friends

Exchange Adventures

If you’re like me – from a small city somewhere in Europe – chances are that most of your friends were born and raised in exactly the same place. University is your biggest opportunity to form close friendships with similar minded people from different countries and cultures. Could there be a better way of experiencing them other than visiting their country?

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Most people I met are proud of their heritage and are keen to share it. Visiting them allows you to fully dive into their culture by being part of their family and daily routines. You don’t just look at it like in a museum, you live it. You don’t try an overpriced meal in a restaurant, you help prepare it in the kitchen. After a year of Austro-Bengali exchange, one of my first friends from university insisted I should visit him in Bangladesh and he would show me around the country. We covered all major cities, heritage sites, natural wonders and cultural regions. The whole family went on a trip with me to see every corner and understand the differences between the districts – unbelievable trip!

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When it comes to exploring the city or country you’re in, you’re accompanied by the best guide one could wish for! Obviously, somebody who has spent ~18 years in a place and knows all about its history and culture as well as the best places to eat authentically or listen to local music. Additionally, your friend knows and understands your needs, fears, interests and can accommodate the tour to your liking.

During my visit to Singapore as part of the Manchester Global Graduates Programme, I visited a recently graduated course mate. He knew I loved getting in touch with locals and take part in their celebrations. So, he rounded up a bunch of friends and we explored the Ramadan celebrations at night time. To accommodate my Austrian nature, we went for a hike on a local mountain with an absolute stunning view. All stuff I would have missed travelling on my own!

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Apart from enhancing your travels, you can do it on a budget, too. The only major expense you’ll make is to book some flights or trains. You can couch-surf at theirs, cook at home and avoid tourist-traps. Make sure you’ll bring a gift or take them for a meal once or twice to show your gratitude!

On the flip side, you can also host someone else! Actively invite others and make plans early, especially if the other party has to apply for a visa, as the application can take several weeks. Hosting others can also get you in touch with your own home again. I had tons of fun taking a Bruneii and Bahreini friend around Salzburg and was able to reconnect with parts of the city I haven’t seen in ages. Furthermore, I have hosted an Indonesian, a Lithuanian, two French and an Australian!

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Sometimes you might be confronted with ways of thinking, habits or practices you will find hard to cope with or do not agree with. Make sure you do some research before you embark on a trip like this, to avoid awkward situations. Should I host you for instance, I’d expect you to be ready 5 minutes before an activity – punctuality is king in Germanic countries! But everything can be discussed and clarified beforehand and both will know each other’s habits and expectations.

Visiting and hosting friends will broaden your horizon and reveal sides of travelling you wouldn’t have imagined. All it takes is an open mid-set and an invitation.

 

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Keeping in touch with friends

The countdown to the end of exams is on!  With the summer holidays being just around the corner it’s a time for excitement, the making of plans, and getting ready for some long summer days of much needed R&R.   However, the prospect of leaving this glorious city for a few months and saying farewell to uni friends is a cause of worry for many, and you may be concerned about missing them.  As a final year student myself, the thoughts of missing and losing touch with friends are more prominent than ever.

Having spent every summer away from the UK and doing study abroad in Canada during my third year, I’ve learnt that staying in touch with friends is super easy and that you needn’t fear about losing friends.

We’re told often that long-distance communication is easier than ever, and that until only a few decades ago the ability to have a real-time conversation with someone on the other side of the globe was pure science fiction.  Today, social media lets us keep track on what’s going on in our friends’ lives across oceans and the internet lets us chat for free with anyone across the world (except China and North Korea of course, and interestingly Bangladesh and Tajikistan according to Wikipedia).  This is all very obvious, and if you can sustain a good social life in 2017 without Facebook then I’m honestly amazed.

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But the most important lesson I’ve learnt is that it’s okay not to stay in regular contact with friends and that you shouldn’t be scared of losing touch.  One of my concerns when moving to Canada for my study abroad was that my wonderful UoM friends would drift away and that things would be different when I came back.  But at the same time I wasn’t willing to spend loads of time nattering with friends back home – I wanted to dive head-first into my new life in Canada, and focus on meeting new people, trying new things and travelling.  I didn’t want to be held back by spending evenings tapping away on FB chat.

