Welcome to The University of Manchester’s official student blogs!

Here, our current students will tell you everything you need to know about studying and living in Manchester, from the study facilities to the best pubs and clubs.

You’ve probably heard the facts and figures… Manchester is home to 25 Nobel Prize winners, 92% of our graduates go straight into employment or further study…

It’s true – you can even visit the very same building where Ernest Rutherford first spilt the atom or bump into the man who discovered graphene on Oxford Road.

These facts are pretty impressive. But what’s it like to actually be a student here?

Take a look below and meet our student bloggers. We hope you enjoy the read!

Manchester for Bibliophiles

For those “Coming Soon” and “New Arrivals” in the Book of Manchester, you’ll have a great time for the love of books. When I refer to books here, I don’t mean textbooks. For booklovers, summer is the prime time to find a nice cosy spot out in the brilliant sun, open up a book and forget about the world around you. And trust me, you need to make most of the British dry sunny days. Even if it’s not sunny, you still have some brilliant indoor reading areas you should visit with your favourite book. I will share my top 5 reading spots and bookstores.

Here are some of my favourite reading spots:

#1 – The space between AGLC and Main Library

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You might wonder why on Earth would one not sit inside the Learning Commons and go out to read. But, the reason is that the moment you start reading, you feel like you’re revising for an exam. And that’s not what you want! You are reading for fun. And so, you want a nice cool space that makes reading leisurely.

#2 – The green space outside Sackville Street Building

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This space is often quiet, far from the busy south campus and sometimes occupied by leisure-seeking students who get free from a lesson in Sackville Street Building.

 

#3- Whitworth/Platt Fields Park

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You could go to either of the parks if the weather is pleasant and sitting on the grass and reading an unfinished book is all you need to take the stress away. A random walk in a park is healthy; reading a book in the park is even healthier.

#4 -Manchester Central Library

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This central space is quite a nice place to sit if you are near the city centre and want a peaceful mind and a serene place to give the much needed time to your book.

 

#5 -The Reading Rooms at John Ryland’s Library

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You could bring your books at John Rylands Library on Deasngate and find a space in The Reading Room. A space at the Elsevier Room could also be reserved if there is a manuscript you wish to read from the library’s archives.

A review of the book stores

If you wish to buy books, then apart from the online bookstores (Abebooks, The Book Depository and Amazon)and the most expensive ones (Blackwells, WH Smith and Waterstones), you have these cheaper options:

The Works

Sometimes, when I walk into the store, I find great discount offers, the best being 3 paperbacks for £5. I have bought many books of my interest at reduced prices, which are genuinely much lower than the other book stores in town.

Vintage and Used Books

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There are sometimes mini bookstalls appearing randomly on Oxford Road, where you might find an old book that you had been looking for since ages. There are also a few second hand and vintage bookstores near Manchester Arndale and Shudehill that you may visit if you wish to have more books in the same budget J.

If you are a true bibliophile, you’ll definitely find a reading space in any corner or open space, and bookshops will miraculously appear out of nowhere and you end up buying some book.

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Intellectuals Unite: Vivienne Westwood in Manchester!

“Recognise your potential, become who you are. The acorn is happy to become the oak”- Vivienne Westwood

Manchester is undoubtedly a hotbed of intellectual prowess – from alumni such as Alan Turing, Alfred Waterhouse and Martin Amis to being the location of feats such as the first splitting of the atom and the discovery of graphene – Manchester is clearly the place where great minds come together and achieve amazing things.

And speaking of great minds, Manchester was lucky enough to welcome fashion designer, political activist and environmental advocate Vivienne Westwood to the University to ignite Climate Revolution’s (of which she is the founder) new campaign, Intellectuals Unite. The talk was held at University Place, and the lecture theatre was jam-packed full of students, eager to listen to what Westwood had to say.

