Arts & Culture

Exchange Adventures

If you’re like me – from a small city somewhere in Europe – chances are that most of your friends were born and raised in exactly the same place. University is your biggest opportunity to form close friendships with similar minded people from different countries and cultures. Could there be a better way of experiencing them other than visiting their country?

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Most people I met are proud of their heritage and are keen to share it. Visiting them allows you to fully dive into their culture by being part of their family and daily routines. You don’t just look at it like in a museum, you live it. You don’t try an overpriced meal in a restaurant, you help prepare it in the kitchen. After a year of Austro-Bengali exchange, one of my first friends from university insisted I should visit him in Bangladesh and he would show me around the country. We covered all major cities, heritage sites, natural wonders and cultural regions. The whole family went on a trip with me to see every corner and understand the differences between the districts – unbelievable trip!

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When it comes to exploring the city or country you’re in, you’re accompanied by the best guide one could wish for! Obviously, somebody who has spent ~18 years in a place and knows all about its history and culture as well as the best places to eat authentically or listen to local music. Additionally, your friend knows and understands your needs, fears, interests and can accommodate the tour to your liking.

During my visit to Singapore as part of the Manchester Global Graduates Programme, I visited a recently graduated course mate. He knew I loved getting in touch with locals and take part in their celebrations. So, he rounded up a bunch of friends and we explored the Ramadan celebrations at night time. To accommodate my Austrian nature, we went for a hike on a local mountain with an absolute stunning view. All stuff I would have missed travelling on my own!

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Apart from enhancing your travels, you can do it on a budget, too. The only major expense you’ll make is to book some flights or trains. You can couch-surf at theirs, cook at home and avoid tourist-traps. Make sure you’ll bring a gift or take them for a meal once or twice to show your gratitude!

On the flip side, you can also host someone else! Actively invite others and make plans early, especially if the other party has to apply for a visa, as the application can take several weeks. Hosting others can also get you in touch with your own home again. I had tons of fun taking a Bruneii and Bahreini friend around Salzburg and was able to reconnect with parts of the city I haven’t seen in ages. Furthermore, I have hosted an Indonesian, a Lithuanian, two French and an Australian!

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Sometimes you might be confronted with ways of thinking, habits or practices you will find hard to cope with or do not agree with. Make sure you do some research before you embark on a trip like this, to avoid awkward situations. Should I host you for instance, I’d expect you to be ready 5 minutes before an activity – punctuality is king in Germanic countries! But everything can be discussed and clarified beforehand and both will know each other’s habits and expectations.

Visiting and hosting friends will broaden your horizon and reveal sides of travelling you wouldn’t have imagined. All it takes is an open mid-set and an invitation.

 

My Heritage Hero: Alan Turing

Alan Turing is one of the world’s most important historic figures as well one of The University’s greatest icons.  As a pioneering mathematician, computer scientist and theoretical biologist, he is one of the most accomplished scientists of all time and his work has affected everyone alive today.  Alan Turing truly represents the Manchester spirit and history with its’ commitment to great example of scientific excellence.

Cracking the Enigma Code

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Turing’s most famous work was carried out during World War II in Bletchley Park, the home of Britain’s efforts to break German codes encrypted using Enigma machines.  To reveal the messages in the codes, Turing led a team of cryptanalysts to develop a codebreaking machine.  This became renowned as the world’s first computer and heralded Turing as the parent of Computer Science.  Most historians agree that his inventions shortened the war by at least two years and saved over 14 million lives, making him one of the 20th Century’s biggest heroes.

A little known fact about Turing is that as well as being a mathematical mastermind, he was also a high-level athlete, and occasionally ran 64 km from Bletchley to London.

After the war, Turing moved to London where he continued to expand his research into computers and produced a paper detailing the first designs of a stored-program computer.

Creator of Artificial Intelligence

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Turing came to the Victoria University of Manchester in 1948 where he was appointed Reader in the School of Mathematics, and soon became Deputy Director of its Computing Machine Laboratory.  During his time in Manchester, he produced the Manchester Mark 1 – the first stored-program computer ever made.

Whilst in Manchester, Turing conducted some of the first mathematical investigations into Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), which describes a man-made machine that can perceive its environment, learn, and be able to problem solve.  Turing’s theory of computation states that a machine capable of switching between simple symbols, such as the binary ‘0’ and ‘1’, could simulate any mathematical deduction or process of formal reasoning.  This theory, in addition to other discoveries in cybernetics and neurology, led researchers to hypothesise about creating an electronic brain based on binary code.

