Manchester Starting Uni Student-made

Maybe Umbrellas do work: lessons I’ve learned as an International Student

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2 years ago, I submitted my UCAS application. 17 months ago, I received my offer to study medicine at the University of Manchester. 60 weeks ago, I stepped into the Stopford building for the first time. If this journey sounds familiar to you, I welcome you back to my reflections as an international student in Manchester! This time last year, Semester 1 was drawing to a close and I’d spent 12 weeks 11,000 kilometers away from home in a brand new city. I thought I’d learnt a lot and 1 year later I’ve decided to revisit and update my earlier thoughts on Manchester.

Lesson 1: Reevaluating homesickness

Looking back at my earlier words, I can say that my opinions have changed. In Semester 1, I was so caught up in the excitement of moving to a new country and my newfound independence that it wasn’t until January that I really felt homesick. My heart yearned for absolutely everything; from seeing familiar buildings, constantly wearing summer clothes and waking up knowing my cat would be sitting on the bed next to me. I remember calling my mother crying that I wanted to leave Manchester and setting a countdown until Easter break.

However as January went on and I threw myself into exam season, I started to collect new memories. I’ve amassed a collection of beanies and scarves that are totally useless in Singapore. I could probably walk around Stopford blindfolded and still know where I’m going, and the music bicycle man on Oxford Road still brings a smile to my face. It definitely gets easier with time and I encourage everyone feeling homesick to give themselves time to create new memories.

Lesson 2: Coping with UK weather

Contrary to what I just said, I don’t think I’ll ever be used to UK weather. The first thing I understood was that weather forecasts lie, it’s always raining in Manchester. You get used to the constant drizzle after a while and it doesn’t even bother me anymore. Layering is still essential and having already spent one winter here, you do go into the season with a slightly clearer picture.

I’ve definitely got a reputation for being intolerant of cold but the good thing is you become the standard for measuring the chill. However, I’m proud that I’m no longer wearing thermals in October. As for umbrellas, windproof umbrellas might just be the most ingenious invention of this decade so I must retract my previous statement; umbrellas do work! I’ll repeat what I said last year, you’ll always have the last laugh in summer.

Lesson 3: Culture Shock

Looking back at my words from last year, I definitely still get teased about my American-isms, cash carrying and foreign slang. I have to say, there isn’t a greater level of satisfaction than seeing your friends picking up some of your slang and mannerisms. You come away with an even more mismatched vocabulary and it’s the greatest thing because it’s a reminder of the unique experience you have in calling multiple countries home.

You start to feel protective and defend the unique design of the “Tin Can” to anyone who dares insult it. I still get surprised every day and I think that’s a normal part of culture shock. I’ve learned that culture evolves with time, and embracing that fact makes adjustment so much easier.

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