Westwood was in Manchester to open the new Climate Control exhibition at Manchester Museum, however she specifically asked to be able to speak to the university’s students while she was in Manchester, to pass on her message about self-education, public responsibility and the importance of protest.

The talk started fashionably late (Vivienne of course had to undergo an outfit change) however it wasn’t long before Westwood waltzed in, donned in an exquisite shimmering sequined-blue number and the talk began. Westwood was a fantastic speaker and I felt myself hanging onto every word of what she was saying – I learned so much not only aboutCiHIPV2WMAEV4SN.jpg-large environmental issues, but also about our current neo-liberal economic system and the influence that propaganda has on all of our lives. Westwood advocated the importance of thinking for yourself in a world that projects information on you using mainstream media, fighting against climate change by going on protests, and self-educating by reading books, visiting art galleries and surrounding yourself with nature.

There were also plenty of anecdotes and interesting stories and left us students with the encouragement to ‘get a life’ and follow the values purported by Intellectuals Unite, to
lead the chain of gradual change to make a difference to our environment and the greater world around us.

The Intellectuals Unite talk is just one example of what is on offer to students at the vanessa-vivienneUniversity of Manchester – there are so many opportunities to see and do things you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do. Tickets to the event were absolutely free and the event was part of the University’s promise to its students to deliver exciting, engaging and intellectually stimulating extra curricular activities that compliment your
studies and broaden your horizons.

Something worth thinking about…

Student quote of the day – ‘I still find it weird that we can make buildings so big’

With the coming of May comes the reintroduction of frantic exam revision and the with that, the  homecoming of hellish exam stress. As a result I felt it would be a good time to breach rather sensitive topic of mental health, particularly that of students in university. Whilst I am not a professional in the slightest and would never claim to be one in this subject, it is a topic of extreme importance that I’ve only now begun to understand and see more clearly in everyday interactions within student life.

At this time of year there seems to be a mounting of pressure, a building of an invisible weight on the shoulders of students facing the prospect of months of hard work failing to get them that magic 70% mark. With that can come serious consequences: stories often circulate of students breaking down in tears whilst in exam halls, dropping out of university altogether as they are unable to handle the pressure of the situation and going to drastic, health impacting lengths to maximise studying. Pressure. It’s tough.  Furthermore it’s the accumulation of all of life’s challenges that seem to impact students most at this time; once the negative attitude sets in nothing seems to go right anymore.

This situation can quickly spiral until the individual finds themselves in a position they never would have imagined themselves to be in before. So, before the situation deteriorates too much to solve quickly, tackle the issue!

This may seem like quite an obvious thing to do but certainly in my experience, it’s easier said than done. Particularly as a first year student, having established a group of friends (some of whom I’m very close to) it can be awkward to address difficult issues such as mental health. However I would encourage people to take issues like this very seriously indeed. Yes, everyone gets sad sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with that. However  if someone close to you is showing prolonged periods of depression, lack of sleep, reduced appetite and a general lack of concern for their studies and themselves I urge you to address the problem.

It doesn’t have to mean you force the individual to voice their concerns and doubts: in fact this would probably have more of a negative effect than a positive one. But by ensuring that the friend group stays close to the sadividual (that is, sad individual) and supports the, through this difficult period, hopefully things will begin to soon look up. Furthermore I would encourage you to spend time outside of university engaging in activities, having food and perhaps organising group study sessions. Support is key and will help everyone get through the exams safe and sound. Just make sure to look out for one another!

With that I wish happy studies to everyone awaiting exams and a wish for the summer to come quickly!

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9 Top Tips for your PhD Internship

Many PhD students will get the chance to do an internship as part of their doctoral programme, in particular those on a Doctoral Training Partnership course. For the past 12 weeks I have left the biochemistry lab behind and have been on an internship in business learning about strategy design and implementation. I know right, fancy!

