Adapting back to Manchester: life after studying abroad

While you are studying abroad, one of the last things you are thinking about is returning to Manchester to finish your degree. Whether it is a single semester, your final year or returning to do a masters, returning to academic life in Manchester offers a unique set of challenges which is not often associated with the process of studying abroad.

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Having spent an academic year at Arizona State University (ASU), one of the main differences I found was the weather. This may not sound like a big deal, but having gone almost an entire year not having to wear anything more than shorts, it can be surprising how much of a difference walking to a few lectures in the rain can do. This can significantly affect your mood and potentially your academic progress. I found the best way to overcome this was remind myself why I had chosen the University of Manchester in the first place, which involved getting stuck back into my course and playing football again after a summer off. After the first week or so once I had adapted to Manchester to being the norm again and stopped drawing constant comparisons with my year abroad, I soon found that this initial shock could be easily overcome.

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While studying abroad there can often be a big difference between the academic side whilst abroad compared with back in Manchester. This means that getting back to Manchester and doing assignments again can be daunting. This is especially the case for returnees like me whose year abroad did not count towards their final grade but instead was pass/fail.  In addition to this, courses in Manchester may also include information from the previous year, which you may not be aware of if the classes during your study abroad did not cover the same topics. Getting by this may include spending a little extra time on assignments and study than you would normally need to initially, however this is far outweighed by the benefits of studying abroad and all the amazing experiences you have had. This is also not that of a big deal in the long run, in my own experiences I only had to deal with acclimatizing to doing assignments in Manchester for the first couple.

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The biggest challenge I found, which is probably different for different people, was going from studying abroad where I was travelling and constantly experiencing new things to being back in Manchester, where the initial shock of moving back is replaced by a sense of familiarity and the every day. Going from one to the other is often coupled with not enjoying Manchester as much as you used to and the feeling that your study abroad never actually happened. While I was walking to the Ali G it was hard to believe that just a few months earlier I was travelling around America on the back of studying there for a year. Despite this however it was good to see people again that I hadn’t seen since the last summer and overall getting back to Manchester after a summer of seeing friends and family isn’t so bad. While studying abroad is a great experience and one I wish I could re-live over and over again, returning to Manchester is often not discussed or viewed as part of the process. Overall I found that because of this when I returned back it took me a while to get back into my stride. Once I had done this however, I could get on with finishing my degree while being able to look back at all the fantastic memories I had of the time I was away.

Coming Home

Hello all!

I am officially back in Manchester, and back into my studies back at uni here. I thought I’d write a little blog about how it feels to be back studying in Manchester, when i’ve not been back here for quite some time!

In many ways, it feels like I never left Manchester. Memories of my time spent in Arizona almost feel like some kind of distant dream, like something that never actually happened. It’s hard to believe that a few months ago my average week looked like sunbathing by my dorms pool, preparing for a weekend away in a cool city, and of course a few classes in between all of that stuff. Now, I’m back in the North of England, where rainy days are commonplace, and there isn’t an outdoor pool in sight. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. I adore the city of Manchester, and I always have. My friends are here, my family are only a short drive away and England is simply just home, where everything makes sense and is familiar again.

However, it is hard to adjust back to life in Manchester, and life in a British university, after spending time in an American institution. The academic work in Manchester is a whole different ball game to the American way of doing things, and it is a little daunting to have to adjust to the level of reading I have here once again! Gone are my days of small intimate classes where we discuss and learn together, and everyone waits for my input just to hear my accent. I’m back into my lecture theatres of 200 people, where I frantically type on my laptop to take in all of the information that my highly-esteemed lectures throw at me. Then there’s the dissertation, the giant research project that i’m expected to embark upon soon. It’s certainly a process, to adjust back to life here again.

Irrespective of all of that however, I wouldn’t change the experiences I had abroad for anything. I learnt so much about myself, and about a new culture whilst I was away that I feel like my whole life is different now. I am now that slightly annoying friend that brings up America every chance I get, or somehow finds a way to weave it back into the conversation. Every little part of life reminds me of being in the US, and all of the experiences that I had there. I think those 6 months in Arizona will be formative for the rest of my life.

