Hello everyone! I am Mya (Emerald), a Burmese aspiring author who is pursuing MA in Creative Writing, right here at the University of Exeter! In this blog I thought I’d share with you my experience as an international student at Exeter.

What is Exeter like?

Honestly speaking, I did not exactly know what Exeter would be like until I stepped onto the pavement of Bampfylde Street after a coach dropped me on the very first day of my arrival in England. My a-size-bigger white Mary Jane shoes slowly stomped one after another with excitement. If I weren’t carrying two luggage, a very chubby tote-bag and a backpack on my back, I would have been making my way downtown through the city centre since day 1. The famous High Street and Exeter Quay were the only two places I had seen through Youtube videos and vlogs. And there I was… not knowing where to go or where to hire a taxi. Did I regret that I didn’t research enough about the geography of Exeter before I flew here? No. Not at all.

Sunset over ‘Cardiac Hill’


However, I wish I knew a little about the hills because I have never been a sporty girl. I live in the campus, at Birks Grange and there is a particular hill which is unofficially named as the ‘Cardiac Hill’. The name serves it right. It was extremely hard at first. During the first few weeks, while I was dragging my little 90lbs body to walk up the hill with the speed of tortoise, some girls and boys in their sportswear, and their blessed long legs passed me swiftly. I remember how I gasped while panting and huffing at their hare-like speed and their fitness. Although I still couldn’t embody their speed or their strength, climbing up and down the ‘Cardiac Hill’ every day for almost three months now, I no longer gasp for breath.

‘Cardiac Hill’ during autumn

 The greenest fields, various plants, the chiming forest, the little trekking paths along the hills on the campus, and everything else except the distinct, ugly, and piercing cry of the seagulls will make you wonder if you were escaping reality or if life were always this peaceful. Just like the underground tunnels under the city, hidden gems are here and there in Exeter. It depends on the personality of the people to find a certain gem. For me, hidden gems of Exeter can be found in the form of cozy cafes.

Boston Tea Party coffee shop


Among such lovely cafes, restaurants, and independent businesses, my favourite place that I usually go for the sake of eating and writing is Boston Tea Party, located on the Queen Street. Hours passed by sitting in the corner, watching people and journaling while sipping on Iced Latte is my ritual.

Me and my Iced Latte against the world

While Boston Tea Party may be well-suited for my individual refuge, the café I often take my friends out is Chococo café, on the Gandy Street, the ancient walkway filled with buildings dating back to 19th century. It is also said that the street was part of the inspiration for J. K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley in her Harry Potter films. No wonder!

Gandy Street

My friends and I often go to Chococo café for a nice hot chocolate in the evening while we talk about our new adventures here in the Exeter. We usually sink ourselves in the comfy chairs and soft couch there pretending that we are having our own wellbeing session.

Chococo Cafe

Exeter also has a couple of international marketplaces. I buy fresh vegetables and Turkish delight, Baklava at the Mesopotamia, continental/Asian supermarket, and Asian grocery shops like 168 Oriental Supermarket, and BHL Oriental Food Store are where I go and find the flavours closet to home through the bamboo-shoot pickle jars, fish sauce, coconut milk, curry paste, spices, and puree.


In addition to getting to know Exeter, its cafes, and marketplaces, another gem of being an international student at the University of Exeter is the communities you can be a part of.

Despite the known facts about University of Exeter being prestigious and has been awarded a Gold Overall rating in both Student Experience and Student Outcomes this year, the university does not encourage students to only trap themselves in their rooms, studying like robots. We have around 300 different societies ranging from academic and course related societies, sports, volunteering and creative societies, to the fun and unusual sounding clubs like societies for fans of Taylor Swift or Harry Styles and so on. That means you can always find a friend in one of those societies!

I have always wanted to be a writer and I grew up reading Harry Potter. So, the fact that J. K. Rowling graduated from University of Exeter was enough to bring me here to seek my own magic. She did not study Creative Writing here, but I have heard that she prioritized social activities over her studies which does not surprise me a little because University of Exeter provides numerous chances for you to meet like-minded people or diverse people, depending on whom you want to meet.

During Fresher’s week, or Welcome week, we had a series of introductory sessions and free trials from different societies. For example, I enjoyed the backstage tour of Northcott theatre, spent time at the Devonshire House, and participated in dancing Ceilidh, learning how to play DJ, enjoying improv, and creating clay pots. I also didn’t have to buy pens, a notebook, a trash can, a glass, a t-shirt, a hat, stress balls, bottle protectors, and a personal attack alarm because I collected them all for free from different booths at the Forum during the Welcome week. However, it’s not entirely essential to having to go out there and experience everything that every society offers during the welcome week.

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

For those who may want to take time, adjusting pace, and preparing for the classes can also meet people from different parts of the world by staying in or sometimes by attending year-round events held by Intercultural Café, Resident Life Team, and Global Café. Opportunities are abundant in University of Exeter. It’s up to you to grasp it. I mean, I talked to different people from diverse backgrounds, and from the conversations we had, and the friends I made along the way, I am still exploring the places they recommended, being immersed in brand new experiences and here I am, sharing you my experience of how I embraced Exeter with open arms even when I didn’t know about the city before!