Five common myths about being a first year student

It’s one of those situations you can never imagine yourself actually being in before you are stood outside the accommodation entrance, wondering what crazy part of your brain told you that university was a good idea.

For me, it didn’t really sink in that I was at university until I was lying in my bed on the first night with my brain screaming at me: you are now fully responsible for yourself! You have to go food shopping! You have to wash your own underwear!

I think that’s how it is for a lot of people. At school, everyone makes such a big deal of university, that once you’ve actually made it, the whole scenario seems unreal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying university is not a big deal – it’s probably one of the most exhilarating and life-changing experiences you will have in your life, but when people build something up in their minds, it leads to a lot of misconceptions being formed.

University is wrapped up in a lot of myths -everything from what lectures will be like, to what friends you will make. So I’m writing this post to address some of these myths and to reassure you that, if you’re panicking right now, things really aren’t as scary as they seem.


You have to drink to have fun

This is probably one of the most common misconceptions about univer1sity and one that is the least true. First of all, the events that the halls put on during Fresher’s Week are a good mix of drinking and non-drinking events. Sure, there are club nights and bar crawls, but we also have movie and pizza nights, bowling trips, quiz nights and treasure hunts! The JCRs are well-aware that there is a good proportion of students who don’t drink alcohol and therefore make it their aim to have all-inclusive icebreaker events that everyone can get involved with. Manchester is such a diverse city with so much going on, that you won’t be stuck for choice of what to do!

I’m going to be too homesick to enjoy Fresher’s Week

This is another worry that a lot of Freshers have, but there is so much support at hand that it should not worry you at all. I thought I was going to be really homesick, but I was so busy during Fresher’s Week that there really wasn’t time to think about what’s going on at home! A few of my friends were homesick, but we all had each other to talk to about it, so it didn’t last for long.

You will be surprised how quickly first term goes – before you know it, you will be back home for Christmas!

IMG_0252 I have to change who I am to fit in

No! There are thousands of students in Manchester, all as unique and different as you can imagine! With all the different subjects, societies and communities within the University, you will find your people. What makes us different is why we make such a great University!


I will find my best friends in Fresher’s week

Apart from those I met in halls, who are still my best friends today, it’s highly unlikely you will complete your circle of friends by the end of day one. Fresher’s is a great opportunity to meet as many people as possible and try things you’ve never done before – like joining crazy societies and taking impromptu trips! However, don’t panic if you don’t find your ‘best friends’ during Freshers. A large majority of the friends I have now are a mix from my subject and halls, but a lot of them I didn’t even meet during Freshers.

I don’t need to work hard in first year, it doesn’t count!

I wish this one was true, but alas, it is not. Although my first year didn’t count, I still felt it was important to work as hard as you can.  It is important to build up a good reputation among tutors and try to improve as much as possible to set yourself

in good stead for second year.

Your first year is a really good opportunity to get to grips with university level of study and you’re not going to get any better if you don’t put any effort in. Also, it feels good when you get grades back and you can see how much you’ve improved from the start of the year! However, it’s also a good idea to keep a balance between working hard and having fun – first year is about making great friends and trying out lots of new things to start your university career off with a bang!

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!

Top 5 coffee shops to write your PhD literature review in…

If you’re just starting out on your PhD course this September chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time between now and Christmas learning your subject and writing the literature review. While it’s good to spend time in the office, learn the ropes and get to know your colleagues, it is also useful to change the scenery once in a while and work away from your desk.

A good coffee shop is the perfect escape and Manchester has plenty for you to choose from! And no, I’m not talking about the 10,000 branches of Starbucks you find across the city. Let’s face it, you’re not going to be motivated to get any work done when you’re drinking overpriced coffee from a paper cup surrounded by swathes of undergraduates Instagramming their skinny-soy-caramel-cappuccinos. If independent tea and coffee shops are more your thing, here are my favourites that I think you should try…


Ezra and Gil

20 Hilton Street M1 1FR

Situated in the Northern Quarter, Ezra and Gil is 100% hipster. Offering teas, coffees and ‘provisions’, it is a peaceful space resembling a Victorian warehouse with exposed brick walls and wooden tables. There are chairs set out by the window sills so you can watch the world go by as you write. There are also plenty of plug points for laptops!