By keeping busy and spending a lot of time with people, I kept the feeling of home-sickness (or Manchester-sickness) at bay – I was having too much fun to be sad!  I did occasionally Skype a friend back home for a catch-up or if I was feeling down, but in all honestly this was never as good as a proper chat face-to-face.  Don’t feel weird if your Skype conversation feels a bit stilted or awkward – how often in real life are you staring at your friend and devoting 100% of your attention to them for a prolonged period?  Normally you have natural breaks, look away, have a drink etc.  You’re not forced to make constant conversation!  Also, as great as FB is for maintaining connections, I find being sat there tapping away pretty boring – it’s no match for a real chat and you’ve probably got more interesting things going on.

When I got back to Manchester it was just like old times – if you really are good friends with someone it’ll take way more than a few months or a year to change that!  If anything, the lack of constant contact made the reunions extra special and I definitely didn’t feel like I missed out.

However, my worries about leaving Canada were about 10 times greater than those about leaving Manchester.  When flying out of MAN airport I knew that I’d be back in less than a year, but when would I be going back to Canada anytime soon?  As well as making some wonderful Canadian friends I’d also gained amazing friendships with people from all over the world, and thought of losing these was heart-breaking.

Thankfully, this last year in Manchester has proven to me that I didn’t have to be scared, and that things work out for the best.  A group of us met in Copenhagen this February for a mini-holiday, and it was just like old times!  Within an hour we joking, chatting and cuddling up on the sofa, and it felt like only a week since we’d seen each other.  I feel fully assured that I’ll be able to sustain my friendships in future, even if it’s many years before I see people again.  Eventually I’m sure you’ll cross paths with many old friends again.DSCN2081.JPG

(A photo of me and my Vancouver friends having a reunion in Copenhagen)

Of course, there are probably some people who I won’t see again and some friendships will have to be confined to memory.  But I don’t let this get me down as it’s natural for friends to drift apart as the times change as well as people, but I’m always immensely grateful for the good times we had and the things I gained from the friendship.  I feel that most relationships are quite transient and that’s quite beautiful in itself, because as well as drifting away friends in life we can always make new ones and become closer to others.

Wow, I’ve deviated quite a lot from my initial blog idea to talk about how easy it is to stay in touch with people.  This is getting quite philosophical now – talking about the nature of relationships and how times change.   Ultimately what I want to say is don’t worry about losing touch and that good friendships take a lot to diminish, but that it’s good to accept that good things come to an end and that we should appreciate them for what they were.  Namaste.

 

Eleanor’s Blog – 24 October

Hello everyone,

It’s good to be back in Manchester after a month long on placement! I’ve been really short of time to write to you all recently with all the extra travelling and work I’ve been doing surrounding my placement at a primary school and some clinics in and around Rochdale. I’m back now though, which means back to normal student life and the chance to stay in bed later than half past 5 every morning!

Every day was different on placement; whether it was having therapy sessions with groups of cute little kids, assessments for stammers, meetings with other professionals or making a video as an information resource to send to parents. It was good to see what it’s like being a real SLT in a real environment. My placement was with children, and it’s not a client group I’ve ever really considered before, so it was good to get experience to maybe change my mind.

Apart from my placement I’ve not really been up to much recently, as it really does take up a lot of time – but it’s worth it to not have too many wild nights out for a while and get as much out of it as possible! It was my first proper block placement out on my own and I’ve experienced and learnt a lot that will stand me in good stead for the 3rd and 4th year placements that will count towards my final grade.

It’s not been all sensible shoes and early nights though, as last weekend I went to visit my friend who’s studying at university in Sheffield. As I hark on about all the time, transport in Manchester is really good so it’s just a 45 minute train ride away and booking in advance means it’s not too expensive to go visiting friends and family up and down the country. The train to Sheffield actually goes past my parents’ house, and it was a bit sad to be so close to home without paying a visit! I was almost waving out the window but decided against it; probably would look a bit strange to everyone else on the train…

It was interesting to see Sheffield and compare the differences between living there and in Manchester- both are really lovely cities (but Manchester has less hills to walk up and down!)

Now I’m back to normal and in lectures again it’ll be a chance to get into a bit more of a routine, and hopefully work as a student ambassador at a few events throughout the University. I’ve got a couple of days off later this week so a trip back home will be in order as well.

