By Laura Németh
Apologies for not having written in two weeks! I was too busy writing all my essays while trying to keep up with the incredible amount of reading we are supposed to do here week by week. Even right now I’m actually supposed to finish my essay on Utopias so I do feel a little guilty for sneakingly taking the time to write to you. After all, there is nothing that motivates more to do all kinds of things than having to write an essay, isn’t there? Suddenly, you feel like you absolutely must tidy your room, go for a run, get the heels of those shoes repaired, manicure your fingernails or even doing your laundry. I’m sure you all know what I am taking about!
Apart from being busy with the things you do when you are trying to avoid essay writing or sometimes with actually working on them it has not been the most eventful fortnight, I’m afraid to say. I guess even on a year abroad there are those mid-term moments when you finally feel as if you got used to university life and work again and you have settled into some sort of routine that feels like almost too much of a routine already. Strangely enough however, here in Manchester I actually rather enjoy this feeling because it makes me feel even more at home. By now, I really do feel like this has become my real life here now and that I am not (only:)) on some sort of intermittent and slightly crazy holiday from my life in Zurich. I wonder how I will feel about this in June? By that time, the idea of actually having to go back and resume my studies and everything in Switzerland will feel very unreal and unimaginable I guess – but I had better not think about this just yet!
These days, even Sara, who has “the common sense of a goldfish”, as Beki pointedly but lovingly describes her, has been witnessed to actually do some of her chemical engineering coursework! That is, when she is not busy going to the pub and embarrassing Irish people by talking to them in an Indian accent; pretending to be Irish. (She intended to put on an Irish accent of course, but it sounded decidedly Indian and I can understand why an Egyptian girl insisting in an Indian accent – “Ohh, I come from the same place as you do!” – struck the Irish guys as being rather odd!).
Another funny evening was watching Sex and the City with our adorable Chinese flatmate Elaine. Although that show is certainly not the most creative one ever invented, you wouldn’t believe how funny it becomes when you are watching it with a Chinese girl! Just as you start to get bored by the forever recurring clichés, you are startled by the incredulous shrieks and the exclamation “But this is illegal! It’s illegal!”, accompanied by confused questions: “Is this common here?”. No chance of explaining to her that it’s all presented in a very exaggerated way when you have Baraa insisting in a very straight face that “Of course it is. Do you not take off your clothes in the middle of the room at a party in China? We do it all the time.” Well, for her sake, I do hope she has lost some of her trust in what Baraa and Sara “teach” her after she realised that “porn” does not refer to a vegetable in English – unfortunately only after making a bit of a fool of herself to her friends.
Believe it or not; I also did some more “serious” stuff this week, such as going to a careers event that unlike all of the careers fairs in Zurich did not include the presentation of a bank, insurance or management company and the like but was actually promisingly titled “Careers in the Creative Arts”. I can already hear some of you (especially my dear non-literature students friends…) chuckle by now, and yes, I unfortunately must admit that it definitely did not turn out to be what I had hoped for. The upside of it is that I now know that it is even more (and apparently much, much more) difficult to find a job in that sector than it is in Switzerland, especially a paid job.
That may sound weird, but people actually do work for free here; not for a lousy 1,000 francs intern salary, which is about as bad as it gets in Switzerland, but virtually for free and often even for several years! It is ironically called “work experience”, so what you can expect in return for your work is, well, experience. Which is nice of course but at the end of the day you actually might need some money, especially when you’re in massive debt of having had to pay at least 27,000 pounds (40,500 Swiss francs) for getting your degree in the first place! To do this unpaid work, there is loads of competition, so you have to be really competent to even get a place or, to quote one of the speakers: “If you write one hundred to two hundred emails, someone will eventually reply”. Hopefully, one might add. It was rather shocking, to be fair. What else is there to do? You could go into teaching but apparently there is massive competition for that as well, so I must say I do have sympathy for students who end up working for a bank after all, simply because they do actually pay you money. After that, you might then be able to finally afford “work experience” in the field that you’re interested in and have studied for. Crazy times.
Anyway, I really need to get back to my essay now – that is I think I’ll first have some dumplings with Elaine… but then!!!
I’m handing in my last essay on Tuesday and I’m going to Liverpool next Sunday so I hope I’ll have some more interesting things to tell you by next week!
Love from the lately surprisingly sunny city of Manchester,