So before moving to Manchester, my home consisted of the 5 local pubs, 3 charity stores, numerous coffee shops and not much else. I’m from a small market town called Knaresborough, (approx. 45 minutes North East from Leeds, depending which side the train driver has gotten out of bed that morning). It’s population is around 15,000 – which sounds like a lot but when you can’t walk down the street without at least five people calling out saying “oh! You’re so-and-so’s daughter… gosh don’t you look like them” and asking after half of your family tree, you begin to realise it’s a fairly small bubble. Consequently, when I moved to the 2nd largest city in the UK it was quite a shock to the system and once the craziness of moving in and freshers had died, I found myself feeling pretty alone and small. So, I’m going to be the fellow small-town student’s knight in shining armour and share a few tips that helped me adapt to city life and start fully embracing Manchester.
Breaking down all those buildings
For me knowing my surroundings is a big part of settling in to a new place and feeling comfortable and obviously Manchester is a big place to get to know. It’s fairly easy to root yourself in the Uni, with the street maps and the numerous purple “ask me” mascots dotted around, so it doesn’t take too long to find your way around. But, when I was feeling particularly brave, I would take a step to bursting the Uni bubble and face the city, just taking an afternoon and walking around somewhere I didn’t really know. Exploring on your own is a great way to get to know the city, have a wonder around the shops, grab a coffee or just roam the streets- not to mention it can be a big help getting some perspective when you’re feeling mentally exhausted from all the new people (I swear I still have PTSD from having to come up with ‘an interesting fact about myself’ what felt like every two seconds). This really worked wonders for me as well as rapidly expanding the list of food places I want to try out #gottorepthefoodies.
One major change that I hadn’t even considered to be significant was becoming more street smart. Back home I could walk everywhere on my own without a worry, if a stranger was talking to you it was most likely about the weather- lets just say that Manchester is very different. I’m not saying you can’t talk to anyone and can never go anywhere alone, but it pays to be aware and staying safe is just basic logic. I work in the city centre, so getting home after a late finish can be a bit daunting but as long as you stick to well lit big streets, you’re good. Another thing to try and avoid is dawdling, get where you need to go and don’t wait around, the majority of muggings and robberies are opportunistic- so don’t give them the chance! Being lucid is another big one, I love drinking as much as the next person and being social is a big part of the student experience, but know where you are and how you can get home. If you are having a big night out, be with people you can trust and who you know will help you out. I’ve found going out with people who are in their 2nd or 3rd year is a good bet since they will have done this more times than you, plus they have a knack of knowing the best places. These are all things I had to make a conscious effort to become more aware of, but it just takes a few changes in mindset and you can be safely living it up in the city in no time.
Get a Job
Beyond the obvious economic benefits, having a job seriously helped me root myself here. Not only does it introduce you to a whole new set of people, majority of whom are students too, but it’ll also introduce you to new places and events going on. Creating your own ‘small town’ within the city is a huge advantage for your mental wellbeing, particularly when you’re are stressed or upset about what ever, let’s face it even the best of us have moments of uncertainty.
Hold on to that feeling
These first couple of months have been a strong learning curve and I’m not going to lie, there have been points when I’ve wanted to pack it all in and head back to my tiny little town, but it’s worth sticking it out! I’m seriously loving being part of this vibrant, lively city. So, if you’re still struggling with this huge place give these things a try and see what happens, open your mind a bit and give it a go, I’m certain you’ll find your place.
Just in case you were wondering I will be finishing this blog in just as cheesy a way as I started it.
Don’t stop believing (Absolute classic, don’t deny you love it)