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catching up with friends during freshers week!

Being back in Manchester isn’t all doom and gloom in reality. I’m catching up with friends, getting back into my societies and church, and exploring this vibrant city again with a whole new appreciation for it. I had my third and final (yikes) freshers week, and made the most of that with amazing friends. Plus, I am loving my new modules this term, and am being taught by some of my favourite professors at Manchester. Ultimately, life is different, but life is good. If you’re considering studying abroad, I’d encourage you to just do it. It will be an incredible experience, it will change your life, and you won’t regret it.

This is me signing off here for the final time, thanks for joining me on this journey, I have loved documenting my experience through this blog.

Gabi xoxo

Being back from study abroad

Hello, my name is Emily and I’m addicted to talking about study abroad.

I’m back, lads. Back in Manchester after studying abroad at McGill University and do not need much prompting at all to start talking about Canada. I don’t want to be a typical ‘Gap yah’ continually talking about my year in Canada but it’s not hard to slot into conversation something that happened in Canada, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Just to reiterate, I studied abroad for a year at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, I feel everyone needs to know.

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Your stereotypical “My year aboard was the best experience of my life” speech from your returning friends

By Chloe Coradetti, Mechanical Engineering, The National University of Singapore, Singapore.

Hellooo Manchester, I’m back!

I’ve settled back to my Mancunian way of life since mid-September.
It all happened so quickly: moving out, grieving the Asian food, the beginning and the end of the blissful holidays with friends and family, packing and moving to my flat with my two lovely British roommates, starting Uni, seeing everyone you haven’t seen in a year like nothing changed, intense masters’ lectures, first coursework, graduate applications etc…

-Catching a Breath-

My usual Manchester way of life just smashed me right back in the face so hard and so fast that I ended up bamboozled lying on my bed looking at this elephant decoration I’ve brought back from Singapore thinking:
“Did this year abroad actually happened or did my brain tricked me to think so as a coping mechanism for the cold I’m experiencing right now?”– I pulled the blanket up, closed my eyes and softly went down the spiral of near-unbelievable memories of my past year, still doubting myself about the reality of it all, when my phone rings…

 

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Tales of Burma – Photo Credit to Hannah Pezzack

 

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Reflections on Studying Abroad (just another excuse to keep talking about my year abroad, really)

By Elizabeth Pace (Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)

So this is my eighth and final blog (try not to get too upset) and its basically just a short one to talk about what it’s like being back in Manchester, post-Illinois.

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Looking back on Aus

Bethan Rowsby, University of Sydney, Geography.

I am writing this having been back in the UK for a month now, and back in Manchester for about 2 weeks. I have just finished my first week back at uni, involving talks regarding my dissertation, introductions to my new classes and seeing friends and coursemates who also went abroad – it has been so great being able to share stories of our years away from Manchester. Amidst all this I have sometimes felt as is my year in Sydney didn’t happen, because everything here has hardly changed and when I returned, I felt the familiarity of it all so quickly.

Leaving Sydney was hard because I was leaving behind friends who I didn’t know a year ago but who had become so close to me. Whilst I was looking forward to being home and especially to seeing my family again, I knew I would miss the people I had met in Sydney and that the goodbye would be a sad one. As well as all this, I knew I would also miss living so close to the beach and going for swims and hangs in the evenings! Sydney really was good to me.

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Home Sweet Home

By Jing-Jing Hu (University of British Columbia Okanagan, Canada)

After another two weeks of travelling in Canada and the US, I eventually made my way back home – first to Germany and then to Manchester (at last).

In Germany, I spent the majority of my time with friends and family, exchanging stories on all the things that had happened in the last few months (and there were a lot), celebrating my sister’s highschool graduation and visiting friends in different cities in the area. It took me a while to realise that I am not in Canada anymore (it is summer, but where is the snow?!), but I eventually got used to the fact that my time in the country famous for its beautiful nature, its icehockey team and maple syrup was over – for now. Writing and talking about Canada still makes me feel nostalgic, but at the same time I have missed my loved ones at home. And there are a few things that  I sometimes take for granted in Germany that I have missed, too:

The architecture, for instance, (here in Freiburg)…

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…or a good wiener schnitzel with spätzle – a typical German dish.

