Travel

The experience of a lifetime with Study Aboard

When the applications for study abroad opened in the autumn of my second year, I was at a loss about what to do.  One of the main reasons I chose to study at Manchester was its amazing study abroad opportunities and strong global links.  From past experiences, I knew that I loved international travel and I understood the many reasons why study abroad would be fantastic and hugely advantageous to me.

For a while, I couldn’t decide whether to apply, especially because I was loving life in Manchester and the thought of leaving that behind was heart-breaking.  I’d amassed lots of wonderful friends, was involved in some amazing student societies and part-time jobs, and was having the best time of my life.  To turn my back on all this seemed crazy –could I ever have it this good again?

After much torment, I finally concluded ‘just do it!’ and applied.  It’s wasn’t like Manchester was going to disappear anytime soon, and I knew that good friends would always be there for me, no matter how far away and no matter how long I wouldn’t see them for (I’m getting all soppy and sentimental now ❤ ).  My top study abroad destination was the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, as it ticked all my boxes: excellent University, amazing outdoors activities like skiing, canoeing and hiking, and a beautiful modern city surrounded by beaches and mountains.

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Me snowshoeing with new Canadian friend Cora in the Rockies

A few months later I was stood in the Atrium of University Place squinting at the list of student numbers who had been approved for study abroad.  I stood there for about a minute glancing between the list and my student card with my student number on it.  After about the tenth check all doubt had been stripped away and the mental meltdown commenced – I WAS GOING TO CANADA!!!

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Beware of bears!  Hiking with Canadian friend Nicole (now one of my best friends)

I arrived in Vancouver late at night in early September, and promptly fell asleep after travelling 7312 km.  I woke up at 5am (1pm UK time) and went for a stroll around the city centre.  Within an hour, I had observed sunrise over Coal Harbour, strolled through soaring pines in Stanley Park, watched seaplanes land, breakfasted on coffee and bagels, and dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean.  I’d never fallen in love with a place so instantaneously in my life.

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Vancouver sunset

When term began two days later I put far less effort into attending the UBC welcome events than I did in Manchester.  Having already done welcome week once before, I knew that partying with a load of strangers wasn’t the best way of making new friends. Instead, I took my time and got involved with a couple of the student societies and got to know my course-mates.  Within a couple of months, I’d met dozens of great people from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures and nationalities, had many good friends and had comfortably settled in to UBC.

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Some friends at the Richmond Night Market

Over my 10 months living in Vancouver, I’d been lectured by world-leading academics, made amazing friends for life, and picked up my high school French by talking to French-Canadians.  I’d learnt to ski, sea kayak and ice climb, and had been on adventures across western Canada and the USA.  In short, it was the most incredible year of my life, and I feel silly for having so many doubts before I applied!

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Learning to ice climb

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Eating oysters with my canoe buddies – caught by us on the beach!

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One of my buddies on one of our canoe trips

In addition to having loads of fun, I’d developed my problem-solving skills and confidence by integrating into a new country, become far better at networking and getting to know new people, felt more competent as an independent individual, and also learnt lots about myself and many life lessons.

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Climbing in Squamish near Vancouver

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Mountaineering in the Valhallas with Nicole

When I returned to Manchester my old friendships were as strong as they ever were and I settled back in immediately, feeling invigorated from my year away and ready to enjoy Manchester again with a refreshed mind.  My boosted confidence helped me discover a love of meeting new people, and now have more friends and connections than ever.

Of course, some less lucky people have less of a good time as I had initially, and often settling into life in a new place takes different times for different people, but most universities have support services, lots of student activities and events to help you make friends and make the most of your year away.  Also, the Manchester Go Abroad office will always be there for you if you have any problems or would like advice.

My study abroad was the best thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve come back with bags of wonderful memories, great friendships and new skills.  My year away has truly improved me as person, and I couldn’t recommend study abroad any more.

So what are you waiting for? Apply and have the adventure of a lifetime!