“I gained so much from my internship, not only new skills to put on my CV”

I was placed in the Co-operative Group head office, a hi-tech glass structure in Manchester City centre where I was based in the Human Resources department working on a new skills development scheme. The environment has been a little surreal because the corporate world is so vastly different to the academic world that us PhD students are used to. The whole experience has been amazing though and I have learnt so much; I would definitely recommend any PhD students out there thinking about doing an internship to just go for it! The Careers Service can help you to find and apply for internships if it’s something you fancy doing to gain more experience and boost your CV. To help navigate the corporate world and get the most out of your internship I have put together a list of my top tips…inside

Be friendly with everyone

As a PhD student we often spend a lot of time on our own. Use your internship as a chance to meet new people and network, network, network! Find out about how people got to be where they are now as a sure-fire way to get inspired!

Link In

At the end of each week connect with the people on Linked In that you have had conversations with that week as a great way to stay in touch when you’re back on campus. Also regularly update your profile with your new-found business skills. Stakeholder Engagement, Project Management, yes please!

Dress to Impress

You’re not on campus any more! If you’re internship is in business, chances are the dress code will be smart dress so ditch the hoodie and trainers. Throughout your internship you are bound to be getting introduced to lots of people, many of them may be high up in the company and you will want to make a good impression. Dressing smartly  is a great way to ensure that the first impression you give is that you are smart , reliable and mean business! My office ran a ‘hot desk’ policy so one day I could be sat next to my friends and the next the head of HR, so be prepared for all eventualities!

Office Culture Vulture

There’s bound to be lots of new workplace culture that you’re not used to as an academic – team breakfast meetings, coffee updates, free food Fridays (Food retail was definitely a great choice of placement!) – so make the most of all that is going on! Also find out pretty soon whether or not they do Casual Fridays…saves you turning up in a suit like I did when everyone else is in jeans!

Speak out in meetings

In academia we are often faced with a backlash when speaking out and we are well used to being ripped to pieces after a presentation. Business is not like this as people tend to be more subtle with their criticisms so don’t be afraid of telling your opinion on a subject! People will be interested in what you have to say as you will look at problems from an ‘outsider’ perspective which is always valuable. This is sure to boost your confidence in returning to your studies too!

Make a ‘Jargon-buster’ list

Each business and each department within each business has it’s own unique language – your first team meeting will likely baffle you! HR TOM WOW anyone? Nope, me neither…Make a note of any words/acronyms that you didn’t understand and get someone to explain them all afterwards if it’s not appropriate to interrupt the meeting.

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Once you start getting the hang of the jargon your team uses, start throwing it back at them in conversations. Not only does this show that you are adapting to become a valuable member of their team but it helps you to make your points with authority. Within 2 weeks as an intern I was SME or ‘Subject Matter Expert’ in my project and when people asked a question they expected an answer! Reply using the correct language and you will convince even yourself that you know what you’re talking about!

Prepare yourself for your first teleconference

Make sure you know what you want to say and what you want to get from the person you are meeting but bear in mind that you won’t be able to see the person’s face. This will feel really weird at first as it’s difficult to tell if people are still listening to you and you can’t read their reaction in their faces! Have faith and stop to check that people are still following you every now and again.

Get stuck in!

Don’t use the short length of your internship to put off doing tasks. It might not help you directly in your PhD but these experiences are bound to count for something further down the line! You might only be there for a few weeks but that’s all the more reason to get things done asap! Also never refuse tasks which you think are ‘beneath you’, there’s no such thing as a waste of time as you only get out of an experience what you put in.

I gained so much from my internship, not only new skills to put on my CV but valuable contacts outside of academia, a better understanding of where I want to be when my PhD comes to an end and most of all confidence! If I can survive the cut-throat corporate world I can survive academia right?😉

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5 Reasons Why Ashburne Hall is the Best!