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Back in Manchester I worked as a student ambassador for a couple of days before starting my internship.

IMG_9774As part of the internship I sometimes travel to London and I must admit I was quite surprised when I found a sunny and hot London (it was over 30°C!)  instead of the cold and rainy one I was used to. I mean, where is the rain?! Where is the wind?! Why is it not cold?! Well, at least the red buses are still there and of course, the impressive architecture. London never fails to amaze me in some way or the other – and neither does Manchester.

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Although it is in the middle of summer and many of my university friends are back in their home country or travelling, I was very pleased to see some of them during graduation in July. It is unbelievable how fast time has passed. Two years ago I first arrived in Manchester, not knowing a single person. This year I am welcoming new students to our University in September, with a wealth of experiences to share. And next year? Next year I will (hopefully) be where some of my friends were this July – graduating with a degree from The University of Manchester. Let’s see what the future holds in store for me, but whatever is going to happen – the beautiful memories I have made in Canada will always stay with me.

Auckland pre-departure

By Megan Turner (The University of Auckland, New Zealand)

I have one day to go before I fly to New Zealand, a journey that will take twenty-six hours and include two planes, one layover and no comfortable sleeping positions. My suitcase is almost full, but I have only packed half of my things and it still feels like there are a million things left for me to sort out. It’s tricky to condense a year’s worth of stuff into 30kg of hold luggage, especially when I have to cover all seasons and I’m trying to think of everything that I could possibly need in a country that I have never been to before which really bombards you with shipping costs because it’s so far from everywhere else.

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Returning to Manchester

By Annabel Savage (Stony Brook, The State University of New York, USA)

It’s strange to think that I’ve been back in the UK for as long as I was in America and the time has gone so quickly since my return. In a way my whole semester abroad feels like a distant memory, but sometimes it feels like just yesterday.

The adjustment back into Manchester life took a little longer than I had expected, although socially I felt like I slipped straight back in, the workload and teaching style I had been so used to here in first year came as a shock to the system. I feel I have forgotten slightly how to revise for one cumulative final exam, instead of the midterms to which I had become accustomed. Nonetheless, it’s now like I’ve never left, except I have so many incredible memories and friends from all over the globe.

If you’re reading this in doubt as to whether you’re going to miss out in Manchester – don’t worry! There are definitely conversations I can’t join in, but the semester flew by, and all of a sudden I am back to the same old routine and adventurous weekends involve a trip into Piccadilly as opposed to New York!

The only thing now that I’m struggling with is keeping up with my international friends dotted all over the globe, as with my class schedule and time differences it’s tricky to coordinate Skype. Thankfully social media makes it easy enough to keep in touch! I can’t believe it’s really all over but I’m making plans to see my friends, sofa hopping around Europe this summer and have some American friends coming to visit this summer too, so Stony Brook is definitely not just a distant memory!

Reflections on Study Abroad on my return to Manchester

By Hamish Russell (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA)

It’s been six months since I landed back at Heathrow, and almost four since I started back at the University of Manchester after my semester abroad. Getting back into everyday life with family and friends was easy, but adjusting back to the university work in Manchester was actually quite difficult. Having been working at a very different pace while in the US, the workload that I’ve been hit with so far in third (and final) year has been tricky to adapt to. As well as that, it’s been almost strange not always planning a trip to somewhere new, as if that’s the norm for a student.

One thing I have enjoyed since I’ve been back is helping current study abroad students. It’s been quite fulfilling being able to guide people through their preparations for their own study abroad exchanges, giving them information and details that were very helpful to me, and were perhaps not given to me before I embarked on my trip.

