It doesn’t matter how many countries you’ve been to or how many friends you’ve made, moving to a new city for 5 weeks with a group of Manchester uni students is scary. Seoul is so foreign to most, due to its culture and proximity in the world. It doesn’t matter how many shows you watch or articles you read, you still don’t really know what to expect until you get there. And there can be so much paperwork with Covid and travelling you land with a headache and a half empty suitcase wondering what might be waiting for you. This is what was waiting for us.
On arrival we had barely left the terminal, and someone had lost their passport. We panicked but it was eventually found exactly where she’d left it, next to the sink in the bathroom. No one had dared touch it; Seoul is too safe for that. It provided 5 weeks’ worth of jokes towards that poor girl that soon became one of my closest friends. She then went on to leave her phone halfway up a mountain, so she clearly didn’t learn her lesson. At the welcome day we had our own cheerleaders welcome us and an incredibly awkward group photo taken by our cutie international programmes leader Mr Yu, who was in charge of everything.
On my first day of uni I was shocked to find out my Asian art class actually involved painting! I thought it was art history and suddenly felt way out of my depth. That was until the incredibly kind Ms Kim started speaking and at an instance I was at ease. We started painting with ink sticks and her enthusiastic encouragement along with teaching assistant Seungeun Lee made me feel proud of what I had made even if other Manchester students were wondering if what I painted was a tarantula or bigfoot’s hairy toes. It was actually supposed to be a grape tree. Art is subjective anyway.
After our first night out, we struggled to get a taxi until our Korean knight in shining armour Semin arrived. Semin became our own personal tour guide and introduced us to a chicken restaurant that was approved by Gordon Ramsey, a hike up Inwangsan mountain that made me nearly pass out and he took us to traditional restaurants where the food blew my socks off. On a Friday cultural trip, we went to the demilitarised zone (DMZ) where we literally walked through a tunnel the North Koreans made. At the end of the tunnel, through a window we saw North Korea which was eerie. That divide has separated families for decades due to the Korean War.
On a lighter note, at the weekend we headed down to Jack’s game bar in Itaewon to celebrate a successful week where we had games of ping pong with Korean strangers. No night out is complete without heading down to a Noraeban (karaoke bar) to sing cringey throwback songs with those you adore most. In Korean art class during the week my painting got somewhat better with Ms Kim only occasionally saying: “that looks good, but what is it?”
On the next trip to Everland we went on a safari where giraffes poked their heads into the van and one nearly snatched the sunglasses from the top of my head, but it was worth it for a picture. We even experienced cuteness overload when going to the meerkat cafe and having them sit on our knees and chase each other happily. One evening after uni we went down to the Han river and had a takeout chicken picnic with Semin; the weather was still humid, but much more bearable after the sun went down. As the South Korea trip came to a finish, we started wrapping up all the activities we still wanted to do and of course having our last day trip with our new bestie Semin. We spent the whole of the final week with him including him cooking us all my favourite spaghetti dish, going to board game cafes with him, going to Boramae park and him cooking one last meal which was basically a ginormous feast. He made sure to not add too much spice because he knows I’m weak.
At the closing ceremony there was another dance performance and goodbyes from all the teachers in charge. We received our certificates which looked like fancy diplomas, and everyone got a free tin water bottle as a souvenir. We said our last goodbye to Mr Yu who blushed shyly when we said how much we enjoyed the programme. It was going to be strange to leave Seoul, to leave uni, to leave behind friends who were merely strangers a few weeks ago. I didn’t want to leave, but I am forever grateful I even got the opportunity to go in the first place. If you are considering applying for the summer programme to Seoul, just do it. You will get over the initial doubts of whether you will make friends or will like the food, you will get over the long-haul flights, you will get over the anxieties of travelling to somewhere new. But you will never get over the city of Seoul, you will never know a safer place nor a more vibrant one. You will never get over it, it will be a memory you will never let go of, nor would you ever want to.
My summer school experience in Seville has been fascinating in many ways. From the places I visited to the different people I’ve met, it really has made me appreciate things from another aspect. On a personal level, I believe I have improved on many things such as shopping, budgeting and cooking. Being able to travel alone, use different currencies and speak another language has made me a well-rounded person and these skills will definitely be useful in the future. I used Revolut and having done my research I knew I would avoid conversion fees if I got the money on weekdays and using market trends over the month and year to see if it’s better to delay the conversion or to do it on the spot.