So, you’ve got your offer from Manchester. You’re looking forward to the prospect of living by yourself and being able to eat chips and gravy in bed at 5am, but first you have to pass those all important exams. But what then? Have you thought about the reality of actually living in Manchester? Or even looked at the possibilities of what accommodation available to you? If the answer to these questions is a no, then have no fear. Alix is here (yes, that rhymed, I am a creative writing student) to guide you through one of the many options available to you: Ashburne Hall in Fallowfield, right in the buzzing heart of student life. Here are five reasons why Ashburne Hall is the best!photo-1.php

You will get breakfast and dinner every weekday.

For many prospective students, the idea of catered accommodation serves only to remind one of dodgy school dinners. However, it’s not until you’ve actually reached university when you learn to truly appreciate how hard it is to cook nutritious and delicious meals for yourself whilst balancing study, societies and singing your heart out in Fifth or Factory. Ashburne eradicates this problem by providing its student population with admittedly delicious meals twice a day, five days a week. I can tell you, from personal experience, it really is a lifesaver.

You’re in the beating heart of Fallowfield, but with trees.

Although Ashburne is in Fallowfield, the most lively and popular of student areas, Ashburne is behind the tower, situated among a beautiful scenery of trees,

a lawn and even a small pond. Although it takes less than five minutes to walk to Squirrels (the Fallowfield bar), Ashburne itself is quiet and perfect if you want to strike up that perfect balance of study and socialising.

19-the-library01The library.

You may scoff at this now, but the library situated down the stairs from the dining hall in Ashburne has been perfect for me when I have a huge pile of work to do and cannot bring myself to work in my room. The Ashburne library is a beautiful old library with hundreds of books and plenty of desks overlooking the lawn. It’s great that I can spend a few hours in the library and then go back to my room for a break or if I’ve forgotten a book instead of having to get a bus back from the main University library. Definitely worth taking into account, especially as this is completely unique to Ashburne.

Formals

Other halls also have formals, but the Ashburne formals are definitely special in the sense that it is a small hall, so that the whole community of students, post-grads and personal tutors can get together for a meal in the dining hall, donned in their suits and dresses. It’s BYOB, however you get a three-course meal and it’s served straight to your table. A really nice occasion that happens every month that everyone at Ashburne looks forward to.

Norman the warden

Every student forum and Tab article that you read when researching Ashburne Hall will undoubtedly mention the legendary warden, Norman. He’s been here for years and he’s a friendly face that you will unquestionably meet at formal dinners, Ashburne and Sheavyn socials, and fun fire alarms at five in the morning. Norman really looks after the students under his care and he’s a great person to talk to if you’re experiencing any problems in halls or feeling a bit homesick. Also, his Facebook statuses are legendary.

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Peak-y Blinders

I took advantage of the quiet Easter vacation whilst the undergraduates were away to have a few days off and get a little fresh air into my lungs. One of the many great things about living in Manchester is its proximity and good transport links to great countryside, particularly the Peak District. Just a 45 minute train journey from Piccadilly is the village of Edale, which is nestled in the Vale of Edale between the vast expanse of Kinder Scout to the north and the pyramidal peak of Mam Tor to the south.

I set up camp, the only tent in the field, at a basic but very cheap site (amenities being a toilet. At a farmhouse. Ten minutes’ walk from the field) and set off towards the foot of Jacob’s Ladder. The ‘ladder’ is a 100 or so metre climb up steep stone steps laid into the old portage way which linked the northern and central peak district for centuries, apparently named after the farmer who first cut the path into the steep hillside leading up onto Kinder Scout.

The views back across Edale once up on the moor were grand, despite the mist and haze which hung around the valley. Despite it being almost April there were large pockets of snow still defying the spring thaw in the higher areas and despite the sweat I’d worked up on the trek from the valley bottom, I had to quickly fasten on multiple layers of clothing to stave off the chill breeze.

