Ammar shares his experiences as an Indian student at Manchester
Written by Ammar Vora, 2nd year Ancient History and History student
Hello, my name is Ammar Vora. I am an International Student from India and Saudi Arabia and I am currently in my second year of studying Ancient History and History. Before I begin to share my experiences with you let me tell you a little about myself. Although ancestrally Gujarati, my family has been settled in Kolkata, West Bengal for almost two generations now. However, thirteen years ago my father immigrated to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for occupational purposes. I have travelled to Manchester from the Middle East, like many of my other Indian friends and peers.
My reason to come to this institution was because of its high rankings, both for my course where it is in the top 10 and as an overall institution where it is 28th; according to QS World Rankings. Furthermore, many individuals from our country who come the UK, do so to pursue exceptional job opportunities post-graduation and I too am one of them. The University’s career services and the employability rate of its graduates was and is highly impressive, attracting me to it. However, the deciding factor that led me to be here was the vast multi-cultural and multi-ethnic population in this city which would allow me to build a home away from home.
Manchester is home to one the largest Indian populations in the United Kingdom, the city has embraced the Indian community and culture very admirably, to the extent that an entire road which although is officially named Wilmslow Road, is affectionately called Curry Mile by most residents of this city. This is due to the vast amount of South Asian restaurants, shops, markets, and lounges that are spread across the area. My flat mate who is a vegetarian due to his Jain background often considers the Curry Mile to be a blessing as it is a good place to find good Indian vegetarian food. As a believer of the Islamic faith myself, the Curry Mile is very helpful in finding not only halal restaurants but during festivals such as Eid I often, forget that I am in fact not at home due to the lovely celebrations we get to witness.
While we are on the topic of festivals, many of us worry that we may feel very homesick during our festivals without family. Such would be true if it were not for the Indian society of Manchester, which in my opinion hosts some of the best Indian festivals that I have attended in Manchester, in particular the Garba event which has always been a favorite of mine. Otherwise, the Hindu society hosts a ball for Diwali and the Islamic Societies have a variety of events which prove to very helpful during the holy month of Ramadan. In general, a shortage of societies is a hurdle that you will never encounter in the University, there is a society for everything, whether that be the Astronomy society, Creative Writing society, or the international society. These groups are a great medium of meeting people who possess similar opinions and interests or are even going through similar experiences as yourself. I myself met my current friends and flat mates through the International society and the CAHAE Society.
Despite all the help the University and its services has to offer, as an Indian there are some secrets which I only learnt when I got to Manchester, advices that would have been great to know earlier, so before I let you go let me share some of these with you:
- Do not throw away plastic bags, over here we need to pay for them, so if you buy them once, do store them. While on the topic of supermarkets, do get a Tesco club card, it is the key to getting fabulous discounts.
- Getting a Schengen visa early on is always a good idea, because flights around Europe are cheap but the visa is not. Sometimes it might even help writing a cover letter to the visa office so that they issue you a longer visa, considering that you are student.
- Getting a Stagecoach bus pass or a 16-25 rail card can save a lot of money in the long term. The bus pass gives you unlimited rides within Manchester for a year and the rail card gives you 33% discount on all trips.
- Lastly, always remember to ask for a student discount because many restaurants, shops and even barbers give 10 to 25 percent discounts to student, so do remember to carry your university card when leaving your flat.
So, this is but a little insight into the life on an Indian student in Manchester. Although, this piece is quite lengthy it does not begin to explain how interesting, exciting, and comfortable it is to lead a student life in the University of Manchester as an Indian.