It was this time last year that the status of my application on UCAS changed from ‘conditional’ to ‘unconditional’ – time to begin the admin fun! Accommodation, plane tickets, health insurance and, the biggest issue, packing, all had to be sorted out by September. There seemed to be plenty of time for everything, but when you squeeze in goodbye visits to your relatives all across the country, a volunteering project and the last holiday spent with your childhood friends, September seems to come out of nowhere!
So, on 12th September, armed with my uncle and auntie and three pieces of hold luggage (honestly, you don’t need that much, my mum was really keen on me packing a frying pan even though you can get one for so cheap here), I embarked on my flight from Bucharest to London. My family booked me on a flight to Heathrow, thinking it was the closest airport to the University, not realising it was a 6 hour coach ride or a train journey with three changes which would have been impossible with all of my luggage! The best solution for me here was to book another flight from Heathrow to Manchester. I’ve learned my lesson and I am only flying directly to Manchester now, as the airport is just a 30-minutes direct bus ride to where I live.
We arrived in Manchester really late at night and took a taxi to my accommodation, which was in Oak House in Fallowfield. The University provides a free bus transfer to student halls when you first arrive as an international student, but my family insisted on taking me there themselves. I considered myself lucky, as I had a single room, which I think is something taken for granted by UK students. In my country, most students who decide to live in halls for their first year of university live with four other people in one room and have one common bathroom per corridor, which means that you share with over 100 other students. I opted for a standard room, which in Oak House meant that I had my own bedroom and a shared a toilet and bath-shower with three other girls and the kitchen with seven other people. I was really happy with the level of privacy I had! I lived with four British people, one British-Greek, one Australian and one American, so we had a 50% international flat, which is great for the diversity, but also everybody spoke native-level English, which improved my speaking skills as well.
My first days at uni were incredibly packed, as I arrived on Thursday night, and Friday was the first day of the Orientation programme. I hadn’t looked around the city before the first event that I had to attend – a big general international induction on the University and life in Manchester, so the first challenge on Friday morning was figuring out which bus to take, where to buy my ticket from and, most importantly, on which side of the road should my stop be. I was with a friend and we asked somebody on the bus where we should get off to reach Uni Place. The massive ‘tin can’ had a bus stop just opposite and it was almost impossible to miss. However, you had to actually press a button when you wanted to get off the bus – but we made it! I wish I had a UK travel 101 lecture before I came here…
We had plenty of things to keep us busy during the first few weeks, from attending our Welcome Week events to discovering what the city had to offer. What saved me from getting lost and helped me plan my trips around Manchester was a quick but really comprehensive bus tour of the city, which took us from the stadiums to Castlefield and back. We all received maps and guides about living in Manchester, but nothing compares to actually seeing it live.
Soon I had no doubts that this was the place to be – I was really happy with my lectures, keeping up with my workload (I was learning the Arabic alphabet at the time!), and adapted to Manchester sooner than I thought. Surprisingly, the rain was not that bad either, so I was ready to face the challenges that my very first year at uni would bring.
By Mira Dan (Mira travelled from Transylvania, Romania to the University of Manchester two years ago to study Arabic and Russian and is now preparing for her year abroad in Morocco and Russia.)