Hello, it’s me again. This post will be a little different from my usual content, but, I hope, interesting nevertheless. What I wish to share with you is something that has become a constant feature of my life in France, something I soon learned was simply an inevitable part of French culture, history and people. Just as a heads-up though, I do not wish to fuel any stereotypes here. This is simply something that I’ve observed, and upon discussion found that my French peers freely, even proudly admit to. So, here are a few reflections on the culture of protest in France.
I wanted to share a small trip I went on before Christmas. I had been feeling a bit lost and confused. Sitting exams in another country was stressful and I was simultaneously feeling both proud that I’d got through almost half my time away and scared that it was slipping through my fingers. The threat of snow was also looming ominously so I needed to enjoy autumn while I could. I decided to visit Montreal’s Botanical gardens which are almost an hour away from where I live and are recommended as one of the best places to visit here.
Like everything else in Montreal they were beautifully extravagant but also surprisingly peaceful. It was an intensely Autumnal day and there was something about that that made me feel really nostalgic, it reminded me of walking through paths of fallen leaves back home and the crisp sunny air which has always been my favourite weather. You can never really predict what’s going to make you feel homesick and I didn’t think I’d find it here, amongst these cute statues and carefully curated landscape. But it makes sense, autumn here mirrors autumn back home both the in climate and aesthetics. It was fine that the homesickness hit me here, where it was peaceful and I could walk on my own, I could ground myself, just focus on taking these photos. It gave me some quiet space.
I think this could be said of this first semester in general. I’ve had a space away from much that was familiar, both the bad and the good, and I’ve had a chance to work out what I am without it. I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to sort my mental health a bit and really focus on doing and thinking things I had no time for before. I’ve realised that even the best things in your life can act as day-to-day distractions and while that’s not a bad thing it’s strange to find what you are without them, what suddenly takes priority when there’s none of the usual expectations of you.
I think this is a pretty cool aspect of a year abroad because it’s one you can control, it’s not place or people dependent and most importantly it can help to counter that encroaching feeling of homesickness. Just find your own strange botanical garden away from it all.
It’s been seven months since I waved goodbye to Brisbane and five months since I returned to sunny, sunny England (to clear up confusion the two-month gap was not all spent in transit, although the flight can feel that long – I spent this time working in Greece). The time has absolutely flown and the tan has definitely disappeared, but now I’ve just about had the chance to take a breathe since being home, it’s time to reflect on the ups and downs of returning from such an incredible experience of a year abroad.
The down sides.
Despite returning in late August when the days were long and the air was warm, writing this now in bitter January makes warm weather seem like a very, very distant memory. One of the questions I’ve been asked most since being back is ‘don’t you really miss the weather?’. Yes. Yes, I do miss the weather. Please stop reminding me about how warm I was this time last year while I’m in my draughty student house without heating.
Another aspect I’ve not been enjoying adjusting to is regaining the academic mindset I’d built up during first and second year at Manchester. Not only did I find my course content easier last year, I also didn’t feel such extreme pressure to achieve the top possible grades due to only having to pass the year, so found myself a little more relaxed than usual. Now coming back to my fourth and final year of university I’m finding myself having to having to mentally re-train myself to pile the pressure on, as there’s no way I can be coasting at the most important stage of my academic career so far. Don’t get me wrong, having a more relaxed year is never something you’ll hear me complain about; however having to hit the ground running again when I’d gotten used to strolling was a bit of a shock to the system.
Finally, I never thought I’d hear myself say this but I miss my job. I spent many, many hours last year working in an extremely high-quality, high-pressure restaurant which I didn’t particularly enjoy. However, the fact that the minimum wage in Australia is twice what it is in England meant that despite the higher living cost I was living like a queen to some extent. I definitely took this for granted at the time; although I’ve been lucky enough to get my job back at the same lovely family-run restaurant I worked at during first and second year, pay-day doesn’t quite have the same thrills and it feels extremely frustrating being paid half the amount for the exact same hours.