Pot Kettle Black

Barton Arcade, M3 2WB

PKB is a specialty coffee shop located in the Victorian, glass-roofed Barton Arcade just off Deansgate. It is the perfect spot for people who really appreciate good coffee and an ideal destination on a rainy, autumnal day. You can get cosy and stay protected from weather outside while you crack on writing with no distractions.


North Tea Power

34 Tib Street, M4 1LANTP

If, like me, you love a loose leaf tea or a choice of coffee beans, then North Tea Power is the place for you. It has a huge selection to choose from; so much more than just a simple tea or coffee! The large tables mean you’ll probably be sharing space with other tea-lov
ers who are writing their literature reviews too which I always find motivating!



Greengate Square, M3 5AS

This one is definitely for coffee lovers. Situated on Deansgate, Grindsmith is a trendy coffee stop which aims to be ‘a modern oasis in the heart of a busy city, with an aim to engage, reconnect and refuel the people of Manchester’. The space itself is often used for events and the huge windows look out onto the busy street. So, if you like people-watching while you ponder, then Grindsmith is your spot!




Manchester Cathedral visitors centre, 10 Cateaton Street, M3 1SQ

If Grindsmith is for the coffee drinkers then this one is for the tea lovers. Propertea is just across from Manchester Cathedral and offers a huge selection of, you guessed it, tea served loose leaf in a pot as it should be. It is a peaceful and bright café which always looks lovely, especially on a sunny day. They also serve great sandwiches and cakes to keep you going. A definite must if you’re after a calm, distraction-free zone!


So there you have it! Manchester’s best hidden coffee gems! Good luck with the literature review and if you see me in there writing my thesis, come say hi! 😉

10 Essential Items Every Fresher Needs to Pack

I know it is still the middle of summer but no doubt your mind is already drifting towards September and the exciting experience of starting university. It seems ages away, but those summer months zoom by extremely quickly and before you know it, you’ll be packing for the biggest adventure of your life!

For me, packing was definitely one of the most stressful aspects of preparing to move to Manchester. What should I pack? What do I actually need? The only way to find out the honest answer was to try it out for myself.

So… I have compiled a list of ten things that I consider to be essential, making your Fresher’s experience just a little easier.


  1. Playing Cards

Whether you drink or not, cards are essential throughout your time at university. They are a great icebreaker in those first few days in Freshers when you’re meeting new people!

  1. Casual clothes

Although you may have taken up all the space in your suitcase with the going-out clothes that you’re planning on wearing in Freshers, it’s important to remember the essentials too. I underestimated how much time I would spend just chilling in my room with my friends or working late in the library. It’s important to have plenty of clothes you can feel comfortable in.

  1. Pens and paper

With all the excitement of Fresher’s it can be easy to forget that you’re actually at university to… study. Even in Welcome Week you will have welcome lectures and seminars, so it’s important to be prepared. You don’t want to be rushing to the Students’ Union shop for stationery instead of figuring out how to get to your lecture hall.

  1. Mugs

Other people probably had a much more exciting and wild first year than I had, but amongst my group of friegiphy-2nds we liked to have communal TV nights in my room such as ‘Downton and Chill’, ‘Great British Bake Off and Chill’ and, probably the most exciting night: ‘Casualtea’. I know, it’s tragic. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that it’s nice to be able to enjoy a cup of tea in your room with friends, even when in catered halls.

  1. Vitamins

This is no doubt one of the most essential items on this list. Before I started 1st year, I thought Fresher’s Flu was a myth. It really, really isn’t. I got ill a number of times and so did many of my friends. The truth is, you’re staying up late, exposing yourself to a new environment, and let’s be honest – definitely eating more cheesy chips than apples and bananas 😉 As soon as I started to take daily vitamins, my immune system improved greatly. Don’t forget though, that the best way to stay healthy is eating well!


  1. Earplugs

There’s no point in lying about it – living in Halls is noisy. Be prepared for someone having a late night even if you’re planning on getting some rest. For this reason, earplugs are a great essential for every Fresher – trust me, you’ll be glad you brought them!

  1. Doorstop

When I was packing, this was the one item everyone who had been to university told me was absolutely essential. On that first day, the doorstop will be your saviour. Believe me, it’s so much easier for people to approach you and say hi when your door is wide open, it says ‘hey, I’m a friendly and approachable person!’

