Last October (2019) we had a free coach trip to Lake District with the Students Union (SU), and it was a lovely memory. I’m so excited because in April we’re going to have another trip to this green haven with the International Office. ( <– check this link out and you’ll see a list of free trips you’ll likely go on!)
With the trip last October, what I did was I went on the Give it a Go page by the SU, chose the event and logged in with my university email to book a place! Make sure you sign up early for any trip or there will be no spaces left.
A walk around Windermere, Lake District
Expect to see a lot of tourists as Lake District is a much loved travel destination in the UK. We saw a lot of families with kids, and Chinese tourists too. I guess there must be a significant influx of Chinese tourists to Lake District, since there were many signs at restaurants and places of interest written in Chinese.
The trip took us to Windermere area. Lake District is huge comprising 4 major mountainous areas (or towns to be precise). Beside Windermere town, there are also Keswick, Ambleside, and Bowness-on-Windermere. Take a look at this video and you’ll agree with me how beautiful Windermere looks!
Share lunch with a friend
We arrived in Lake District at around 11am, wandered for a while and went for lunch. Now this (Windermere) is a bustling area with all kinds of cuisines and shops. My friend and I were looking for a budget option, so we looked through many menus and prices (at the entrance of restaurants) and stopped at one pizza place.
The pizza we shared (quite a large size) cost only £ 8. Lunch offer even on a Saturday, brilliant!
Alternatively you can pop in Tesco Express near the lake (where the coach dropped you off) to get a meal deal at 3.00 GBP with a main meal, a snack and a drink. (much like Mccoll’s on campus, but a bit cheaper and more choices I guess).
Great spot for photos
Although I didn’t discover much variety in Lake District (probably because I’m a slow walker and a chilled wanderer), I found a few amazing views for my Instagram photos! (or my phone gallery only, haha, too lazy for instagram posts)
Few other peaceful shots of the Windermere area!
Keep an eye out for free trips by the International Office and the students’ union, and make sure you sign up early!
All students living on campus are advised to use Circuit Launderette (Laundromat, if you’re more familiar with this word). It is located inside the Students Union building, which means you’ll do laundry near Subway and SU Bar. This also means that it is quite near the Hub in the main building (where Starbucks, Mccoll’s and other catering services are). You’ll know where it (the laundry room) is if you go on the campus tour when you just arrived.
Sounds like a mundane thing but actually doing laundry can be a nightmare for new beginning or first-year students. Because you:
Have to have a card to pay (visa card, mastercard, or Paypal. In my experience Paypal maybe the most convenient because you don’t have to type in the details every time)
Use Circuit mobile app to operate the machines (washing machines, and tumble dryers). There’s no manual way to do it (To be fair, there is one machine that accepts coins, but all the other 30+ machines demands mobile app usage). So, you need internet connection, which is no problem when you have your student ID, account and password. However in the first week when your account has not been set up, you probably need to use mobile data, and the best way to do this is: have a UK SIM card.—Don’t worry the International Office got your back – it’s in the purple welcome bag they’ll give you when you first came (Giffgaff SIM). Set up the sim by topping up some money in using your visa card/mastercard/Paypal, etc.
Once you get the two things above sorted, using the laundry app is easy. (See the instructions on the wall inside the laundry room)
Pricing: costs 2.9 GBP for a wash and 1.5 GBP for a dry. total 4.4 GBP. yes quite expensive but the bright side is clothes are cleaned and dried properly. I’m pretty happy with its work.
Big advice: Ask for help from other students when you first use the machines in the laundry room. You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble.
Here’s a quick video to let you see what it’s like in the Circuit laundry room at Edge Hill.
Coming from an industrial city in Vietnam, I’m familiar with and have come to love such city sights as (medium) skyscrapers and modern buildings, scattered across busy streets and Buddhist temples. I mean they are beautiful, but to see something so different from Asian architecture or normal office buildings would be awe-inspiring. And for me London is just that. It is a “looker”!
