Welcome Week

I don’t want to rush into the L-word, so I’ll say this: I really like it here.

It’s different than the U.S. in a way that’s difficult to describe to people who speak the same language as you. (Believe me, I’ve tried.) But it’s different in a good way — a good, European way.

I’ve spent my first week here very conscious of my nationality. I just say a word or two — “hello” or “yes, please” — and people ask where I’m from in the U.S. (Almost everyone knows of Atlanta; almost no one knows of Missouri.)

Brands in stores resemble but don’t match what I’m used to, with the exception of Coke, Barefoot and Pringles.

And there are few things more embarrassing than checking out at a Tesco Express and carefully examining each coin, trying to discern its value, while the cashier looks at you as if you couldn’t have an IQ of more than 20.

But as the week has continued (and I’ve started to learn the value of each coin without having to search for the amount), I’ve become more accustomed to it.

I’ve always been a city person — there’s something about being in a place with lots of people, with lots of things happening, that makes me happy. I’ve always loved city architecture (it’s very old and pretty here), city characters (such as the homeless guy with his dog I passed twice today) and the city atmosphere, so living in one has been great.

(It’s not purely city, though — the outside of my hall looks like it could’ve been in “Harry Potter.” See below.)

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I live within walking/bus distance to Piccadilly, home of the City Centre, lots of shopping and a giant Ferris wheel. The buildings are old, and the architecture is great — if only I could remember some of the types we briefly covered in my “art for journalists” class.

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In the other direction is the Curry Mile, one of the longest stretches of South Asian restaurants and shops outside of that geographical area. I walked up and down it the other day and just observed, hearing different languages every minute. I didn’t expect Manchester to be this diverse, so this is a pleasant surprise — and I cannot wait to have some delicious Indian food. I’ll probably pass on the Kansas Fried Chicken there, though. (They have so many fried chicken places in Manchester! I wonder if that, McDonald’s and Domino’s are their main impressions of American food.)

I haven’t started any classes yet, so I’ve spent the week starting to prepare for them and meeting people. Through orientation activities, I’ve met people from around the world — many from the U.S., of course, but also some from Canada, Germany, China, Italy, Korea and Mexico. I’ve also made friends who live in my hall — many are from the U.K., but there are also full-time students from Asian and other European countries. I’ve really loved talking and hanging out with everyone!

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I’ll write again once I’ve done a bit more, but now, I’m about to go brave this rain/hail combination to get more food … wish me luck. (Also, see the ever-appropriate poem, painted on the side of a building, below.)

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