By Christopher Tenant-Flowers (North Carolina State University, USA)
So I’ve been back at Manchester for nearly four months now and I’m still not entirely sure if I’m ever actually going to be totally used to it after my time in the USA.
Whilst when in the USA, I found there were so many things I would like to transfer from England to the USA. In the classroom it is completely the opposite, and there are so many aspects of American university that I would like to see brought into the UK university system and teaching methods. Going back to straight lectures, especially two hour ones, has probably been the biggest struggle, although the fact that these cannot happen at 8.30am as they could at NCSU is a relief I will admit. Approaching exams as well, I am feeling nerves that I have not encountered for a year. I was always rather relaxed heading into midterms or finals in North Carolina, knowing that the exam either wasn’t worth too big a part of my grade or that I had already collected a considerable number of marks in previous tests, and in some cases had already passed the module before taking the final which is very reassuring during a pass/fail year. Now though, I am approaching these exams with some trepidation knowing that they are worth 67% of my final mark.
There are other aspects of student life in England which have been a bit of a shock even though I was expecting them. The biggest of these are: the Manchester weather compared to North Carolina’s (nothing to be done about that, I know), going back to cold student housing after a year in halls, and the loss of the ‘all you can eat’ dining at North Carolina has also been hard to take, admittedly a blow softened by the return of pork pies to my diet, which was sorely missed whilst abroad.
However, it is not all doom and gloom upon my arrival. It is very nice being back in familiar surroundings and having the ability to walk to a number of places again. In the classroom I can certainly say that my time abroad has helped me. Unlike my first two years in Manchester, throughout the whole of this first semester I have never once been overly stressed by a hand-in deadline for work and been found pulling all nighters in a desperate effort to submit something acceptable as coursework. The time management needed to survive in the U.S. university system is definitely a skill that has stayed with me and has meant whilst I am spending more time in the library, I am definitely pretty much on top of my workload most of the time (it is too early to say this for certainty about my dissertation though).
Overall though, readjusting to life back at the University of Manchester has been pretty smooth. It’s hard not to miss my time abroad, but at least I got to have such a wonderful experience in the first place, and it has definitely enabled me to be better this year and inspired me to look in new directions for things such as postgraduate study and careers in the future.