My reaction to the idea of the Study Abroad study abroad scheme is the same as most students. Genuinely believing “that’d sounds really interesting I’d love to do that,” then never taking any initiative to actually go for it. But this is a crying shame, for it is a once in a lifetime experience that we should be embracing. So, to try and show you what you’re missing, these are a collection of first-hand stories.
University of California, Los Angeles
My trip was to the one and only Los Angeles, CA. Initially when I arrived I was taken aback by the palm trees and the friendliness of the people. I was called ma’am so many times that I started to believe that people thought it was my name! But when I stepped out of the airport and into the immense heat that envelops Los Angeles it was love at first sight. After a year in rainy Manchester, feeling the sun beating down on my back was great.
In terms of academics I am finding that everything is more relaxed. You’re allowed to eat in lectures and ask a lot of questions without being told to wait until the end of class. Professors encourage you to come to office hours and are more than happy to help with any issues you have. They especially love an English accent!
Although losing the familiarity of Manchester is a little hard to get used to, I can honestly say that I could complete my degree in LA. You miss your friends for a while but everyone is so polite it’s easy to meet new people.
I think Manchester could definitely benefit from the sense of belonging that UCLA students feel to their university. The “Bruins”, as they are known, see their university as a family despite the fact that it so big. If Manchester’s students had that kind of kinship it could make for an even better experience.
Have I got any advice for people thinking of studying here? Well, firstly Americans find the English accent really difficult, so make it easier on yourself by learning the idioms. Throw out your trousers and embrace the pants!
Also, you come here not knowing anybody and you can’t go home on weekends. As such, I’d really encourage you to make an effort to speak to people and take part in the international programs, clubs and activities the university offers.
Study abroad is not just something that looks good on your CV. It’s an opportunity to mix with a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and hopefully learn things about yourself that you never knew before. If for nothing else coming to UCLA gave me the opportunity to meet Spiderman in Hollywood!
Welcome to Sydney University. ‘Arrive and thrive’ is the motto, which repeatedly rolls off the tongues of the very witty, very helpful and very ‘Australian’ Study Abroad team. However, at that point I was more thinking ‘Hello bed!’ with the jetlag. The first two weeks were a daze, a hazy blur of confusion. Frustrating though it was, it was also very thrilling. Upon arrival I was struck by an excess of warmth from various different people from an array of ages and backgrounds. I thought, “You don’t find this in England, no one’s that helpful.”
Since being here, I have discovered the wonders of good weather and the impact that has on University life. There is usually a free BBQ somewhere on campus and a range of activities and events going on throughout the semester, much of which take place outdoors. Walk to classes and there is music is playing; kids are flyering about one issue or another, free t-shirts during the elections and free sweets. Even the most British of Brits couldn’t moan about that.
Probably the most enjoyable aspect of life at Sydney so far has been the diverse subjects I have been able to take. Whilst being here I have studied MEN: Masculinity, Mateship and Men’s Lives (yes boys, we’re on to you!). This seems to be a subject that, although not strictly Australian, has much focus within Australian intellects. I have also taken two subjects with regard to the Indigenous people of this country. One about their contemporary art and another regarding their place in ‘Modern’ society. These two subjects have opened my eyes and my mind to an issue I would have never been aware of. I have been introduced to some amazing Australian culture, whether it is film, art or people in general. It’s a far cry away from the stereotypical Ozzie that I had preconceived before I arrived! There is some truly inspiring creativity taking place here.
In my semester break I took a ten-day holiday and without exaggeration, it has been one of my favourite holidays yet. I went up the coast, chasing the sun and found the beaches and the sea. There were three main parts to my travel, a sailing trip, a tour on Fraser Island (‘Oh no, a Dingo ate my baby!’) and lastly to Byron bay, the land of love and freedom! On this adventure I met some beautiful people, mostly backpackers but the few Ozzies I met were gracious and generous. This includes the three inbreeds who were attending a wedding – ‘Yeah we’re, like inbred, you know. It’s kinda weird but we’re a close family.’ The trip made me want to travel and see the rest of Australia because it is so large and so diverse from place to place.
Overall, the experience I’ve had in Australia has been heart-warming. I have had the opportunity to interact with people from many parts of the world and have been shown generosity beyond belief. Although I have missed friends and family, it is important to step outside one’s comfort zone and by doing this in Sydney, I have reaped many rewards!
I arrived in Singapore on 29th July 2011, as term starts in early August here, flying straight from Ho Chi Minh City and thus experiencing a double culture shock as Singapore was unlike either Vietnam or the long-distant UK. A megacity-state with a population of 5 million: ultra-clean, green, organized, urbanized, modern and overwhelmingly humid.