I’ve been to Liverpool, Manchester, Chester, Southport, all beautiful cities in their own ways, also with that “difference” I was yearning for, but London seems just another level of impressiveness for me.
Travelling and accommodation costs
To get to London from Ormskirk (where Edge Hill University is based) the most common way is by train from Liverpool Lime Street station. Take a train from Ormskirk to Liverpool Central first, then walk for 5 minutes to Liverpool Lime Street station and there you’ll get a direct train to London (Euston station).
Train tickets: I travelled with 3 of my friends and we managed to book the cheapest return tickets from Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston at only £15.80 (If you don’t plan well ahead it may cost you up to £ 30 each way, which is not too bad)
(In case you’re not familiar with the “language” of train tickets, like I did when I first came, here’s a quick explanation: Single (ticket): one way; Return (ticket): two-way (go and back). There are also “Anytime Single”, “Anytime Return”, “Advance Single”, but I figure I’ll deal with that on another post about travelling by train in the UK.)
Accommodation: We (group of 4) booked Airbnb for 5 nights and the cost for each person was £ 70. There are other websites to find and book cheap hotels or accommodation in London, you might like to do a Google search and shop around.
That’s it for the tips. Now, here are the sights that wowed me in London.
1- Tower Bridge
On the other side of the Bridge we got to see a Christmas market (because we went there in December).
2. The River Thames
3. London Eye
4. Buckingham Palace & Queen Victoria Memorial
5. St James’ Park and St James’ Palace
6. Household Calvary Museum
This is where you can see the iconic horsemen. I truly loved the experience, although I could see one of the horses was a bit sad when there were so many tourists in front of him.
7. Regent Street
Regent Street is, from what I’ve seen, the street with all the most luxury and high-end brands in London. Every store can become a sight to marvel at, especially Burberry London (in my opinion, I’ve just never seen any fashion store like it). You can also find other affordable brands here, like The Body Shop. Regent Street at Christmas is obviously a must-visit.
8. Chinatown and a few other streets (not sure what they’re called because as usual I relied on my friends, heavily)
There are so many things to see and do in London. Definitely give London a visit while you’re studying here at Edge Hill!
I didn’t ever celebrate Halloween when I was in Vietnam (except for that one year in high school where my English teacher organised a costume party as a class activity for us all to enjoy), but I got the very first and special Halloween here at Edge Hill. Below are three events I partook in for Halloween 2019.
1. Halloween makeup event by Students Union
It is a free event in the afternoon of 30 October. Definitely sign up for this, you’ll have so much fun.
2. Halloween theme park at Coronation Park in Ormskirk
A good chance to see so many local families and kids in their creative costumes and makeup. Walk to town center or take the bus, then the park is right near Morrisons, or opposite Aldi and MacDonald’s, very easy to find, Google map is your friend or simply ask a local on your way.
3. A tour around local houses in Ormskirk at Halloween
There’s not much going on but a few houses do get creative with their decorations, and they are very friendly; my friend and I got to talk to a lovely local who clearly did some very good work bringing the Halloween atmosphere to his house, the star of the night definitely being his special ghost on the grass (picture and video below).
Price range: £ 1.00-4.50 for drinks, £ 2.80-6.75 for breakfast and lunch, £ 9.50-16.50 for special Afternoon Tea. See full menu down below in section 4.
When was it opened? 9th August 2019
Why was it opened?
At first glance it is clear that Mandrakes is inspired by Harry Potter theme. However, the theme of the café is not just Harry Potter, the owners wanted to create a mystical atmosphere with different elements of magic, wizards and witches. This magical cafe is like a breath of fresh air the owners wanted to bring to Ormskirk, to attract more people into this lovely town, especially when there’s a huge amount of young people coming into town to study at Edge Hill.
The café has been more successful than they ever imagined. They had a soft opening (not much advertising other than the Facebook page) and it was totally packed, queues of people around the corner waiting to get in.
Current manager at Mandrakes is an Edge Hill graduate
We met with manager at Mandrakes, Lizzie, who is an Edge Hill graduate in English and loved her experience so much she progressed to study an MA (master of arts) which she has just finished and will be graduating in December.