Returning to Manchester has also impressed upon me the importance and significance of studying abroad. Every time I talk to someone about university, or opportunities for after leaving university, I am always asked about my time abroad. I won’t have brought it up specifically, but it’s on my CV and seems to be something that catches peoples’ eyes. As well as making my time at university that bit more special, studying abroad has already begun to have a positive impact on my future.

Nobody said it was easy, nobody said it would be so hard.

By Isobel Cecil (University of California, San Diego, USA).

(I wrote this a month ago, and thought I’d posted it a month ago to. I’ve only just realised that my technical capabilities have failed me again and that it didn’t post. Hey, just another setback!)

Here I am just a few days away from my long flight to California, and I’m finding it very hard to describe how I feel. Everybody keeps asking me: “Are you excited??!?!?” , to acquaintances I enthusiastically reply “Yeah! 100%! Woohoo!” and make some lighthearted joke about tanning/Mexican food/ surfer boys. However to those closer to me I tell the truth; I don’t have any overwhelming feelings of excitement, happiness nor even of fear and nerves.

The journey to this point in time has been the most incredibly stressful process I have ever been through. I’ve felt like every aspect has had multiple setbacks: from course selection confusion to seemingly never-ending Visa problems and stresses.

And then, when I thought everything was sorted, I received an email informing me that I had not got into “International House” (the only UCSD accommodation we were allowed to apply for). I remember joking with my Manchester friends whilst writing my 5 mini-essays for the application (no joke) that if I didn’t get it I would just have to camp out on the beach for year. When I received the email I had no reaction, it was like I’d just read another email from ASOS/Student Beans.

The truth is, I was so shocked and scared that I just couldn’t process it. It wasn’t until my parents came home and I had to put it into words that I started to freak out. I had nowhere to live; there was no space left on campus,;I wasn’t going to get the campus experience I had signed up for — the experience that I had sacrificed my second year in Manchester for.

The worst thing was that there was no straightforward next step. The rejection email had one link on it to “Commuter Student Services”, a website designed for 3rd/4th year UCSD students, who have grown out of campus life. There was a list of extremely helpful tips such as “Drive around different neighborhoods to see if you like atmosphere” and “Keep an eye-out for FOR RENT signs when you’re out and about”, to say this exacerbated my anger would be an understatement. Three out of four of us going to UCSD this year from Manchester did not get into I-house, and we are all struggling. I almost sorted out housing with 2 different American girls but one of them just stopped messaging me, and the other panicked about getting an international deposit and rented a studio apartment instead.

So here I am just a few days away from my flight to California, and I’m finding it hard to describe my feelings. Just as I was too shocked to react to my accommodation rejection email, I feel to overwhelmed by house-hunting stress to even process excitement or nerves, it just feels like there’s too much to be done. The knowledge that I’m moving to California, and I have no-where to actually move to, is perhaps occupying those parts of my brain.

I realise that was not exactly positive, but I feel it’s important to be honest. This process is difficult, but hopefully it will be worth it. On a more positive note, apart from trying to sort out California stuff, I’ve been busy this summer ticking off my “England To-Do List” including: Going to Y-Not Festival in my beautiful home county of Derbyshire, having a last roast dinner, a last decent British Curry, spending time with my friends who will soon be so far away and most importantly– having my last pint in the pub! A few little photos of that to cheer up this post, including me looking suitably delighted to finally get my visa and the top photo of my friends and I doing a little ironic sorority girl pose; that should be something suitably hilarious to observe when I finally get to CA! English To Do List

Academic Experiences in Melbourne

By Dinah Whitear (University of Melbourne, Australia).

So I’m about half way through my semester here at Melbourne University and I’d say it’s about time to talk about the academic side to my exchange here…

Tomorrow will mark the start of my 9th week here at Melbourne Uni, and with only about 3-4 weeks of teaching period left, I’d say this semester has flown by! It actually scared me when someone said to me the other day ‘so you’re almost done here then’, when I said I was only here for a semester, and I guess it’s true! Well, almost done my actual study period – I’ve made sure I’ve left myself a good month and a bit of travelling time here in Australia afterwards so I won’t be jetting back home anytime soon that’s for sure! So for those of you looking to study at Melbourne Uni, you may be interested to know what it’s like and how the academic aspect differs with Manchester. Well, obviously I can only speak for my subject – I study neuroscience back home at Manchester but am part of the ‘bachelor of science’ degree here at Melbourne (I will explain why later) – but there may be some general aspects that apply to your degree too.

