Manchester Metropolitan University Students' Union

Moving Abroad: expectations vs reality

Friday 14-08-2020 - 15:35

Written by Pari Tavate (note: this was written in 2019)

Uni is daunting, whether you’re 18 or 80, whether you’ve taken a gap year or start right after school. However, for those who choose to do it outside their home country, the pressure and assumptions are countless. Netflix series and pop culture end up giving us so many notions about what life will be like when you move away for uni, but the glass shatters when you’re bang in the middle of it. While I won’t be able to raise the curtain off of a lot of things, here’s a few realisations I came to when I moved to England for my degree.

1 – Eating Out

EXPECTATIONS: Coming from South East Asia, one would be used to having McDonald’s and Burger King tweaked with spices and condiments to suit the local requirements. I believed that the fast food I’d eat here would be just as tingling to my taste buds.

REALITY: All the fast food you’ll have just tastes odd. Every franchise will have a strong greasy smell wafting through the doors. You’ll be swirling your tongue trying to get the hint of seasoning, or salt, or something, leading you to the realisation that English food is vastly different from what you’re used to.

2 – Accents

EXPECTATIONS: As a proud viewer of Sherlock and Downton Abbey, I was sure that everyone would speak in the same way they speak on television, with proper enunciation and the famous British accent.

REALITY: When you bump into someone from Wakefield and hear them speak like they’re from another planet, you’ll probably go like:

Then you’ll understand the difference between the posh Southern accent and the Northern accent, throwing your entire understanding of the British accent out of the window.

3 – Cleaning

EXPECTATIONS: While I came from a place where my dorms were cleaned by housekeeping, I knew that I’d have to do some cleaning. But you’re one person, occupying a room not more than 15x15 in size. How much mess can you really make? Maybe using the Hoover once in three weeks should be fine, right?

REALITY: But you’ll notice bits of papers, plastic and God knows what magically appears on the floor, forcing you to get the hoover in the room, and spend an hour breaking your back for it. And this is going to happen for sure.

4 – Partying

EXPECTATIONS: Watching a lot of coming of age films, you’ll believe that every party is going to be the best night of your life. You’ll meet a cute boy, jam to your favourite music and even drink enough to buzz to the beats.

REALITY: A lot of the music will be predominantly British, so if you’re not accustomed to it, people will be dancing and singing whilst you’re stood there wondering what’s happening. You’ll want to dance, but you had set moves back home, and you might be dreaming of the day when you can whip out ‘The Routine’ again.

5 – Coats

EXPECTATIONS: It wasn’t common for us to use coats, except a few days in January. So, if you’re from a region below the equator, it’s possible that you might find yourself doing this everywhere, you know, because you’re cool.

REALITY: The reality, or may I say the bone chilling winds will send shivers down your spine, forcing you to ditch the experimental continental style for more coveralls and jackets. While these were my experiences, I’m sure there’ll be many more things which you’ll find odd when you make the move. It’ll be awkward and unfamiliar at first, but it does grow on you, bit by bit.


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