  1. Blue-tack

A sure-fire way to ward off that homesickness is to make your room feel like your own, I’m not talking literally (put that hammer down, please!). If you have photos, gig tickets and posters stuck to your wall at home, bring them with you to uni! Not only does this make your room feel more like your own, but it also makes for some great conversation starters.

  1. A cookbook

If you’re in self-catered halls, a cookbook will be your lifesaver especially those written for students moving away for the first time. Don’t forget you can also find quick, easy to follow recipes online on websites like BBC Good Food.

  1. Photo frames

Just like bringing things to stick on your walls, photos are a really great addition to a student room as they’ll make you feel more at home. Bring your favourite photos with a few empty frames for pictures of your new friends and the memories that you are sure to make in your first year at university.

Funding blog

Tips for your MSc Dissertation – Do’s and Don’ts while you work

All postgrads sigh a breath of relief once exams are over. No more classes. No more setting up an alarm and you may sleep as much as you can until you wake up naturally. Although that might sound quite ideal, but the dissertation is not a piece of cake.

Planning Trips


The idea of travelling around the UK, going back home, or visiting a friend somewhere in the EU might look very ideal at this time while there are no lectures or assignments to worry about. However, those on a close target of a 12-weeks submission should err on the side of caution. It is wise to let your supervisor know if you already have any such plans before he schedules a meeting with you on a date when you wouldn’t be able to see them. This puts an overall negative impact on the quality of work and your professionalism. Don’t even think that your supervisor won’t know if you could escape for a week without him noticing.  Your lack of progress will reflect your absence or poor time management.

Plan any travels on weekends and work like a full 9 to 5 job during the weekdays so you stay ahead of your proposed project plan. Inform your supervisor when you are away and if possible arrange a Skype call or a telephone meeting to show that your care about your work.


Choosing a Study Space

Trust me, your home is probably the worst place to work for your dissertation if your task is desk based. Laziness creeps in like the mouse that sneaks into your kitchen cabinets at night and you never know when it takes away the piece of cheese you had been keeping all locked and tight. Your time is as valuable as that cheese block and procrastinating is so likely for someone like me who gets easily distracted, especially when it is time to work.

The problem could be that you are on your own, with minimum support from your supervisor and you need to work efficiently. Find a study space in the library. The Learning Commons are quite free these days with the undergrads gone, so make the most of it and your time. An hour of focused study is better than spending 5 hours pretending you are studying.


Keeping track of progress

It’s very simple to lose track of where your dissertation is going if you have not built a Gantt chart or other similar project plan. Starting out late, being stuck in the middle of the work could easily build up a bottleneck of work pressure at the end when you sit down to write your report. You must leave at least 3 weeks for the final write-up and spend time wisely on each stage of your plan, noting down which phase would take the most time and is most important for your thesis.

It would be best to keep a weekly meeting (or email) to update your supervisor so that he could guide you if you are slacking off. For engineering projects or lab work, this is often measurable in terms of the results obtained.

It could also be helpful to see how far other people have progressed in their projects, so you could set a benchmark if you are going too slow or have the right pace.



5 Places To Go In Between Lectures

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I have made the effort to get up for a 10am
lecture (ugh, I know), then I want to make the most of it. Although it is tempting to
admit defeat and roll back into bed, it’s highly unlikely that you will make it out again
for your afternoon lecture. So I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of the top 5
places for you to go to in between lectures, either by yourself to catch up on lecture
reading or with your mates for some relaxing time before you get back to the hard
graft! This is great information to know for during Welcome Week, where you have
lots of introductory lectures – it’s well worth asking the person next to you if they want
to go for a coffee after it’s over. You never know, you might just find your new best

Oxford Road Starbucks (by the hospital/medical school)

This is a Starbucks that not many students are aware about, as it is tucked inside the
main entrance gates to the hospital, but it’s well worth the find. Enormous,
comfortable and flooded with natural light from its huge windows, this Starbucks is
the perfect place to grab coffee with a friend in between lectures, or just to come by
yourself to do some reading. The baristas are so friendly and it is such a relaxed
atmosphere. Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for somewhere to work or
just to chill.

Lawn outside the Learning Commons

A typical image of the University Prospectus shows a lively group of studentsAli g
relaxing languidly on the lawn outside the Learning Commons, and if you come here,
this image could become a reality. Perfect on a summer or early Autumn day, the
Learning Commons are the ideal place to relax or have lunch during a study break.

