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!

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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.

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Top 5 cultural spots around Manchester

If there’s one thing that every resident of Manchester agrees on (student or not, born and bred Northerner or not), it’s that Manchester is a pretty cool place to live. Not just Northern Quarter cool, but in terms of the amount of experiences and opportunities on offer. I have said so many times before that there are endless opportunities for students in Manchester, but this is particularly prevalent for humanities students, who (despite getting stick sometimes for their less intense timetables) have almost endless opportunities to further their learning and develop their interests with the amazing cultural landmarks in Manchester. So here are my top five cultural spots around Manchester, and I would highly recommend you check them out! Whether you are a humanities student or not, these spots are all fantastic places to visit and you will get a lot out of visiting them.

 

The Manchester Museum

 

Situated literally in the heart of the University, the Manchester Museum boasts an impressive collection of dinosaurs, mummies and live animals, not to mention a lot of interesting specimens from the natural world and beautiful treasures from different cultures. Visiting the Manchester Museum should definitely be on your list of places to check out during Freshers Week, and there’s also a little coffee shop selling a vast range of sandwiches, salads, cakes and their infamous ‘protein bombs’.

 

International Anthony Burgess Foundation

A hidden gem on Cambridge Street (five minutes from Oxford Road and fifteen minutes from Piccadilly), the International Anthony Burgess Foundation is a library, archive and study centre which holds writer Anthony Burgess’ books, music and papers. The centre also has an awesome performance venue where you can watch live music, poetry readings and attend other suchlike events. I personally attend the centre for Literature Live events (organised by the Centre for New Writing) but the centre also boasts a bookshop and classy café. Definitely one of the underrated cultural spots in Manchester that is really worth checking out!

 

Whitworth Art Gallery

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It’s impossible not to visit the Whitworth Art Gallery when you’re in Manchester, purely because it would be a crime not to! Like the Manchester Museum its free entry, and there really is so much to see and do here. The Whitworth is right on the Oxford Road before you get to the University (by Whitworth Park) and houses an unbelievable 55,000 artworks, including historic fine art, modern and contemporary art, textiles, wallpapers, sculptures and prints. The Whitworth is also a beautiful gallery in itself, having won numerous awards for architecture over its years. A fantastic place to spend a weekend afternoon or to take your family when they come up to visit.

 

John Ryland’s Library

John Rylands history reading room

Almost as iconic as chips and gravy or the Toast Rack (Google it), the John Ryland’s Library is one of those cultural spots in Manchester that everyone will tell you to visit when you move here. The John Ryland’s is one of only five National Research Libraries, and with more than 4 million printed books and manuscripts, over 41,000 electronic journals and 500,000 electronic books, as well as several hundred databases, the library is one of the best-resourced academic libraries in the country. A few weeks ago I visited the John Ryland’s with my creative writing class and it is such an inspiring place to work in and explore- at the minute there is a fascinating exhibit about magic, witches and devils. The library is also especially dedicated to helping and supporting students throughout their studies so if you’d ever like to check out their special collections, the staff are more than happy to help you.

 

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

Again, another underrated cultural spot, but as a massive Elizabeth Gaskell fan I was so excited to come to Manchester and experience visiting the author’s house itself. Gaskell was an author living in the 1800s, who just happened to be best friends with Charlotte Brontë, who visited the house numerous times in her lifetime (I’m sorry to say that she wasn’t the biggest fan of Manchester!) Gaskell’s house was recently renovated thanks to a £2.5m renovation and is now open to the public, situated on Plymouth Grove which is about a ten/fifteen minute walk from the University. There’s so much to do, from simply exploring the house and finding out about the lives of the Gaskell family to attending special events or simply browsing the bookshop or the café, Elizabeth Gaskell’s house is definitely worth visiting.

