Guro’s story from Norway to Manchester
Half a year after COVID came to Europe, I got on a plane to realise the dream I’d had since learning about the concept of university. On a family holiday in South England, I remember wandering down the cobbled, narrow streets of St Ives, Cornwall, with an ice cream melting in my hand from the summer sunshine. There and then, I decided I had to go to university in this beautiful place. We returned home to my grey, little hometown of Stavanger, Norway, and I started year 5 in primary school. One day, our teacher asked us to write and draw our vision of where we’d be in 10 years. I drew a Cornwall scenery of high coastal cliffs and lots of rabbits jumping around. In my 10-year-old brain, the mysterious crop circles and scones with clotted cream were reason enough to live in this country. Later, my dad telling me about his time studying at the University of Manchester in the early 90’s, teenage me could simply not think of anything cooler. I didn’t end up in Cornwall, but I’ve never regretted coming to Manchester. I am now in my third and final year of my undergraduate degree in Environmental Management and I’m nowhere near the end of exploring the British quirks.
At 19 years old, I wanted to go to university to save the world. To find out how I could make a positive impact on climate change, Environmental Management seemed like a good fit. After two and a half years about biodiversity loss and climate change adaptation, I have learnt a bit more about the reality of the challenge ahead. I will admit that my idea of influential power has been knocked down a notch. Climate change simply is demoralising sometimes. Yet, the university has helped me to find my niche. Thanks to excellent staff at the career service, my patient academic advisor, and the amazing facilities, I now see myself continuing to study for the next few years. My course has taken me on beautiful adventures and opened my eyes to both theory and practice. Field trips to the Peak District and a week in Scotland helped me put lecture content into perspective. I was lucky enough to also spend a semester abroad in Hong Kong. Going on exchange abroad is the single best decision I have made in my life. Back in Manchester (after COVID calmed down), campus has been a great environment to learn in. Since arriving, I’ve loved the size of it, the atmosphere of thousands of students buzzing around the streets every day, the beautiful buildings, and the variety of things you can get up to in need of a break. It is the small things that make campus great; the student pub, plenty of cafés, maze-like libraries, microwaves everywhere, tall trees and music venues.
Moving from the fourth biggest city in Norway to a city over twenty times the size was a big change. Still, a very welcome change for a slightly restless young adult. I found my new home in Withington, now addicted to coffee-culture and gig nights. International artists rarely come to Norway, so I’m always flabbergasted by the queues outside the Academy. Another culture shock is the ability to grab a pint at a pub here after a lecture, without it breaking the bank. Norwegians should keep in mind that cost-of-living is significantly cheaper in the UK, but tuition fee will be a serious setback… Something I have missed from home is the vicinity to nature. Urban parks aren’t quite the same thing, so I’ve taken a few trips to outer-lying areas to get my dose of greenery. And believe it or not, Manchester weather is so much better than at home! Brits do have a thing or two to learn from scandi-fashion layer theory though. Hint: thermals do the trick.
I didn’t worry much about language before coming here, but it turned out to be a bit of a challenge. To be honest, British people can be a bit scary sometimes. The speed, the slang and the funny intonation took me a long time to get used to. I was honestly surprised at how diverse the British accent are. However, it was my own insecurities about my accent that held me back. I felt very dumb at times and thought I sounded stupid with my own strange accent. Good friends, an international community and plenty and plenty of practice eventually helped me get over it. But seriously, cockney and Sheffield people; slow down please. I think it is necessary for international people to push themselves a bit to get their foot in the door when it comes to social culture. Volunteering and societies have been a big part of this for me. I’m so grateful for the sheer amount and diversity of things to get up to here. Overall, British culture was more different to Norway than I expected. A big and diverse city always comes with a bit of chaos, but I find that craziness reflects authenticity. It’s a bit mad, but that makes it fun. Compared to other big European cities, Manchester also stands out to me for having an extra touch of independence; it’s not in any other city’s shadow. They’re doing their own thing. It’s a place where students live side by side with Mancunians who love they’re city. There’s a welcoming warmth to people in Manchester. It still melts my heart when the cafe owner calls me ‘love’.
For my last months in Manchester (besides writing my dissertation) I want to do the things I haven’t done. This is an impossible project, but I’ll start by going to some classic music venues I still haven’t checked out. I’ll (hopefully) also take advantage of being a few hours away from places like Oxford, Edinburgh, and the Lake District. Cute cobble-stone villages and temperate rainforests are on top of the list. Finally, living abroad has made me hungry for more. Manchester made me realise that I am not ready to go home, and the next destination is likely even further away. I apologise to my dear family at home, but keep in mind, visiting doubles as holiday.
Written by Guro Nordbø