I’ve been in this city for nearly a month now, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Classes have finally started, and after attending my Contemporary Irish Poetry and Fiction class and getting the required novels, I’m super excited. Excited to read, to learn about histories and cultures I never previously knew about, to meet more students from England and all over the world.
I’m here with my study group from Colgate University; my home university is in New York, and I’ve lived in Albany, the capital of New York, my entire life. This is the first time I’ve ever traveled outside of the United States. The focus of our study group is global environmental health, so we’re studying the impact of the environment on public health. There are 18 students in our group, and I would say we’ve all been inclusive and supportive of each other from day one. It’s also awesome because we all have a range of different interests, from economics to art to sociology to biology to neuroscience. In terms of courses, we get to take a variety of subjects; since I study Molecular Biology and English Literature back home, I’m taking an English course, a history course, and a biology course at the University of Manchester.
A major difference between where I’m from and Manchester, I think, is the excitement about the city. There’s so much energy to be found in everyone moving around, heading to classes, exploring the City Centre, or walking to new restaurants or their religious services. Back home, Colgate is in a very rural area, and the demographic is not very diverse; here, however, there’s a huge diversity of people and cultures, and to live amongst that has been really great and eye-opening. Although, at first I felt out of place with my American accent, the people here all seem to be friendly and genuinely interested about how I’m finding Manchester so far, and it’s nice to have spontaneous conversations comparing life in America and England. For instance, my flatmates are actually from all over the world, and I’m thankful that we get along so well and can share stories about what we’re interested in and what it’s like back home.
So far, our study group took a trip to Alnwick Castle and Garden, which was incredible. Did you know it was the actual setting of Hogwarts in the first Harry Potter movie?! It was awesome to be able to recognise the locations of specific scenes as we took the tour. One of my favourite parts of that trip was visiting Barter Books–it’s a used book store that used to be a train station and has a lot of historical background. It was super thrilling and comforting to be surrounded by so many books, old and relatively new. The atmosphere of the shop was warm and almost magical. I purchased a book about Morrissey, a book of Beatles lyrics, and an old copy of The Canterbury Tales.
A few days later, I took a day trip to Liverpool with a few of my friends; the Student Union at the University of Manchester offered the trip, which was super convenient! (Side note: a few days ago, the Student Union also offered £19 tickets to a Manchester United game at Old Trafford, and nearly our entire group went together!) In Liverpool, it was so fun to explore the city by the sea, run into countless landmarks of Beatles history, enjoy the Titanic exhibit at the Maritime Museum, get caught in the pirate festival that weekend, and even climb to the top of the Liverpool Cathedral and experience the breathtaking view. All in one day.
This past weekend, along with a few other girls from my study group, I took a day trip to Bath. It was an absolute dream; the weather was perfect–sunny and warm. The limestone buildings that made up the city were beautiful to walk by. We first sat on the lawn in front of the Royal Crescent, had an elegant and delicious tea experience at the Jane Austen centre, were taken aback by the striking beauty of the Abbey, explored the Roman Baths, and finally walked through Parade Gardens, surrounded by all kinds of flowers and succulents.
Arts and culture-wise, I’m really into writing, art, and music; I’ve always loved going to concerts, so hopefully I can go to some cheap/good ones here. The Smiths are one of my favourite bands, and I’m super excited to be in the city where they’re from and hopefully learn more about their history. I also want to check out some art stores or museums around the city; I really loved the Manchester Museum! I still have to visit the John Rylands Library and the Museum of Science. Finally, for my independent research project within my Colgate course, I’m incredibly excited to be exploring the intersection between arts and healthcare in Manchester. I love both art and science, and I’m planning on combining both of these interests in my project. Does artistic involvement in patients and/or healthcare providers have a positive impact on biological/physical/emotional wellbeing and healthcare outcomes? What about poetry and creative writing, specifically? I’m so grateful to be in a place like Manchester where I can investigate these types of questions about the arts-healthcare intersection, as well as have access to so many resources for research.
Overall, I really do love England so far. I can’t wait to see what other adventures are in store for me, and I don’t want to take a single day for granted.