Settling into Manchester as an international student
Written by Mingxuan Chen, an MA Arts Management, Policy and Practice student.
When people are in a completely unfamiliar environment, it’s easy for them to stay in a safe zone and allow themselves to be derailed from the local social life. As an international student, when I first arrived in Manchester, everything seemed very strange. Unfamiliar cities, unfamiliar faces, diverse cultures, different languages, etc., I was almost out of touch with the city. I was like a newborn baby who was looking forward to the future life and had a fear of the unknown. Being brave, looking around freshers, and being open to everything made it easier for me to adjust.
Thanks to the university, there have been various opportunities for me to improve my social adaptability. The international society provides different events for us, such as weekend day trips, weekly socials, speed friending, Culture & Language, and so on. For example, I attended a Culture & Language meeting on Friday in Week 3, where students from different backgrounds sat together, sharing interesting facts about their cultures and lives. We also went on a day trip to Blackpool, where we all traveled together on a bus. The International Society has so far made my time in the UK a wonderful and unforgettable experience. These activities allowed me to experience the natural beauty of the UK and to make new friends from different countries, and I’ve also been able to improve my English and communication skills. The activities have helped me to adapt to life and study in Manchester more quickly, as I have been able to interact with local students and gain a better understanding of the local culture, lifestyle, and language. Now, Manchester has become my second home, which helps me to broaden my horizons.
Another way in which I’ve been able to integrate quickly into local life has been through volunteering. I study MA Arts Management, Policy and Practice, and our professors are always emailing us to let us know which local arts organisations are offering volunteer opportunities. The MTA is a collection of about 10,000 items that people left in spontaneous memorials around the city after the Arena bombing on 22nd May 2017. I help to audit parts of these memorials. Sorting through these memorials gave me a deep insight into the fact that although the bombing has left unhealed scars in many local people’s hearts, those who have been impacted are still facing life with the utmost optimism as a way of remembering their lost loved ones. Also, I volunteered at Manchester Camerata to support a concert called ‘Festive Happening’, where I was responsible for handing out programmes, as well as welcoming audiences and guests. I was able to enjoy some free Christmas music, where everyone was immersed in the melodies and swayed to the music. This allowed me to improve my English expression and communication skills as well as feel the friendliness of the locals.
All in all, trying something new is a great way to step out of our comfort zone, increase self-confidence, adjust to a new city, and perhaps even tap into our potential.