5 Reasons why you should work at a Summer Camp!

By: Mary Johnson

I admit I was once a cynic amongst the converted… Those tanned, cheerful folk, returning rejuvenated from THE ‘best summer ever’. However, after experiencing it all first hand, I can truly say that spending my summer as a camp counsellor was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

So, if you’re still sitting on that white picket fence about it, trying to decide whether or not committing to a summer State-side is for you, let me give you a few reasons and a gentle shove in the right direction…

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1. The Friendships

Without a doubt, the bonds you make at camp are unique. Complete strangers become your colleagues, your room mates and your confidants, all in the space of orientation week. You see each other at your best and your worst; first thing at breakfast as you race to the granola bar, to last thing at night before you close your eyes, agreeing that the fan must definitely stay on. It’s like an impossible recipe for friendship to get wrong!

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The kids aren’t such bad company either!

 2. It will be Beautiful!

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Most camps are situated in some of the most stunning, well preserved locations in the country. As a sailing counsellor, I got to enjoy the crystal clear spring-fed lake that we were so fortunate to call our waterfront. N.B. Free up that iCloud storage in preparation for the hundreds of photos you will no doubt take of everything around you…

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The commute to work – It’s no M6 but it’ll do

 3. It’s Pretty Straightforward

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One of the things that really appealed to me when applying, was the seamlessness of the application process. There’s a great range of recruitment companies out there, ready and eager to get you employed (and take a cut of your earnings…) That said, if you’re in it for the money and less so for the experience, you may want to rethink your summer plans! #notfo’golddiggas I personally went through Camp America and found their VISA and staff application processes really straightforward.

4. FOOD

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In most cases, 90% of the food you have is lovingly made on site by your camp’s kitchen staff. However, the rest of your culinary decisions are at your full discretion on days and evenings off and depending on the local eatery scene, the possibilities can be endless… Think ice-cream huts serving virtually every flavour under the sun and endless ‘soda’ refills on trips to the cinema! *Bumps up health insurance in preparation of type 2 diabetes*

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The Maine event: lobster

 5. The Authentic American Experience

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Before coming to camp, I had never stepped foot on American soil (bar the embassy) and I can’t think of a better way to have first experienced it! From the amazing welcome I received and the total immersion in all things American, including late night Walmart trips and Fourth of July fireworks, to my after camp travels along the East Coast, it was all amazing!

 My only regret is not doing it sooner!

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Land ahoy! Next stop, Camp 2017!

6 reasons to travel while at University

By: Cristina Jiang

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

Travelling is a good way to spend your time with family and friends, but it also is extremely valuable in your personal development. In fact, when you travel you gain essential skills and valuable knowledge that will stay with you your whole life. As University is a time to learn and explore, here are the top 6 reasons why you should travel while doing your degree.

  1. Long holidays

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As students, we have about 160 days of holiday in a year, so it’s the perfect time to travel before committing to a job and a family. In fact, when you start working, you will be entitled to only about around 28 days’ paid holiday (self-employed folks out there, I envy you!), Life won’t be as carefree as now, so take advantage of it and go explore!

  1. 16-25 railcard

If you want to travel around the UK, why not apply for a 16-25 railcard? It only costs £30/year and will get you all over the country for 1/3 of the price. Buy “advance” tickets and you’ll get to London for just £14.50 and to Edinburgh for £12.20! What are you waiting for?

  1. Travel around EuropePic2

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sonta

If you are an international student or you just want to explore the continent, this is the time to do it! With over 50+ countries and diversity in cultures, Europe is a fascinating place to explore. Your destination is just a short flight away and for a fairly cheap price. You can find really good deals with popular low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, EasyJet, Flybe, Jet2.com and many more. When flying back home to Italy, I always book my tickets in advance and compare prices across different airlines, to get the best deal possible. Sometimes you can find some really crazy deals, such as Ryanair flights to Hamburg or Brussels for only £9.99. So get booking!

