Since this was an exchange and not a holiday, I also had to do some studying. What was it like to study there? Well, it was very nice, actually!
I only spent one semester in UCLan, so I didn’t need to have as many classes as the ones who stayed there for a full year. The minimum for UCLan is 60 British credits per semester, which is 30 credits in the European ECTS system. From the modules they had available I chose two: Working with Children and Families (40 British credits) and Social Perspectives on Mental Health and Distress (20 British credits). Both classes included weekly lectures and seminars and a 3000 word essay, and for the first one we also had to give a group presentation. The reason why I picked these two modules was because I’m interested in working with Child Care and Youth Services and in there you encounter lots of people who have problems or history with mental health problems and abuse. I thought they would be useful for me and that they were! I had only took one course about mental health in JAMK before and the course I had here gave me lots of new information about working with people who suffer from mental health and distress. Also, the bigger one about children and families was practically a course about child care services and just like the course about mental health and distress, this one gave me new information and made me professionally more confident.
The lectures were pretty much what you would expect: you sit in an auditorium and listen to the lecturer who has put up some Powerpoint-slides on the wall to support the lecture. Every now and then we would watch a video and engage in small conversations with the lecturer, although the main point in the lectures was listening. The seminars were more dialogue-oriented and they went deeper into the subjects we had been going through in the lecture before. Usually we would get lots of theory during the lectures and then examples of practice during the seminars. It was a good way to learn and in many ways it reminded me of the dialogue practices we had during our first year of studying in JAMK.
Preston is a small city and just like Jyväskylä, the University is a big and visible part of its economy. Whereas JAMK has its buildings scattered around Jyväskylä, UCLan’s campus is more concentrated to a specific part of the city and it actually covers a good chunk of it. The campus area is located in the middle of the city and with a 10-15 minute walk you can get to pretty much everywhere you need. The city centre has lots of different kinds of shops, bars and restaurants and the students keep the night life vivid (they really do: during my last weeks in Preston you could see that the exchange students had started to go back to their homes since the streets and bars started to get emptier and emptier). From what I understood, the city is also heavily tied with the working class and lots of its people are working in factories in, for example, steel industry. I even met this one kid who was just 17 years old and he was already working a full time job – and not in a supermarket, but in a nuclear factory.
Most of the exchange students tend to go and live in one of the various Student Halls in the campus area. These halls are owned by the university and their prizes and conditions vary. For example, in some places you can rent a room with your own bathroom and in some the tenants share one bathroom with each other. Most of the flats in Student Halls have about 6 separate bedrooms and a kitchen that all tenants share. Usually these kitchens serve as gathering places where people go for predrinks before they go out to the clubs in town. If you’re into having a taste of the “college life” you see in Hollywood movies and feel like getting the “full student life experience”, I guess you could enjoy it. I know I wouldn’t have, so I got myself a room from a private landlord via one of the groups UCLan students have put up on Facebook.
I lived in a 5 bedroom student house 10 minutes north from campus and, believe it or not, it was a lot more cheaper than what living in the halls would have cost me. Plus, it wasn’t a gated school building with security guards, it was a house. And in the months that I spent there, it started to feel like home. I even got lucky with my housemates! Even though the place had rooms for 5 people, there was only 3 of us living there. Both of my housemates were girls and they were both studying in UCLan. We got along nicely and when you compare our house to the dirty party pads that my friends were living in at the campus area, it was also quite clean. The only thing was that it was an old house so its utilities were also old and they were barely working. During the winter months the place got cold nearly on a daily basis and it took us quite a while to figure out how to get warm water out of the shower. Because the place was more or less moist all the time and it was covered in fitted carpets, I’m sure it also had at least some mold in it as well. But hey, it only cost us 60 pounds a week, including bills and the internet – it could’ve been a lot worse! All I had to do was buy me a warm duvet for the cold nights and I was alright. And like I said earlier, spring started early, and with spring came warmth. I wasn’t even spending that much time inside the house anyway, so it didn’t really matter.
All in all, for a person from Jyväskylä, Preston was a good city. It was not a big city, that’s for sure: but it had enough things to offer for a student: the university’s societies offer lots of different activities and hobby opportunities and the Erasmus Student Network hosts events pretty much every week. It’s close to all the big cities as well, so that’s definitely a plus. To my surprise, even though Manchester was only 40 minutes away, I didn’t spend that much time there during the weekends because my friends in Preston always had something fun planned for us: we had barbeques, went out skateboarding, sang karaoke at local pubs, took walks in the city and its parks, hung out on rooftops, and whatnot. If I wasn’t studying, I always had something to do or someone to call. Usually all I needed to do was go to the skatepark, see who’s there, see what they were up to and go from there. A great place indeed.