Photo essay: A Gael takes on England

A Queen's student explores the United Kingdom while on exchange

Chris travelled through England during his first semester at the University of Manchester.

Feeling exhausted in my second year of university coping with schoolwork and Kingston’s long winter, I decided to apply for exchange and escape my daily routines to explore the world during my third year. Fascinated by British culture, films, and music, I chose Manchester, England as my exchange destination.

I quickly learned that, while going on exchange can lead to life-altering experiences, new friendships, and endless excitement, it can also bring about anxiety, culture shock, and homesickness.

After a 13-hour flight from Hong Kong, I finally arrived at Gatwick International Airport with two heavy suitcases. I couldn’t help but remember when I first arrived in Canada as an international student.

Since I’d never been to England before, all my fantasies about the country came from James Bond films or Jane Austen novels. It wasn’t long before I was reminded that settling in an unfamiliar place with massive cultural differences is never easy. I had to adapt to the British accent, the left-hand traffic lanes, and life without Tim Hortons. I started to miss my friends, my family, Homecoming parties, and pulled pork poutine. 

For me, the best way to deal with anxiety and loneliness is traveling. While exploring England, I not only enjoyed beautiful scenery, but also encountered interesting people. As an avid photographer, I recorded my adventures, some of which can be seen in the following pictures.


An hour’s drive away from Manchester, Liverpool was the first stop on my adventure. As the birthplace of The Beatles, the city is immersed in music. During the tour, I went to the Cavern Club and enjoyed live music with other Beatles fans, visited an exhibition about John and Yoko’s stories in Liverpool Museum, and sang along to Let it Be with a street performer at the Albert Dock.


If you want an authentic British experience, London is a must-visit.

Although the iconic landmark Big Ben is unfortunately under repair, there are still many fun places to go in London. After enjoying delicious eggs Benedict and waffles with a friend, I visited the famous Tower Bridge, the London Eye, and Buckingham Palace. I was also lucky enough to see Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in the National Gallery and some contemporary art pieces in Tate Modern.

London is also one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. You can easily find restaurants serving the national dishes of almost all the countries on the planet. Chinatown’s delicious ramen and hotpot restaurants helped me to cope with my homesickness.


Compared to London and Manchester, York has a more classical style. The city is like a time capsule of the Medieval Age. The Gothic-style churches, ancient fortifications, and shops selling helmets and armor remind visitors of York’s glorious past.

After climbing a very steep stairway, I stood on the rooftop of Yorkminster. Although climbing the stairs was a scary experience, the view made it feel worthwhile. 


In early November, Cambridge is saturated in fiery red and bright yellow. Punting (or boating) on the River Cam, we enjoyed the autumnal vibe and delicate architecture of different colleges. In some spots, Cambridge can be easily mistaken for Venice.

Lake District

During my school’s Reading Week, my friend and I went to the Lake District to enjoy the beautiful nature and slow-paced English country life.

After hiking for about twenty minutes, we arrived at Bowness, a town near the lakeside. When Lake Windermere appeared in front of my eyes, I was stunned by the scenic view. The shimmering blue lake surrounded by jagged ridges and flowery meadows is tranquil and lovely.

Taking a cruise on the lake—a classic Lake District experience—we shared the beautiful view with our fellow sightseers. On the lake, we had a unique perspective of the mountain slopes carved by ancient glaciers and wooded islands that people can’t see on the lakeshore.

On the way back, our train was canceled because of a shortage of drivers. We rushed to the station and caught another train, transferred at Lancaster, and ultimately made our way back before midnight.

My adventure through England has really helped me to step out of my comfort zone, make friends with fantastic travel buddies, and gain a deeper insight into British culture.

My adventures will continue.


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