AI raises many questions about thought, how we define intelligence, and the differences between human and digital consciousness.  To address these Turing created the Turing test, where a machine can be said to be intelligent and “think” if a human in conversation with it couldn’t tell if it was human or not.

Over half a century later, A.I. is still a subject of much debate and controversy, but the Turing test continues to be a significant factor in these discussions.

Today, A.I. has hundreds of applications, such as in image recognition, search engines like Google, and even electronic gaming.  A.I. technology is advancing all the time and will have a far greater presence in our lives in the future, as it has the potential to be used in self-driving cars, medical diagnosis, finance, and more.

Persecuted for his sexuality

Just before Christmas in 1951, Turing was walking down Oxford Road when he met Arnold Murray outside what is now the Dancehouse Theatre.  They later entered into a relationship together, which was then revealed by the police whilst investigating a burglary into Turing’s house.  Homosexuality was outlawed at the time and both Turing and Murray were charged with “gross indecency”.

Murray was given a conditional discharge; however, Turing was forced to choose between prison or hormonal treatment to reduce his libido.  He chose the hormonal treatment, which left him impotent and deformed his body, in what is commonly referred to as “chemical castration”.

In addition to this humiliation, he was banned from entering the US, had his security clearance removed, and was forbidden to continue his work for the British signals intelligence agency (GCHQ).

Suicide

Turing’s housekeeper found him dead on 8 June 1954, after he committed suicide by cyanide poisoning.  A half-eaten apple was found beside his bed where he died, leading many to speculate that this was how he ingested the final dose.

Official pardon

In 2012, an online petition for the Government pardon of Alan Turing’s conviction gained over 37,000 signatures.  John Leech, MP for Withington, campaigned for years to pass the bill through Parliament and eventually the Queen pronounced Turing’s pardon in 2014.

Legacy

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Following criticism that it was unjust to pardon just Turing out of the thousands of others who were punished under the same laws for their sexualities, a bill was passed on 31 January 2017 that pardoned all people similarly convicted.  This part of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 is known informally as the ‘Alan Turing Law’.

Tributes to Alan Turing can be found across the world.  A statue of Turing holding an apple is situated in Sackville Park in between the University of Manchester’s Sackville Street Building and Canal Street.   This commemorates Turing as ‘Father of computer science, mathematician, logician, wartime codebreaker, victim of prejudice’, at it reads on the plaque.  In 2007, the University of Manchester’s Alan Turing Building was completed as a new home for the School of Mathematics and parts of the School of Physics and Astronomy, where world-leading research continues seven decades after Turing started his work there.

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To mark the 100th anniversary of his birth, 2012 was designated as the Alan Turing Year with celebrations and tributes across the world.  Manchester City Council worked with the LGBT Foundation to launch the Alan Turing Memorial Award, acknowledges contributors in the fight against homophobia in Manchester.

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…

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.

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

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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.

Drama Society’s production of Breathing Corpses at Antwerp Mansion

When a man has lost all happiness, he’s not alive. Call him a breathing corpse’– Sophocles

For most University of Manchester students, Antwerp will hold some pretty interesting connotations, including being one of the city’s most dilapidated nightclubs (you should see the toilets, honestly), however at half past six on a freezing Friday evening, my friends and I were attending Antwerp for a totally different reason. My friend Jemima had told us about a play by the drama society: Breathing Corpses- a chilling, cyclical tale where a body is discovered, which leads to a series of morbid revelations: how well do you really know yourself, and the people around you? We all agreed it was an opportunity it would be totally stupid for us to pass up.

“As a University of Manchester student, there are so many things to do in a city that truly never sleeps…”

The play’s summary? A hotelmaid. A dog. A box. A knife. Seven people pretending to be other people- How did they get where they are? These people like you and me? How did they get where they are, and where are they going?

The play. Breathing Corpses. A dark comedy. That’s not funny.

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Hello! Hola! Bonjour! Dia dhuit!

Student quote of the day – ‘If everyone else is thinking outside the box, the best thing to do is to think inside the box’

“Oh I’m not a language person”. That despairing declaration that I hear so often said by those who have struggled or are currently struggling to grasp a new language. Here in the UK the majority of people don’t go out of there way to try and acquire a second tongue, finding ourselves lost amongst verbs, rules and reasons why what we just said was utter nonsense. But is it really that difficult? Can this task which sometimes seeme impossible to overcome be conquered? The easy answer is yes, but here’s the key:

Integrate it into your life.

“…you can receive 2 classes a month for only 1 pound for the entire year! Don’t miss out on this opportunity!”

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