Wherever they go, Ellie, Anna, and Faye get a lot of questions about where they're from. It's probably the accent. Even though all three hail from different areas of the United Kingdom, the lilt marks them as exchange students from the Manchester Business School, here at the Carlson School for the 2009-2010 academic year. Anna Maranto from Liverpool, Ellie Bird from Peterborough, and Faye MacDonald from Coventry knew of each other at Manchester, but have since become fast friends here, sharing an apartment in University Village. Back home, each is majoring in International Management with American Business Studies, a program that requires they spend a year studying in the United States. Six months into their exchange, we caught up with the three to find out what they've learned so far, what cultural differences have surprised them, and how they survived a Minnesota winter.
What differences do you see in academics between the Carlson School and Manchester Business School?
ANNA: It's an extravagant amount of hands-on [activity] compared to home. In Manchester it's all book-based learning, with hundreds of people in lectures.
ELLIE: The interactive approach has really helped me get into a 'workplace' frame of mind. We've been able to take a lot of entrepreneurial courses that wouldn't have been available to us.
What kinds of hands-on things are you doing?
ELLIE: One of the things we're doing is working with nonprofits, which we'd never have had the opportunity to do through classes in England. I'm working with Lifeworks, which supports people with disabilities to help them with work and day-today life. I'm helping them to better promote and distribute their 'Fire Starters,' an environmentally friendly product the Lifeworks clients make that's completely recyclable. They sell that for profit to support their employment and social enrichment programs.
FAYE: I'm working with the Minnesota Literacy Council. I'm bringing together some market research to help them develop some possible prototypes for a new website that will be better organized and more aesthetically pleasing.
ANNA: I'm helping Eureka! Recycling with a new composting scheme to roll out to new restaurants.
How have you gotten involved on campus?
FAYE: We've gotten involved in the GLOBE events, which has helped us meet other international students from all over the world. (The GLOBE is the Carlson School of Management student association for international business. It runs a buddy program to match Carlson School and exchange students, and hosts a variety of cultural and social events throughout the school year.)
ANNA: We've gotten quite involved in your sports--your kind of support for your teams, the Gophers, is just incredible. I was probably the biggest fan of American football; I even stood outside for three hours in -4 degrees. And we loved hockey. We're used to fast-paced soccer in England so there was quite a lot of action with hockey that we particularly enjoyed.
What cultural differences have you noticed?
Everything here is bigger, larger, and more extravagant--bigger roads, bigger cars, and bigger buildings. In general the surroundings are probably the biggest culture shock.
What have you found most challenging?
ANNA: Just being away from home, just general homesickness. We have the occasional day where we miss some chocolate and maybe a cup of tea.
ELLIE: Negotiating the six-hour time difference makes it difficult to speak to family; by the time we'd like to talk to them and tell them about our day, it's midnight there.
FAYE: Manchester is a really large student city, with a lot more places to hang out. We've oriented ourselves here toward Dinkytown and Stadium Village. Also, students here are extremely hard-working and have kept us heads down, which we appreciate. Early start times of 8:30 a.m. for classes have been a bit hard--in Manchester the earliest start is 9:00 a.m., and all of the students avoid those!
How was your first winter here?
ELLIE: Even though we were prepared, it was still a shock to wake up and see so much snow. But it didn't stop us from getting out. There was one day it was -26 degrees Celsius (-15 degrees Fahrenheit) and we spent the day in St. Paul. We walked from the cathedral to the state capitol. The worst thing was going home for Christmas. We had a much snowier winter in England than usual, so I didn't get a break from the snow!
What would you tell other students who are thinking of studying abroad?
FAYE: Definitely research where you're going. Try to talk to someone who's been there or who is from there. Then just get out and explore. Talk to as many other students as you can while you're there!