Back to Storthes Hall

 On a very cold October morning the 16th 2008 to be precise, I arrived the Manchester International airport and being in the UK for the very first time ever,I could not imagine it would be this cold especially not after leaving sunny and warm Lagos the previous night, but here I am, JJC ( Jonny Just Come) with my big green rucksacks, my tiny kappa winter jacket I bought from "Ikeja,under bridge" - no gloves,no head warmer just me and the blistering cold.

Normally  I never describe myself as a "warri boy" even though I am Warri born and bred, in that town where everyone has some "fire burning in their belly" but this day I guess some of the "warri boy" blood naturally just kicked in, because I told myself,"no falling hand oh" in other words man up!. So, I grabbed my bags put some pep to my steps and worked out the door of the Manchester international airport terminal building, like I knew where I was going - the blast of cold air that hit my face was harsh, really harsh my eyes instantly starts to get watery, but I still struggled to read the signs that says bus to train station, I hopped in the first bus that came into the parking stand, not even waiting for those inside the bus to get off, a big no,no - in the UK  as I would come to learn during my sojourn in this country.

Got to the train station,never been in a real train my entire life,but thank God at least I have seen one before and I read up every single bit of information sent me by my University,Huddersfield and everything I could find online just to make sure my journey was as straightforward and stress free as possible. I asked a lady for direction,where I can buy a ticket, she showed me the ticket stand with a short queue already, I walked over,stood in line and  as I stood,my inner thoughts,were Boy! what level of order,control and neatness,nothing like the "beautiful" chaos I am so accustomed to and how polite are these people ? all I could hear from people paying for their tickets are words like , "yes please and thank you"- although at same time I noticed not everyone was smiling and every now and then you catch someone staring - well, I didn't give it too much thought, but now come to think of it,maybe it's because of the big bold word -ITALY-written on the back of my tiny kappa jacket that was causing all the stare, they must have thought am a black Italian the way I wore that jacket so proudly...lol

Flashback

It's  been a roller coaster journey, traveling Port Harcourt to Lagos just two day's earlier and going for a 9am visa interview at the British Embassy the very next day because at that time you might still need to go to the UK high commission office and take a one on one interview with an entry clearance officer ECO if they needed to interview you, and did heaven smile on me that day  or what,in less then 10mins of chat with the ECO  she told me,pick up your visa by 1pm-Walked out that building and called family and friends to share the good news - visa sorted and going to the UK for further higher education.

1pm came like a flash, went back to the high commission to pick my passport,study visa issued and knowing I was almost 3 weeks late after enrollment, I had to rush - so with a visa now on my passport, from then on everything was pretty much a rush. Rushing to buy a flight ticket on British Airways BA, calling my boss and letting them know I will be quitting my job as the HR refused to approve a study leave,even when I requested for one without pay.

Rush to buy a jacket -(my now retired, kappa jacket that I still have till this day), and a few stuff I would need - going to the bank to cash out all my savings in Naira,savings over the last four years of work with Intels Nigeria - so I can change my funds to British pounds and then finally having to plan so I can get to the international airport on time - I guess the excitement of being issued my student visa, and the knowledge that I now have this long sought after opportunity to acquire further educational degree,skill,knowledge and experience - was a high for me, so all the running around didn't wear me out. However the first really big hit to jolt me back to reality was saying goodbye to the then  "love of my life" and  who thankfully now many years down the road,is my Mrs,my Madam,Chair lady,1st Lady and of course still love of my life-

I remember quickly boarding the taxi so I don't get to see her cry, but seating inside that taxi all by myself rushing off to the the airport made me realize all of a sudden,by tomorrow morning my life,my friends and my usual routine will all be changing- at least for the next 12 months.

End of Flashback

Well it got to my turn on the queue,bought my train ticket and the guy at the counter probably noticing my big bags and small jacket knew am a newbie heading to Huddersfield,without asking he was kind enough to tell me that the ticket show the exact time my train departs and what platform the train leaves from and then showed me to where I can sit and not wait out in the cold on the platform for the train till it arrives, I said a very grateful thank you and in return got a very warm smile from this gentleman, kind acts like this you don't forget easily.

