Hey everyone, my name is Alissa and I’m a UW junior who’s currently studying in Manchester for a semester. I’m not completely sure of where to start, other than to say my experience so far has been absolutely amazing! Manchester as a city isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing place in the UK, but it has plenty of attractions to make up for it. For one, there’s the two massive shopping malls: Arndale Shopping Center, which is about a 15 minute walk from the main campus, and The Trafford Center, which I’m told is the biggest mall in the UK (I don’t know for sure that this is true, but I can vouch that it is definitely a bit overwhelming in size!). There are also a ton of art and science museums if you’re into those kinds of things. Plus it’s really easy to get from Manchester to other European locations for pretty cheap. I’ve been to Edinburgh and Bath, and I was able to see Stonehenge in person. Tomorrow starts Reading Week, which is basically like the University of Manchester’s version of a mid-semester break. Most students go travelling over Reading Week, and I’m headed to London for the first half and Dublin for the second half of the week. Like I said, it really is easy to travel more once you get over here.
One of the other things I love about Manchester is all the great people I’ve met. The business school here has a really awesome international society who sets up lots of events and makes it really easy to meet other exchange students from all over the world. Plus, I’m living in the university’s student housing, and the way my accommodation is set up is as a flat that I share with seven other people. There’s another American girl here from Arizona State University, and everyone else in the flat is from England which has made meeting ‘local’ people really easy, too. People here tend to love Americans and it’s been really fun learning their lingo and teaching them some of ours. There are so many little colloquialisms and different pronunciations that, at first, had me really confused as to what people were saying to me, but I picked it up really quickly and have come to enjoy all the little differences.
There are also a ton of other differences in things ranging from the way classes are structured to the way people shop for food here, but I think the biggest cultural difference I’ve noticed so far is the drinking age. Since the drinking age is 18 and Manchester is a college city, there are a ton of bars and clubs that make for a fun night out, even if you’d prefer not to drink a lot yourself. And I have to admit that it’s really nice being able to walk into any of the numerous pubs in Fallowfield (the area of Manchester that houses a lot of students) and relax with friends over good food and a drink. Which reminds me: we don’t really have pubs in the States, at least not in Seattle, but they’re pretty great. You know how you hear that pub food is, generally, really unhealthy but totally delicious? It’s true. Just another little detail that has made my time here so far amazing.