There’s a lot I could say about my study abroad experience. But every person’s experience is totally different. So here is some advice from 5 study abroad students.
“Don’t be afraid to travel alone and go to as many places as possible. Ask questions. Learn from the locals.”
“I think my biggest advice would be not to be afraid to do things alone. At home I would never have gone out and done something just by myself but here I didn’t know lots of people so there were lots of times I wanted to something but had nobody to go with. The times I decided to go anyways I had so much fun – sometimes I met really cool people but other times I learned to just enjoy my own company and that has made me grow so much. I’m so glad I didn’t miss those opportunities because I was afraid to be alone.”
“Have your money checked. Have a plan for how much money you’re going to spend every month. Don’t go too crazy buying gifts because you also have to worry about how many things you can bring back home. You have to take into account the weight limit for flights. Have a good plan for when you actually have to prepare for your projects. There comes a time (at least where I’m studying) when everything is being delivered at the last moment. You really need a timetable. I know it’s frustrating, and I know you just want to enjoy your time abroad. But you really have to do it because, otherwise, you would have come for nothing. You still have to do work. The last thing – go exploring. If you’re going to Europe, don’t just stay in the one place you’re at. Go look around. Go see other countries. Go with other people, as much as possible. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and you never know when you’re going to come back here.”
“Let yourself feel everything. If you miss home, let yourself miss home. If you feel like you’re growing, acknowledge that growth. If you’re starting to doubt yourself, acknowledge those feelings. A lot of emotions are going to be crammed into one semester, so just let it happen and try to grow from it. And if you feel overwhelmed, just remember that you moved to another country, and that’s no small feat. Make sure to pat yourself on the back for that.”
“Don’t lose your routine, especially after the initial excitement wears down, it’s important to keep exercising and eating right, as well as doing the other things (makeup, etc.) that allow you to retain a sense of identity (especially in a foreign place where everything is kind of existing in this international void). Also, bring rubbing alcohol if you use it for cleaning (I’m borderline dependent on the stuff and if you can manage to find it in the UK it’s way overpriced) (ditto for white vinegar). Also, expect to feel a bit sad after the first month, or at some point, because evidently it happens to most everyone and it would have been nice to know at the time. Expect it so you can prepare, and have a plan in place in case sadness or panic hits!”
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!