What it's like studying in the UK
Hi, I'm Lauryn and I have just finished my BA course in English Literature and Creative Writing at The University of Manchester. I moved to the U.K. to get a unique university experience that you can't get anywhere else in the world. UK universities offer a range of extracurricular opportunities, from societies and clubs to competitions, student media and volunteering. These experiences have definitely enriched my studies, helped me make connections, and further my academic and professional skills. I have met wonderful people and made memories I'll never forget.
What’s it like living in a big city?
When I was choosing which city to study in I initially had my heart set on London. However, once I decided I preferred the University of Manchester I came to realise how much better this city was for me. Manchester combines the best of both worlds as it is still a big urban city but it is also small enough to navigate. In a matter of days, I felt that I knew my way around the city. Manchester offers so many vibrant neighbourhoods, from quirky Northern Quarter, to fancy Spinningfileds, to nightlife heaven Deansgate. I can guarantee that you will never run out of things to do in MCR!
What was my course like?
I really enjoyed my course as it encompassed everything I wanted to study. My course was quite different from most of my friends' courses as it involves a lot of independent study hours, reading and analysing, rather than solving problems and creating elaborate experiments. I enjoyed having the freedom to work in my own time and select my favourite classes, but if you are studying something like English I would advise preparing detailed study plans so that you don't get overwhelmed by the amount of work.
What was my accommodation like?
Throughout my time at university, I had some great and some terrible accommodation experiences. During my first year, I got placed in a hall that wasn't my first choice so I was a little upset about it. My room was tiny, the kitchen was grim, and there wasn't a pleasant atmosphere in the house. While I could have changed accommodation I decided to stick it out because I was two minutes away from campus! One thing was for sure, in second year I could not stay in the same place again, so I found an equally close private accommodation provider which was a big step up. This place offered nicer communal spaces, a flatscreen TV, and the opportunity to live with friends.
What was student life like?
Being a student in Manchester really is a unique experience as Manchester is the biggest student city in the UK. Everywhere you go you're likely to be surrounded by people who are both very similar, and very different to you. My favourite thing is how cosmopolitan the city truly is. If you study in Manchester don't pass up the opportunity to meet people from around the world and find out more about new cultures. Also, it can be easy to isolate yourself in the Fallowfield student bubble. While Fallowfield is amazing and unique in its own way, Manchester has so much more to offer!
Was there time for extra-curricular activities?
I think the thing that made my time in Manchester truly worthwhile were the extra-curricular activities. In first year I decided to focus solely on my studies and begin to enjoy student life, but as second year started I realised that I was missing out on opportunities. I joined a number of societies and groups, including my university's student newspaper The Mancunion, and an academic journal Polyphony. I also participated in different volunteering opportunities, such as working with festivals, working remotely with international organisations and doing some translation work!
How did COVID-19 impact my experience at University:
COVID-19 really did impact my university experience. In March 2020 it no longer felt safe to be on campus and as my parents live overseas, I left Manchester and was only able to return in October 2020. From that point on until I finished my course in June, I travelled between Manchester, London and my parent's home because I waited to avoid being stuck away from my family in the many different UK lockdowns. I don't think universities have generally done enough to support students during this difficult time, but I am hopeful that from 2021 things will not only be safer but also similar to how they used to be pre-pandemic.
While there are advantages to online learning I think nothing beats face-to-face teaching and the experience of living in a student city.
What have I gained from my degree?
Overall and despite the pandemic, I wouldn't change my choice to study in the UK. I learnt so much from moving away from home, living with other people, studying independently and being responsible. You can't learn these things unless you go out there and try them yourself and the UK's university system, although it has its faults, is generally an inclusive, fun, and safe space.