This past September, I embarked on the longest-term and furthest-distance move of my life. I boarded a plane from Denver, USA to Manchester, UK in a whirlwind of emotion – nostalgia, anxiety, and excitement.
Now, two months later, these feelings have begun to subside, and I’ve found myself finally comfortable and confident in my new home of Manchester.
Whether you’ve commuted from across the globe or a mere hour away, I’m sure you get the feeling: Moving is a totally immersive experience. You’re uprooted from everything familiar – family, friends, community, places – and forced to reinvent everything in a disturbingly foreign environment.
You may constantly ache for home, or maybe it comes in pangs, or not at all. Or you may find yourself head-over-heels in love with your new city, embracing every change and forgetting your past home.
Wherever you may fall on such spectrum, I’m here to help you navigate how to make Manchester feel like your home away from home.
Bring a bit of home with you.
I’ll admit that I am a materialistic person. I love things: things that make me smile, recall certain moments, and make my space feel worn and loved. When moving from America to Manchester, I realised how valuable of a trait my thing-y-ness could be – especially when it came to visual keepsakes.
In the modern age we often forget that photo printing exists. When we have everything backed up to our phones, what’s the need for physical copies? I’m telling you it’s time to change that habit!
Keeping photos is good, nostalgic fun!
Before I moved here, I uploaded photos of friends, family, pets, and places to the website of my local corner store, and printed them for less than 25 cents a pop. And there I had it: cheap, easy, physical memories to pin to my dorm memo board.
And even if you’re unable to capture memories through printed photos, scour your home for other physical items that harbour a sense of nostalgia. Business cards from your favourite coffee shop, ticket stubs from a great gig, and letters from friends can easily be stuck to your walls as a reminder of people and places beyond Manchester.
Business cards, travel memorabilia, postcards, friends, and mini posters that keep my room feeling homey.
This doesn’t just stop at what’s flat and can be pinned above your desk. I packed my favourite coffee mug from home, some ugly pyjamas from my grandmother, and eight boxes of the world’s best herbal tea from my hometown (sorry, Brits, for having such a bias). I even have a friend who managed to fit an entire quilt into her suitcase.
With some creativity and skill, you can bring a bit of home with you when moving far away. Having physical reminders of memories, people, and places is grounding, and helps create a sense of familiarity within your dorm’s domains.
Find your community.
So now we’re in Manchester, and obviously physical objects are not enough to counter spouts of homesickness. It’s time to make Manchester your home away from home, whatever that may mean to you.
Think about what you’re missing from your physical home. Friends? Pets? Your favourite restaurant or cuisine (don’t even get me started on how the English butcher Mexican food)? Make a list. And think of how you can transfer those things to what you have here.
Let’s start with the big one: people. We all know you cannot teleport your mother to Oxford road for a shoulder to cry on and a homecooked meal. But what you can do is find similar hospitality within Manchester. Befriend a northern local, and ask if you can invite yourself over for dinner one evening (don’t forget to bring a nice gift, like that herbal tea I’ve already raved about, or a thoughtful card). Or consider joining the International Society, which can pair you off with local families outside of University.
Just one of the perks of finding a British mum to take care of you!
Similarly, it’s impossible to move away without missing your best friends from back home. And although people are irreplaceable, it’s important to give yourself the opportunity to make new friends here.
Chat to your peers in class, cook weekly meals with your flatmates (perhaps Google your favourite native recipes to try your hand at), and join societies for people who share your passions and hobbies. Your friends back home won’t be spiteful of your new relationships; in fact, they’ll certainly be proud to see you experiencing new cultures, personalities, and interests while here.
Of course, home isn’t just about the folks involved. Let’s say you’re like me and miss the warmth and rumble of your precious housecat. Consider volunteering at an animal shelter (the Manchester Animal Shelter is one to consider) and seek out critter-filled spaces to satiate your needs (Central Bark is heaven on Earth for dog lovers, and places like Dunham Massey and Martin Mere offer more unusual animals to admire).
I’m not suggesting that you replace everything from home with new people, places, and things. But it’s important to remember that you’re going to be here for a year, or more, so it’s best to discover your new Manchester community and make the most of it.
This last one’s a no-brainer, but is certainly worth mentioning. It is the year 2017 and most of us are blessed with the luxuries of Facebook, Skype, and WhatsApp to keep us constantly connected to home.
I regularly share voice messages with my friends on WhatsApp, which is almost like having a conversation at our favourite Thai restaurant back home. And I Skype my parents every few weeks (even if they haven’t yet gotten the gist of it – I get a lot of unflattering forehead shots throughout the call). And I try to mail letters and trinkets to folks back home whenever possible (who doesn’t love receiving something in the post?).
Share photos of your new home and travels on Instagram and Facebook, and tune folks in to what your new life is all about. Although not quite the same as physically being there, short glimpses of familiar people and places does the heart abroad some good.
It’s not the olden days – you don’t need one of these things to keep in touch with home.
Whether you’re from an ocean or a train stop away, you’re going to be in Manchester for a while. Adjusting to this new home is a process, from packing to moving to living here for however long it may be. It’s important to not only remember our own homes, but make a whole new one while here.