Until next week! 🙂

Eleanor’s blog – 1 December 2011

I’ve been at Whitworth Park for just over a week and I’ve already settled in really well. Everyone is dead nice, but I think I’m going to have to start saying no to going out, I just can’t afford it! I still haven’t got round to getting a job…I can’t make excuses; it’s just pure laziness on my part! I’ve been being a bit of a canny business woman though and have been selling some of my old clothes and stuff on eBay, just for a bit of extra money. Made 30 quid in a week, and it’s not looking likely that I’ll be running out of things to wear any time soon. Quite proud of myself that since I’ve been in Manchester, the temptation to go shopping every few minutes hasn’t took too much of a hold…yet. Christmas is the party season after all, and with my new neighbours inviting me to lots of exciting places (oh it’s a hard life) I can tell I’ll need some shiny new clothes soon. Let’s hope I don’t spend all the money I’m making by selling stuff…

Carrying on with the November Christmassy theme, this week I visited the European Christmas Markets in Albert Square – where the big lights switch-on took place a couple of weeks ago. It’s really great, so festive and busy, with stalls selling everything from scarves to sausages – everything you could ever need for Christmas. I wasn’t able to get a good photo to share with you because it was just so, so, so busy, but I’d recommend going down and taking a look for yourself – plus it’s the only way to get the smell of all the amazing food. My stomach was definitely rumbling.

Seeing as I’m not in catered halls anymore, I’ve had my first week of cooking for myself. I was really looking forward to it because personally, I love cooking. I find that deciding what to buy is the hardest part though. Cooking just for myself means that I need to plan my shopping list, I don’t want to be buying too much and having to throw stuff away. Thankfully though, my kitchen has a huge freezer so it’s handy to separate out portions of stuff and just get them out of the freezer when I need them. Clever, eh! University is for learning things, after all.

I just wanted to show you this picture I took whilst going home for the day at half 9 on a Sunday morning, walking down Oxford Road – I’ve never seen it so empty! It’s really weird to see no one about when usually you can’t see anything but students and buses and taxis. I needed to borrow stuff from home I hadn’t brought with me like coloured pens and paper to make a project for one of my classes. Technically it would have been easier and quicker to just go to a shop and buy that stuff…but then a shop wouldn’t cook my tea and do my washing like my mum does.

Eleanor’s blog – 24 November 2011

Hello, hello, I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with baited breath to hear the details of my big move!

So it was Thursday when my application went in, Friday I was offered a transfer, and by the next Thursday I was all packed and ready to go. I have a lot of stuff, so packing took quite a while, meaning I didn’t really have a very exciting week. I did take a break though to go and see my favourite band, A Day To Remember, who played a gig at the Academy. This involved lots of balloons (one of which popped on my face, ouch), lots of confetti, and the lead singer climbing into a large plastic ball and walking on the crowd.

It’s been a pretty tiring week with an assignment to do and all the packing, so some of my free time in between lectures was spent in the social area of the library- a place I didn’t even know existed until now. It’s on the top floor, and my friends and I found it by accident whilst wandering around one day. There are vending machines and sofas and it’s just a good place to chat and eat and maybe do a bit of work…or, as the picture shows, have a little rest in a 3 hour gap between lectures!

Thankfully, I don’t live far away so on Thursday my Step-dad was on hand with the car (and strength to carry loads of boxes) to help me, with the promise I’d buy him a McDonalds for his hard work. Being nosey, I had found Whitworth Park’s Facebook group the week before and posted that I’d be moving in soon and wondering who my neighbours were. Everyone was dead nice and assured me of invites out with them as I’m the new kid. 🙂

The first couple of days here were pretty quiet, unpacking and finishing my assignment, but at the weekend I met up with some of my new neighbours (courtesy of Facebook) and they all seem really lovely. Whitworth Park itself is nice as well, and although it’s cheaper than Dalton Ellis the facilities are just as good. I’m so excited to say I now have a kitchen! In the absence of a ninth flatmate (the person who lived in the room before me had left), my new flatmates had pinched most of the cupboard and fridge space…but there’s plenty of room for everyone’s stuff so it just took a bit of switching around! My flat is calm and quiet which in a way I’m glad of as it means I can sleep at night without being kept up by music on either side of the walls! Whitworth Park is home to loads of students though so there’s always someone doing something. Everyone was really welcoming, something I was worried about seeing as they’ve all been getting to know each other for two months and I’ve only been here six days. I really miss my little Dalton Ellis gang already! The two halls aren’t far away from each other so I’ll still be able to see them, but having seen them every day for the past two months and suddenly not at all feels weird. I hope whoever has my old room likes it there too. 🙂

The past few days have been absolutely frantic (I know I always say that, but hey, I live a very busy and extremely important life) what with socialising with my new neighbours and unpacking all my stuff. I’m also starting to feel the pressure a bit from Uni, with another two assignments, a presentation and a project to do, but it’s nothing I didn’t expect. I heard this week that recently Manchester has had the first ever person to get a PhD in Speech and Language Therapy, so it goes to show that being at Manchester can make good things happen!  haha!

