UK: Natalie Bigelow – A Norwich Blog

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Wondering what it’s like to live in a provincial English town? Look no further than Natalie Bigelow’s experiences on her Norwich blog!

Natalie is a third year UCSC film major spending winter/spring at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, Norfolk, England, which is a small city about 2 hours from London. She chose England to fulfill many childhood dreams revolving around novels, films and fantasy worlds, and her family traces its roots back to medieval England. She chose East Anglia because the quieter “provincial” life (as described by a London resident) in Norwich which  is perfectly suited for studying and similar to Santa Cruz in many ways, especially when it comes to natural beauty. As a smaller campus, it also provides a more personalized feel. Norwich offers a lot of fascinating history: the city’s centerpiece is an 800+ year old castle and also features a similarly old cathedral. She tells us it’s been a great place to live for the past month!

Check out what Natalie has to say about life in Norwich here!Picture 1

Life in Norwich

As a student at UC Santa Cruz, I am definitely familiar with the quiet college town, having come from the bustling metropolis that is my home, the San Francisco Bay Area. The community that lies outside campus boundaries and immediately surrounding student housing is largely families and elders. Santa Cruz is a place to settle, not a place to start, and I would say the same about Norwich. My first taste of England was the world’s briefest snapshot of London for 4 days, and when I made the long trek via taxi, train and bus through lush, rolling English countryside dotted with pink farmhouses, I felt a distinct sense that I was headed for the middle of nowhere. I realized that my perception of Santa Cruz as quiet was definitely skewed by my growing up next to busy freeways and thoroughfares, which served as a constant reminder of nocturnal, urban life.

First of all, I am far more north on the globe than I ever have been, and it’s winter. That means we get daylight until no later than 4 pm. After that time, you blink and it is black as the darkest night outside, which is reflected in all the businesses downtown that close as early as 5:30. If you happen to be downtown after 6, it transforms from a bustling, family-laden shopping zone to a dark, wet ghost town with poor lighting and weirdly placed bus stops. Once you step away from the main street, cobblestoned roads and alleys twist between ancient-looking buildings; the darkened windows provide a glimpse at what must be a charming town to shop in by day, with adorable local shops, tea rooms, pubs, candy stores. Everything in Norwich feels historical. Being away from the 24-hour, neon-lit, smartphone and hybrid-fueled West Coast lifestyle is somewhat of a shock but also a pleasant escape in many ways.

For example, the emphasis on the loud house party/disgusting club/broken 40s in the gutter that haunts my usual cities is notably absent here. If you go to the downtown pubs away from the main street, they are cozy and well-lit and serve excellent beer and cider, as well as usually pretty good food. It seems that there was an attempt to update the city on part of the main street, which resulted in a few skeezy looking strip clubs (or so we thought; the first one we spotted promised “American table dancing”) and loud (but deserted) sports bars. Weird, out-of-place spots like the former aside, the cozy Norwich pub scene is much more suited to my personal drinking style, I’ve discovered. I like getting together with huge groups (so far, mostly of other International students like me) and just drinking and chatting over chips.

Despite my quaint portrait of Norwich life so far, my days here are far from empty. As I started this post, my iPod delivered “Go Hard” by Kreayshawn on shuffle, which seems appropriate. Since I got here just over a week ago, it has become clear to me how much of a drinking/partying culture is present in the UK, even in sleepy little Norwich. My housemates drink together almost every night, and we have a fairly active on campus club as well as two pubs. There is always something to do at night, and so far I have discovered that my party energy reserves have been significantly depleted since I graduated high school and moved to the chilled out, kick-it culture on the dry campus of Santa Cruz. Alas, Kreayshawn, I cannot go as hard as I used to. However, I suspect that that is going to change; after all, tolerance is always in flux.

Even with the near-constant “going out” option, I recently tried to find even more things to occupy my time by going to the UEA clubs & societies fair. I have a few mixers and tryouts in the next couple of weeks, for the aforementioned Feminist Discussion and Doctor Who Appreciation societies, as well as the Qudditch and Pole Fitness clubs. I want to try to step out of the comfy American bubble I’ve been in and interact with the students who know this country best.

I’ve been so busy with the “settling in” process as well as wading through some bureaucratic tedium from both of my schools that I haven’t had time to develop any kind of regular routine, in regards to a) posting on this blog, b) doing homework, c) catching up with friends and family back home, so apologies to those who’ve felt out of the loop. I promise I will send out post cards and arrange Skype schedules as soon as I have a free moment.

We loved hearing about life in Norwich, Natalie! Want to see the original post? Visit Natalie’s blog to find out more about living abroad in the UK!

If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to programsabroad@ucsc.edu with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!