I was shown around by my Welcome Buddy, but spent the rest of the first day milling around trying to infiltrate a group of exchange students or else target a loner and form my own group. I found one in the shop at my new halls, but as I desperately tried to start a conversation with him I discovered he was the 14-year-old brother of another student! After that fail, I just went back to my room to unpack. Luckily, I met my next-door neighbour, a Canadian guy called Sam, who introduced me to his new friends.
From there it was fine, as I’d done the whole meeting people and heavy socialising in Freshers’ Week (or Welcome Week is it nowadays?) in first year.
The first couple of weeks felt like being in Disneyland. We went to the well-kempt Botanic Gardens, to a beach party on the heavily-manicured and artificial (but nonetheless fun) Sentosa island, hiking round the MacRitchie Reservoir Nature Reserve among cute, yet teeth-baring, macaques and sampled a collection of very plush but extremely expensive nightclubs (where I purchased one bottle of Tiger beer for $20 – or £10! It was no Fifth Ave).
Singapore has so many laws, including no spitting, public speeches, jay-walking, or smoking/drinking/eating on the immaculately clean MRT (metro) system. I frequently forget about the no drinking law, which incurs a fine of $250 (even for water), always glancing around guiltily and hoping nobody will report me. Yet on the other hand, drinking alcohol in the streets is perfectly legal, as is prostitution. It’s a bizarre country of contradictions.
The National University of Singapore campus itself is absolutely stunning: dotted with exotic banyan trees and set among gentle hills with hi-tech and state-of-the-art academic and sports facilities all served by (usually) efficient shuttle buses, which also visit the main halls of residence.
Finally, arguably the best thing about Singapore is the incredible opportunity to travel around Southeast Asia very cheaply, taking budget airlines and staying in hostels even just for the weekend due to its proximity to some of the world’s best travel hotspots. It’s only halfway through the first semester and I’ve already been to Malaysia, Brunei, Bali, Java and Bintan (Indonesia) with trips to climb Mt. Kinabalu and tour Thailand on the cards. And I’m not at all rich, especially after having my wallet (and all cards) stolen in Bali.
The food is immense, the culture diverse, the transport cheap and efficient and most of all it’s a very safe city. It makes a pleasant change from living in Longsight.
University of Tennessee
Before I left Manchester for Knoxville, Tennessee I thought it would be no competition. I have always loved Manchester and felt that it could never be kicked off its number one place in my heart. It was a case of city vs. campus, my own room vs. sharing, and rain vs. sun (though that latter competition wasn’t too hard fought).
However, Knoxville surprised me and won me round. Those who know me know that this took a while – I was incredibly homesick for the first month or so and found it hard to be somewhere where I only knew a few people, but I don’t think I could have been anywhere more welcoming. The school spirit at Tennessee is mega, and possibly something Manchester could take on board. Everyone is dressed in swathes of orange, with big T’s emblazoned across their chest. You can’t avoid it and it definitely helps that you feel a part of the university.
Sharing a room might seem outrageous to most people back home, but you really do get used to it. Yes, you have to learn to embrace the other person’s alarm and their strange sleeping habits, but after a month or so it becomes second nature. In fact, when I came home to my room it felt strange to be on my own. You get so used to having someone else there. There was one thing at Knoxville that I didn’t succumb too, and that was the backpack and gym shorts combo that everyone sports. When we arrived in Knoxville it was snowing, so I went for the shorts and tights look that many of us in Manchester wear when the weather gets a bit chilly. The stares I got. They had barely ever seen tights before, let alone paired with shorts. If you ever have a doubt about whether you’re fashionable or not, head on over to Knoxville and be put at ease, they adore the English way of dressing (not to mention the accent).
If going to America on study abroad has done one thing for me, it’s completely boosted my self-confidence and what I know I’m now capable of. I would recommend it to everyone, even those home birds who think the idea is a bit daunting – you do come home eventually, and when you do you’ll feel like a new person.
Jess Higham, American Studies, went on exchange to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in semester 2 last year.
If you are feeling inspired by any of this and would like to find what options you might have to study abroad as part of your Manchester degree, then here’s a date for your diary! The annual Study Abroad Fair will take place Tues 25 October, 12 – 4pm in the Whitworth Hall. There you can chat to Manchester students who’ve already been abroad on exchange as well as Study Abroad Unit staff to find out more about the programme. There’ll also be representatives from the Study China and Seoul Summer Study programmes, and the Careers Service who can help advise you on internships abroad/ postgraduate study abroad. Do remember though, the application deadline for many destinations are 15 December 2011. For more information see: www.studentnet.manchester.ac.uk/studyabroad or email: [email protected]. Nothing to lose by having a look.