I hadn’t travelled and lived out alone before so this was a new and highly enriching experience. Even going through the airport was a mission on the way there, but the journey back was quite relaxed. Putting yourself in the deep is tough but you learn fast, build confidence and it sticks with you, becomes a part of you. I didn’t travel as much as some other people but I’m glad I went Granada because it was beautiful. There was a religious event taking place on the weekend I went and the main mosque of Granada was stunning. The architecture, patterns, colours and the views of the Alhambra from the mosque were well worth the 3 hour trip. Just a little heads up that visiting Granada is like doing a leg day. It’s literally walking up many floors of stairs because of its location.
I can say that I have already used some of the recently learnt Spanish to communicate and being able to speak Spanish will no doubt be a contributing factor in building rapport with a patient that can speak either Spanish or Portuguese. The whole region of Andalucia has impacted me in a way that I want to return to it and enjoy the rows and rows of olive trees growing in the scorching sun.
There is a lot of Islamic history and a big population of Muslim Arabs, residing in Granada and Cordoba especially, and what makes it interesting is that their practising of the religion is slightly different to how we go about matters at home. These differences are clear proof of the all-encompassing, enveloping and tolerant nature of our religion such that any differences beyond core beliefs are showcasing the beauty of freedom within Divine limits. Hence, learning and respecting how or why such-and-such is the way it is in a certain part of the world enhances one’s appreciation of their own way and those who do things differently. This can influence you in a positive way if you are selectively wise and sound, leading to being a better-rounded and informed person who can then go on to become a source of knowledge, obtained via critical thinking and Divine inspiration and light to ultimately impact all those around you. It was in the Islamic Golden Age that the Alhambra was made, algebra came about and universities emerged, but what is beyond these outward tangible advancements and accolades is the conquering of the hearts of many people across continents. This rich Islamic history was everywhere, like the phrases repeated in the Alhambra and the 8 pointed stars serving as adornments of walls and as fountains, in not just the palace but also the Maria Luisa park beside Plaza de Espana. This raised so many questions as to how and why this was done, and where and how did such knowledge come to these people. For me, one question kept ringing in my mind: how did this all come to an end?
And just like that a month had passed and I was back.
Hi there, I’m Alice. I’m a Biomedical Sciences student. At the time of writing this, I am going to enter my second year of my degree programme. For the summer, I wanted to go abroad, expand my horizons, and challenge myself. As such, I decided to take a one-month French intensive course at Lyon Catholic University. It was one of the best decisions of my life. In this post, I will share my experience in Lyon, France.
As a person who was apprehensive about studying abroad as I’d never been so far away from home for this long before- I cannot recommend it enough! I studied in Lyon, France for a month during summer and I can honestly say it has been one of the best things I’ve done in my life so far. Not only does it give you a great chance for independence whilst exploring a new country, but it also helped me find my confidence and I made some strong friendships along the way.
The summer school also gave us opportunities to explore France and neighbouring countries as we had Wednesdays off for cultural activities and the university I studied at provided a few trips for us. During my time in Lyon, I also visited Nice, Paris and Geneva, which was great as I wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to do so! Adding to this, the actual summer school itself was super useful too. I have now moved up a level in my French, but more importantly I have gained confidence by speaking to locals daily. I hope to continue my French lessons in Manchester next year!
This experience has opened a huge door for me as I’m now considering studying a masters’ degree in Paris after I graduate, which I would never have considered if I didn’t come to Lyon. If you’re considering applying, I say go for it!
Spending 3 weeks abroad studying in Aarhus, Denmark has been one of the greatest opportunities I’ve ever been given, and I am thankful every day that I took my chance. I have been able to study the subject that I love, while in a beautiful city and experiencing a whole new culture. Being my first time travelling alone, I was very nervous, but now I cannot wait to explore the world more.
During my time studying Translational Psychobiology at Aarhus University, I have gained so much knowledge in a specific area. The course I study in Manchester, Biomedical Science, has a very broad spectrum of content. Having spent three weeks looking at neuroscience, I have developed a wealth of knowledge that many of my peers will not have. I have been able to look in depth at not only the theory but also the important experimental techniques by world-renowned researchers. I have refined my skills in reading and understanding academic papers and giving presentations. I am now considering specialising in neuroscience after my undergraduate studies, and I know that I will have a head-start on others. I also believe my employability has increased, not only because of the things that I have learnt, but because of the confidence studying abroad has given me.
I will not lie; I was absolutely terrified to travel abroad. I had barely travelled before, and never on my own. I was worried about whether I would make friends, how I would travel around, and what I could do. All my worries were for nothing. I have made so many amazing friends while I’ve been here and have done so many things. I’ve eaten so many different types of food, been to so many different museums and beautiful green places. I visited Copenhagen and the beautiful town of Ebeltoft. I have experienced the nightlife, and had cosy days in a bakery, reading my book. It has not always been easy, and I have felt homesick at times, but luckily, I met some beautiful people who have helped me make the most of my time in Aarhus.
