I miss the days when the only traffic light system impacting my life was selecting the spice level at Nandos. Unfortunately the year is 2021 and what was usually the first step in racking up enough chilli’s to redeem a free whole chicken is now a series of difficult and heartbreaking decisions.
This may be the second or third year that the pandemic has thrown a hand sanitiser shaped wrench into your holiday plans but it by no means gets easier. In all honesty? I miss giving my mother a hug. Whether it’s making the decision to fly home or wondering what could possibly entertain you in Manchester over December, I hope you’ll find comfort in knowing you aren’t alone.
To fly or not to fly?
There are so many factors to consider when returning home for winter. I’ll list a few key points to keep in mind if you’re still contemplating leaving Manchester this winter.
- Flight costs: Some airlines are using social distancing on aircrafts therefore not filling them to capacity, flights may be more expensive than usual.
- Travel Corridor: At the time of posting, there are a number of countries on the UK red list , travelling form these means you have to isolate in a quarantine hotel on your arrival in the UK, as well as take COVID tests. Arrivals from all other international destinations have to test before and after arrival – the exact details of what tests and timings depend on your vaccination status. However, certainly, at the moment it feels like these can change at any moment so make sure you’re constantly checking gov.uk.
- Vaccination: If you aren’t fully vaccinated, be prepared to face additional costs such as PCR testing. You should also be aware of the criteria to be considered “fully vaccinated” in your home country as these may differ from the UK.
Alright, you’re staying put… now what?
First things first, you need to build up a support network! Many faculties ask that you inform your pastoral team if you’re remaining in Manchester over winter. This is a good first step to connecting with other international students on your course.
If this isn’t something your faculty offers, take the initiative yourself by posting a message in your course group chat asking who else is staying over the winter break and propose you all make a separate group chat. Arrange to meet up virtually or in person and keep checking in on one another.
If any friends are also staying back and social distancing rules allow it, consider all staying under one roof for the holidays! It could be a little holiday that’s affordable and low effort but will create a unique set of holiday memories.
In terms of how to keep yourself occupied, the options are endless! I suggest you keep your calendar as packed as possible and try activities that are unique to Manchester:
- Naturally, ice skating springs to mind – and you can choose from 6 rinks in Manchester! Try a toboggan slide in the Trafford Centre and be sure to check the rest of their Tinsel Town attractions too. The Christmas Markets are a classic, and this year there’s a new Winter Garden Market in Piccadilly Gardens to explore.
- Wanting to get active? Try the Christmas Lights trail and be sure to check out other guided tours if you want to explore Manchester by foot. There’s also a huge range of local winter walks if you fancy braving the cold!
- If you aren’t looking for something winter or Christmas themed, I can’t recommend the Van Gough Alive exhibition enough – it’s a little slice of magic in Salford. Alternatively, check out the Harry Potter forbidden forest experience in Cheshire. The Science and Industry Museum also has lots on at the moment!
- A few of my fellow content ambassadors also have some suggestions: cook up a storm using Lina’s winter recipes, or have a movie night with some of Kristie’s recommendations.
- Be sure to join your country-specific society and check out the Student Union page to see if they have any events for students staying back this Christmas. The International Society have already planned some fun events like carolling and a New Years get together.
Finally, as I’ve stressed throughout this article, it’s not easy being apart from friends and family – especially if this is your first holiday away from home. Please be sure that you’re aware of all the support available to you.