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First Impressions

By Ruby Smith (UBC, Vancouver)

My only expectations of Vancouver were beautiful scenery and good food, something I’d gathered from my research prior to my departure. However, once I’d escaped the airport after a painfully long wait in immigration, I was desperate to see for myself what the city had to offer. I was excited to experience adulthood in a completely new environment with a new set of people. When I moved to Manchester, I knew my family and friends were a train ride away, whereas this time I really felt like someone had handed me a blank canvas and a whole new load of responsibility. After having spent the ten-hour flight from London Gatwick with one of the lads from Manchester, I felt secure that I’d already got to know someone. We had planned to stay in the same hotel for two night prior to moving into the halls on campus. After familiarising ourselves with Vancouver’s high-rise urban setting and trying our first ‘Tim Horton’ coffee (something we decided was highly overrated), I already felt like I belonged in this city. The fast pace, cosmopolitan lifestyle is something I can relate to as a Londoner, but it has a certain laid-back aspect to it that suit me well. One thing I love is the contrast between Vancouver’s multiple districts, one moment you’re in the corporation hub, overshadowed by Trump’s colossal international tower or the iconic Harbour Tower, the next moment you stumble into Gastown’s haven, welcomed by the kitsch thrift shops and eateries. Vancouver is renowned for its fantastically tall architecture. The buildings are built into the clouds and are quite breath-taking as they reflect the bright sunshine and blue skies I’ve been blessed with since my arrival.

The final move into campus filled me with apprehension as I was unsure whether living away from the city would suit me. It’s taken a good week to get used to campus-life, and at times I feel like I’m in an episode of the ‘Truman Show’. One of the things that worried me most was meeting new housemates, it felt wrong that I was having to go through the whole process of living with complete strangers again. On the first day I met two of my housemates who are from Japan. Although it’s been hard to communicate with them due to language barriers, I have enjoyed listening about their home lives and feel we will learn a lot from each other this year. In a way it’s quite nice to be thrown slightly out my comfort zone.

Over the first week I was surprised how quickly I met exchange students. One of the first days we went to a Frat party, and if I wasn’t sure enough before I can now officially confirm they are not for me. It has taken me some time to come to terms with the differences between UBC and UoM, but I’m slowly getting used to it and have met some great people (mainly Brits so far but I’m working on it). Next step for me, venturing into the wild to see what beautiful British Colombia has locked away in the mountains.

 

 

Emotional aftermath

By Nooa Karlo ((previously) University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

After finishing my studies in the University of Hong Kong, following the last deadline I had for term paper submissions on the 24th of May, I soon left to travel in South Korea and Japan for almost three weeks. Now, I suppose I could talk about that time, because there certainly would be a lot to talk about, evidenced by over 2000 pictures I took while travelling. But looking back at things now that it’s been a few months since I returned home and now that there’s an entire summer between Hong Kong and me reveals that I really do miss staying there. And not just staying there, I miss the food, the buildings, the ocean, the colours, the sounds. (Ok there’s one thing I don’t miss and that’s whatever the weather was very quickly becoming as spring progressed towards summer but I barely avoided that so let’s not count that.) I miss the people I met and the experiences I had, even though it’s sometimes difficult for me to remember it all coherently, because there was just so much going on. Eventually I got used to the new things and they became everyday things, old things. So now that I won’t be going back anymore, at least not as an undergraduate exchange student, now that my room in the JCSVIII is no longer my room, now that I can use my credit card in practically any shop at any time without having to fear the card reader will say ‘connection lost’ at any moment, now that I can’t awkwardly say the only greeting I learnt in Cantonese to the people around me anymore, it just feels strange. Because it feels like I should be going back, but I’m not. I don’t miss Hong Kong in the way that would make my chest feel tight and my face contort to sadness, but I miss it in the way that things just don’t feel right now that I’m not there anymore. Five months was a really short time and I wish I could’ve stayed for longer, but it was just enough to make me feel somewhat at home even on the other side of the world. To those people who helped make me feel that way, I would like to say thanks. I hope I will be able to keep in contact with you in the future too! And to those who were affected by the typhoon a week ago, not only in Hong Kong but especially in Hong Kong, I wish strength to overcome whatever problems it caused you. Having seen the destruction the storm left in its wake has made me worry about the safety of everyone there. Hope you’re all okay. I guess that’s all I wanted to say about my time in Hong Kong on this blog. Goodbye, and thanks for those who’ve read my posts as well!

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One of the many faces of Hong Kong

Reflections on Studying Abroad

By Amy Williams, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Manly Hall Residence building – feels weird not to be living here, but I’m not going to miss the stairs!

It has been just over a year since I left to study at UNC, and I can honestly say I wish I was there now – well maybe not right now due to the hurricane! It’s a bit difficult to compare student life in America to student life here at Manchester as there are ups and downs to both campuses. At Manchester I felt it was a lot easier for me to get involved in things – the freshers fair was easy to navigate, and I joined a campus hockey team and orchestra. UNC did offer these things, but I felt they were harder to find, even at fall fest (their version of freshers fair). I also didn’t take my saxophone and hockey stick abroad, I did only have one suitcase! Still, UNC was a lovely open campus, not in a city, with plenty of places to sit outside and eat, and whilst Manchester does have these things, UNC doesn’t have the rain.

