I nestled my magazines into the seat pocket in front of me and prepared to type my last text before take-off. Correction: my last US text. Well, for six months at least! My stomach churned with a blend of excitement and nerves.
I’ve wanted to study abroad for as long as I can pinpoint. I can’t really explain it when people ask why; it is truly just one of those things in the pit of your stomach that you know you need to do. It is even harder when people ask, “Why Manchester?” I don’t really have an acceptable response, except for “Why not?” I suppose if I were to break it down, it would be the ease of travel offered from being in England and the cultural immersion available in Manchester.
First and foremost, the location is excellent: two hours by train to London, and three hours to Edinburgh, Scotland. Not to mention, the ease of travel within Europe. Ireland, France, Wales, Spain are all a hop, skip and a very cheap flight away! You can fly to Dublin or Paris for less than 30 pounds, which is less than 50 dollars!
Being in a large city campus, the University of Manchester (the “Uni” as they call it!) is a nice contrast to UNC-CH. While I love a college town, I wanted a completely different experience from what I would have in the States. However, I did want to attend a university where the students are involved on campus. As a hip hop dancer, I really wanted to continue dancing while I was abroad, and not only does the Uni (I love British slang!) have a hip hop team, but they also offer classes, which is very important to me. I can continue dancing while devoting my time to exploring other societies and sports clubs that Manchester has to offer.
I am probably most excited about the sports teams at the Uni and in the city. Can you honestly get better than English Premier League football? I guess that’s debatable, but it is really exciting to be able to see arguably some of the best football teams in the world in some the rowdiest stadiums on the continent. Whether you support Manchester City or Manchester United, the devotion of fans to their chosen football team is undeniable.
Not to mention, if you can’t get tickets to the matches, there are always the pubs, which are a true cultural experience and perhaps one of the places I want to visit the most! An authentic English pub is crucial on my list of to do’s.
All in all, the purpose of study abroad for me is the experience. Yes, it is about the experiences in the classroom and through my independent studies, but it is also about the experiences of a new culture, new friends and a new self. It is a constant game of learning and expanding one’s boundaries, becoming immersed in a new way of life. While England may not seem to be as culturally diverse from the US as other countries, part of the adventure is discovering how different things really are across the pond. And it appears I am well on my way to learning!
After enduring an eight-hour flight (and virtually sleeping none from sheer excitement), I encountered my first introduction into English culture. I accidentally walked into the room of a sleeping boy, mistakenly thinking it was my room. Undeniably, I woke him and the five neighboring rooms with my giddy laughter and apologies. First rule learned in England: Ground floor and first floor are NOT the same thing.
Here’s to further adventures, learning and memorable experiences!