Hi there, thank you for taking an interest in Manchester. Be it whether you are still considering or heading there in the next couple of months, this guide hopes to answer some of your questions that you might have. For clarification sake (and since everyone’s exchange experience may differ), I was on exchange from NUS Business School and my point of contact was Alliance Manchester Business School.
If you require a hard sell of why Manchester is your ideal destination for exchange, you may want to read this handy piece written by Alliance Manchester Business School. Personally, I have always considered myself to be an anglophile and I thoroughly enjoy British entertainment (TV shows like Doctor Who, Sherlock and Inside No. 9 and BBC Radio 1 is my favourite study companion). Hence, I was keen in seeking an exchange in the United Kingdom. Choosing WHERE in the United Kingdom is another headache, and it would be wise to consult your module mapping options and evaluating the cost of living (a certain city is widely been rumoured to be really expensive).
To quote a friend, Manchester is good if you are into two things: football and music. Manchester is home to Manchester City (Etihad Stadium) and Manchester United (Old Trafford). The Student Union here in the University of Manchester offers discounted tickets to matches at the stadium. If you are a fan of other football teams, the other parts of United Kingdom are very accessible from Manchester. If, on the other hand, you are into music (like me), Manchester abounds with venues for concerts and gigs. Be it your guilty pop pleasure, alternative grime music or really obscure indie music, they are available to you if you know where to search. I would be writing a follow-up guide to this shortly, so keep your eyes peeled!
Before you continue any further, it may be a good idea to read the Information Sheet prepared by the NUS International Relations Office for a handy guide which breaks down the estimated cost of living and entry requirements.
1 University-Wide Exchange
This applies to only NUS students. University of Manchester (UoM) is a partner university to NUS and part of a university-wide exchange. What this means is that instead of filling the student quota with students from just a particular faculty, you will be going on exchange with students from the other faculties. During my exchange semester, there were only two of us from NUS Business School. We have made friends with people from Computing, Engineering, Science, School of Design & Environment and Law. You also will get to meet people from SMU and NTU! So go forth, and meet more people!
TIP (for NUS Business students): For some reason, Alliance Manchester Business School conducts their exchange program separately from the other exchange students from the other parts of UoM. You may want to be in contact the other people who would be arriving earlier for the exchange program conducted by the International Society. The International Society plans events like café hops and day trips.
2 Bank Matters
It may be difficult to find a bank that is willing to let you open a bank account for only 6 months. During your exchange briefing (not that one conducted by Alliance Manchester Business School, sadly), representatives from banks would be present for period of time to allow you to open a bank account with them. Some of my friends who came earlier managed to open a bank account with Barclays, while I opened an account with the Bank of China.
TIP: You would need to get a bank draft from the reception at University Place and your passport before opening an account. The time taken for Barclays to deliver you your ATM/debit card would be faster than the Bank of China (especially if you open an account near the Chinese New Year period or any Chinese holidays). It is advisable for students going to exchange under Alliance Manchester Business School to ask your exchange buddies when and where these bank representatives are (because you have a separate exchange briefing).
3 Flight Matters
One advice to be given: book early. One thing about pre-departure is that there are always matters that get in the way of booking your flight (‘When is school starting?’, ‘Am I granted an accommodation yet?’, ‘When can I move in to my accommodation?’). Give yourself time allowance and arrive in Manchester earlier, so you can settle down. For school accommodation, you can always seek for an earlier move-in date, but they would charge you on a daily basis. It is also important to monitor the prices. I booked my plane tickets (two-way) with STA Travel quite late at around S$1,500 but my friend managed to find tickets as low as S$1,200. We both travelled on the same British Airways flight, with a stopover at London Heathrow Airport.
4 Visa Matters
If you are Singapore citizen and only intending to stay in the United Kingdom for less than 6 months, there is no need to apply for a Visa before departure. I know this can be quite distressing because you will be hearing contradictory information everywhere. However, at the immigration checkpoint, you would need the following documents with you (i.e. print copies of these documents and place them in a folder in your hand-carry):
- Letter of Acceptance (from both your school and UoM)
- Proof that you have paid for your accommodation (preferably with the date of your tenure)
- Recent bank statements (to prove that you are financially capable)
- Information of your return flight
TIP: This is not so much related to applying for a Visa, but it would be good practice to inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about your departure and if you are a NSmen, please do submit the overseas notification to inform your unit.
5 Accommodation Matters
There are several accommodation options made available to you by the school. While you are not guaranteed an accommodation, chances are high that you might get one. Many of the options offered differ based on distance from school, catered or self-catered, and if you require an en-suite room. Stating the obvious, catered halls and en-suite rooms tend to be on the pricier end of the spectrum.
Whitworth Park Student Residences is conveniently situated along Oxford Road (where most of the school buildings are located). That would mean it will take around 10 to 15 minutes to walk to school. It is nothing fancy, you get a study desk, a bed and wardrobe and the size of your room is pretty much the luck of the draw. It has a shared toilet and shared kitchen. It is self-catered, but close to many supermarkets like Sainsbury, Tesco and Lidl. There is a McDonald’s, Subway, Domino’s and Red Chilli situated right across the street. There is an in-house gym (payment of £10 for an entire semester) and bar (Grove Bar). However, things do break down quite often and the gym was made unavailable for the second-half of the semester.
You get the option of whether you want a room with a basin (or sink), and that will be slightly expensive. A ‘standard room with a basin’ has a licence fee £2,140.95 for my entire exchange duration. It is a bonus if you have always wanted to live in a toblerone-shaped building.
Among your other options, you have Ashburne Hall (which is catered) and Victoria Hall (Upper Brook Street; with en-suite rooms). They are generally pricier, and situated a bit further from school as compared to Whitworth Park. Do note that there are other residences offered by the school and if you are considering private housing, you may want to consult Manchester Student Homes.
TIP: If you intend to arrive in Manchester earlier, you can email the Accommodation Office to seek for an earlier move-in date. They would then charge you on a daily basis (at a rate of £29.13/day when I was there).
6 Travelling Matters
Manchester is a walkable city and going around is generally quite easy and intuitive. However, there are other travelling options available: by bus, tram, taxi or bicycle. Unlike London, there is no Oyster Card system, and you would either need to pay in cash (£2 – £5) or apply for a bus pass (£125) (available at the Student Union or online) if you intend on travelling via bus (especially if you live some distance away). While it is less hassle to get the bus pass from the Student Union, they do not keep your records if you ever have some sort of problems.
TIP: If you are lost the first few weeks here, apps such as Citymapper and Google Maps are really helpful.
That’s all for now, folks. Thank you for making this far in the post and I hope that this guide is helpful to you. I would like to thank the peeps that have travelled to Manchester with me and made my exchange experience. Image credits go out to Claire and Amanda. I should be back with a guide to live gigs soon. Catch you soon, Exchange Buddies!