Michael - University of Manchester

B Arts/Laws
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

A full time study load at Manchester is 60 UK units, with exchange students required to study at least 50 units. I undertook the Arts component of my degree, taking one English course worth 20 credits and three Economics courses worth 10 credits each. I found the lecturers and tutors at Manchester really engaging and passionate, particularly in my English subject.

Manchester has a month-long break from the end of classes in mid-December to the start of exams in mid-January. I had finals for all four of my subjects, including one 100% final, which was quite stressful after I’d spent the entire break travelling, but didn't prove to be too big of an issue. I would really encourage maintaining some level of study through the break though so you aren’t scrambling when exams come around.

Personal experience

I had an amazing experience on exchange making new friends, travelling and learning to live in a new city. All 7 of my flatmates came from different places – England, Japan, Poland, Spain, Ireland, Germany and the USA. It’s such a valuable and unique experience to grow close with a group of people all from completely different cultures, and gaining these friends is one of the highlights of my exchange. 

I was able to travel throughout Europe for six weeks before the start of my exchange with a few friends, which was an awesome experience in itself. I also went to Paris for a week during the midsemester break for the Pitchfork Music Festival, and travelled to Ireland and Norway in the winter break, before spending New Years at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, as well as a few days in Glasgow. I also had a couple of trips within England to Leeds and to London a few times. There’s so many opportunities to travel, and I had an absolute blast exploring all that I could.

Manchester itself is also really great, with funny people, plenty to do, and a really unique culture. I went to games for both United and City, and there are heaps of great bars and clubs to frequent. Manchester has an especially good live music scene, with great venues near the uni (like Deaf Institute and YES) and in the city centre (Soup Kitchen). The students union also has four (four!!) music venues, and they book quite a few really good artists.

Accommodation

I lived in Oak House, which is student accommodation in Fallowfield, about 3km from the main campus. I lived with three other boys and four girls, who became my best friends in Manchester. Oak House is probably the liveliest of the accommodation options at Manchester, with some pretty rowdy inhabitants and a fun, super cheap (£1.90 pints!) campus bar called Squirrels. While the rooms were quite small, the kitchen and common room areas of the flats were pretty spacious, so it isn’t too cramped. Despite its prison-like appearance, I would definitely recommend Oak House, especially if you’re looking to go pretty hard on nights out.

Costs

Oak House was the cheapest of the student accommodation options at £99 per week. Manchester is relatively cheap, especially compared to London, and so a night out shouldn’t be too expensive, although almost all clubs are paid entry. A bus pass is a must, especially if you’re in Fallowfield, and they cost around £120, but are definitely worth it. Buses come very regularly along Oxford Rd, and it’s a reasonably fast way to get around. I spent about £40 per week on groceries. The majority of my spending was on travelling, which mainly depends on where you’re going and how much you’re willing to spend.

Challenge

As much as I enjoyed my time in Manchester, I did have bouts with homesickness. Its completely normal to miss your friends/family/partner, but you can’t let this determine your entire exchange. I’d say the most important part of overcoming homesickness is simply getting outside. Even if its cold and rainy and miserable (which it often is in Manchester!), its still much better than being cooped up in your room, and it forces you to look outward at the world. Once you get past this hurdle, things can only get better.

Professional Development

I’d say the main attributes that I developed on exchange are interpersonal skills and resilience. Being on my own, I had to force myself to be more outgoing and communicative in order to make friends. Additionally, I had to be more self-reliant when dealing with issues, which I think greatly improved my resilience.

Highlight

The highlight of my exchange was probably on my second last day in Manchester, which was also my birthday. My flatmates gave me a Smiths album on vinyl, along with a really nice card, and we had a bit of a party. I think it gave me some really nice closure for my exchange, as I said goodbye to some great friends that I made from all over the world.

Top tips

Jump on skyscanner! You can find some crazy cheap flights to places you might not have considered for travel. Just set your destination to ‘Everywhere’ and see what you can get!

Also, make sure you actually get out and explore Manchester. It’s such a unique place with so much to offer – in particular, the Northern Quarter is worth a few visits. Not only that, but Manchester has so much cultural, social and economic history that is worth learning. It is and always has been a very ‘happening’ place –the Pankhursts and the Suffragettes, The Smiths, the Industrial Revolution, Oasis, Joy Division, the discovery of the electron – all from little old Manchester!