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.
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.
By Georgi Fogarty (University of Queensland, Australia)
It’s obvious that when you move to the other side of the world, there are going to be some big changes. Jetlag, time differences, climatic, academic and cultural disparities had all been weighing heavily on my mind in the last few weeks approaching my 25-hour flight from Manchester to Brisbane. But strangely, what took me by surprise the most upon landing was the amount of time it took for me to adjust to the fact I was in Australia and no longer in England.
Simon Hird / / Geography / / University of Auckland / / NZ
So as part of year abroad we were asked to produce a series of blogs for Geography. Each had to be a on a different topic and in a variety of formats (i.e.referenced essay, diary entry, video). This particular video blog entry was reflecting on the positives and negatives that I have experienced on my year abroad – it is slightly more personal and geography related than my other posts, due to it’s initial purpose, but hopefully you guys can take something from it:
P.S. If you guys want to see a few more photos feel free to check out my Instagram: @simonhird
the Instagram run by study abroad students at The University of Auckland if you want more of an insight into day-to-day life of an exchange student @studyabroad_auckland
Those that read my last blog will know how much I wasn’t really looking forward to going back to the U.K. The sting of going back home was dimmed a little, as i undertook a 2 and half week venture into Canada, starting in Vancouver and ending in Toronto. During this time I met up with some friends i met on my exchange abroad and family members that i haven’t seen in years. I was taken paddle boarding round Vancouver city, to Whistler for Canada day and to the Calgary stampede (one of the biggest Rodeos in the world). Its fair to say i had a great time.
Now I’m back, I really want to be in Australia again. I’m actually getting jealous of friends that have graduated and are making there way over to Australia to begin there journey, even though I had the chance to live there for a year.
I was however greeted with some fantastic weather, with temperature reaching upwards of 30 degrees. This made me feel slightly better when I received a video of an Australian friend, showing the hail and rain that was ensuing in Perth. Some of the first people I met up with were actually, a group of Australians, I lived with that were travelling round Europe for the summer, which was nice for me and they were enjoying the sun.
Seeing family and friends was nice, although I find myself bored already, it actually didn’t take long for my mother to recognise this. Im trying to keep myself busy seeing friends, training and sorting out dissertation work, but i think i really need to get back to Manchester to get into the swing of things again. I need to have that routine back in order to keep myself occupied and not think too much about the year I’ve just had and left behind.
This was only a short blog just to give an insight of how things are back home. I will update you all further when i actually get back at Manchester and back into my 4th and final year!
It has been a couple of months now since I set foot on campus. I’ve been amazed by the difference in how UoM (University of Manchester) and UMass Amherst (University of Massachusetts at Amherst) are run. I have to say that one blogpost may not be able to portray my understanding and feeling but I will have a go.
First and foremost, I will avoid mentioning UMass Amherst Dining as I believe no blogger or blog post can do it justice. No wonder it has been rated in the top two for several years running. If you are in Manchester and wondering why the big deal about food, it may be helpful to know that most American Universities have their students living on campus so making food available within campus is their duty, unlike UoM where most students live off campus. I will start by stating the differences in academics.
You are starting a marathon and you hear ‘On your marks, get set, go!’ That’s how it feels from the first day through to the end. Homework and graded quizzes every week, midterms for every subject, essays and finals. There are no gaps between final exams. You finish your course today then you could either have your exams the next day or the week after the weekend. Unlike at UoM where you’ve got at least four weeks between end of class and start of exams (Christmas break and January exam & Easter break and May/June exams).
UoM (3 Semesters)
UMass Amherst (1 semester)
Extra credit assignments
At UMass Amherst, a nutritionist student can take a Political Science class regardless of major or minor, a Physics student can take an English class. At UoM, an Economic students taking a Biology class will receive an email from her programme administrator with a short content ‘Please see me!’. The reason UMass students can and UoM students can’t could be because the latter spend three years at University while the former four years, therefore having an extra year to diversify your learning. I will leave it to you to suggest whether this is beneficial or not.
The Learning Resource Centre is run by students including the receptionist. Students are paid above the minimum wage to assist other students. This is additional to Teaching Assistants’ and Professors’ office hours. They are located on the 10th floor of the world’s tallest academic library – Du Bois Library.