There are a few benches if you don’t like bugs crawling all over you, but you’ll
probably be more focused on the imminent possibility of rain.

 SU Bar


A favourite of mine for a spot of lunch (the grilled chicken is so good!) the Student
Union Bar is a good, central place to hang out in between lectures and also a good
place to spend your money because it goes back to the University, and you are also
supporting the students that work there. There are TVs with Friends reruns, pool
tables, cheap drinks and a huge array of food. The SU Bar will definitely become a
regular spot if you are a student at the University of Manchester.

The Atrium


Also not a very well-known place, The Atrium is located on the first floor of University
Place (the tin can building) and has many facilities such as student support,
academic guidance, workshops and counselling. However, The Atrium also has a
great study area where you can relax or catch up with uni work. There is WiFi
access, computers, a printer and a photocopier and comfy sofas with places to plug
you laptop or phone in, what’s not to like? The Atrium is also a great place to try if
you’re struggling to find a space to study in the Learning Commons.

The Library Lounge

Definitely my go-to if I need to kill some time in between lectures, the Library Lounge
is a small café selling hot and cold sandwiches, soup, noodles, crisps, chocolate and
drinks. However it’s also somewhere you can eat your own packed lunch, while
catching up with friends or finishing off some work. The radio is always on and there
is a relaxed atmosphere. Some students also use the Library Lounge for group
revision sessions, so it’s definitely worth trying out if you and your friends are looking
for somewhere to work together!


10 Reasons Why You Should Do A Placement Year

If you’re coming to Manchester University (or hoping to!) to do a science-based degree you may have had to decide whether or not you want to do a standard 3 year course or whether to opt for the 4 year version with a year in industry. This can seem like a daunting decision to make, especially when you haven’t even started the course yet! I completed my undergraduate degree with a year in industry (granted this was at Liverpool University though the experience is the same anywhere!) and now that I’m here in Manchester doing my PhD I’m so glad that I did as the experiences I gained were so valuable, not to mention I was able to skip the Masters 😉 The placement year is often something you can opt onto (or off!) once you have started your degree, as you only start applying for places in your second year so if you’re thinking about it even at this early stage and want to find out more, here is my story…

For me I always had in my head that I wanted to do a placement and only actually applied to universities which offered Biochemistry with a year in Industry as a course. At the age of 16, in my first lab job, someone told me about someone they knew who had done a placement year in the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca; I was told there was a gym and a pub on site it was so big, that there were lots of students and fun social activities and that it was a great experience to have on your CV. Well I was sold! I would get a placement at AstraZeneca if it was the last thing I did! In reality the competition for a place was EXTREMELY competitive, (especially as the money was so good!)  but I managed against all odds to get the place.

But I did all this without really thinking about the implications. Before I went it dawned on me that friends from uni will have left by the time I return, and I was to be living in Macclesfield (where even is that??) with some strangers I’d found on Facebook (psycopaths??). Was this really such a good idea??

However, all anxiety was INSTANTLY expelled when I met my housemates for the year (also AZ students), now friends for life. We got on so well and even ended up going on a wild girls holiday together! The same can be said for all the other students in the company (about 60 of us!), and as we all had money and no uni work to do, it was rather like being a fresher again, but with more partying 😉 My placement year was genuinely the BEST year of my life and I’d give my right arm to go back and do it all over again!

So here is my list of 10 reasons why YOU should consider doing a placement year based on my experiences…

