Lewis - University of Manchester

B Engineering/ B Commerce
Semester 1, 2016

Academic Experience

While in Manchester, I continued my studies in both Engineering and Commerce. Going abroad gave me opportunities to study stimulating subjects that were not available at UQ, yet still gave me credit for my degree. These included Nuclear Systems, Water Engineering 1 (Treatment & Hydrology) and Financial Engineering. As part of my Nuclear Systems subject, I got to visit a nuclear power plant, which was pretty awesome!

You do six subjects in Manchester instead of four, which is about as much work as four courses at UQ. It was refreshing having different lecturers and different teaching techniques, and lectures tend to be more interactive.

I found studying at the University of Manchester to be harder than at UQ. Having six subjects means you can get a bit lost in everything. There are also no tutorials for 2nd/3rd year Civil Engineering subjects like UQ does, and tutorials for Commerce subjects are a lot shorter and smaller in size. It means it is very easy to fall behind and five exams meant a very stressful final exam block!

On the upside, the hurdle for the highest grade (1st) is 70% - so good grades are much easier to get than at UQ. The best way to stay on top of things is to keep track of assessment dates and frequently review lecture notes, and if you can, try and keep a study routine.

Personal Experience

I made some great friendships in Manchester. My flatmates in Manchester were great people and we had many memorable times together and great nights out. I made many friends with other exchange students too, as well as within a society on campus. The society I was a part of held events almost every Wednesday and gave me an insight into life in Britain that I might not have otherwise had. My peers in engineering were also really friendly. In engineering at UofM, everybody does the same subjects, so the cohort is really close.

If you love travelling, Manchester’s also really easy to travel from. The Manchester International Society runs day trips (and a few overnight trips) to places surrounding Manchester - Liverpool, the Lake District, North Wales, York, the list goes on. I also got the opportunity to travel to many places in Scotland, Wales and Europe on weekends away and during my mid-semester break.

As well as that, I went on a contiki tour while abroad. This was particularly special, as I got to complete my goal of visiting all 7 continents when we went to Morocco (Africa), as well as making some great friends.

I developed lots of personal skills while I was away. I became more independent and competent. I'd never lived out of home before, so moving to Manchester by myself was a bit like jumping off the deep end - but I set up a routine, got myself organised and before I knew it, I was looking after the flat and got the title of 'Flat Mum'. As a person, I became more comfortable with meeting new people, I developed initiative (those dishes did not do themselves), as well as becoming more motivated to create change and work to improve society.

Accommodation 

I lived in Oak House in Fallowfield, a Hall of Residence considered 'on-campus', but in reality is about 20 minutes away from the main (City) campus by bus. Don't be put-off by the longer commute living in Fallowfield compared to living on the City campus itself - Fallowfield is the hub of social life and you'll find most of your friends and fellow exchange students will live in Fallowfield. I shared my flat with 7 others (4 females, 4 males including myself), with two bathrooms (one for each gender) and a common area. At first this sounds awful - but really, you're rarely waiting for the shower, toilet etc.

Living in halls, there’s always something going on – if not in your own flat, most of your friends are within a few minutes’ walk of your dorm, so it is really easy to get a group together and go to the curry mile for food, catch a movie or go out in the evenings. Living in halls was a great experience – I definitely wouldn’t have enjoyed exchange as much if I lived elsewhere.

My advice to anybody coming to Manchester is live in a hall in Fallowfield. Everybody's really social, moving in and out of halls is stress-free, there's a cleaner who comes in twice a week to clean bench tops and toilet, and many of the friends you’ll make on exchange will be in this area too. There are a lot of first years in halls, but there are also heaps of fellow exchange students too. Halls on other campuses (Victoria Park & City) aren’t as lively and share housing can be hard to find.

Budget

The cost of rent in halls varies – Oak House is the cheapest at a bit over £90/week. The rooms are small, but if you’re just living out of a suitcase, the rooms are more than adequate. Food here is very cheap if you shop right - I shopped at Lidl and food cost me about £15-20/week. There's a Sainsbury's right next to Oak House, but it is more expensive.

A Stagecoach bus pass is available for £125 (one semester) - you get that back in convenience (not having to buy paper tickets) and it allows you to travel on all Stagecoach buses, which is all you'll ever need to use. Buses run between Fallowfield and the University, City and Airport 24/7, so you’ll almost never need to use a taxi. Entertainment wise, eating out is around the same price as Brisbane, with some good cheap eats if you look for them. Drinks are very cheap compared to Brisbane - on student nights they'll be £1-2.

Travel is the most expensive part - I probably spent most of my budget on weekends away. There are lots of cheap, non-stop flights from Manchester to most major tourist destinations in Europe. Learn to pack light to save on baggage fees! Train travel can be cheap when you book in advance, but last-minute travel (especially to London) is expensive. How much to budget for this depends on when and where you travel, but your super-cheap fares (as low as £9) often need to be booked several weeks in advance and leave at inconvenient times.

Professional Development & Employability

Going on exchange to the University of Manchester was a great opportunity to gain a fresh perspective on things and study in fields which simply aren't available for study at UQ. It was great to attend such a good university which a high reputation in both Engineering and Commerce. Learning at the University of Manchester is more individual-based, which encouraged me to seek out my own answers and become more of a self-directed learner.

Going on exchange has also enhanced my employability, by making me more flexible, a more adept problem solver and encouraged me to take a global perspective on issues and develop a well-rounded appreciation of society and those around us. My travel during exchange has helped me cope better with unfamiliar situations and has helped develop my intuition.

Highlights 

To be honest, this is an impossible question to answer - there are so many things which made my experience amazing. Every weekend I was always travelling somewhere new, meeting new people and facing new challenges.

If I had to pick one highlight from Manchester, it'd be my flatmates. They were a great bunch of people who always invited me along to stuff, did a variety of things, did heaps of travel, and were always around if you just wanted to chat and share stories about travel experiences.

From my entire exchange trip, I’d have to say Morocco was my highlight, It was such a contrast to Europe, the food and culture was so different and it was great to explore places that were off the beaten tourist track. Morocco felt a lot more authentic than other places I visited, and I saw many eye-opening things as we went through the old cities of Fez and Marrakesh.

Top Tips

My top tip is this: Just say yes.

If you're presented with an opportunity to go travelling with someone, say yes. If you're presented with an opportunity to participate in a University program or excursion, say yes. Even if you're tired, if someone asks you to come to dinner, go out, catch a movie or even just hang out - say yes. The only things I regret from exchange are the things I didn't do. It sounds corny, and I thought it was corny when I heard it, but it is true. Exchange is a once in a lifetime experience - make the most of it.

Come in with an open mind, meet up with people going on exchange with you from UQ before you leave, get involved in all the orientation activities, and if you’re having trouble adjusting, little things from home like the same food or old TV shows can really help a lot.

Final tip – In Manchester, Vegemite is available at the ASDA Superstore in Longsight.