By Billy Nathan Setiawan
3 pm and I am sitting in the park. While some children are playing football, books and papers are my company at the moment. People are making the best of the nice weather today, doing their best to forget the heavy rains from earlier in the week.
Today also marks a month since I came to this lovely city. I am currently doing an MA in Intercultural Communication at The University of Manchester, through a full scholarship from LPDP (Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education). I would like to share some of my experiences here, in terms of the city, cultural differences, and the study.
1. The city
I have been told that it rains quite often in Manchester. However, it never really pours – it just takes hours to stop. Unlike in Jakarta when the rain shuts down most activities (triggering floods and traffic jams), people continue as usual when it’s raining here. We just need to bring an umbrella and a (rain)coat to avoid getting soaked.
I live in a shared-house with three delightful English housemates. The campus is roughly a 25 minute walk (2.5 km) from the house. The city is walkable. I enjoy walking. In one day I could walk at least 5 kilometers. However, when it is raining I can’t be bothered to walk! Taking a bus is also convenient. Buses are normally running until midnight – some are even operating for 24 hours.
The city boosts an eclectic mixture of architecture. It is not uncommon to see a modern building standing next to hundred-year-old ones. The city center is just less than a mile away from campus. There are a lot of restaurants, shops, pubs, museums, etc. There are also a lot of parks where people usually hang out.
I might say that Manchester is a multicultural city. A lot of people from South Asia have migrated here. It is also not uncommon to see people with South Asian look speak Mancunian (referring to Manchester) accent fluently. Some of them grew up billingual.
Although the city looks very nice, I have also seen some douchey places around the corner. But overall it is a lovely place to live.
2. The culture
Having lived in the US before, I do not find the cultural shocks here too bothersome. Still, there are some distinctions between USA and UK. While Americans greet people by “what’s up?” or “how is it going?”, most people (especially young people) normally say “you alright?” or “alright, mate?”. In texting, “how is you?” seems acceptable. Older ones tend to use the word “love” quite a lot (in “hello, love.” or “thank you, love.”)
As we might have noticed, queuing is a big thing here. People would not mind queuing for a long time. Expect scathing looks from other people if you break the queue. We also thank the bus driver before getting off the bus (it is rather impossible to do in Jakarta).
In terms of food, other than fish and chips, South Asian and Middle Eastern have had a great influence here. The famous “Curry Mile” (a street full of oriental restaurant) offers a wide range of Afghan, Indian, and other Middle Eastern food. When missing Asian food, I could go to the China town in the city center. In regular restaurants, one dish might cost GBP 3 – 8, while in fancier ones, it could start from GBP 8 to 20.
3. The study
My studies have been going well so far. It is interesting to look at the background of my classmates. Fourteen of us come from eight different countries (Indonesia, UK, China, France, Germany, Slovakia, Norway, and Denmark).It helps me study Intercultural Communication in the real intercultural environment.
As expected, there are a lot of readings throughout the courses. Before attending classes, students are advised to read some articles, journals, or chapters in books in order to prepare for the discussion in the class. During the lectures, we usually have some great discussion. Students are expected to not only have deep understanding/comprehension about the readings, but also to be able to critize what the authors argue. During the first week of the programme, the lecturers threw a lot of questions our way to discuss. From a teacher’s point of view, I have learned that it is good to confuse your students in the beginning – it triggers them to be critical.
Materials are usually uploaded on Blackboard, something that is similar to Binusmaya. We can also download the application in our smartphones. Assignments are also submitted through Blackboard. In academic life, plagiarism is a serious matter that students should be aware of. We have been provided with numerous workshops/seminars related to academic writing and plagiarism. Just like any other student, I enjoy spending hours on end studying in one of the libraries. Some of them are open until midnight, and we have a learning common building which opens 24 hours.
As weekend is approaching, I am thinking of some activities that I might do. Either spending time in library or going out with friends, I can always find my time here captivating. There is always something new to learn, to explore. And I am looking forward to more adventures
Ps. Can you spot some British English words/phrases I am using in this article? Can you find their synonym in American English?