you ever find yourself in the Yorkshire Dales this is certainly a place to visit. Interestingly enough, the path my group took crossed a cemetery and I loved it. English old cemeteries are very soothing with all their limestone and all the moss. You actually feel like you are stepping in a place that is located out of time and space. I really enjoyed it but decided not to take any pictures as a sign of respect.


The studying has been very difficult for me. I was not at all prepared for what was waiting for me in this country and I do confess that my grades are slipping a little, but not for lack of trying. This system is very different from the Portuguese one and I am having a hard time adapting. Me feeling this way does not mean that I do not enjoy it, it just means that am finding it really hard to adapt to it.

Studying here is amazing and I am very thankful for this opportunity. This experience is much more than my grades it is a journey of personal development and growth. If someone told me a few months back that I would be going to the gym almost every day and that I would be going out to bars and clubs at least twice a month I would have not believed it. However I am doing it and, at the same time, I am trying to salvage my grades and starting my application for a masters programme. Fingers crossed I will actually manage to do this and kill the rest of this semester (academically speaking).

I hope you enjoyed this little (or not so little) update on my adventure studying abroad in England! I hope you have a nice day, never forget how awesome you are!

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