  1. Fantastic practical experience of labwork (or whatever it is you do) and project management– University practicals, particularly in life sciences, are NOTHING like what happens in the real world, or even in your final year research project. Working for a year in industry allows you to see what life is really like in your chosen field, get hands-on experience and most likely make your final year project seem really easy! Also gives you experience in managing your own time and your own project, a valuable skill employers look for!
  1. Practice writing a dissertation before the real thing-For my placement year I had to write a 30 page scientific report on the project that I carried out. Having never done one before this was a little tricky, but with my industry experts on hand, I got 85%! This made my 5000 word limited dissertation seem simple in comparison and I was well used to the format of a scientific report!
  1. Get a taste of corporate/industrial life – Working for a big company is a lot different to working in a university. Academia and industry work in very different ways and I’m glad I had the chance to see both before deciding which is best for me. Industry has a lot more of a ‘team’ feel, whereas academia can be more individual and 6isolated. During my placement year there were always things going on within the company, be it tai chi in the mornings, to the time we had a casino night in the restaurant, the huge Venetian-themed Christmas party and the Olympics event in the summer, which included fancy dress rounders and ‘It’s a Knockout’ obstacle course! You worked hard and you played hard!
  1. Money £££ – You will probably get paid quite well. I earned more as an undergrad 7placement student than I do now as a postgraduate and most of my furniture in my flat was bought with money I managed to save up from placement year, even with
    Champagne Friday as a weekly tradition…
  1. No coursework or revision = Free Christmas/Summer– Best feeling ever to see everyone on facebook complaining about revision while you’re going to parties and enjoying the festivities. Of course, this is reversed the next year, but you can enjoy it while it lasts!
  1. Wild Parties– 60 students in a small town meant we had lots of house parties, and lots of nights out! As we were all earning, people weren’t adverse to going to 3more expensive cocktail places either, so it’s like fresher’s but with a LOT more class!
  1. Go and explore things– It wasn’t just parties though there was lots of culture too; Weekends free from work and more income meant we went on quite a few road trips, to the theatre, Ladies’ Day at Aintree Racecourse and even on holiday (twice)! Make the most of having time and money while it lasts and spending time with adventurous, like-minded people!
  1. Made friends for LIFE– People often worry about the friends they leave behind at uni2 when going on a placement year, but what about the friends you’re going to MAKE? We were all in the same position of not knowing anyone so everyone was really
    friendly and making friends was easier even than at university! Now that we have all gone our separate ways, I am left with friends all over the world and I look forward to reunions with my old housemates to remember the good old days!
  1. You might even meet The One–  Happened to me. Could happen to you. Just sayin’ 😉5
  1. Because you’ll never know how great it could be until you jump in and go for it! 
    I’m not saying my experiences of placement year are the same as everyones, your
    year will likely be very different from mine, in a different place with different people. You may well dislike your company, miss home or find it difficult to make friends, but what if you don’t? It’s up to you to decide whether to take the plunge and embrace what could be the best year of your life, if you give yourself a chance…


Can we start dreaming about summer yet…

With exams coming to a close and a bright (and probably mostly wet) British summer well and truly in sight its time to take a look at what’s on offer here in Manchester in the coming months. Whether you love the odd festival, want to travel within to the country or explore some last-minute society events there’s plenty to choose from.

First and foremost we have Parklife. Featuring household names such as Ice Cube, Jess Glynne and Katy B this independent music festival sees over 70,000 people attend each day to sing, dance and scream along to their favourite artists. “However”, says the distraught student, “At £100 a ticket its much too expensive for me”. Well here’s the best news of all: if you are willing to volunteer and help out at the event you receive a ticket for free! So for those with tighter purses this may be an event to take a look at and with tickets disappearing fast, something to take a look at sooner rather than later. Parklife will take place this year in Heaton Park from June 11th to June 12th.

Next on the list to look at is Pangaea carnival taking place on June 9th in the Student’s Union. Featuring 7,000 fellow student attendees, 15 different rooms each catering to a different music taste and fancy dress throughout its certain to be a memorable experience. Tickets are available from student reps as well as from the Student’s Union but similarly to Parklife, tickets tend to go fast so buy sooner rather than later!

For those less interested in partying and more interested in travel why not take a trip with the international society? Featuring a range of post-exam trips including excursions to the Lake District and the Snowden Mountain Railway it could be just the reward after weeks of exam-fuelled stress. Prices for trips range from £30 to £40 pounds, with members of the society receiving a discounted price and lower prices for children up to the age of 16. The society also runs summer language courses at a range of difficulty levels, catering to those interested in learning Spanish, French and many others. Classes run throughout the year however each class takes only a small number of students, so its best to decide quickly!

Lastly we have the Jazz Festival running from the 22nd to the 1st of July. Tickets can be as low as £7.20 per day and with around 8 acts per day it’s certainly worth a look at. The event takes place mostly in Northern Quarter and with the event attracting international attention due to it featuring original music; chances are you will see something new every day.

These are but a few events happening this summer and I for one can’t wait (mostly because exams will be over). I would highly recommend going to at least one of the events above if only to have some incentive to study hard for the remaining exams. And speaking of exams, I best get back to work…