An Erasmus student’s inside view of UBES

Last term, I spent four and a half months in Bristol doing my Erasmus exchange. Being part of the Expeditions Society is what made my experience unforgettable, and so am I writing this article to share my experience of UBES.

First of all, to anyone hesitating about joining the society: Go for it, you won’t regret it. And don’t just come from time to time, the secret is to be “a keen bean”, to use Helen’s expression.

To be pragmatic at first, a considerable advantage that an Erasmus student has by joining UBES is that it enables them to be shown the UK. And, oh dear, how beautiful it is! Coming from Switzerland, I did not imagine that I could be impressed by the British mountains which, if you only look at the height, you would call hills. But the raw nature, the lack of signs on the mountain (a controversial topic), the inimitable golden light that beams through the grey clouds when it is not rainy, and the strong wind that beats your face and almost makes you stumble, all of this makes the charm of the British mountains. It is even easier to fall under their spell with a sip of brandy at the top, or a break in a group shelter.

Being surrounded by “natives” also enables you to learn a fair amount of new words. Even though some of them will probably not be part of your everyday vocabulary (I’m thinking of “cam”, “hexes”, “slog”, “slop”…), you will be able to use some most of the time – “sure sure”, “peng”, “sassy”, “prangy”, “FFS”… One of the first phrases you have to understand is “in the Alps”, which basically means Chamonix (FFS!!!). And more than words, UBES teaches you some skills that you will need all your life long.

I am absolutely convinced that, someday, I will be able to show off the skills I learned while playing suspended sock wrestling, body traversing or dancing a ceilidh. And I toned not only my body muscles, but also my vocal cords. Indeed, the discovery of Loch Lomond, the Northwest Passage and, of course, S Club 7 expanded my culture and I am now able to “reach for the stars” even in Switzerland. Moreover, I will share my secret with you: every time I need a shot of energy, I wake up with Euphoria, and I can feel the energy flowing out of my heart.

In addition, one of the most important topics is food. For I cannot put into words how delicious cheese and pickle sandwiches are when eaten on the top of a mountain. I am now missing pickle in my Gruyere sandwiches. Moreover, group cakes make your culture: eating all sorts of cakes to be able to participate in the famous debate of “which group cake is the best?” is the best way to discover them. Speaking for myself, I cannot choose between angel cake and plain madeira. But I am sure that the Swiss roll (I still don’t understand its name) is not one of them.

UBES also introduced me to some activities that I will continue. Even though there are no university societies in Switzerland, I joined the Swiss Alpine Club and I am ready to introduce them to the British specificities of hiking. Moreover, I am continuing with lake bags in my region and keeping my own honours list (no wonder I am now first, if Hazza is not here to compete…)

I cannot finish this article without talking about the incredible people that I met during my short time in UBES. The great conversations on the top of a hill, the nights of UBES organized fun or the shared memories of whom we’ve lost which built a strong bond among us, and I am happy to consider them as my friends. So, if you are still hesitating about joining UBES, have no fear: they are the most welcoming people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

Yes, cheese and pickle sandwiches also go well with an apple!

Camille Bays

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