  1. Interrail


“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Pic3Unlike flying, Interrail is an incredible way to see the country as you drive by! You can hop off the train at any moment and explore as many cities as like. All you have to do is purchase the train pass and you’ll be eligible for unlimited rail travel within 30 countries for a maximum period of one month. Backpacking through Europe is an unforgettable experience that you’ll be telling your kids in years to come.

  1. Volunteering

 “You don’t have to be rich to travel well.” – Eugene Fodor

Do you want to travel AND raise money for a charity? You can join one of the Universities’ charities and travel across Europe, while helping others! In the past, our Students’ Union Raise and Give (RAG) society has taken part in a Jailbreak fundraiser. The idea is that you have 30 hours to get as far from Manchester as possible, by any means possible – for charity. Past Jailbreakers have ended up in Berlin, Paris, New York and even Hong Kong!

There are so many ways you can make your travels more meaningful; take time from your summer holidays and volunteer. Spending your holiday in Manchester? No problem, there are countless numbers of charities that you can join, such as Cancer Research UK Society (CRUKSOC), Unicef on Campus and WaterAid Society. Personally, I am a member of CRUKSOC and every year we organise open 5-a-side football tournaments to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Being part of the events does not only mean I’m helping others but also means I can develop and build new relationships. Volunteering has given me the opportunity to also pursue my hobby as a photographer and video content creator as I take photographs and videos of the events.

More info about volunteering at the University here

  1. Global Graduate

“Investment in travel is an investment in yourself.” – Matthew Karsten

Being an outstanding student is no longer enough.  Nowadays, employers are seeking “global” students that possess a wide range of skills, including adaptability, global knowledge and cultural agility. Big companies often look for employees that are flexible to move around the country, to fly for business trips or to work abroad. The Global Graduate scheme is how you can get ahead!

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The programme offers 32 undergraduate students the opportunity to visit one of the seven host cities across the world – Hong Kong, New York, Singapore, Toronto, London, Paris and San Francisco to go and gain experience in the industry. It’s an opportunity to both practice and develop your existing skills, to start building your professional networks and to increase your understanding of your employability. The best part? It’s completely FREE. Want to hear from one of our Global Graduates? Read here for Alasdair’s experience in Hong Kong to find out more.

Into the wild with University societies

By: Jake Jones

Looking for some adventure in your life?  Keen to escape the urban sprawl and get into the wild?  The University’s large number of outdoorsy student societies makes it easier than ever to get out of the city and try something new.

Many choose to get involved with the outdoorsy clubs to relax and unwind from their studies.  As well as being a great chance to exercise, travel and enjoy some natural beauty, spending time in the outdoors has been proven to help reduce stress levels and improve mental wellbeing.

Many of Manchester’s students turn to the outdoorsy clubs for a dose of adrenaline to shake off the work-week.  Thrill-seekers can choose to spend their weekends climbing snowy peaks, kayaking down roaring white-water rapids, and exploring ancient underground caverns.  Manchester has something for everyone  – this article introduces a few of the most popular.

For hard-core hikers and those seeking picturesque views:pic1

The University of Manchester Hiking Club (UMHC) is one of the biggest University clubs, and has trips every weekend exploring the mountain regions of the UK.  UMHC travels far and wide, from the tranquil waters, lovely villages and green rolling hills of the Lake District, to the rugged, wind-swept wilderness of the Scottish Highlands.  The club caters to people of all levels of fitness (provided they have an appropriate coat and boots!), so whether you want a relaxed walk in the nature or a big 20 km day of summit-bagging and scrambling, UMHC has something for you!  UMHC also has fell-running and climbing groups, weekly socials and pub nights, and is very popular with international students as a way to travel to the more remote parts of the UK.

To find out more about UMHC, check out their Facebook page

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For vertical thrill-seekers:pic2

For those who prefer their mountain climbing to be on the more vertical side, the Manchester University Mountaineering Club (MUMC) is the first choice.  MUMC has weekly trips to Manchesters’ many climbing walls, such as Rockover and Manchester Climbing Centre. It also organises an annual winter skills trip where you can learn the basics of winter climbing and other mountaineering techniques.  In the warmer months MUMC also run climbing trips to the Peak District, as well trips to Wales.

