“Have a Global Coffee with” is a series of interviews of ANU exchange returnees and students currently on exchange, about their experiences abroad. The student we met this week, is Natalia, who did an exchange semester at the University in Manchester.”  

Hi Natalia, thank you for meeting with us :), tell us why you chose to go on exchange to the University in Manchester?  

There were a few reasons! I wanted to be somewhere central in Europe so that I could travel as much as possible on the weekends. My specialisation is in International Affairs and Political Science, so I also had to pick somewhere that would offer courses that would give me credit for my major. Additionally, I’d saved all my electives especially for exchange because I have a passion for art and art history, and Manchester University has a world-famous program so it seemed like a wonderful fit. The clincher for the decision though was that my grandmother studied medicine there in the 40’s and 50’s. So I was very curious to live and study in the same place that she had and follow in her footsteps that way. It was really special opportunity for me.

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What about the courses? Did you enjoy the University academically? 

I did three courses in Manchester, because this is their full-time load equivalent. One of them was an International Relations course, and the other two were courses in art history and philosophy of art. Compared to the ANU, the workload was much lower. It definitely allowed me to travel on the weekends which I enjoyed a lot!

Tell us about the people you met on exchange.

I was living with a combination of local and international students. My two closest friends there were British, and I met one where I was living and the other hiking. When I arrived one of the first things I did was join the hiking club and it was a great way to make friends! I found clubs and societies were a wonderful way to forge connections and meet new people. In fact, for people about to set off on exchange I would really recommend joining the hiking club wherever you’re going, because it is a fantastic way to see the country where you’re living.

Tell me about your first day? How did you feel when you arrived on campus? 

I remember liking it! On my first day I was really tired, I caught the train from London to Manchester and I then got to my room there. All the people were really nice. I felt a bit nervous because I didn’t know anybody and I had no idea what it was going be like, but mostly I was really excited! My room was lovely with big windows and lots of light and that made me comfortable. I went to the city and I bought some stuff for my room like pillows and towels. I remember calling one of my best friends here in Australia and telling her about my first impressions from Manchester. It was so nice being in a new place and having my friend’s voice in my ear, to have something familiar and warm and reassuring. We spoke for a while and then I went back to decorate my room. So I made myself a little home.

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Do you think you have changed during your experience?  

Definitely, but I think that it’s going to take me a very long time to understand exactly how I’ve have changed, and what that means for me. I think when you go away, you do things that you normally wouldn’t do, because your range of options are just so starkly different. And that means you necessarily take opportunities which you normally wouldn’t take and that opens you plenty of new things, and, I think, makes you more independent. When I came back, friends and family told me traveling on exchange has made me more confident and settled in my identity. It seems to be that I know myself better now – I can’t really describe it but I know it has been a positive change for me!

What is your fondest memory of your exchange semester?  

There were lots of good moments, but I think the really outstanding times for me came from hiking. There was such a sense of achievement when you’d end the day thinking ‘Wow. I climbed a mountain today’. It was really special.

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Let’s play the UK portrait game: If you were a…  

…Song, what would you be?  I’d be the Disclosure Remix of a Lorde song called ‘Magnets’. I listened to it constantly in England and when I hear it now I feel like I’m back in Manchester!

…Word, what would you be? ‘open’ – to new things, and to new opportunities

…Food, what would you be? Salad, because I missed it so much when I was in England!!

…Memorabilia from your exchange. What did you bring with you today?

My grandmother gave this scarf to me before I left. It’s a scarf with her initials that was awarded to her by the student union at Manchester University when she graduated about 60 years ago. When she gave it to me, she said: “I want you to wear it while you’re there”.

See for yourself at the ANU Global Programs Fair at ANU Open Day.

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