Living and studying in Manchester – The Astro Post
It’s been a month now, and it went by quickly and slowly at the same time. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been here for quite a while, other times, it feels like I just arrived yesterday. I’m fairly adjusted now, but there are reminders that I’m not in Ottawa any more.
Small things like the different paper size still catches me off guard. In Europe, the standard paper size is A4, which is slightly taller than the letter size in North America. Not by much, but I do notice when I fold a piece of paper in three, so I can stuff it in a bag or something. Now, the paper is awkwardly too wide to fit in my back pocket, and folding it in four would just be too narrow.
Apart from the multitudes of accents (I think I’ve heard around 5 different British accents up to now), the language is slightly different. Expressions like cheers and mate are used quite a lot, and simple things have different names, for example; peanuts are called peanuts, but when they’re in their shells, they’re called monkey nuts. Here it’s lift, not elevator. It’s a flat, not an apartment. The term class isn’t really used, it’s module when referring to the entire semester, and lecture or uni when it’s a single session (As in “I have uni this morning”), and the term course refers to the entire degree. Also, I got confused for a bit when my professor read out the number 0.05 as “nought point nought five”, to which I found interesting that even something as universal as numbers are pronounced differently here. Bus numbers like 147 are pronounced “One four seven” instead of “one forty seven”, though no one will look at you weird if you pronounce it the North American way.
I mostly cook my own food, stopping for groceries on my way back from the university (though once in a while, I’ll try out a new restaurant. I found a Tim Horton’s here, though I think it’s the American chain since it’s Tim Horton’s Cafe and Bake Shop. Had a donut there once when I felt homesick, it wasn’t the same…). It’s funny, at first glance, everything seems so cheap. “2.50 for a tub of Haagen Dazs ice cream on sale, sweet!” Then, when I think about it, it’s in pounds, not dollars. So multiply by 1.7, add a little bit in credit card charges, that’s…. umm… You know what, I’ll just double it in my head. Yeeeaaa, that tub is 5 dollars. Maybe another time. Oh what the heck, it’s on sale.
Getting around is not too difficult. The busses are better than the ones in Ottawa, but they don’t have an indicator for the next stop. So I have to guess when I need to get off the bus, which can be a gamble in some cases, especially when rain is involved (which is often). Also, if you’re waiting for the bus here, you need to signal your intention to board to the bus driver by kind of pointing at the road in front of you. A bus almost drove right past me once.
I rented a bike at Biko Bikes, a student-run bike rental shop in the Student Union building. I went there the first time they opened for the semester and evidently it was pretty busy. So busy in fact, that they didn’t have any working bikes that could be rented out, so we had to wait for them to fix some. As I waited, I asked if they needed a hand with anything. I have some experience working with bikes, after taking mine apart back home a few times. The volunteer then gave me something to do in the back of the shop. About 30 minutes later, he asked me: “You’re waiting to rent a bike right?” I said yes, and he answered “You want to rent the bike you’re working on?” “Yeah!” And so I continued fixing it up for the next couple of hours. After the shop closed, I dealt with the paperwork, paid a nice sum of £15 (with a £40 deposit) to rent it for the entire semester and I rode off with a rented bike, to which I already had an emotional connection with. I now volunteer at the bike shop on Wednesday evenings, getting my hands dirty helping students fix their bikes, so awesome.
Academically, things are going well, though it is a little difficult to get back into studying mode after about two months off. I’m taking five classes, two of which are aerospace engineering topics, so that’s fun. My schedule is lighter than I would’ve thought, but this is due to the fact that there are no tutorials and lectures are only 2 hours per week.
Due to the small amount of in-class time, studying here is much more self-regulated. This is accentuated by the fact that final exams are worth 80% of your final grade, compared to the 60-70% that I’m used to. There are no mid-term exams here, only labs and a handful of assignments, so revising along the semester is key, although a lot of students here simply cram during the last two weeks of the session before exams (and by cram, I mean sleep in the library).
So far, it’s going okay, though I feel like I have a bit more adjusting to do. The absence of close friends is taking a toll on me; I don’t laugh as much as I used to, I stay in my room longer than I’d like, I chat with friends and family in the late hours of the day. It is nice to talk to other international students, we’re all going through the same thing; we miss home. So talking about it is alleviating. The trick I’ve been told to solve homesickness is to go out and make experiences. Every time I force myself to go out and do stuff, I’m always glad I did. So in a few weeks, all should be great.