Taking the opportunity to travel on my own has taught me that I am capable of so much more than I would have expected of myself. I have become a more confident, social person who is much more open to trying new things that I would have never considered before. While the academic side of studying in Aarhus has been amazing, I really cannot express enough how much I have developed as a person. A year ago, I would have never thought I could travel alone to a foreign country. Now, I am already planning my next trip. I feel more confident in social situations, and I have managed to make friends for life while I have been here – in all honesty, I expected to be quite lonely. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
All in all, my biggest lesson that I have learnt is to be a “yes person”. Say yes to opportunities, yes to making friends, yes to making plans. If I hadn’t said yes, I would be a very different person right now, and all I can say is that I am glad for the change that the opportunity to study abroad has given me.
Hi, my name’s Emerald. I’m 19 years old and I’ll be going into my second year of studies at the University of Manchester in September 2022. I loved my first year of Uni and I made lots of friends. I was sad to leave them for the summer after becoming so comfortable in my Uni life at Manchester, but I was also excited to meet lots of new people who all come from different cultures (and to get a tan of course). I study French, so my main motivation for studying in France for a month was to improve my French. Therefore, before going to Lyon, I already had a good grounding in French and could speak it pretty well, but I was by no means fluent.
Applying to the summer school and preparing to leave England
Applying to the summer school was through the University of Manchester and it was a relatively easy process. There was a lot of support available to guide us through the process. The International Programmes Office staff are really happy to help and they give you lots of advice on what to expect / what to pack / tips for the particular country you are going to study in based on previous students’ experiences. I flew to Lyon on the 1st of July with a friend called Witiko who also studied at UCLY (Université Catholique de Lyon). I would advise flying out with a friend if possible because it’s much less stressful flying with another person, and it’s more fun of course.
My thoughts on the University classes
I came to France thinking that University would be very formal, and I was scared of accidentally using the subject pronoun “toi” instead of “vous” with teachers. But within the first day, it was clear how friendly the teaching staff were. I got to know my classmates well and made friends with all age groups of many different nationalities.
I really liked the vibe our class had, and I enjoyed going to class every day. Despite it being quite a long day of lessons (starting at 8:30am and finishing at 15:30pm), it wasn’t too draining. The test that you take before coming to France helps the Uni to assign you to the right class based on your French-speaking ability, and I would say that this was quite accurate for me and I was put into the correct class for my level. The constant exposure to French meant that by the end, I was able to passively listen to the teacher speaking French and understand her, without having to fully concentrate on every word she was saying. I also found that when I came into the classroom in the morning, my “French brain” kind of switched on, and I could speak French more fluidly.
My favourite excursions with UCLY
Every Wednesday, the French University organises a free excursion for the students. I loved every one of the excursions. My favourite ones were as followed…
Visiting the town of Annecy: This place was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been too. We left early in the morning, travelled by coach, and spent the entire day there. We had an interesting guided-tour and were then allowed to spend the rest of the day however we wanted. My friends and I ate lunch together and then swam in Lake Annecy, which is beautifully blue and a perfect way to cool down.
Visiting the village of Pérouges: Again, this village was gorgeous and so well preserved from when it was first founded. All of the electricity cables are hidden underground so that everything in sight is authentically “French”. It was very peaceful there. My friend and I tried Pérouges’ speciality – “une galette au sucre” – which was like a pizza with sugar on it.
My own sightseeing
My favourite way to relax and escape the heat was to go to the swimming pool Centre Nautique Tony Bertrand. I met a lot of nice people there and it was only 8 Euros to go for 4 hours. And they have slides and jacuzzis, so we (as 19+ year olds, just to remind you) had many “courses de toboggans” (slide races)!
I was very lucky to have been in Lyon for July because there was a community wide event called “Tout l’Monde Dehors” which offered 180 free events over the course of the month. I went to a lot of events that they held and they were all brilliant, especially given the fact that they were free. My favourite was going to the event “L’Opéra sous les étoiles” (Opera under the stars), which was a live Opera screening held in the remains of the Roman Amphitheatre at the top of a cliff.
One of the days I was most excited for was 14th July, which is a national holiday for the French. Throughout the day, I walked around with my friends and enjoyed the sun. Then in the evening, we went and sat by the River Rhône to watch the huge firework show Lyon puts on. There were thousands of people gathered to watch the show and everyone was in really good spirits. The fireworks were amazing, lots of them coloured blue / white / red like the colours of the French flag, and I even had the opportunity to have a long conversation in French with the couple sitting next to me.