Continue reading “Reflections on Studying Abroad”

Home (but the journey continues)

I thought that going abroad was going to be the biggest change in my life this year. But since returning, things are still continuing to change. I have started an internship with the University of Manchester over summer, and in turn, my first full time, professional job. I have lived completely alone for the first time – including setting up all the heating, internet and meters in the house!! And finally, (here comes the biggie) my parents made the decision to move to New Zealand.

I feel as if this year hasn’t just been a monumental shift within myself, but my family too. And without studying abroad, I wouldn’t have been able to handle all the things that I have listed anywhere near as well as I have. I’m not going to pretend it’s all been easy, but I have coped and thrived and grown up rapidly in the space of a few months.

I used to be so afraid of change – making the decision to go abroad was not one I took lightly, and I’m not sure I ever truly believed I was going until I stepped off the plane in Toronto. But now, I can feel myself embracing it; my parents are moving to the other side of the world and I could not be more excited for them (and for myself too!)

By studying abroad I  proved my ability for independence to myself and to my parents, and I don’t know if they would be moving if I hadn’t gone. The decision to live abroad affects not just you but everyone you know, and if it affects you positively, chances are it will affect them positively too.

I am working with the international office on my internship, and I cannot express how rewarding it has been to be involved with the process of encouraging students to study abroad, and being able to pass on my experience and passion to them. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity in this internship, and met the amazing people I have, and gained the life experience that I have, if it wasn’t for studying abroad.

If you haven’t already got the message – go! Study abroad! You will gain a lifetime of memories, experiences and knowledge and grow so much as a person – and this doesn’t stop on your return. And hey, who knows – your family might move to the other side of the world and give you a new place to explore.

(Cape Reinga, New Zealand. The top of the north island, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean)

Singapore ends

By Monika Kvassheim, National University of Singapore

As most other exchange students, if I could do it again, I would. I had a great year in Singapore and have been home for a while thinking about it. I wanted to write about the highlights of the year that I haven’t mentioned so far.

I had a family, sort of a host family, who invited me for dinners and get togethers once in a while, a highlight was the Chinese New Year dinner cooked by the grandma. Or when we made a promo video for one of the board games designed by my host’s husband.

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Continue reading “Singapore ends”

See you soon, Syd.

Bhumi Shukla, University of Sydney

I feel like I have overused the phrase “Australia has really changed me” but I can’t stress this enough. Studying abroad has given me a new perspective on life, a new passion to travel and new traits to enhance my character.

Although I returned home quite a while back, I still feel connected to Australia. Even in simple conversations, you are bound to bring up the fact you were abroad – “When I was abroad…” “In Australia we had…” Will people get tired of hearing your stories? Absolutely. Will that stop you from telling your stories? Absolutely not.

The memories you create and the people you meet will always stay with you on your journey. Some of my best friends I made on my time abroad still hold the same value in my life. (Thank you Steve Jobs for FaceTime!) Of course studying abroad means you literally have to study abroad, but making time to socialise and really step out of my comfort zone has helped me in life in more ways you can imagine. For example, I spent part of my Summer 2018 in Singapore with a friend from exchange who was local to the place and offered me a place to stay as well as be the best tour guide you could have! You never know how the people you could meet abroad can help you in life. And vice versa!

I can’t say studying abroad has been all fun and games – because it hasn’t. There were days when I would get homesick, days when I felt down, and days when I was just uncomfortable. But that’s okay! This was all part of the process. This was what contributed to change me as a person. This was what made me adapt.

When you are abroad, you will have times when you feel lonely, the best way to overcome this is keep in touch with your family & friends back home. I can’t stress this enough! I also realised that keeping busy helps! As an exchange student, I met heaps of other exchange students on the same boat as me (tip: ‘heaps’ is Aussie for lots!). For me, spending time with these people and sharing stories really helped me feel better. It’s all about patience and baby steps.

I truly can’t put into words how lucky I feel to have lived my dreams. Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef? Check! Feeding kangaroos? Triple check! Experiencing these things at the time doesn’t feel so overwhelming, but over time looking back at the pictures really humbles you and you become grateful for this opportunity you had been given.

I strongly recommend the Study Abroad programme, I promise you it will all be worth it.

Thank you for the memories Sydney. I can’t wait to see you again. 

 

 

 

Styles of learning and assessment at UDLAP

It has now been a month of being in Mexico, and 4 full weeks are behind me, but I definitely have found it harder than I realised to balance everything I want to do together with all the things I need to do. From various people who have studied at UDLAP before, the workload was supposed to be lighter and accommodating to lots of time not spent at uni or thinking about uni-related commitments. However, the first week at UDLAP was filled with bureaucracy and form-filling, which made me more grateful than ever for Manchester’s efficient administration. Into the first week of classes, it became more clear that, for my modules at least, it was more like A-levels again, and quantity over quality.

