Professional Interactions in Manchester

With the fortunate opportunity Kevin McGann had meeting with business professionals at Manchester on the Student Exchange Program, he shares his observation on how business is different in England compared to the U.S.

While living in Manchester, I have had the opportunity to further understand the English business culture.  Beyond learning about business practices in my classes, I have had the opportunity to network with English business professionals.  My first chance came when I attended a banquet for North American students this past October.  I arrived with other American exchange students who I had met during my first month in Manchester.  None of us knew what to expect before attending the event, and only knew that food would be provided.  When we arrived, we started conversing with other exchange students from all over the U.S. and Canada.  We talked about how we had been enjoying our time in Manchester so far, but were still getting used to the culture.  All of us missed home to a small extent, but were eager to make travel plans.  It was refreshing to find that a lot of the other American exchange students felt the same way I did after being away for a month.

During this banquet, I was able to speak with a couple of University of Manchester recruiters who gave me some insight into English business culture.  A couple of other American exchange students and I started asking them basic questions about restaurants and other attractions in Manchester.  After this basic small talk about things to do in Manchester, one of the recruiters talked about his business trips to America, and about the differences that he sees in the two cultures.  He mentioned that business professionals in England are more reserved than those in America.  He found the young professionals in America to be more outgoing and more likely to strike up a conversation with someone they don’t know.  I think this observation extends beyond business people and is an accurate distinction between the English and Americans in general.  Despite this difference, he mentioned that he believes that business is conducted in a similar fashion in both countries.

I was also able to speak with one of the generous benefactors who makes exchange at the University of Manchester possible.  I did not know this when I had first approached her and was surprised to find out that she wasn’t a professor.  Speaking with her gave me insight into her reasons for donating to the exchange program specifically.  One of the main reasons that she gave was that she believed that global experiences drastically enhance a student’s education.  She came across as very genuine and interested in hearing about my reasons for choosing to study in Manchester.  Although we only spoke briefly, I am glad that I was able to meet one of the people in Manchester who has allowed me to have the best three months of my life.

My business classes provided insight into how important America is to international business.  I realized this when every single one of my business professors mentioned the U.S. during lecture in a positive business context.  What I concluded from this is that the U.S is an extremely powerful force in the business world.  This could be due to the fact that there are many American corporations are operating abroad.  England is not nearly as relevant in my Fisher classes, but it is difficult to say whether this is due to a lack of large companies in England or a more U.S. focused curriculum.  One way in which I was able to see how business is conducted in England is through shopping. Every grocery store that I shopped at charged people for grocery bags.  This encouraged people to bring their own.  Although this is minor, I think that it demonstrates the environmental awareness in England’s business community.  Another small difference that I noticed was that British stores are much smaller.  There are less one stop shop places in England, which made weekly grocery shopping more challenging.

Adapting to English Culture and Travel Advice

Experience navigating though England, Kevin McGann give tips on how to survive in a different culture and country while on the Student Exchange Program.

The first difference I noticed when I first arrived at the University of Manchester was that Manchester’s campus is much more sprawled out.  I am about a 25 minute bus ride away from campus, and I am still considered to live in campus halls.  This says something about English culture because the reason that the college’s administration can justify having student living located so far from campus is due to the fact that public transportation in England is phenomenal.  Although the buses are dependable and arrive at most bus stops every 5 minutes, relying solely on public transportation was a tough change for me.  This is mainly because I had a hard time figuring out exactly when I had to leave my hall to be able to make it to class on time.  It turned out that there was no answer to this question because there is a ton of variety in bus travel time.

Getting acclimated to public transportation was not as big a challenge as adapting to language differences.  A common greeting in England is “you ok?” and for the first two weeks of being here, I thought that my flatmates were asking me this because I was a foreigner.  Although this is a trivial example, there are several phrases that are used that I had a difficult time understanding.  Beyond picking up on common phrases, understanding certain accents was difficult at first.  For example, I could not understand about a third of what one of my flat mates was saying for the first couple weeks. This is partially due to the fact that she is from Newcastle, which has a particularly thick English accent, and that she speaks really quickly. Some people have trouble understanding me as well, so the accent barrier goes both ways.

