Things which might be different in the UK…

Sorry I’ve been so slow with updating this blog over the past week! Your arrival into Manchester is now less than a month away and things are getting hectic in the Orientation Office! I’ve been creating tickets for all of our events, organising the delivery of the clothes our student ambassadors will be wearing, arranging the Cafe Crawl we will be taking you on around the Northern Quarter, and much more! Additionally, the weather here in Manchester this week is b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-u-u-l and it’s so distracting – all I want to do is sit outside on campus eating ice cream! I haven’t forgotten all of your requests though, and I’m going to try and get them done as soon as I can!

It’s only a matter of weeks before you arrive in Manchester, and whether you’re here for 5 years or a single semester, you will quickly notice that there are a lot of things about the way of life in the UK, and the expectations on you as a student at The University of Manchester will be different from what you may be used to back in your home country. So, for today’s blog I thought it would be useful to do a little list of things which you might find different, and how to deal with them.

CARS DRIVE ON THE LEFT  don’t forget that in the UK, cars drive on the left…so when you cross the road you will need to take extra care before crossing! When I studied in America, it took some time to get used to looking the opposite way before crossing the road, I kept forgetting that cars in America drive on the right hand side :’)

TAP WATER – it is safe in the UK to drink water from the cold tap. In fact, our tap water is some of the cleanest and safest in the entire world. It’s also more environmentally friendly to drink tap water instead of buying bottled water from the supermarket

TIME AND PUNCTUALITY is such a small thing in our lives that many of us don’t really think about it, but it’s worth noting that in British culture it’s considered to be really rude if you arrive to class, or an appointment late. Always aim to be early – I always try to be around 10 minutes early to my classes. Plus, it can be super embarrassing having to walk into a full lecture theatre late, and having to climb over other students and disrupt their learning, so that you can get to the last free seat in the room 😦

TALKING AND USING YOUR PHONE IN CLASS – I’m sure this won’t be a surprise to many of you, but it is really disrespectful to talk to your friends in class, when others are speaking, as it disrupts the learning and concentration of your classmates. Similarly, using your phone in class to text your friends or go on Snapchat is very distracting to the people sat around you, and gives them a really bad impression of you.

SMOKING – It is illegal to smoke in any public building, or on public transport. You can smoke outside, but must not smoke within 5 metres of a door or window.  You can also get fined for leaving your cigarette butts on the floor, instead of putting them in a bin. In May 2016, the UK Government introduced a law which says all cigarettes must be sold in plain, unbranded packets.

LITTERING – there are waste bins everywhere on campus, and lots dotted around the city centre, too. If you litter, you could get a fine of up to £2,500, so although it may be tempting to leave an empty drinks bottle on the floor, it’s worth walking that extra few metres to dispose of it in a bin!

ALCOHOL – the consumption of alcohol is common and generally accepted in the UK. You can purchase and consume alcohol from the age of 18, but will need ID, such as your passport or an EU Driving Licence.

There is an assumption that drinking is something which all students do, either in nightclubs or in the pub at the weekly pub quiz, but this is not true at all! Many students at Manchester don’t drink alcohol, and everyone respects this choice. It’s easy to say ‘no’ when you’re a university student, and you won’t be excluded from social activities just because you don’t drink.

THE ROLE OF YOU AS A STUDENT – when I studied abroad in the USA, one of the biggest shocks which I encountered was how I was expected to act as a student.  Classes were small, and most of my teachers in the US were PhD students, which is somewhat different to how things are in the UK.

In the UK, most modules which you study comprise of two parts: lectures, and tutorials (or lab workshops). Lectures are where lots of students sit in a room and listen to a lecturer/professor speak. Tutorials/workshops are where you are in a smaller group of students (around 15), and a PhD student will lead a discussion, where you discuss the lecture and any books you had to read, or questions you had to answer in preparation for the lecture.

Having a PhD student as your tutor is quite good as it’s easy to get in touch with them and arrange a meeting if you need help with anything. They are also the people who mark your essays and homeworks and as they only have responsibility for a small group of students, they are able to give you more detailed feedback and assistance. However, it is also really good having an experienced academic giving the lectures, as they are able to draw upon their own expertise and research to make the topic they are teaching more interesting and engaging.

You are encouraged to ask questions, and even dispute the opinion of the lecturer/teacher. You’re encouraged to form your own opinions on topics, instead of simply accepting what you are told, and I know that for some international students, this dynamic can be a difficult one to adjust to.


My next blog posts will be a little more cheerier than this – I’m currently working on a request of my favourite walks/hikes around Manchester, which will be going up later this week! When the weather is as nice as it currently is, there’s nothing lovelier than going for a walk in the countryside, surrounded by rivers, tress and fields of animals… the photo below is what I see from my bedroom window every morning, and I feel so lucky to live in such a beautiful place 🙂




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