A day in the life of a Biochemistry PhD student

When I tell people that I’m a scientist they often ask what I’m researching, to which I reply with the general aims of my PhD project (which I’m not going to bore you with here!). But then they go on to ask ‘So what do you actually do every day?’. This is more difficult to answer; actual tasks can vary so much from day to day and more often than not we use techniques that people may not have heard of to answer questions that may even seem to not be relevant to the aim of the project. It can get complicated!

When people imagine what a biochemist does everyday they no doubt picture a sparkling white laboratory filled with balding men in white coats mixing coloured, bubbling liquids together, generating lots of smoke and then shouting ‘Eureka!’. Firstly, a laboratory is NOT sparkly clean with so many chemicals lying around, we don’t all have crazy grey hair and it takes years and years of hard work and most importantly failure to get to that eureka moment. This is the thing that I think people find the hardest to understand; everything in science takes so much longer than you anticipate and the result of one experiment often throws up a hundred more questions than it answers!

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I thought I’d write this post to try to shed some light on what a typical day in the life of a scientist might look like. In fact I’m going to tell you what I did today, exactly as it happened, unedited. It was a frustrating day and far from glamorous, but then, that’s science! So if you would like to step into my comfy Nike lab trainers, allow me to talk you through a log of my day…

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The City of Sports – Manchester

If you are planning to come to Manchester for a one-year degree and want to make the most of it, then it is quite imperative to understand the spirit of sports and the love this city has for it. When in Manchester, do what Mancunians do!

“If sports is in your blood, then Manchester is definitely the city you are looking for….”

#Football

etihad

The thrill before a football match, and the moment you stand outside the stadium is truly amazing.

It is no wonder that many students choose Manchester so that they can watch their favourite football matches live in the stadium. Manchester boasts Etihad Stadium and Old Trafford, two hot spots for the English Premier League. The city of sports offers you multiple chances to watch your favourite teams play. You could buy cheap tickets online, get perks of becoming a member to a sports club of your choice, and even get great prices through the Student’s Union for certain matches.

#Cycling

velo

It is true that the famous Oxford Road is changing and the plans to “go Dutch” are already in action since the start of 2016, but cycling was never so much fun. For that, one thing you must try when you come to study in Manchester is the BMX track, both indoor and outdoor. Often forgotten because of the giant Etihad Stadium in Ancoats, the National Cycling Centre offers you facilities for BMX, Velodrome and MTB.

You just need to register online and get your free one-month membership. Then, you may call and book a session with NCC, or do it online. There is a student concession as well. For BMX indoor track, which I tried this month, there is a one-hour session and you get a cycle, a helmet and gear to try this adventure and feel the adrenaline rush. Don’t be afraid. A coach will be there to guide you if you are a newbie.

#Swimming

“Sports is in our blood”, is rightly the slogan that lures you into Manchester Aquatic Centre. Located on the famous Oxford Road, you go past this building and you can never miss it. This place offers swimming lessons for new comers and is a perfect place for someone who wishes to see how good a pool has to be for hosting events like the Olympic games.

The Sports Society offers many sports and activities through its ‘Sporticipate’ program that engages you to participate in Badminton, Table Tennis and other sports scheduled over the week at the university owned sports complex. The Armitage Centre and Sugden Centre have facilities for you to explore the love Manchester has for sports.

Around the city you will find bowling alleys, skiing arenas and skating grounds that keep you refreshing over the mundane study life.

If sports is in your blood, then Manchester is definitely the city you are looking for.

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Manchester area guide

Student quote of the day: ‘I FORGOT THE RUBBER DUCKS DAMMIT’.

Manchester. It’s a huge city lying within Britain’s second most-populous urban area with a population of 2.55 million people. However as with every city, once you settle in you will usually only see small parts of the city in daily life. Why, after living in the city for around 8 months now I’ve only really explored a small area around the university and student-dominated areas. So with a late new years resolution of sorts, I have the intention to explore much more of the city – and whilst I’m at it you might as well learn a bit about it too!

The city can be broken up into different districts, each with a different mishmash of cultural backgrounds, housing areas and attractions. Unfortunately I can’t look into all of the districts, simply because there are too many (57 in total)!

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