Interested? Learn more about MUMC here

For aquatic adventures:pic3

If you’re more drawn to exploring the rivers and rapids of the British countryside, the Manchester University Canoe Club (MUCC) runs trips kayaking all over the UK.  MUCC is suited to all abilities, from beginner paddlers to white-water warriors, and have gentle river trips as well as technical white-water adventures.  If you’re new to kayaking,  MUCC have skills sessions as well as weekly canoe polo practises, socials and circuit training.

Check out the society Facebook here

To discover the world beneath our feet:

For a truly extraordinary subterranean experience, the Manchester University Speleology Club (MUSC) can introduce you to caving, where you can explore underground rivers, marvel at spectacular stalactites and abseil into ancient caverns.

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For social city running:

For some mid-week outdoors recreation, Run Wild puts on weekly runs around the city’s parks and footpaths, as well as participates in races such as the Great Manchester Run (10 km) and the Manchester Marathon.

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For a chilled out day slacklining:

If you’d prefer a more chilled-out day in one of Manchester’s green spaces, the Slackline Society is a great way to hone your balance and core strength whilst enjoying sunshine and nature.

Society Facebook page

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Getting involved with the UoM outdoors clubs has brought me health, happiness and friends, and is definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

 

Volunteering in Rwanda

By James Waterfield

Volunteering is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in other cultures, meet people, make new friends and most importantly- change lives. Last summer I spent a month in Rwanda teaching with the Debate Mate charity and I couldn’t recommend it more! Below you’ll find out what my typical week of volunteering looked like.

Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday

The first three days of the week were dedicated to teaching kids debating skills to prepare them for an upcoming competition.  Each volunteer was in charge of a specific school,
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students. Teaching brought many new challenges, for instance, in each class there was a range of both age and ability, and in most schools, the limited English left a sea of smiling and nodding heads. This was however a fantastic opportunity to learn some Kinyarwandan phrases, such as ‘Do you understand?’ and ‘Are you listening to me?’ As the days went by, I seemed to adjust well and I was very proud of the progress that my students made.

We taught every day from 7:30 am until 13:00 pm. Having the second half of the day off gave us an opportunity to explore Rwanda. We used this time to visit the local farming villages, art galleries, women centres and memorials. One of the most memorable visits was to the Niyo Art gallery, where we learned a traditional Rwandan dance and drumming from local kids. In return, we taught them some of our Debate Mate games which received a very positive reaction.

Thursday

Competition day! This was the day we put on our tailored suits that we bought earlier in James Rwanda2.jpgthe week. We were excited to give the students the day that they deserved. The day was full
of emotions; while there was an overall sense of competitiveness, the kids were laughing
and cheering on their teammates. The schools debated on issues such as education, transport, exams and voting rights. It was amazing to see how passionate the students were, even though for some, English was their  second or third language. It was incredible to observe the students I’ve worked with in the past weeks and see their excitement and determination to learn.

Friday & The Weekend

The weekend was a time for exploring Rwanda. Activities included: a safari in Akagera National Park and a trip to Lake Gisenyi.  For locals, Saturday was when everyone would take a pause on their daily life and engage in Umuganda – community service. This involved cleaning the streets, forests, and fields. With the friends we made at the Niyo Art Gallery, we came together  to clean out the drainage systems. A tiring few hours of work was finished off by an invitation to the village meeting. This was a very special moment for all of us as this meant we were accepted into the local community and recognized for our help.

As I now look back on my time in Rwanda, I think back to my students,  the people we met  and the multitude of friendships that I formed. Volunteering in Rwanda truly influenced my worldview and made me appreciate the work similar charities do for local communities. This is an incredible opportunity to help others while also discovering the world for myself. I will always be proud of the work my colleagues and I accomplished in Rwanda and I encourage others to do the same.

