Ending my year at Manchester

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A Coronavirus scare, an unexpected moving day, submitting my dissertation, and saying goodbye to friends have all been unforgettable milestones I have had to go through during the last two months. As I look back it all feels like a blur, and I can’t believe my year at the University of Manchester has finally come to an end.

A Coronavirus scare

A few days after my flatmate came back from Spain in July, I received a message from her saying that she was feeling unwell and she was requesting a COVID-19 test from the NHS. Until then, I had not really felt scared about catching the virus. After all, I’m young, healthy and covered by the NHS, a health system a lot more effective than the one I have back home in Peru. However, this message came as an utter surprise to me and I suddenly got scared. If my flatmate had it, this did not automatically mean I had it, but what if I did? What if I developed symptoms? What if these were serious? How would I finish my dissertation in this situation? What would my parents say when they found out?

That day I got a headache, probably due to stress and the extremely hot weather (it was over 30oC), but I was still worried. Even if I didn’t have any symptoms, I could still have it, and I had to be very careful in the flat to diminish the probability of me catching it. Also, if my flatmate did have it, I would have to self-isolate with her for two weeks and this made me very anxious. I tried to keep a positive mindset, repeating to myself that everything was going to be OK, and I managed to keep busy with my dissertation and job hunting. I also kept my closest friends in Manchester and back at home in the loop with any updates. I kept on doing yoga as usual, and I was extra careful with what I touched in the flat, washing and sanitising my hands constantly. Both my flatmate and I wore masks and avoided meeting in the common areas. We spent 4 long and anxious days like this, until the results finally came out negative – such a relief!

Moving day… again!

After moving out of my university accommodation in June, I didn’t think I would have to move any time soon. The landlord had assured me that I would be able to stay in the flat even past the contract end date, because he did not have any prospective tenants. This is why I was extremely surprised when he contacted me only 10 days before the end of the month, saying that if I couldn’t find someone to live with me from September until the end of the year, he would sublet the flat to two PhD students.

I tried to look for someone to move in with me, but it was very hard given that most of the people I knew had already left Manchester, or were planning on leaving soon due to Coronavirus. I felt frustrated because I had finally achieved a steady work schedule for my dissertation and it had been disrupted by something completely out of the blue and which I had limited control over. Suddenly faced with the uncertainty as to where I would live in September, having another stressful and tiresome moving day coming up, and with all the pending tasks I had for my dissertation, I started to feel demotivated. I had a couple days during which I felt like doing nothing at all. This was worsened by the fact that when I attempted to look for accommodation options, none of them seemed suitable.

After a couple days I committed to the aim of finding viable options, without being too picky. Once I identified a few, I felt a lot more relaxed, and after only one viewing, I managed to sign a new tenancy agreement. It was a mixture of luck, concentrating on solving the problem at hand, and compromising certain benefits to find a quick solution, to then be able to focus on the most important goal I had yet to accomplish: finishing my PGT dissertation.

Dissertation submission 

Both the Coronavirus scare and the sudden need to move out led to me applying to Mitigating Circumstances for my dissertation, since I feared I would not be able to make the deadline. Although my programme administrator advised me to submit the request, I knew this was risky and most importantly, I wanted to finish my dissertation as soon as possible in order to close an important academic phase and to fully take on the succeeding challenge of finding a job.

At first the task seemed impossible, especially because after the move I felt rusty and slow with the progress on my dissertation. However, as days flew by, I started picking up pace and after reorganising and prioritising my pending tasks, finishing by September 9th suddenly seemed feasible. With the help of positive time pressure and the motivating feeling of being very near to the end, I was able to gather enough energy to power through almost three all-nighters, and finally submit on time.

Saying goodbye

The ongoing pandemic has affected our lives in many different ways and saying goodbye to my friends at university has been no exception. International students that apply to UK universities do so to benefit from the well-known academic excellence as well as the cultural diversity that implies living in Europe. Most of my friends had travel plans for Easter and during the summer, but everything was cancelled when the continent became the pandemic hotspot. This meant that after submitting their dissertation, most of my friends had little motivation to remain in the UK. This, in turn, meant that goodbyes were fast forwarded for me, and I had little time to celebrate the end of my Master’s degree with my fellow classmates and really enjoy leisure time with them. Although saying goodbye is an inevitable part of the study abroad experience, and I have already experienced it in the past, this doesn’t make it any less easy.

Manchester has not only been my home for a year, it has been the place where I faced the challenge of completing my Master’s degree amidst the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. And I couldn’t have done it without the help of my support group, and now my extended family: my Manchester friends. Even though this has been a very unexpected year, completely different as to what I had in mind when I first arrived last year, I do feel I learned how to adapt to the situation and make the most of it. So what next? Establishing new goals and looking forward to the (again!) uncertain but exciting future that I now feel substantially more resilient and prepared for.