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Credit: Mhairi Marciniak

Life beyond Oxford Road – Studying abroad in your degree

Despite being able to call Manchester – one of the world’s greatest cities – your own, sometimes student life demands a little more than the 142 and trying to get on the Turkiss Instagram. For those looking to broaden their horizons and escape to somewhere rain might only come 6 days a week, there’s a whole world of opportunities available with the university’s Study Abroad programmes.

No matter what you study or where you want to go, there’s likely a perfect year or semester abroad to be found, with the University having partnerships across the globe as far as Australia, or right across the Channel in Paris if you want to use the opportunity to get closer to Disneyland.

Bria Cotton, who took part in a Summer School at Seoul’s National University said the experience was “like nothing else” and “one of the best things [she has] ever done.” She told The Mancunion, “I chose to study Korean politics and history (out of a range of subjects including music and pottery) and ended up learning a lot about my own country as well. The Korean culture of student protest, perhaps most famously encapsulated in the 1987 June Struggle, made me realise the potential for student movements back in the UK.”

Students see all kinds of benefits from taking the big leap of studying abroad. As well as being a culturally and socially enriching time, immersing oneself in another country can be very influential when you get back home. Bria said her visit to the Korean War Memorial “massively [inspired her] final year dissertation proposal and [gave her] greater insight into global and East Asian politics.”

Away from the academic side, living in another country is an incredible social opportunity. Bria told me she “had an excellent opportunity to meet and interact with young Koreans” in the Hongdae clubbing district and “interacting with such a fascinating foreign culture has completely changed [her] outlook on the world and how [she perceives herself].”

Another exchange student, Mhairi Marciniak, went to Madrid on a more typical year abroad during her Psychology degree, which she described as the “best year” of her time at university. She described the “warm and friendly atmosphere” of the city despite being a “large, metropolitan capital,” full of “colour” and “homely buildings.”

Madrid offered Mhairi a chance to immerse herself entirely in a new culture, embracing the Spain Day festivities. “The university put on free events with music and performers. Celebrating with the Spaniards was incredibly fun. At a parade to mark Spain day, I spotted the King of Spain (King Felipe VI), which now means I have seen him twice – that’s more than I have seen his British counterpart!”

Many exchange students take the opportunity to explore a new country while they have the perfect opportunity, and Mhairi was no different. She took day trips with friends to towns outside Madrid such as El Escorial and Toledo, saying it “was an experience [she] will never forget.”

Of course, it wasn’t all fiestas and hanging out with royalty for Mhairi. She also spoke very highly of the academic opportunities available: “Universidad Complutense de Madrid is one of Spain’s best universities and studying in a different academic environment was a rewarding, formative experience. I studied Organisational Psychology for the first time and have decided to take a module in that discipline now that I am back in Manchester. Studying abroad opened me up to academic opportunities that I wouldn’t necessarily have taken otherwise, and it has given me more insight into which areas of Psychology are of greater interest to me.”

Both Mhairi and Bria said their time abroad was one of their greatest life experiences, and this is true for so many who go to different countries to study. However, it’s important to keep in mind the potential issues you can run into in a foreign country. Alice Watkins, a languages student currently working in Paris as part of her year abroad, told The Mancunion about the struggles she’s faced, mainly describing it as the “boring practical stuff”. Existing issues can be a lot harder to work out in a new country such as “going to the doctors and then actually trying to express what’s wrong with you in another language.” Language barriers can prove problematic in day-to-day situations like these, even if you travel to a largely English-speaking country.

Alice also stressed the importance of looking after your mental health on your time abroad. “If you’re having a down day it can be made more challenging because you don’t have your normal support system and network of people you would normally turn to.” Spending months away from home can be an incredibly isolating time, and even the cheeriest of people should familiarise themselves with any support available to them should they decide to study abroad.

Students in Manchester are incredibly lucky with the opportunities available in the city, and for many, leaving would be the last thing on their mind. But if you fancy widening your horizons beyond Oxford Road, experiencing an entirely new country, and making friends on a global scale, studying abroad can provide you with one of the most accessible and immersive forms of travel available at any point in your life.

To find out more, visit the Go Abroad Fair on the 24th October outside Uni Place.

Tags: go abroad fair, international, korea, Madrid, Study Abroad, travel

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