Eleanor’s blog – 2 November 2011

Another week in Manchester, and still I’m finding new stuff to do. Not all of it is exciting though, as on Monday I had an occupational health assessment. These aren’t a requirement for every course, but seeing as I’m doing a healthcare-based degree, it is just a check to make sure I’m not going to be spreading anything nasty around to clients! Thankfully I’m completely healthy, although I did need one vaccination, not something I was too glad about.

With Halloween approaching, there was also a bit of stress this week to find a costume! I ended up going to a gig (Funeral For a Friend at Academy 1, if you’re interested- and yes, it was amazing) on the Friday and home for a bit at the weekend, so I didn’t even have chance to go out in costume anyway. 😦  Saw loads of zombies wandering through Manchester though, it was like a scene from Dawn of the Dead. Me and my friend were much more inventive, we’d planned to go out as the Chuckle Brothers (look them up if you’ve not heard of them, I’m sure you can see that I’m the spitting image) but sadly, those plans never came to fruition. There’s always next year!…

I did get into the Halloween spirit a bit this week, helping my friend carve a pumpkin. She works at the Student’s Union and had volunteered to do it for work – I can honestly say it was a masterpiece. Never before have I seen a pumpkin with such expression and intelligence in it’s little orange face. It was almost a shame to scoop out its insides and make them into soup. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also had my first experience of handing in an assignment this week, something I was dreading almost as much as writing the thing itself. Surprisingly for me, I remembered to check for spelling mistakes, remembered to do the word count AND the referencing, and I even remembered to bring it in with me on the day. So proud of myself. A lot of assignments have online submission, but this one was a proper paper hand in, meaning there was a certain time and place to get it in. I was probably more nervous about finding the place on time than the actual results! But it all went okay, and I’m just left with a few other assignments to do…

Oh, and I saw a fox this week. I’ve lived in the countryside all my life and managed never to see one – I move to the city and there they are, just sat on the grass at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. I did get a bit too excited, I know a lot of people probably don’t like foxes but I do! We decided to name him Graham, after the building we live in.

Next week is reading week – a week without lectures to catch up on reading, revision…and sleep.

Eleanor’s blog – 27 October 2011

Apologies to you, my avid fans, for the late post this week – I’m afraid I’ve been rather busy with an assignment. It was the referencing that took me so much time! Thankfully though, this week I had a lecture on referencing to help me along. I won’t go in to it now, but for those with no idea it’s basically just writing a list of all the sources of information that you use in an essay, but there’s a set way of doing it that can seem pretty complicated. The lecture was a definite help!

In breaks from essay writing, I also had a chance to sample a bit more of Manchester’s nightlife (purely for research purposes, I can assure you) and so on Tuesday I ended up in 42nd Street- near St Peter’s Square. With indie music, cheap entry and drinks, it’s an alright place for a night out! A similar place, if you like that kind of thing, is 5th Avenue on Princess Street, not far from the uni campus, which is where I went on Saturday night. With three universities in Manchester, it’s always packed so you always meet new people (and there’s a big chance of seeing people you know too, I met two people from my course, one from my halls and three from my old sixth form college in there!)

The nervousness of meeting new people and making new friends has definitely disappeared, I feel like I know people properly now. In fact, this week I even had a conversation with people from my halls about moving into a house in our second year- it’s only week four of first year?! It’s not something I’d even considered but apparently all the ‘good ones’ get taken up soon. But there’s always the opportunity to stay in halls so who knows. I did have reservations at first but I do quite like Dalton-Ellis now (my halls). It’s quite quiet, but not TOO quiet, so I can get my work done and be able to go to sleep without being subjected to someone else’s music through the walls, but everyone still goes out and has a good time.

You may recall I was in need of a job, it’s something I’ve still not got round to tackling yet…even though I went into town to go shopping, I didn’t take CVs with me to hand around. I will next time, I swear.

Next time, finding Halloween costumes, handing in essays and having injections. I bet you can’t wait, can you.