I met a lovely woman called Slava in my class. She and her family are living in France temporarily after leaving Ukraine because of the war with Russia. We have become good friends and she invited me around to her house one evening (she and her two boys are living with a host family) and I had the best time with them. They were so welcoming, friendly and, because I can’t speak any Ukrainian, they spoke to me in English and we had a lot of laughs. Slava’s son cooked us burgers, which were delicious, and then we played ping-pong and swam in their neighbour’s pool. This was my favourite evening in Lyon.
Reflecting on my time in Lyon
The hardest thing for me was being in a completely new environment and having to figure it all out mainly by myself. In Manchester, I am used to being around my friends virtually 24/7. So, when I arrived, I didn’t immediately make best friends with everyone (obviously!), I felt kind of alone. But after a few days, I made friends, settled in, found the best grocery shops to go to etc. and everything fell into place. I should count myself lucky that I already had a good level of French before arriving because at least I didn’t have to worry about not being able to speak a word of French. I also found that I enjoyed sightseeing alone some days and just having some time to myself. I learned that I don’t have to be constantly around friends in order to enjoy myself. For example, I went to “Le Parc de la Tête d’Or” (a huge park that has a free zoo and botanical gardens that you can look round) by myself one day, and had a great time.
I could write lots more about my time in Lyon and my camera roll is full of cool pictures of the city and things that I did. But to summarise, I would really recommend studying in Lyon for the month. It is such a beautiful city with so many things to do and your French-speaking ability improves exponentially when you are immersed in the culture. It was the perfect balance of study and fun.
Since college, I had always wanted to study abroad. I heard a lot about the opportunity from teachers and students explaining it was life-changing and unforgettable. However, I never really knew what they meant. How could studying in another country really be so unforgettable? Of course, I knew I would become more independent and gain a greater understanding of the world. But how could this be the best experience of my life?
I have always wanted to travel and live abroad, and I was aware that it is very important to gain research experience during my degree to be in good standing for job offers/ post-graduate study. Mitacs ticked both those boxes, and as it is fully funded it removed a lot of the concerns I had around the cost of travelling abroad/other summer study opportunities.
By Georgia Kennington, Global Guidance Ambassador (2020-2021)
When I found out that my application to be a GGA was successful, I was so excited. I had enjoyed my year abroad so much that I wanted to encourage and help other people to do the same. And that is pretty much what the job is in a nutshell!
I get to talk to a lot of students, which is my favourite part of the job. I spend a lot of time answering people’s questions via emails and social media, and making sure that everyone has as much information as possible to make the best choices about their study abroad!
It’s also important that all our information, website, and resources are kept up to date. This year has been a particular challenge in this regard, everything is always changing. From Brexit to the pandemic, keeping on top of things has been a little difficult, but we’ve spent a lot of time updating things as much as we can to keep everyone on the same page. Unfortunately, we do have to deliver some disappointing news from time to time, but we work hard to make sure that there are backup plans in place.
So far, my favourite thing that we’ve done has been the social events. Adapting them to a virtual audience for the pandemic was challenging (we know everyone’s a bit over Zoom at this point), but in a good way. We had to come up with some inventive ways to get people to know each other, get people chatting, and more importantly have some fun! My fellow GGAs and I did all the preparation, making the presentations and quizzes, and reaching out to previous study abroaders to ask whether they’d be up for giving some of their time to answer the newbies’ questions. Having these volunteers made everything so much more easy and enjoyable, and I think that the attendees really appreciated having their expertise! The actual social events were so much fun – we called them Greet n’ Games with Go Abroad – and that’s exactly what we did! It was great getting to introduce everyone, having people make group chats and meeting the others they’d be sharing their time with when they go out there… and the games weren’t half bad either! The winners got a Lonely Island guide book for their partner destination, which we thought would be a nice touch (and actually encourage people to try their best!). All in all, the events went smoothly, and I had a great time meeting everyone who would be going out in the following year.
I also maintain our social media, making posts for Instagram and collecting as many student photos as we can to share with everyone. I never thought I’d get the chance to try my hand at a bit of graphic design too… But turns out being a GGA involves a little bit of everything! I’ve also been able to write blogs (like this one) and do some data handling (when I say everything, I mean everything).
Being a GGA is made so much better by the support of the incredible IPO team. I love having my fellow GGAs to work with, and the senior IPO staff are really supportive and encouraging; they listen to any ideas we may have and help us put them into practice. We are also given a good amount of independence and are able to take the lead with projects like the social events. It feels really good having the trust and support of such an amazing team of people, to be able to manage my own time and work how I think is best, it makes working as a GGA a pleasure!
Georgia Kennington, Politics and International Relations, Studied at the University of Amsterdam