So firstly, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m part of the ‘bachelor of science’ degree here at Melbourne. This is an important point to consider because Melbourne uni, like most other Australian and American unis I think, structure their degrees rather differently – instead of having to choose such a specialised degree from the start of your course, you usually only have to apply for a broad degree like ‘science’ and then you will only have to specialise at the later stage of your degree. So, if I were you I’d get in touch with Melbourne to find out what area exactly you should be looking to apply for because otherwise it can get rather confusing!

Another thing I’ve had to get my head around is the fact that their degrees are four years here, and that’s not including an honours. That means their first year here is much like our last year at college before we go to university, their second year much like our first year at university, and so on. This may mean you may find some overlap in the subject matter in the courses you study here in comparison to Manchester but, as I said, this may only apply to my course and I’m not sure what it would be like in other ones. For this reason, I chose to mix and match the level of my course – I’m a second year student and decided to do three second-year level courses here and then one third-year level course. I have so far found this quite challenging, but in a good way. I do feel that when I go back to Manchester I will be better prepared for the demand of work since the third-year courses here are assessed in a similar way to the third-year courses back home; as a science student I am not used to doing many essays, but my third-year course is in fact 80% essay-based. I guess I do feel pretty intimidated by this but am hoping it’ll all be okay with some hard work!

I have found the lectures here a little different to those at Manchester – I think the class size is slightly smaller, but the main difference being the intimacy of the lectures. I was used to having lecturers standing further away in our lecture halls at Manchester (in my classes anyway) – here, however, I find that they are practically on the first row! As a consequence of this closeness, I have to admit that I have found napping in lectures a lot harder! I don’t think I’ve seen a single person fall asleep here at Melbourne! I guess it’s a good thing and has taught me to switch on that’s for sure!

I’d say the assessment, and therefore the workload, is quite different here for my course as well- for starters, I’ve had mid-semester tests, and quite a lot of them to say the least! This has meant that I’ve had to work a bit more consistently throughout the semester, something I have to admit I wasn’t at first used to. I think it works out quite well though as it means there is less cramming at the end of the semester and means you’re probably better prepared. I’ve had a lot of weekly online tests too -something I am used to back in Manchester – but the style of some has taken some adapting to! Here they do things called ‘blogs’, where it’s almost an online forum with several other classmates where you are assessed for your discussion over a certain topic.

Something I have found dramatically different here, though, is practicals. In Manchester, the life sciences subjects are very lab-based. Here, I’ve had a total of 6 practicals in the whole semester, and that really is nothing in comparison to back home! They don’t seem to have a compulsory practical element like Manchester do, unless you specifically choose a practical-based module. It depends what you’re looking for, but for me, I’ve quite enjoyed the fact that I don’t have to do labs so frequently and the ones that I do do are pretty cool! I’m doing an anatomy module and so we’ve been designated four time slots throughout the semester where we spend some time in a dissection room – for me this was a real draw to Melbourne as I wouldn’t have had the chance to do this back in Manchester. I have found it really interesting and am so glad I’ve had the opportunity to do something I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

So yeah, overall, I would say there are some differences, but in general I wouldn’t say it’s too much of a shock in comparison to the academic lifestyle we’re used to back in Manchester – apparently it’s a lot harder for the American students to get used to because they’re used to a different way of learning. The campus here is great though, such a nice environment to be in – more of a campus feel than a city, little bit more green and so much going on all the time! Although the libraries don’t have as accessible opening hours as those back in Manchester, you learn to work around it and the facilities really are good – I’ve had to get used to working with macs, as that’s pretty much all they use here!!

As a last tip, I’d say make sure you have a good look into all the different course options on offer to you – it is pretty important to make sure you find something you think you will really enjoy! Good luck!