My English peers are friendly and are for the most part accepting of Americans. This is not to say that America, as a country, is well received in England because there are parts of American culture that the English despise. For example, when my flat mates think of America, gun violence, lack of health coverage, and pollution first enter their minds. This can get irritating when these topics are brought up in conversation because there is much more to America than a few policies.  This negative view of America has affected how I am treated to a small degree.  When these situations would arise at the beginning of the semester, I would usually stay silent.  As time went on and I became more comfortable with my flat mates, I would usually point out that England isn’t without its flaws either, and that they shouldn’t act like you know everything about America if they haven’t even been there.  My advice to future exchange students would be to handle this situation however you see fit, but that it helps to be prepared.

I have 3 pieces of advice for exchange students who want to travel during their time abroad:

1.) Find other exchange students to travel with. Before I went abroad, I thought that I would be able to meet English people to travel with.  This was not the case because English students don’t have the incentive to travel around Europe because that is always an option for them. Instead, start talking to other exchange students to see if they have similar travel plans.

2.) Book flights in advance. Prices for the airlines that you will be using have been known to skyrocket within days.  This is why exchange students should try to book trips as soon as they find people to travel with. This not only cuts down on prices, but it also allows students to focus on studying without feeling bad about not having enough trips planned.

3.) Be adventurous. Exchange students should not be discouraged if they can’t find people to do some of the things that they want to do whether travel or activities. For example, I traveled to Amsterdam by myself because I couldn’t find anyone to go with, and it was one of the best trips that I’ve taken during my time over here.  The sense of accomplishment and independence that I felt after returning to Manchester is unmatched by anything else I’ve ever done.

Life at Manchester Business School

Kevin McGann sheds light on the university experience at Manchester Business School in England, and shares his top three reasons to attend Manchester Business School.

I am now over half way through my time here at the University of Manchester and have noticed that the classes at the Manchester Business School (MBS) are extremely similar to classes in the Fisher College of Business.  I think that the main reason for this is that these schools are similar in size.  To deal with the large amount of students, Manchester Business School incorporates a lecture and seminar structure that is similar to that of Ohio State’s. There are however, a couple slight differences in the way class schedules are structured. The first being that most lectures in MBS are two hours instead of one.  Fortunately, lectures allow students a 5-10 minute break halfway through lecture to relax and prepare for the second half. Another slight difference is that the seminars in MBS courses occur every other week instead of every week. With both of these differences in mind, it definitely seems like there is less in person class time as compared to Fisher.

Student assessments are a major point of difference that one needs to consider when choosing to do exchange at the University of Manchester. In all of the business courses that I am taking, there is a special exchange student assessment. These assessments have required that I submit a 2,000 to 3,000 word essay by the end of the semester that counts for 100% of my overall grade.  This style of assessment definitely does not benefit procrastinators.

The most interesting course that I’m taking abroad is called Leadership in Action. This class focuses on leadership theory and what exactly makes an effective leader. Probably the best facet of the Leadership in Action lectures is that there is a new speaker every week. Each speaker has his or her own specific cause or topic that they talk about for the entire lecture. A couple examples of the topics that the lecturers have touched on include human trafficking, access to higher education, and climate change. My favorite topic that we covered was climate change because of how relevant it is currently. Students are encouraged to provide their opinions on the lecture topics which makes class time more engaging.  A wide range of nationalities are represented in this course, so class discussions give insight into cultural backgrounds. It was interesting, but also disappointing to hear what British students think of the large percentage of Americans who don’t believe that global warming is occurring. A large part of the student’s grade is based on a group E-Poster project which requires students to work together in a groups of five to create an essay about a wicked problem that is impacting the world right now and what key leaders are doing about it. Every member of my group is from a different country which makes collaboration challenging but interesting. Each of us had a different idea of how the overall poster should be portrayed, so there need to be compromises to adhere to everyone’s preferences. I would definitely recommend Leadership in Action for anyone who is attending the University of Manchester, because of the way it provides students with a more global perspective.

