Nadja Mühlebach’s blog of her semester abroad sounds so adventurous that you wouldn’t think she actually went there to study.

As I had lived in Cambridge and Bristol before, I already had an impression of what living in the UK was like. Nonetheless, when I sat in the plane to Manchester I did not really know what to expect. All I knew was that Manchester is said to be an up-and-coming student city with a great music scene and two world-famous football clubs.

That Manchester’s population consists mostly of students – especially students looking for a room – I realised shortly after I arrived, when I could not find accommodation for three weeks. I stayed at a hostel in these weeks. During this time, I met so many nice, helpful people, who offered me their couch to sleep on or put me in touch with people who had a spare room. This was the first time of many in which I realised that people in Manchester sincerely accept, respect and try to help you, no matter who you are (except when you are a fan of the wrong football club). Nobody prejudges you because of your origin, your religion, your age, your looks or your behaviour (as long as it is appropriate, of course). Generally speaking, British people are extremely open. This does not only give you the warm and fuzzy feeling that you can truly be yourself but also makes this city a very eclectic and inspiring place.

Although still homeless, I already made friends on one of my first days, when I made their acquaintance at a SpeedFlatmating event at an odd bar somewhere in Manchester. With them, I discovered places like Chester, Liverpool, Bristol and even Florence in Italy. We went to karaoke and bonfire nights and to seemingly innocent bingo games, which eventually turned into raves with people dancing on tables. We had Halloween, Christmas and numerous birthday parties and two international food dinners together. At the same time, we also helped each other over the busy study periods towards the end of the semester.

Alle am Tisch

Music was indeed an essential part of my life in Manchester but not only in the way I expected it to be. Of course, we went to some fantastic concerts and saw DJs who got the crowd pumped up. I also realised that the street musicians here were much more talented than in Switzerland. And I remember how one time, a rather unknown Oasis song came on in a club and people suddenly stopped dancing and instead sang the whole song together. What I will especially remember are the times when thirty Erasmus people were packed into one small living room, playing the guitar and singing songs together, and how, on our last weekend, one friend even wrote a song for and about our group of international friends.

During my time in Manchester, my non-existent expectations were all exceeded. The best journeys answer the questions that in the beginning you do not even think to ask.

Nadja Mühlebach’s blog on her semester abroad is one of six that were awarded a prize on the ZHAW International Day 2016. Nadja completed her BA in Applied Languages in summer 2016. Read more about the semester abroad options here.