You can some more blogposts from Vincent at the following address – https://www.nadeo.ca/vincent/blog
After reflecting on the past 5 months on my semester abroad in Manchester, I can confidently say it was the most unforgettable experience of my life! The European travel adventures, games at Old Trafford and most importantly the friendships I made will stay with me for a long time, thanks for everything @Uni of Manchester!
1. Go to as many orientation/meet n greet events at the start to make loads of exchange friends, most of whom I ended up travelling Europe with
2. Fallowfield has the most sociable campus, made a lot of local British friends there, Squirrels Bar was also fantastic especially in the earlier weeks to meet new people
3. When travelling around the UK or Europe make sure to have planned accommodation and flights in advance to save time, money and stress instead of doing it throughout the trip, (can work out things to do on a day by day basis though..)
4. Most importantly enjoy the whole experience, for most of us it will be the highlight of our lives and time genuinely flys by so make sure to make the most of each day!!
Have a look at Melissa Xu’s fantastic vlog on her time as a student at the University of Manchester! A fascinating insight into an inbound student’s experience 🙂
By Melissa, University of New South Wales Austalia
By Melissa, University of New South Wales Australia
Tsinghua University, China
Since I became an undergraduate two years ago, I have been looking forward to participating in the exchange programme for third-year students because my university is too familiar to me. I graduated from Tsinghua Primary School and Tsinghua Middle School, and now, I am an undergraduate of art history at Tsinghua University. I have spent almost ten years in the campus of my home university, so you cannot imagine how much I want to step away from the campus and explore a new environment.
Finally, the chance came. I applied for the exchange programme at the University of Manchester. I have plenty of reasons for making this choice: I need to practice the language in an English-speaking country; I love British culture; I want to live in a city that I have never visited before; Manchester is the second-large city in Britain with convenient transportation…. And as one of the leading universities in the world, the University of Manchester will provide me with me a wide academic platform.
I did lots of things for the first time when I came to Manchester. For the first time, I received an offer from a foreign university. For the first time that I took an airplane alone. For the first time, I left my home university and my family. Then I realized that for the first time, I must face various challenges without assistance from my parents or my friends. Luckily, I can always get assistance from students and the university. When I arrived at Manchester Airport, volunteers from the university had been waiting for us at the gate. Without their assistance, I can’t imagine how long I would have spent trying to find the right route to the campus. It was also volunteers who taught me to take the bus.
As the university permits exchange students to choose course units from all disciplines, I finally chose three courses from archeology, history and cultural study. Although I love my major, I really wanted to experience other academic fields to engage in interdisciplinary study in the future. After the welcome week, I started to have lectures and seminars. I found it was not difficult to learn the course contents, but it was challenging to express my own opinions. I am not a native speaker, so I struggle with grammar mistakes and complicated referencing systems during writing essays. But after constant practice for more than ten weeks, I realize that I have improved a lot in speaking and writing. Besides, tutors are so helpful. They always listen to me with patience and encouragement, which make me gain more confidence.
I did not want to confine my experience just to the campus, so I have visited lots of British and European cities this semester. As I mentioned above, transportation is very convenient in Manchester, even though the trains are delayed sometimes. I went to London, York, Coventry, and Edinburgh. I also participated the daytrip organized by students to Windermere. The view of the lake is brilliant in autumn.
In the last two months, I also went to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Spain. I will have a two-week trip to France and Italy next month. Travelling is regarded as an important way to get the education in European history, and those museums and historical relics deeply impress me. What is more, as a fan of vintage and antique, I bought some great stuff when traveling. The 1910s gate-top purse in Art Nouveau style that I purchased in Denmark is so elaborate and beautiful.
While all students are expecting the coming of Christmas, I have mixed feelings about the holiday. After the Christmas vacation, I will come back to Beijing, and I am pretty sure that I will miss the life in Manchester. I will miss my accommodation, Whitworth Park. The beautiful triangular buildings and small gardens make me feel that I am living in a fairy tale. I will miss the libraries, where I always have a cup of coffee and enjoy the warm sunshine. I will even miss the food market in University Place because the “chicken and rice” in Vietnamese style has become my favorite food in Manchester (They do not provide the sauce now. What a pity!).
This amazing semester is going to end, but the memory will never fade away!