While at Manchester we are generally used to a 2-hour lecture, followed by a 1-hour tutorial during the week, 1-2 essays across the semester, and a final exam – this is certainly not the style at UDLAP. I have classes that are just an hour long, but twice a week, and following every class, tareas (homework) are set for the following lesson (which is either 48 hours away – or 5 days). This, coupled together with exams every month, and often an essay later in the semester and/or an exam at the end of the semester, makes it all the more important to stay on top of my work week on week.

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The sunny campus, with immaculately kept gardens – a far cry from rainy, grey Manchester

However, in all honesty, I did not come to Mexico to sit in the library – for one, its not raining all the time in Cholula – so it has been a bit of a learning curve to balance everything. Together with going to salsa and bachata classes, and pushing myself to get to the gym, my three days of classes are pretty hectic. It has also been a learning curve for me to let go a little bit on academic work, and to remember that this is a pass/fail year.

That said, I have also travelled quite a lot in my first month here: the highlights including the perennially hectic Mexico City, the majestic pyramids of Teotihuacán, the Sierra Norte town of Cuetzalan, with beautiful waterfalls nestled among dense verdant vegetation, the colonial architecture and brightly coloured streets of Puebla, and of course Cholula itself, which in the mes de patria is adorned with decorations, ferias and more amazing food and drink than you could ever imagine!

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Looking towards la Pirámide del Sol, Teotihuacan

A month in, Mexico is just as wonderful as I could hope, and continues to surprise me more and more each day. More to come next month on some interesting festivals and rituals here!

 

Cross Road Blues

I knew it would be deflating to say the least when I came home from my semester in the States, but I honestly felt a bit lost. During the semester, I always had the reassurance that I’d be coming back to something – family, friends and life in Manchester. But the excitement of being back in the UK started to be replaced by the sadness of missing my new friends and an exciting life across the pond.

So, I tried to change my outlook over the Summer. Here’s my three main pieces of advice for adjusting to life back at home when it seems really tough:

1. Plan for the future

One of the best reasons for making friends across the world is that you always have a reason to visit somewhere new or exciting. Similarly, you could introduce the glory of Greggs’ sausage rolls to a foreign friend, or become their personal tour guide. The possibilities are endless, and it gives you a reason to spice up your calendar.

I also used my summer to mentally prepare myself for the final year of my degree. Now that I’ve tried a completely different learning style, I can appreciate what works for me in terms of studying. For example, I found studying more often, in smaller work sessions, really improves my memory of difficult materials. Think about getting the most out of your degree in Manchester.

2. Read everything!

Spending three weeks road tripping left absolutely no free time for reading. When I got home, however, I got back into the habit of reading everything around me. Book series are a great way to get lost in another world, whilst newspapers help you connect better to the real world around you. Instead of spending hours mindlessly scrolling through exotic Instagram accounts, try picking up a book and seeing what you can learn from it.

3. Be the support you seek from others

Finally, reaching out to people who care about you is the most important advice I could give. I can still relive memories with friends I made at NC State online, but I also now have time to catch up with home friends and family in person. Make sure that you spend time learning about any life changes your friends and relatives may have gone through while you’ve been away. Everyone needs support at some point or another, so being there for each other makes it easier to talk about any issues or struggles.

 

With the start of uni rapidly approaching, I’m excited (and admittedly terrified) to see what my final year brings. But I also feel re-energised and inspired to bring elements of my American experience to my degree. No one will ever have the same study abroad experience as someone else, it is entirely individual and unique and it doesn’t suit everyone. But I’d encourage anyone interested to just throw yourself into it and see what opportunities jump back.

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Breaking out of the comfort zone: A reflection

Salma Rana, Queen’s University

I want to start off by thanking God for all the opportunities I have had. I am incredibly grateful for everything that has come my way, through His will.

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When I was leaving Manchester last year, although I was excited about my upcoming journey, I was equally hesitant. I wondered if I was making the right choice, if it was worth finishing university a year later than everyone else, and missing out on so much time with my friends and family at home. I had so many “what if’s?” in my head, to the point where I was thinking of backing out in the last few weeks before I left. But now looking back, those worries are nothing compared to all the beautiful memories, lessons and friendships I gained. If I could go back, I would tell myself to stop worrying because the most important year of my life so far was to begin.

Continue reading “Breaking out of the comfort zone: A reflection”

Fitting In

Salma Rana, Queen’s University

During my year at Queen’s, there was a huge variety of ways to get involved with both the University community and the larger Kingston community.

THE MSA

I am very much involved with the Muslim community at University of Manchester (shout to Manchester ISOC!). However, I quickly realized that Muslims are a true minority in Kingston, Ontario. Even more than any place I have been to in England. There is only one mosque. Nevertheless, I quickly realized something else: the love in this community is one of a kind. The transport links to the mosque aren’t too good, so it can be difficult to get there, but QUMSA (Queen’s Muslim Student Association) do a lot to make sure students are truly catered for. From hosting congregation prayers, regular lectures, socials and charity events. Continue reading “Fitting In”