Lizzie is a big Harry Potter fan and said the book was a major inspiration for her to pursue her studies in English, which is why it’s no surprise Harry Potter featured in her personal statement.
Staff at Mandrakes are referred to as House Wizards and Witches. Their outfits truly depict that spirit. These wizards and witches though, are very warm, friendly and welcoming, so you needn’t worry at all.
2. How to get to Mandrake’s from Edge Hill
(If you already know, please skip to the next part. Though I think you may like to learn the bus schedule tip I’ll mention in paragraph 2 below)
Walk. (10 minute walk from Edge Hill). Out of Edge Hill’s main entrance just turn right and keep to that only road (called St Helens Road by the way) until you reach the first traffic light. Cross the road at the traffic light and walk for a little more you’ll see Mandrakes right on your left hand side.
Take the bus. You probably already know about the bus (which is run by the University and free for all students and staff) but I want to take this chance to tell you a tip I’ve just learned about the bus schedule (after over two months living here and taking the bus for like 100 times though🤣). Everybody can tell you the bus leaves every 20 minutes, but nobody seems to tell you: at what minute? …because with this cold weather and those winds, waiting for 15+ minutes at the bus stop isn’t a great idea (at least for me). So here’s the tip that saves lives (from the winter winds obviously): There are 3 stops—Edge Hill Main Entrance, Creative Edge, Ormskirk bus station Stand 5—when you plan to take the bus, look at your watch but only care about the minute: The bus leaves Main Entrance at minute 08, 28, 48, leaves Creative Edge at 13, 33, 53, leaves Ormskirk at 05, 25, 45. (So it starts from Ormskirk, after 3 minutes reaches Main Entrance, then moves to Creative Edge).
3. The space at Mandrakes
Harry Potter merchandise room
This is where you get to see and buy official Harry Potter merchandise. The fireplace is not to be missed!
The best part about the Cafe area isn’t just the space and the drinks, it’s DJ ‘Wand Apprentice’, a staff with special role at Mandrakes. While we’re enjoying our tea and drinks, DJ would come to our table and give us a demonstration of wands (replica) from Harry Potter. The way the demonstration works is: DJ takes the wands out from his box one by one, allow us time to admire the wand and guess which character it belongs to, while at the same time gives some hints to us, then in the end reveals answers and explanations.
We delighted in the guessing game he led us through, got to admire his patience and immense tolerance of us being not decent HP fans at all. (us: me and 2 staff members from the International Office, Emma and Brad. Props to you Emma for being the best player, you truly saved our face by correctly guessing the wands of Harry, Hermione, Dumbledore and Voldemort.) We couldn’t guess Luna Lovegood’s despite all of DJ’s hints and efforts.
DJ really wowed us by how knowledgeable and articulate he was on the reasons behind the design of each of the wands.
Behind the café are the Experience rooms, very atmospheric and moody lighting. Fascinating thing here is you get to try on fabulous wizard cloaks. (with the help of lovely Lizzie)
Train Station “The Flying Mandrake 5672”
Wizards’ Meeting Room
I love this room, right from the moment you meet it, it feels like you’re not in the real world any more. Feels like you’re in a movie, or even better, a true magical room.
And of course, don’t forget a picture with Mandrake the magical tree.
4. What’s on the menu
Our orders and reviews
We had quite a fair share of items on the menu at Mandrakes: Festive Afternoon Tea (which we booked in advance on Mandrakes website), Mandrake Pudding Pot, and loaded Hot Chocolate.
I finally learned that Afternoon Tea in the UK doesn’t just mean “tea” at all, you’ve also got sandwiches and other savory (or sweet) additions as well. 😆
Festive Afternoon Tea, consisted of… (“Festive” because Christmas is coming~)
If you’re an international student who’s new to all of these food names, don’t hesitate to ask one of the friendly staff for an introduction to this very British tradition.
