PRESTON: The United Kingdom – More than a Single City

Back in the United States when I would tell my friends and family about Preston, the city where I’m studying, they’d look confused or simply impassive. The majority of the time, I would mention England or the U.K. and they would automatically assume I meant London. Americans have never been known for their stellar geography skills (don’t get me started on the people who referred to London as a country), but it baffles me how most people couldn’t name a city other than London in England.

One way to go about explaining my new living arrangements is by telling people that Preston is very near Manchester. For those who know of David Beckham’s time playing Manchester United, this will likely set off a few light bulbs.

Prior to arriving, I had people warn me that a smaller, Northern city would be nothing like London, and honestly, I was okay with that. My main goal was to study in the U.K. and I had been granted a spot at a university. Who was I to complain? Even though London tends to be the most coveted placement, I was actually relieved to go somewhere less “touristy” and experience true English living.

Preston is located in Northwest England in Lancashire. It’s a quick bus ride from either Manchester or Liverpool, and it’s about three hours from London by train. Preston only obtained city status back in 2002 and I would definitely classify it as a “college town” since University of Central Lancashire students make up a good chunk of the population. However, as an honorary UCLan student, this works to my advantage: the university has tons of stores located near it, the locals are friendly, and I get a bunch of student discounts.

A year ago I had never even heard of Preston, and I know to a lot of people that would be a major setback. I, on the other hand, have found it to be the best of both worlds. After only being in town for two weeks, I can already find my way around town and recognize familiar faces on the streets and in shops.

It’s comfortable. If I had been placed in London, I feel like I would have gotten lost and overwhelmed in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This way, living in Preston, I can easily travel to places like London or Edinburgh or Dublin for the weekend, but I’m always able to come back to my lovely, albeit quaint, university town.