Coming back from Australia definitely has not been all doom and gloom. Seeing my friends for the first time in over 14 months had to be one of the best feelings in the world. One of the things I did dislike about Brisbane was being in a completely different time zone to most of my friends – if we wanted to call, it would have to be planned in advance so we could do the maths in terms of time difference, and the internet was so poor in my house that calls were usually distorted and cut off prematurely. One thing that I’d missed so much about Manchester is having all of my friends a stone’s throw away, and this is so great to be able to experience again. Many of my friends also went on a year abroad meaning they’re now back in Manchester which is extremely lucky, and being able to properly hear about all of their experiences face to face has been incredible. Saying goodbye to all the friends I made last year was hard, don’t get me wrong, but this was made easier due to the fact that most of the people I met in Australia actually go to University in Leeds. This means if I do need someone to moan to about the cold to or take a stroll down memory lane with, they’re only an hour or so away.
Despite what I previously mentioned about having to pile the pressure on myself for fourth year, I quickly realised upon beginning classes again that having an extra year of knowledge has been more beneficial than I could have ever imagined. Classes I took last year have given me an entirely different perspective and background knowledge on topics involved in the modules I’m studying this year, meaning I’m far better able to form opinions and arguments. I am very aware that I’m stating the absolute obvious here and that of course an extra year of studying at university will give people an academic advantage, but I’m finding it incredibly beneficial and it’s always good to address.
Lastly, as strange as it sounds being framed as a positive point, one thing I’ve found extremely positive about being back is knowing that I only have one more year of commitment tying me to living in the UK. Having experienced living abroad has only increased my urge to live in different places and try new experiences. Although I am enjoying being back home and finishing my degree, I’m finding it so exciting knowing that this time next year I could be anywhere in the world, and having a home base and being surrounded by supportive friends and family while I explore all my options is such a good feeling. Having an open road with no set plan after summer is a little scary, but I’m definitely looking at it as although one door is closing, countless more are opening and I’m excited to get back out there.
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.
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(Cape Reinga, New Zealand. The top of the north island, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean)
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.
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.
Having now arrived home from studying abroad for the last year at Arizona State University in America, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to reflect on the last 12 months and even give some tips to anyone looking to study abroad in the future.
In terms of tips that I could recommend, perhaps one of the most important ones would be to make sure that you sort out your housing out as soon as you know where you are going if possible. I stayed in my first-choice housing on campus and it was really good, and allowed me to get as much as possible from the study abroad experience both academically and personally. Another important tip would be to make friends with locals and fellow international students, having a mix is important as the local students will help immerse you in their culture, while often fellow international students are more inclined to travel in the host country as like you they want to make the most of the experience. I would make sure that you have a Skype account or another way to contact friends and family back home when you are missing them, and finally don’t worry too much about whether you will be able to make friends when you get there. Everyone once they arrive is in the same situation and will be just as eager as you to get to know people as quickly as possible.
Looking back over the last 12 months, the first thing that strikes me is how fast the last year has gone. It only feels like yesterday that I was travelling down to Heathrow for my flight, and especially in the final few weeks which feel like a blur as I was juggling packing my room away with my final exams. Despite this however I feel like I have done an incredible amount, and I would recommend studying abroad to anyone as it has been one of the best experiences that I have ever had. Because my flat mates were all American, as well as most of my classmates I had the chance to totally immerse myself in a different culture which was lucky because that was one of the reasons why I chose to study abroad in the first place. One of the real positives of my study abroad experience was the chance to try new subjects which I don’t have access to back at Manchester. One of these was Anthropology, which was a subject which I was always interested in but never had the chance to study until now. This was one of the more unexpected positives of my study abroad experience, however a more predictable one was the fact that studying abroad gave me the chance to travel across America more than I could have even predicted. Studying abroad has allowed me to see new places and ways of life that are so different to back in UK, and it is an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.
By Imogen Henry-Campbell, Case Western Reserve University, USA
As the end of the semester approaches, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I would reflect on the incredible experiences I have gained from studying abroad.
It is easy to forget why you chose to study abroad when you doing the third round of midterms and have spent endless evenings in the library. I was feeling slightly lost, terribly homesick and unmotivated until I realized how lucky I am to have experienced new things and to have travelled around the world.
Over the last month alone I have managed to travel to Toronto, see Niagara Falls, experience a traditional American Thanksgiving and walk around downtown Chicago. I will try to share some of the incredible things I have done and encourage people to make the most of studying abroad:
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…
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.