Mandrake Pudding Pot (Flower Pot containing Chocolate Cake, Mint Ice Cream, Cream, Chocolate Crumb)
Loaded Hot Chocolate with cream and marshmallows
Christmas Cracker: also another Christmas tradition which I’m not familiar with (since where I’m from, Vietnam, we don’t have this tradition, or not that I know of) but learned it today thanks to Brad and Emma!
Our Ratings – Brad gave a 5 out of 5 rating, praised the variety and believed a lot of effort and thought has gone into the afternoon tea choices. We all agreed the food was delicious.
The best thing about Mandrakes for me is how warm and caring the staff are. Even if you know nothing about Harry Potter, or are all new to these magical wizardry concepts, don’t worry because the staff will walk you through all experience with great consideration.
Oh, did you notice the title of this blog? “EP.01”. And that means yes I will be having more “episodes” for the Discover Ormskirk series (hopefully I’m persistent and hardworking enough). Stay tuned!
In the meantime, definitely give Mandrakes cafe a visit! Don’t forget the Experience Rooms, and take loads of cool pictures for yourself and your friends there!
THANK YOU NOTE
Thank you Emma and Brad from the International Office for taking me to this lovely cafe, for your detailed notes, Emma and your beautiful photos, Brad that helped me write this blog.🧡
What does it feel like to actually be in another country? If you’ve ever been abroad I guess you have some ideas for the answer. But for me, I only knew what it feels like on 11 September 2019, when I officially arrived at Manchester Airport, to begin my first year at Edge Hill University.
Hello there, I’m Vy from Vietnam and I’m here at Edge Hill to study for a master’s degree in TESOL (that’s a cool acronym for um.. teaching English as a foreign language, essentially).
To answer my own question in the beginning, well, strangely, it feels… familiar? I remember thinking at the airport and on the way to Edge Hill: this peace, these roads, even the airport remind significantly of my hometown in Vietnam. Except it’s colder, a lot colder. (like, 15 degrees here versus 32 degrees home, yeah?)
Now let me get back to the topic and give a breakdown of my first 7 days at Edge Hill thanks to which I can confidently tell people: it’s possible to not miss home and have the best first week imaginable in England.
Day 1. Welcome to (North West) England
The best thing on arrival is you get free pick-up from the airport by Edge Hill’s International Office. To receive this lovely service you need to inform the office of your arrival details. Your destination should be Manchester or Liverpool airports, and ideally the date and time should fall on the window time on the office’s plans. However you can always arrange pickup service with the office regardless of when you land. Read more about it here.
Edge Hill International Office provides free transit from Manchester/Liverpool airports. This is such a lifesaver if you’re like me, new to England, or new to being abroad altogether. Here to your left is me waiting outside the arrival gate of Terminal 2 because at first I could not find the pickup staff. We could only find each other after I emailed Kay (from the office) a photo of where I was standing at the terminal. So a word of advice from my experience: save all the contacts from the International Office (mail, phone number) to get in touch when there’s a problem.
After a breezy 45-minute transit featuring a lovely driver and a cool English playlist, we arrived at Edge Hill (me and about 10 other international students). Now I got to see the so-rumored “Hogwarts entrance” for real instead of on the iPad screen. Weather was nice and they said we were lucky because it’d been raining days before. Also, on a side note, even if you’ve just gone through a 10 plus hour flight, make sure you look presentable because you will have your student ID photo taken and printed right on the spot in that little house on the left of the picture. It’s called the security hut. Or you don’t need to care because you’re like some people who look great all the time.
At the security hut, we would get keys to our halls room. Using the keys can be different from what you already know and therefore can be quite tricky. But I got help by a student guide from the International Office so no worries. Getting a sneak peek at our new home and unloading all the “physical burden” at our new room, we headed off to the International Office with our student guide. This was when we got a welcome meeting from the International Office, got a chance to say hi to other international friends and a pleasant surprise: a welcome bag from the International office. In the welcome bag we got chocolate, potato crisps, easy peeler, card game, information guides on Ormskirk (town where Edge Hill University is situated), the uni’s Arts Center (wonderful live performances coming!), Students Union activities (free trips and workshops coming!).
