When I first entered London after a four hour drive from Cornwall, I could already tell that it was going to blow my mind in all sorts of ways. Driving directly through the West End gave me a real taste of what London could offer, and quite frankly it was overwhelming. You may find that hard to understand, particularly if you yourself have lived in London before or have visited regularly, but for someone who has lived in various parts of country all his life – be it in the far north or the deep south – the view of London as a city is very abstract. It’s this mystical place which is full of merchandise and fashions which you would never see anywhere else in the country, where people use small blue Oysters to travel and ride bikes named Boris, which – to me at least – seem just as outlandish as their namesake.
Despite all this uncertainty about the magic of London, I knew that when I got the offer to study with University College London, it was an offer that I couldn’t refuse. Not just because of the city itself, but also because of everything that the University had to offer. My first week proved to me that I wasn’t wrong in my decision, and that the next three years of my life are guaranteed to be some of the best yet, at least for a long time.
Upon arriving on the 20th September, as soon as I checked in to my accommodation at Frances Gardner House – which was perfectly adapted for my needs as a student in a wheelchair – I went on a journey to find the main campus. Arriving at the Main Quad, the view of the Octagon and the grandeur of the Wilkins building finally settled something in my mind: I wasn’t just studying at any university, I was studying at UCL, and it was on the map for a reason. Not just because of size (the entire stretch of the campus would be enough to flatten most of my old village hometown), but because of how far it goes to find all the extraordinary people that come to study at the university.
In my first week alone, I’ve met people from the Far East, North America, South America and the rest of Europe, and I’m sure that’s just the start of all the people I’ll get to meet. The coming together of all these unique peoples, with their vibrant cultures and traditions, really paints a vivid portrait of the world today. Coming to UCL, I’m not just going to learn about the ancient world – as my degree entails – but I’m also going to learn a lot more about the global community and how that shapes the world today. I get the feeling that UCL is very forward-thinking, and to me it is a shining example of how multiculturalism is good for Britain’s future (and how it is a huge part of it’s past); something I think is greatly misunderstood in the present climate.
Throughout the week, I of course also got to get involved in all the very vibrant traditions of what is “Fresher’s Week”: Making new friends, going out for drinks with them and experiencing the nightlife of the city. Far from being the heavily intoxicating week it’s made out to be, it was for me one of the very first times I’ve been able to socialise with people on such a massive scale. As a person in a wheelchair, it’s very difficult to go out and do much in most other places, but London is far more accessible and the fact that there’s just so much more to do also serves as a bonus. My thanks also go to the many societies of UCL, perhaps most importantly the History Society, for helping me on these ventures.
The History Department also, during the more official occasions throughout my first week, were a great help. One thing I was always looking forward to, ever since applying for Ancient History and Egyptology at UCL, was the ability to be able to meet and work with some of the top experts in their respective historical fields, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed when I got to meet them. Everyone – from the head of the department to the lecturers – were (and have continued to be) thoroughly engaging and thought provoking, broadening my perspective on so many different topics that I already feel like a much better person in the first week alone.
The highlight of everything, though, has to be the trip to Cumberland Lodge that the Department holds at the end of induction week for all new history students. Not only did it give us more of a chance to interact with them as people, and interact with all of our other fellow historians, but it also got us to understand two things: One, how to think critically about divisive topics and how to come to sound conclusions on them (we, for instance, discussed and debated the Scottish Independence Referendum). Two, it also showed us how to still enjoy ourselves while now being students at a top university, with plenty of drinks and party games in the evening. Not to brag, but the team I was on won the pub quiz and the dance-off, if that gives you any ideas of what the evening was like!
All in all, I’d say it was one great big induction week filled with lots of exciting merriment and adventure. There’s of course a lot of uncertainty for what the years ahead might hold, but I know one thing is for certain: these years at UCL are going to be incredible.
Kyle Jordan is a first year undergraduate student studying BA Ancient History and Egyptology.