Study Abroad Column: Making Memories in Manchester

Nowadays, I feel a sense of home in the poem about rain written on the wall of a building next to my dorm. I feel a sense of belonging in the way that these streets feel like home every time I return from a trip outside of town. I feel a sense of kinship in the familiar headlights from the Magic Bus driving past all of the Tescos and Costa Coffees and Sainsbury’s. I sit down at my desk and put down the first few brushstrokes for a watercolor scene of Whitby, a fishing town we had visited a few weeks ago. England, with its rich literary and cultural history, has occupied a special place in my heart and mind; it has started to feel like a second home to me, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to live and learn here.  

I am a junior at Colgate, and I am currently studying at the University of Manchester as part of a Colgate study group focused on global environmental public health. One of my professors had told me that this semester would be life changing, but I don’t really think I believed that until now, where I exist here, heartbroken that there is only a month remaining.  

I truly believe every student should pursue the chance to study abroad.  Although it is just for a semester, the abroad experience immerses you in a new, thrilling and exciting world. The thing is, many people leave high school and experience their first time living independently in a new city. For Colgate students, it isn’t quite like that. The college experience is still amazing, and you encounter a lot of diverse perspectives and incredible opportunities at Colgate. But for me, I didn’t experience true diversity until I came to Manchester: here, you see homeless individuals every twenty feet you walk, you live in a flat with eight people from different countries, you’re truly independent, you go into the city center and encounter people genuinely interested in hearing about how you’re liking England compared to the United States, you find yourself living in an officially recognized “City of Literature,” you can choose to go out to an entire variety of fun places and Greek life does not exist.  It’s wonderful, and it brings to life the stories you’ve only previously ever read about.

The academics at the University of Manchester definitely require me to devote a lot of time to studying on my own.  In contrast to Colgate, the courses I’m taking here aren’t particularly discussion-heavy, and there are not many structured exams. Many of the assignments are few in number, and most of your grade depends on the end-of-semester assessments. Despite this, I really do love the fact that I can devote my energy toward genuine curiosity, inquiry and interest in the subject matter rather than stressing too much about grades. Reflecting on this, I definitely believe that exams are actually a good thing, because they keep you up to date with the material that you should know. 

This semester, I’m working on an independent research project investigating the intersection of arts and healthcare in the United Kingdom in my ENST 391 course. As someone who loves art and science, England has come to mean a lot to me; my research so far has taught me that as a country, England pursues initiatives that combine art and medicine. It has an incredibly rich history in literature and medicine. Living and researching this in Manchester has inspired me to argue that the humanities should have a greater presence in medicine, and arts seem to have a positive impact on healthcare. More on this later – that could be a whole other article. 

Travel-wise, I had never traveled anywhere outside of the United States before coming to Manchester.  Over the course of the semester, I’ve seen more incredible places than I ever could’ve imagined, including Alnwick Castle (which was actually Hogwarts in the first few Harry Potter movies), Liverpool, Bath, Whitby (an incredible coastal town), York, Paris, Brussels and London. A large part of why I’ve enjoyed traveling so much is because of the group of people I’m with. From the start, I’ve felt that generally our group has a pretty great dynamic: we all have diverse interests, but we seem to share a sense of curiosity, creativity and acceptance of different perspectives. Personally, I feel like I’ve gotten to know every member of my study group, and I feel like we’re always excited to spend time with each other. I don’t want to sugar-coat anything, because I know that study group experiences are never perfect, but I honestly do feel quite lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful people.

So, in short, I truly love Manchester and all of the adventures that come with it.

Contact Allegra Padula at [email protected].