LIFE AROUND CAMPUS
Unlike UoM, UMass Amherst is the heart and soul of the city. One resident of Amherst said to me that when the semester ends, Amherst becomes a ghost town. I must admit that UMass Amherst does a lot to make their students feel at home since it is situated in arguably a remote area far away from a main city or shopping complex. Speaking of shopping complexes, the University does take advantage of students as they overprice their products at the University’s Store. The store is probably 15 times larger than UoM’s and sells products from nails cutters to MacBooks.
Events are regularly held in order to help keep the students at ease since there isn’t a lot going on other than the regular flat and fraternity parties on Friday nights nd weekend. This semester there were performances from Tinashe, Fetty Wap, Jason Derulo among others.
Student employment is quite impressive. Through an email, the UMass’ Human resource department wrote to me that 9884 students (Graduates and undergraduates) work for the university in capacities such as dining hall attendants, security personnel at halls and receptionists at the University’s hotel. UMASS student firefighters help the local fire department. Another interesting fact is that UMASS students drive the local buses that take students around university and town. My roommate drives one of these buses and says that other than being a good paying job it is enjoyable too.
Sport participation is something like I’ve never seen before. As a result of sport participation, students frequently end up not undertaking some of their assessments. However, their assessments are rescheduled since sport participation qualifies to be a valid mitigating circumstance. Lacrosse is by far the most popular sport. The free gym which is made available by the University helps keep the athletes and other students fit.
It was quite a busy semester but it has now come to an end. Needless to say that I’ve definitely experienced a different perspective of life.
Mitch, second year, studying English Literature at Freie Universitaet Berlin
As promised, my last blog was on the fun, positive side of Berlin and studying abroad (or a taste of it anyway). This blog is something a bit different – mainly because my study abroad experience certainly hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine all the way through. These occasional periods of negativity, which eventually lead to greater insight into myself and therefore a positive outcome, are anti-perks.
Mitch, second year, studying English Literature at Freie Universitaet Berlin
Every time I write a blog, I wonder how to start it. I know that that’s kind of reasonable as I’m starting out on what I hope is a new idea, but I find that as I write, my ideas come to me a lot more naturally than at the beginning of a post. So, here I am, starting a post again. Wondering how to start it. So I’ll start by saying how amazing Berlin is for student discounts for cultural stuff! Yay!
Mitch, second year, studying English Literature at Freie Universitaet Berlin
So. It’s definitely been a while. Like, a really, really decent while. Everything’s been quiet on the blog front while everything’s been hectic and busy on the ‘year abroad life’ front. I’ll start not by making excuses, but making a plan: this blog will be a general (hopefully interesting) ramble on things that have gone on for me recently on this period of time abroad – because it really is amazing in its own unique way. Then, there’ll be two blogs on all the fun things/hard things that have happened, all the stuff I’ve enjoyed (or not) and why/what I gained from these experiences, which I think is a pretty interesting topic, no?
Anthony Bladen – The Chinese University of Hong Kong
I have been at CUHK for almost three weeks now and while everyone at Manchester has just finished exam season, here at CUHK we only have one more week of classes until the Chinese New Year break – meaning I have a lot to talk about!
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)…
…or a good wiener schnitzel with spätzle – a typical German dish.
Back in Manchester I worked as a student ambassador for a couple of days before starting my internship.
As 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.
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.
By Lisa Scott (Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada)
It is hard to reflect on my study abroad year without spending the next few hours wishing I was still there. The whole experience was amazing!
I have used the positive experience I gained from studying abroad to encourage others to do the same, by volunteering at study abroad fairs and meetings through the Global Ambassadors programme. Studying abroad also encouraged me to socialise with students from other cultures, therefore, once I returned to Manchester I participated in the Global Friends programme throughout semester one and worked at the international students’ Orientation in September which enabled me to interact with students from all over the world.
Studying abroad gave me a real passion to gain more international experience. I am looking at graduate opportunities abroad which will hopefully take me to another part of the world which is something I wouldn’t have thought about without studying abroad.
The photo collage below shows all my favourite snaps from studying abroad!