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Umbrellas don’t work and other lessons from my first semester as an international student

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One year ago, I was frantically completing my coursework and stressing about my UCAS application. 9 months ago, I received my offer to study medicine at the University of Manchester. 8 weeks ago, I stepped into the Stopford Building for the first time. While this journey is undoubtedly relatable for almost every student currently reading this, there lies one small difference. I started this journey 11,000 kilometres away. So as semester 1 draws to a close, enjoy 3 lessons that I’ve learnt as an international student at the University of Manchester!

Lesson 1: Reevaluating Homesickness

Evenings in Singapore

I had always thought of homesickness as missing the tangible, physical aspects of my home countries. My room, my schools, my metropolitan city skylines. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Once the excitement of freshers dies down, you realise that it’s the little things you heart aches for. I miss the constant noise from living in the city centre; being on a bus and knowing where I’m going and even wearing my old school uniform. You feel homesick at the strangest times, as a memory comes up on Snapchat from 1 year ago or your school holds a reunion that you can’t go to. I realised the secret of not missing home is creating home. Whether it’s cooking traditional food or putting up old photos, embrace the homesickness by reminding yourself of the fond memories you will always have.

Lesson 2: Coping with the UK weather

don't let the bright sun fool you
Don’t let the bright sun fool you…

If you’re from the tropics like I am where summer is much hotter than 20 degrees, ‘weather shock’ is very real. It still amuses people how intolerant I am of the cold weather and I’m warned it’s only going to get worse. I’ve realised it may be incredibly cold outside, it’s going to be extremely warm inside so layering is essential. If you’re from a warm country like I am, wait until you arrive to shop for winter clothes. It will be more suited to the climate and better quality. Also, unless your umbrella is particularly windproof, I suggest you leave it behind. I find putting your head down and running a far better option. Wait patiently until summer, you’ll have the last laugh!

Lesson 3: Culture Shock

This might seem a bit strange, but despite being forewarned about culture shock I wasn’t expecting it. Having come from an international school I assumed moving to Manchester would be exactly the same. I was wrong. Despite always navigating new countries easily, moving 15 hours away from family and friends didn’t help my adjustment. I’ve always thought that ‘culture shock’ carried negative connotations. In reality, my experiences haven’t been negative at all. From being that student who carries around too much cash, uses foreign sounding slang and is teased about your American-isms; you will be a source of amusement for a while. Don’t worry! It’s all lighthearted and isn’t at all to make you feel uncomfortable. It’s taken longer than I expected to no longer feel like a tourist and start thinking of my flat as ‘home’.  No one will expect you to find your bearings straight away so you shouldn’t expect that of yourself either!

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