Whilst the valley had been pleasant and green, with some pockets of woodland, the burbling of the River Noe, and the chirruping of songbirds, the moor was windswept and frosty, dotted with large boulders and bare black patches of eroded or cut away peat. For the first half an hour or so of walking on the tops, as the cloud gathered close around and obscured any view other than the barren expanse of the moors, it was almost possible to imagine oneself as being on another planet. I found a nook amongst a large rock formation and devoured my now well-earned packed lunch of cheese, onion, and salt and vinegar crisp sandwiches.

Three hours of rambling through the heather, egged on by the occasional chorus of clucking from a disturbed grouse or two brought me to the head of Grindsbrook Clough, a steep ravine cut by the brook, which required some agile scrambling skills to get down in one piece without ending upside down in a muddy heap. The steep descent took a lot longer to complete than I expected from looking down from the moor, but I had the incentive of knowing that once back down into the valley, there were two great pubs just itching for my custom, so I forged on bravely.IMG_0147

I washed down a large plate of fish and chips at The Old Nags Head  with a couple of pleasant golden ales before heading further into to village to The Rambler Inn. It just so happened that that evening the ‘Folk Train’ was coming to the Rambler. Every few weeks the folk band and their ale drinking followers spend a night hopping on and off the train from Manchester to Sheffield and back, playing, singing, and boozing as they go. I was excited at the potential of being caught up in the musical frenzy, but after just one pint I could feel my eyelids sagging and my legs heavying, so made the wise decision to instead trudge slowly back to  the tent whilst I still could.

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5 best places to study on campus

Student quote of the day – “Is this spoon clean?”

                                           “That’s a fork”.

Before delving into the topic of where to study, I must make an important note saying that it’s now the time of the year to start preparing to get involved in societies for next year. At this point societies look to elect their new committees and as a result there are many opportunities to get more involved in the inner workings of a society. Being someone who hasn’t gotten very involved in any societies in my first year (give me a break, I’ve been busy), I’d highly recommend you involve yourself as much as possible to meet as many people as possible whilst adding a little bit to your CV along the way. Something to think about!

Now onto the task at hand: finding that perfect study spot in a city teeming with students of all varieties. As exams get ever closer, the city’s libraries become the number one place to be and as a result space is at a premium. So where can you go? Well I can offer some help on that front:

 

  • Libraries: Yes ok I just said they were full for large portions of the day, however if you are a night owl like myself the library can prove to be a good spot. In particular the student commons (located just outside the main library) is a good spot to grab a coffee and snacks and work till the night turns to morning.
  • Cafes: As well as the mainstream names of Starbucks and Costa students can find comfort (and a cheap cuppa) in an array of local, independent coffee houses and cafes across the city. Nowadays most feature wifi as well as sockets to allow devices to be charged; perfect for the modern day student with his trusty laptop and tablet device. And if you happen to like the smell of coffee, well, that’s a good bonus.
  • Parks: Students worldwide can all attest to one fact: exam weather is the best weather of the year. You just know the day before that crucial exam the sun will be shining, no clouds will be in sight and, well, you’ll be stuck inside staring at musty textbooks all day right? Wrong! You can bring the musty textbooks outside! Why not study under the cool shade of a tree on a sunny afternoon? Much nicer than being stuck inside if you ask me…
  • Book a study space: As well as the main library and learning commons, Barnes Wallis computer cluster (northern campus) features study rooms equipped with TVs and whiteboard markers that are free to book for any UoM student. Simply log into your my Manchester account and with a few clicks the space can be booked, sometimes weeks in advance. Very good for group study sessions (or forcing friends to teach you as you strive for that ‘barely passed the test’ feeling’.
  • Accommodation common rooms: Whilst being the venue of many a wild night (and some strange Bhangra themed ones) the common room of your halls may be a good spot to study. I for one know the impossibilities of studying in my room so the common room provides an area that is reasonably quiet, close to home for any forgotten books and again, a good space to host a group study session. Worst come worst you can always try your hand at some Bhangra dancing!

 

Ok so there are all the places I myself have used to study (as well as pretend to study) and hopefully they will help you in your cause to find your perfect study spots.