So far, so good, my journey has been without any major hic-hops except for missing a BA connecting flight from London to Manchester. Train arrived and I boarded, made sure I sat by the window, cause I want to see EVERYthing on the way from here on till I get to my new town Huddersfield, but as the train starts its journey after some minutes I began to think to myself,wait a minute-how do I know when we arrive at my stop ? since I get off before the last stop. As I cracked my brain not wanting to ask anyone , I heard a voice "we will be arriving at (Stalybridge) shortly"  I said oh! that's how you know when and where to get off,.. lol..- phew JJC thank God I didn't ask anyone oh! - no need letting everyone know it's my first time ever on a train...lol..

Eventually it got to that point, I started feeling sleepy it's been a long day and roller coaster  journey and the free natural (AC) the cold,as we say in Nigeria was " doing me the thing" but as I was about to dooz off thankfully that automated female voice came back again over the train PA system,"we will be arriving at Huddersfield shortly"- my eyes light up, finally we  are here, me,myself,my big bags and small jacket.

Just like STING, I guess at this point I could have been singing out loud,

Whoa, I'm an alien
I'm a legal alien
I'm an Naija man in UK

And it would have been ok, but I didn't ...lol, I saw a number of other passengers already standing,grabbing their bags and stuff, so as the saying goes ,when in Rome......?

I too got up,grab my bags,and as I looked out the window I saw boldly written Huddersfield Station - hmmmm, so why did I almost panic, thinking how I would know where and when to stop.

Well lesson learnt, unto the next one - came out the train station, I saw taxis outside that could take me to my accommodation,but decided to first take a walk into the town and see if I can find the University from the train station, I had looked this up on maps online over and over again,so it should be a piece of cake. After walking for a bit with my two big bags and feeling lost, standing in front of the Kingsgate shopping center, I advised myself - Guy! -just take a taxi to your accommodation- Storthes Hall - so I got a taxi , and Mr Taxi Man charged me 10 pounds, this journey would not have cost me that much as at that time but since I didn't know- well someone is bound to take advantage of the fact that I am obviously a newbie in town and this "nice" taxi man just like his colleagues in most part of the world would do too,decided he could make a bit extra from this JJC, anyway to be fair to him he sort of gave me a tour on the way to Storthes Hall, showing me where I can buy stuffs I would need and showed me the University as we drove past it.

Finally here I am , Storthes Hall student village, -It won't be a lie if i said I was feeling like Florian Maria (sound of music) when she arrived at the massive gate of the villa of Captain Von Trapp.

So just like Maria, I guess I too was propping myself up too thinking its school you been there and done that, so what's so frightening about going back to school even if it's in a different land, and as I thought of what lies ahead over the next few months, I kept saying inwardly, you can do this- you came here to succeed and succeed you must, and with those thoughts,I entered my new residence - Storthes  Hall

(North Spring B)Room 3,Flat 5 - yes  it's been 10years now since that day, but I still remember my flat and room number, even the code to the front door.,lol. It would be hard to forget my flat, not only did I have two wonderful Nigerian sisters next door on the same flat,I had a double shared room and my roommate was also a nice guy from Croydon,London, we didn't always talk much throughout our stay - but he was a very cool dude.

Well time passed quickly and the story of my living,study and learning experience in Huddersfield, that I leave for another day, but after successfully completing my study and time in the UK, I can say for me I studied in the very best place for me, and really wouldn't really trade it to study in either of the "Oxbridge" Uni's.

I would imagine my story will be very much different for most Nigerians arriving to study at the University today, but  every now and then since 2008 I have been privileged and blessed to still visit Huddersfield Town.

This year's visit I think is a little bit special for me, as I get to have a short stay in Storths Hall the very first place I made home many,many years ago. So for the next four days,it's life in Storthes Hall - I am hoping the accommodation will be a much different and it's a much better place now, seeing continuous  improvement is a culture in this part of the world.

Over the next few days I am very much looking forward to reliving  some of the memories but this time in the flesh.
when I finally traded in my hotel room for a welcoming room at Storthes Hall

. #mystory - waiting to hear yours.

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