By Joe Gaskin (UBC, Canada)
It seems slightly weird being back in Manchester after a year away. You quickly get back into the same old routines and after a few weeks it feels as if you were never away. But of course, the feeling of nostalgia is always there, which is both good and bad.
It’s good because I have so many memories from studying abroad that, when I think of them I can be instantly cheered up if I’m feeling down. The bad side is that they are just memories. And at times, when the workload is increasing and your social life suffers because of it, and the fact you’ll be graduating soon so the job hunt will need to start at some point, you can long to have the year back to do it all again.
The work aspect has been the hardest to adjust to. I felt I adjusted well to the new learning environment when abroad but now you have to adjust back which seems much harder (to me anyway). At UBC all the work you had to do was set for you by the lecturers – meaning you had no option to not do it – and you always had the extra motivation of a nice trip to go on in the near future as a sort of reward for your work. In Manchester, its back to being more independent in the work you do, so it can sometimes be hard to motivate yourself again after always having that motivation last year.
Another factor of returning to Manchester is that there are less of my friends here. A lot of my university friends were doing 3 year courses and so have moved on. Of course, I knew this would happen before I left for Vancouver but it doesn’t strike you how different it’ll be until you’ve returned to Manchester. There are fewer people you know in lectures and fewer people to socialise with outside of Uni. Of course, since it’s final year, the work takes higher priority than the social life but it is always good to have a range of people to hang out with just to relax. This hasn’t been a major factor for me I still think it is important to consider if you are contemplating studying abroad.
Having the extra year of study, however, has really helped me. I believe I’m immediately at an advantage compared to those that haven’t studied abroad as I have an extra year’s experience under my belt. I’ve written more essays, had more feedback, been to more lectures, learnt about more topics, developed already existing knowledge, learnt from a different perspective which have all combined to give me a wider knowledge in my degree (Geography). I’m also in the process of applying for jobs after Uni and I believe the study abroad experience has proved invaluable in my application. It has given me a range of extra examples to draw upon to demonstrate value and skills. I also believe it generally just makes me a much more interesting person and it gives me confidence that I’ve got that something extra on my application.
Being back in Manchester has made me realise just how good an experience study abroad was. I sometimes sit in disbelief at some of the things that I did – it’s sometimes hard to remember that I was at university at the same time. I never did a gap year but I feel like I don’t need to now as I’ve been so lucky to have this experience, all the while adding to my academic experience at the same time. Of course, I’m slightly upset that it has been and gone but I love talking to people about my time abroad and I love going out there and encouraging people to give it ago themselves.