Day 2. Tour of campus and Ormskirk town
If you arrive at Edge Hill during the day, after the welcome talk the student guides will straight away take you on a walking tour around campus and to the town center. For me I felt too sleepy after the long flight so I decided to take the tours the next day.
Edge Hill is situated in Ormskirk, a small lovely convenient town, not to mention that it’s a historic market town, which means once upon a time princesses and royals came here to shop all the time, or I could be excused for imagining that. Jokes aside, there is an amazing traditional market in town center featuring dozens of stalls selling everything from fresh fruits, meat and fish, to clothes, kitchen appliances, perfume, etc. and of course, convenient food to eat along the way – pies, cakes, wraps, burgers, vegan rolls, ice cream, you name it. It’s not everyday that you get to see such a lively historical cultural wonder. And I mean it literally – the market only runs on Thursday and Saturday, from 8:00am to 4:00pm. Lucky for me Ormskirk town tour I took was on Thursday!
If you’re wondering why I haven’t talked about the campus well first thank you for actually reading 😄and second, I think I’ll have another post talking about my favorite spots on campus. In the meantime, you can see a professional video of campus by the uni itself and here’s my favorite photo of campus (from the Internet and I added the text). ⬇
Day 3. Friday. Welcome presentation and other important talks
We gathered at the Technology Building to meet Kay from the International Office for a guide to life in England presentation. I loved the presentation and found it extremely helpful. Do not miss out on this even when you’re feeling lazy!
Then came talks by the Student Services team on physical health, mental health, chaplaincy (faith, religion and also non-religion), and the Students Union on their activities, societies and a fun, informative presentation on “consent“, definitely essential knowledge for everyone.
Day 4. Saturday. Trip to Conwy Wales
Organising weekend trips is the best proof of how much the University and the International Office cares about you 💛💛😂
Since it’s been quite a long post, I’ll save the details for another blog. In brief, I feel thankful for this free trip. I got to see the majestic Conwy Castles, Suspension Bridge, the pier and many more. Best part, on this trip I got to talk more with my new friend from Korea! She was so sweet!
Day 5. Welcome Sunday (15 Sep 2019)
This was rather a coincidence, because we already had so many welcomes as international students🤣. I think I was lucky to be around at such an eventful period of the Uni. On this day, free cakes, tea and other refreshments are offered inside the main building where the Uni welcome new students and their parents. My friends and I even got free ice cream from the ice cream trucks outside the main building.
If you arrive in other months (other than September) you may get to experience this as well because the Uni has open days around the year.
Special thing I’d always remember about this morning is I got to talk to a chaplain, Harry. He was incredibly nice and lovely to talk to. I hope to see him again but haven’t got the chance to.
Day 6. Monday. Trip to Liverpool
One purpose of this trip is students on a Tier 4 visa got to post office in Liverpool to get their BRP (essentially it’s an identity card for international students on 1 year or longer course). And the other purpose is obvious: to see Liverpool 😍Again, I may write another post on my experience in Liverpool because it’s been a very long post, so sorry.
Day 7. Tuesday. Stay in.
Rest and process the last incredible 6 days :))
Now that I wrote it all out, it does feel like a travel itinerary by a professional agent, haha. But honestly I didn’t expect I would receive this much from the International Office and the Uni. All the thoughtful preparations and plans for us international students to get our feet on the ground, to feel at home here at Edge Hill.
The best thing on these trips and meetings is I got to make friends with other international students from across the world: Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, Mexico, Brazil, USA, China, etc.
Also, I’d like to introduce a very cool video blog by my friend Suji from Korea who’s studying here at Edge Hill as an exchange student until mid December (2019). This video gives you a look into what living in halls is like and shows you around the campus. ⬇
Even though it’s been a very long post, I certainly missed a few important things. Please look forward to my next blogs where I’d talk about discovering Ormskirk town, especially comparing different shops in Ormskirk which I now consider my forte, haha, and also about trips to Conwy, Liverpool (as it happens we visited Liverpool twice in a week!) and other free trips to be revealed!