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Peak-y Blinders

I took advantage of the quiet Easter vacation whilst the undergraduates were away to have a few days off and get a little fresh air into my lungs. One of the many great things about living in Manchester is its proximity and good transport links to great countryside, particularly the Peak District. Just a 45 minute train journey from Piccadilly is the village of Edale, which is nestled in the Vale of Edale between the vast expanse of Kinder Scout to the north and the pyramidal peak of Mam Tor to the south.

I set up camp, the only tent in the field, at a basic but very cheap site (amenities being a toilet. At a farmhouse. Ten minutes’ walk from the field) and set off towards the foot of Jacob’s Ladder. The ‘ladder’ is a 100 or so metre climb up steep stone steps laid into the old portage way which linked the northern and central peak district for centuries, apparently named after the farmer who first cut the path into the steep hillside leading up onto Kinder Scout.

The views back across Edale once up on the moor were grand, despite the mist and haze which hung around the valley. Despite it being almost April there were large pockets of snow still defying the spring thaw in the higher areas and despite the sweat I’d worked up on the trek from the valley bottom, I had to quickly fasten on multiple layers of clothing to stave off the chill breeze.

Whilst the valley had been pleasant and green, with some pockets of woodland, the burbling of the River Noe, and the chirruping of songbirds, the moor was windswept and frosty, dotted with large boulders and bare black patches of eroded or cut away peat. For the first half an hour or so of walking on the tops, as the cloud gathered close around and obscured any view other than the barren expanse of the moors, it was almost possible to imagine oneself as being on another planet. I found a nook amongst a large rock formation and devoured my now well-earned packed lunch of cheese, onion, and salt and vinegar crisp sandwiches.

Three hours of rambling through the heather, egged on by the occasional chorus of clucking from a disturbed grouse or two brought me to the head of Grindsbrook Clough, a steep ravine cut by the brook, which required some agile scrambling skills to get down in one piece without ending upside down in a muddy heap. The steep descent took a lot longer to complete than I expected from looking down from the moor, but I had the incentive of knowing that once back down into the valley, there were two great pubs just itching for my custom, so I forged on bravely.IMG_0147

I washed down a large plate of fish and chips at The Old Nags Head  with a couple of pleasant golden ales before heading further into to village to The Rambler Inn. It just so happened that that evening the ‘Folk Train’ was coming to the Rambler. Every few weeks the folk band and their ale drinking followers spend a night hopping on and off the train from Manchester to Sheffield and back, playing, singing, and boozing as they go. I was excited at the potential of being caught up in the musical frenzy, but after just one pint I could feel my eyelids sagging and my legs heavying, so made the wise decision to instead trudge slowly back to  the tent whilst I still could.

Student’s Day Out – Planning a trip to Northern Ireland from Manchester

If you are tired of your busy routine and bored by the bricks of Manchester, you definitely need something greener to refresh yourself in Easter break. Two days! At least two days of your precious life are worth a visit to Northern Ireland if you are on a budget and have a Euro trip or other places in UK to hit on your list.

I can share my experience and I must say that it was truly amazing. Here’s what we planned. We were a group of four friends and decided on a two-day trip. We booked our flights from Manchester Airport to Belfast International Airport from EasyJet with return journey of around £46. The hostel we got was the cheapest available in a 6-bed room for a night at Belfast International Youth Hostel at £10.5 per person. We left the first day open for travelling in the city and for a tour around the nearby areas. That open plan made our trip adventurous. For the second day, we booked a guided tour with Causeway Coast Tours for £17.5 and this was again the cheapest option available from the top list of tours to the North Antrim coast. Remember this price is what you get as a perk of being a student; otherwise it’s normally more for an adult. A trip to Northern Ireland would be incomplete without visiting Giant’s Causeway, the rightly called 8th natural wonder of the world and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This is why booking a tour with a guide was indeed the best thing to do.

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