Manchester is often perceived as the “capital” of the north of England, and often deemed the “best student city”. This young and vibrant city is also known for its influence on the histories of industry and music, and for its sporting connections. Sounds fun? Why not combine both work and play! With its unique cultures and beautiful scenery, Manchester has been gaining popularity as a study abroad destination as students search for authentic experiences that are unavailable back home. Ready to study abroad in Manchester? Explore our expert guide and read reviews of study abroad programs in Manchester below!
Photo credit: Mike Kniec.
Culture and Immersion
Manchester is a multi-faceted city that is able to cater to any type of interest. Students seeking a more cosmopolitan experience can get their fix of Asia in Chinatown. If you’re feeling hungry, check out the Curry Mile as well! An 800-metre long stretch of curry restaurants, sari shops and jewelry located in Rusholme, The Curry Mile adds to Manchester’s quirkiness.
Another great place to go to is The Village. The Village in Manchester is home to one of the oldest and most-established gay communities in Europe. Many of Manchester’s most famous bars and clubs are found here and regardless of one’s inclination, party animals from all over Manchester flock to The Village to live up their nights! The Village also hosts the major Pride festival every year during the last weekend of August. Make sure to check it out as it is lots of fun! The Village is also home to many wonderful restaurants, such as Velvet. Didsbury is another great nighttime destination with lots of restaurants and bars, although it is more expensive. Many establishments in center and South Manchester cater to students, and eating and drinking are relatively inexpensive! If you have time, check out the futuristic Trinity Bridge as well!
For art and history buffs, Manchester is full of historical and cultural sites. Castlefield, Manchester Cathedral, St, Mary’s and Chetham’s Library are magnificent historical places to visit that are deeply entrenched in Manchester and England’s history. Fantastic museums such as The Imperial War Museum and The Lowry are located at The Quays, and Oxford Road (infamous for its thunderous traffic) is also home to brilliant theaters and art house cinemas such as Contact and The Cornerhouse.
Last but not least, a visit to Manchester is not complete without immersing yourself in its sporting culture! Any Manchester United fans out there? You will be thrilled as Manchester United Football Club is located in Old Trafford in Manchester, which means that you can certainly watch some soccer matches and pick up some Man U merchandise as well! Sportcity, the largest concentration of sporting venues in Europe, is also located in Manchester and is home to Manchester City Football Club. Definitely find some time to cheer your heart out during a sporting event while in Manchester!
Culture Shock and Support
Studying abroad may sound easy and worry-free, but the reality is that being left alone in a completely unfamiliar environment can be rather unsettling and stressful at times (especially at the beginning!). As such, it is important for you to select a study abroad program that offers a great deal of support to its students. There are many support systems available in Manchester. For major emergencies and more serious problems, you can approach the US Embassy in London, or the US Consulate in Edinburgh for help. Alternatively, reach out to expat communities in Manchester (a quick Google search will give a list of online expat communities). For other things, remember that your third-party program provider as well as University has a strong support system and many resources for its students!
Be prepared for a (slight) culture shock upon arrival, as you will likely find Manchester’s customs to be new! The city’s passion for football, music and pubs means that pub brawls are not uncommon, so be sure to stay out of harm’s way! Tipping is also not expected in the UK in the way it is in the United States. Before you start discuss the cost of your possessions with your new friends, or start talking loudly on your phone, stop! Regardless of your destination country, it is critical that you not offend the locals by resorting to certain behaviors you wouldn’t think twice about back home! Learn to observe others for the culture’s dos-and-don’ts, do a little background research before traveling, and keep a lookout for affronted glares from locals!
Helpful Hints / Insider Tips
The best things in life are free, right? Then make your way to to the Cloud 23 bar on the 23rd floor of The Hilton, Deansgate. Although it is a rather pricey bar, you can appreciate the skyline for free if you ask! Revolution on Oxford Road also has a policy where your food is either ready within 15 minutes, or it’s free! So pop down during the busy times of the day and try to snag a free meal! Another hit among students in Manchester is Pizza co for their spicy chicken wings with fries.
Manchester is also home to a trinity of cultural festivals. The bi-annual Manchester International Festival, Music festival in The City (October) and electronic, experimental music and arts festival FutureEverything (May) provides great opportunities to immerse yourself in Manchester’s cultures, and even to see the UK’s hottest up-and-coming bands! For all you party animals out there, The Warehouse Project is definitely not to be missed. Running for 12 weeks from September to New years Day, the Project is a series of underground parties of epic proportions.
Manchester is generally a safe place, however, persistent begging can be a problem in Piccadilly. Since Manchester is such a large city, be wary when you wander into “off the beaten path” areas such as Longsight, Moss Side and Cheetham Hill (at night). Additionally, never discard credit card receipts from purchases in rubbish bin and beware of credit theft, which is on the rise in the UK.
Does studying abroad sound fabulous but expensive? While it is true, studying abroad can mean added costs, there are still a variety of ways to offset the extra expenses. If you're not up for opening a lemonade stand, I suggest checking out the following scholarships.
- API offers a variety of scholarships for those participating in their programs
- Fulbright scholarships
- Gilman scholarships
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships
The currency used in Manchester is the pound, and Visa and Master cards are widely accepted (although there may be a 1%-3% transaction fee). Many shopping establishments also accept American Express, Diners and a host of other cards. However, smaller shops or family-run businesses may not accept these cards, so be sure to keep some cash on you.
Because Manchester is a major city in the UK, it is relatively more expensive to live in Manchester as compared to other smaller cities. Manchester is 36% cheaper than London however, and is lower than major US cities as well. For example, it is 31% cheaper than in New York City. Cost of living in Manchester would be around mid-tier in the US (cheaper than New York City, more expensive than Austin, Texas). An inexpensive restaurant meal will cost 10 pounds and a monthly transportation pass costs 48 pounds. Naturally, the cheapest (and arguably, the best) way to live is like the locals and students – buy food from local produce markets and food stands, don’t splurge money on excessive home and “Americanized” luxuries, and you will be able to have a cheap and authentic study abroad experience!