It is usually around now, towards the end of term one, a month away from the holidays, and with the dark nights setting in earlier and earlier, that our scholars start to miss home and the comforts that that entailed. The UK however, is vastly multicultural and this can make it a little easier for […]
Five times the British weather has let me down
After around an eight month application process from start to finish, Chevening Scholars finally arrive in the UK in September/October – also known as autumn. And spring, summer, and/or winter depending on the day.
A common message people in the UK send to one another is, ‘what is the weather like where you are?’, because not only can the weather vary incredibly in different parts of the UK at any given time, but it can also vary just a few streets away from where you are. It is not uncommon to live through all four seasons in a single day so we in the UK know that we must always be prepared for anything. The weather report is very much considered ‘a guide’, and discussing the weather may seem like small talk but once you arrive here, you’ll quickly realise, it isn’t.
We asked scholars to share stories of when (so far) the British weather has let them down and five great stories are below.
1. WISHING FOR A RAINY HIKE
Nicholas Diaz, Indonesia
‘As a student at the only English university situated in a National Park, I spend much of my time exploring the beauty of South Downs National Park surrounding the University of Sussex. One of my favourite places here is Seven Sisters. It is a jaw-dropping series of chalk cliffs, meandering river valley, and open chalk grassland facing the open sea.
Contrary to many other people, I expected (and wanted) rain on the day that the hiking society and I went there. Why? So that my trip could resemble the journey from a scene in one of the Harry Potter films which was filmed in this exact area.
The beginning of my hike was perfect – there was slight rain with mist and fog hanging low. The air was filled by the fragrance of wet grass. As we walked along the river valley, I saw a lot of flora and fauna that I had never seen before. So, I picked off of what I thought was a berry but it turned out to be so bitter I believed it wasn’t.
I arrived at the top of the hill and it was so surreal it silenced me. The contrast of green grassland, and the river valley in the background with white chalk cliffs facing the raging sea slumbered in rain and fog really made my day.
That magical moment lasted for 10 minutes before out of nowhere, the sun suddenly made its way out and the rainy day was over! My friends, of course, cheered and I pretended to excitedly shout, “Yeahhh” too while hoping the rain would come back even stronger.’
2. AWAITING THE SNOW
Judith Kibuye, Kenya
‘My daughter’s name is Amor, meaning “happy”. She has, however, been unhappy for obvious reasons. We spoke extensively about my planned trip, but clearly nothing could have prepared her for my departure and absence. I remember her tears not with the grace of an adult, but with the grief of a child when I was leaving!
I try to keep Amor informed and winter/snow is a common topic of interest for both of us, albeit for different reasons. So, when one morning someone in my accommodation announced it was snowing, I quickly gathered my tools to take some pictures, to no avail. I therefore opted for a short video to capture the moment which I quickly shared and Amor in return drew me a snowman. Before long, however, it stopped snowing. No wonder it’s alleged the British are always asking how the weather is!
You see, Amor’s head – to use her words – is full of questions. I had to answer some tough follow-up questions about the snow that never was. It’s not true to say I wanted the snow… but it would have helped her to live my experience, to have her make a snowman even if only in the figment of her imagination and to rekindle our strained conversations.
The vanished snow burst my bubble and killed my hopes of having different topics to discuss other than the usual questions such as, “so do you now know if you’ll be coming for Christmas?” and “When do you finish school?”
I am waiting for the snow with my breath held strong!’
3. FOOL ME ONCE, SHAME ON YOU, FOOL ME TWICE?
Georgette Graham, Jamaica
‘It was orientation week and I was at the Stopford Building of the University of Manchester, where a lecture was scheduled. I needed to make a query at my school located in the Williamson Building, a 4-minute walk across campus. I decided to run there and back before my class started.
By the time I arrived at the Williamson Building, there was a shower of rain with strong winds! My umbrella was back at the Stopford Building and it was time for class but I’d been marooned. I helplessly begged a passer-by for shelter under her umbrella and she agreed but soon her umbrella twisted inside out and I ended up finishing the journey in the pouring rain.
When I returned to the Stopford Building, my backpack was spotted with rainwater and my feet were swimming in my shoes!
Fast forward to a seemingly lovely morning in October when I decided to walk to school. The previous day, the weather was lovely (by UK standards at least) so I dressed similarly – fingerless gloves, no scarf, thin socks. Needless to say, what should have been a 15 minute walk turned into 30! I could see the sun but I could not feel it. I also could not feel my toes, fingers, and face. In fact, I had a runny nose and did not know. I continued my cold walk until I arrived at the Students Union; I crawled inside and sat by the heater until I was warm enough to continue. As I tried to flex my toes in my shoes, I thought, “But it wasn’t like this yesterday. What happened?”’
4. FOUR SEASONS, ONE DAY
I Putu Widya, Indonesia
‘Before leaving Indonesia, I was told by some of the Indonesian Chevening Alumni that living in Scotland could be challenging, particularly about its unpredictable weather. Two months later, I’d already forgotten about the warning until one day I experienced it myself.
It all started back on November 11, 2019, when I walked to the University of Glasgow in Dumfries for a morning class. The autumn was still far from its end, but the temperature had already reached 0°C. There was a thin layer of fog in the town as if the winter might come early. After 10 minutes of walking, the rain fell heavily. I was shocked before I decided to run as I didn’t bring an umbrella. However, 5 minutes later, the rain stopped but left me soaking wet. I arrived at campus looked like a drowned rat!
When I left the campus in the afternoon, the sun shone brightly and the temperature was warmer. Out of nowhere, strong winds blew, and the clouds blocked the sun out. Once again, I had the rain pouring down on me.
Although it wasn’t a nice experience, I still remember it as a unique moment in my life. Who would have thought that all of the seasons could really occur in just one day? As the old Scottish joke says, “If you don’t like the weather in Scotland, wait half an hour, and that will change.” Well, in my case, it happened within just minutes.’
5. MESSAGES TO THE UNIVERSE
Lanvell Blake, Jamaica
‘”It’s a beautiful Tuesday morning,” I say to myself as I glance through my window to see the sun peeping through the clouds. It’s a rare occurrence here – Swansea is one of the wettest cities in the UK, so I whispered to myself, “Count your blessings”.
Tuesdays for me represent the day I go to the library to do independent study. Fully dressed and bagged packed, I’m off. This time around I left my umbrella behind. Knowing Swansea’s reputation for constantly raining, I never leave my umbrella home but this time was different.
Bringing my umbrella might have signalled to the “Rain Gods” that I’m expecting some “showers of blessings” and I did not want to send that message out in the universe.
Depending on where you sit in the library, it almost feels like outside is as cool and calm as the atmosphere inside. But boy, was I wrong! When I packed up my stuff and stepped outside the rain greeted me with a, “Hey, my little friend, did you miss me?” And just like that, Swansea’s weather strikes again.
To help future cohorts, here is my handy Swansea Weather Starter Kit:
- Hat or similar
- Water-resistant shoes’
Thank you to all of our scholars who submitted pictures and stories to this theme.
To submit your own pictures and stories to the latest themes, please check your most recent Scholargram for submission details.
In the weeks since Orientation 2019, scholars have had the chance to step back and reflect on Orientation, and meeting 1,750 scholars from 141 countries and territories around the world. For some, the best moments consisted of seeing those they hadn’t seen since leaving their home countries, and for others, it meant meeting new people […]
If you’re moving to the UK, your packing list will probably include a few key items which you will want to bring with you. Among these; your toothbrush, stuffed bear, comfortable walking shoes, all 312,441 items from your wardrobe, and one item of dry food that you know customs won’t take from you – as […]