I would encourage students who are thinking about going on exchange to strongly consider attending the University of Manchester for the following three reasons:

  1. Campus Housing: This immediately immerses exchange students in English culture. I live in a flat with 7 other people and we share a kitchen and two bathrooms. This setup is fairly common in England and has been a great way to make close friends with English students. My flatmates have become my biggest support network throughout my time here and have made me feel at home. Not all university accommodation contains the same layout as mine; in fact, many of my American friends are in halls that are very similar to campus dorms back home. Students should keep this in mind when they are considering different accommodation options.
  2. Location: Manchester’s central location makes travelling simple. I have been able to travel to other European destinations including Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Amsterdam, and Berlin for relatively cheap prices.
  3. The International Society: The last major reason why Fisher students need to make Manchester their top choice is because the international society at MBS makes it easy to meet other exchange students who want to plan events. I have met most of my friends here through international society events. These events enable exchange students to meet peers who are just as excited to travel throughout Europe.

About the Author: Kevin McGann, Rank, Major, Student Exchange Program- England.

Collaboration/Networking

Any student at the University of Manchester will agree that the school is incredibly international.  In comparison to OSU, Manchester seems to emphasize group work and collaboration between students not just for presentations, but for essays as well.  In just one of my classes, our group consisted of two British students, two Americans including myself, a French classmate, and two students from Ukraine.  Several of my classes emphasized not just learning how to work in a group, but also learning how to learn from each other.  The typical weekly assignments or quizzes that is often present at OSU, did not seem to have a strong presence.  I believe that this situation is an accurate reflection of the diverse backgrounds that will occur in the workforce, and business students who do not have some sort of international collaboration training are woefully under prepared.

One of the greatest advantages to studying abroad is the opportunity to network with your peers from around the world.  Life long friendships were made and I truly appreciate the opportunity to have been able to study abroad.  For example, I had the privilege of spending Christmas at the home of a friend of mine in Strasbourg, France. Very few people will ever have the chance to not just travel to another country, but form global friendships and experience a different culture not as a simple tourist.

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A Separation

Our group had the distinct opportunity of being in the United Kingdom at a time when the vote for Scottish independence was taking place. After visiting Scotland, I continue to be amazed by the large cultural differences that exist between said country and England. Despite being only approximately three hours away by train, Scotland still maintains a large sense of cultural independence.

Though the general feeling at the time in England was that Scotland was not going to vote in favor of independence, it was still surprising that the vote was even taking place. The potential results at the time weren’t being discussed as much as the actions that led to the vote itself.  Some felt that England had been a overbearing older sibling that was finally getting pushed back.  I believe this entire situation highlights the complex social and political relationships of England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.  If hypothetically Scotland did vote in favor of independence, the implications would be massive.  The most readily obvious one may be the fact that Scotland wouldn’t be able to use the British pound as its main currency.  They would either have to create their own, or more likely utilize the Euro.

When doing business in the UK, it is important to respect the relationships these separate entities have with each other, as well as recognize the sensitivity of some of these issues.  Regardless, it’s hard to beat the view.

Overlooking Scotland from Arthur's Seat
Overlooking Scotland from Arthur’s Seat

The Past vs. The Future

Manchester, England

The photo shown above was taken in the city center of Manchester, England.

I believe it is an interesting perspective as to the cultural shifts that seems to be occurring. On the left side you can see the more modern architecture representative of Manchester’s modernization and continued growth.  If you turn your attention to the right, the contrast in building design is immediately apparent. The architecture is obviously of much older design, though kept in good condition. We were informed that many buildings in Manchester were originally textile factories built in the early 1900’s, but have been “recycled” as office buildings, hotels, and so on.

With a history dating back to 79 AD, it’s fair to say that Manchester is an ancient city. Despite that, the “Mancunians” (Those who live in Manchester), have kept relevancy remarkably well. Culturally, it should be noted that while the Mancunians have a sense of practicality about them, their respect for tradition and conservation should be noted as well.