Overcoming fear for English with help of friends at The University of Manchester

Studying abroad is a great opportunity to grow oneself

Honoka Nagumo (graduated in September 2017)
Graduate of the School of Culture, Media and Society

Over a period of two semesters from September 2015 to June 2016, I participated in student change program at The University of Manchester. Speaking fluent English and German, my dad travels a lot for work and my admiration for him was the reason why I started thinking about studying abroad. As to why I decided to study in the United Kingdom, it was because I wanted to expose myself to diverse cultures when studying overseas and the U.K’s geographical position provides easy access for travelling to neighboring European countries.

Christmas market in Manchester

There were many instances when I was taken aback during discussions in class at The University of Manchester. Studying with local and other international students made me realize things that I would not have been able to in Japan. I still remember we had a discussion on Brexit, i.e. U.K leaving the European Union (EU), in one of the classes. If you look at the way the Japanese media reported the news on Brexit, you will find that it tends to portray those who voted against Brexit as “good people,” while the others who voted for it as “bad people” who reject immigration. However, in actual case, each group of voters has had reasonable stands for voting for or against U.K leaving the EU. There is no right or wrong reason for voting in whichever case. It made me feel that the Japanese media was not being fair in reporting the news. Another thing that amazed me in class was how students of different nationalities and background could watch the same movie but had very contrasting views on and opinions about it. These experiences I had have definitely made me grow and develop the ability to think about issues from different angles and perspectives.

Travelling by myself in Vienna, Austria

The University of Manchester has many student clubs and groups, and I was able to find one that matched my interests in which I also made many good friends. The one that I joined was called the Manchester Harmony Gospel Choir, an inclusive choir that is opened to all students regardless of musical ability or faith background. Despite my inadequate English proficiency when I first joined the choir, the members were patient with me and they made me feel comfortable and inclusive. At the beginning of my student exchange, there was a period of time when I was so afraid of English after realizing that I could not speak and understand English than I expected of myself. Nevertheless, thanks to my fellow good friends and mates at Harmony Gospel Choir, I was able to overcome my fear for the language. Many of them have graduated and currently working in places all over the world, from countries in the north of Europe to those in the south of Africa. I guess the best and most rewarding part of my student exchange was to be able to feel closer to the world thanks to all the great friendships I have made with people of diverse backgrounds.

Left photo: Manchester Harmony Gospel Choir performing and enjoying themselves at a Christmas concert
Right photo: Cosplaying at a birthday party for one of the choir’s member

Studying abroad is a great opportunity to make one grow. It will shake one’s values, widen his or her horizons as well as make them stronger mentally and emotionally. In the process of overcoming language barriers and exposing one self’s to a diversity of cultures, it builds one’s confidence. Learning a foreign language is of course essential in today’s ever connected world, but I think that there is more you can gain from in participating in student exchange program. The experiences you get and friendships you forge will change you for the better as a person, an impact that lasts for a lifetime. I hope all Waseda students will step out of their comfort zone, take up the challenge, and take part in the study abroad program.

Things that amazed me in the United Kingdom

Students enjoying sunshine on the lawn outside the university. As it is extremely rare to experience sunshine that lasts all day long (it is said to occur only five times a year), students tend to get very excited and make their way out to open spaces when the sky is clear.

I used to think that it rains a lot in the U.K. However, after living there for a year, I would say it is more accurate to describe the weather in the U.K as uncertain. In the U.K, the weather can be all sunny, cloudy, rainy that is sometimes accompanied by lightning, and snowy in a same day. It is thus important to have an umbrella or a hood with you all the time. For the same reason, the people in the U.K tend to pay great attention to the weather and the first thing they say when you meet them could be “The weather is strange today, isn’t it?” “My shoes were all wet thanks to the rain yesterday” etc. I found this part of the British culture really interesting.

About Manchester

Manchester is located in the northeast of England and it is the third biggest city in the U.K with a population of approximately 500,000. To travel to Manchester from London, it takes about an hour by plane and two hours and 10 minutes by train. Manchester is the home to two professional football clubs (or soccer clubs in American English) namely Manchester United and Manchester City. Additionally, it is also a notable place for the music industry and has produced many renowned musicians such as the Oasis. Furthermore, it also has a profound transportation system and is a popular study abroad destination for international students around the world.

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