Mary

5 Relevant Points when Renting Privately

So, you’ve herded a flock your friends together long enough to finalise an ultimate clique, and with the end of the academic year just around the corner, September 2017, NASA confirms, is well within sight. And so the age-old ritual of booking, confirming and attending house-viewings has begun, but despite you and your clan’s best efforts, you have yet to commit to the one… House that is. Read on, disillusioned house (rent) hunters, for some goggling guidance and as always, a generous sprinkling of gifs, from me to you.

  1. Location, location, location

As Kirstie Allsopp preaches, it is indeed all about the location. Whether you consider yourself a Longsight local or a regular Rusholme-ian, where you decide to call home will really impact on your day to day life as a student. Most halls and private accommodation in Manchester can be grouped into being in the City, Victoria park or Fallowfield areas, and having experienced all three throughout my time at university, I can attest to their various strong points and drawbacks.

I loved the leafy green *weather permitting* hideaway that my first year halls in Victoria Park offered, and equally enjoyed my days as a Fallowfield-er, partaking in the traditions of the rush-hour bus commute and the consumption of all things Kebab King. But, I can’t think of a better place to be in my final year than Hulme, just a stone’s throw away from town and campus.

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Overtaking morning traffic on the brisk walk to uni

  1. State of Mind vs. State of Property

At first, it can be hard to adjust to the concept of living in a house that, let’s face it, might not exactly feel home-ey… There’s nothing like leaving the comfort of halls for a semidetached dwelling where the responsibilities of putting out bins and declaring yourself exempt from council tax loom large overhead. When on the lookout and browsing places, it’s important to consider them as bases, something temporary for the next 9 months, not a site candidate for grand designs. Use your discretion to be level-headed, is this a superficial crack in the paint or a sign of potentially dangerous damage to the structural integrity of the walls? Likewise, a set or two of fairy lights can truly work wonders on a beige bedroom, however, they definitely shouldn’t be employed as a mould-masking tool!

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When the search for the perfect abode ain’t going so well

3. Compromise

So, would you rather the extra cupboard space or a washer-dryer combo to go with those crumbly walls of yours? And what about another bathroom or maybe T.Vs in each of the bedrooms instead?

As a wise woman (Carrie Bradshaw) once said, all relationships are inevitably a series of compromises and this goes for student houses too. It’s important to discuss the compromises that will no doubt arise when choosing between properties and what they have to offer, and it’s probably a good idea to talk about this before even looking at any… What basic boxes do you all want checked off? Will one of you be happy to settle for the attic room? Would a 10 minute walk to the nearest bus stop be a problem or are you all avid cyclists anyway?

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Viewing a house that only has a couple of hydrangea bushes when the last one had a pond

4. Included or Excluded?

Bills… Would you like them to be included in or excluded from your monthly rent? Some landlords and letting agencies will simply dictate whether bills are included or not, others may give the option. ‘Bills included’ can often refer to just the basic utilities such as water, gas and electricity. However in some cases, this can also include wifi, a T.V license and even a weekly or bi-weekly cleaning service in the communal areas. In any case, it’s best to be clear with whoever you’re renting with what the arrangements are from the outset. Organising your own bills can have significant financial benefits, particularly if utilities are metered and you’re good at switching lights off and keeping the heating below ridiculous degrees Celsius. On the other hand, if the extra responsibility would be unwelcome and you’d rather not be hounding your housemates for that £7.12 they owe you each month, having your bills arranged is an equally valid option!

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‘But I swear I transferred you the money for the BT bill on Tuesday?’

5. Make the Most

Make the most of the opportunities at your disposal! We’re lucky at the University of Manchester to have a whole range of informative events and a supportive Union that offers a wealth of material and advice on housing, from finding a property to moving out. Accommodation fairs such as the one on the 25th of April at University Place are a great place to start and find your feet if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed!

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Don’t be shy, ask for advice – the more informed you are, the better!

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Very best of luck with all your house hunting endeavours, you can do it!

Procrastination Station

My favourite stop on the assignment route…

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Procrastination, we all do it. You’re probably on a little spree right now aren’t ya? It’s okay, me too. Welcome fellow procrastinators, *raises hand* my name’s Mary and I can testify that I am a full-fledged, self-loathing type 2 procrastinator.

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Hi there

If you’re reading this, the good news is that you’re highly creative, innovative and probably extremely motivated!

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What Kanye said

And if by any chance you’re up against a really scary deadline… From the sovereignty of the isles of procrastination to you, breathe. I believe in you. You will get this done, because you always do! That’s one of our many attributes, working under immense, albeit self-inflicted, pressure.

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Many speculate that the habit we know today as procrastination dates back to ancient Roman times, when the action of… Well, inaction, was regarded very highly. Wise leaders would sit around, simply pondering, not partaking in any other task for hours on end, unless they absolutely had to!

Professor Adam Grant off Wharton Business School, PA claims that some of the finest speeches in human history were re-written at the last minute, including Martin Luther King’s iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.

Mozart once got himself stuck in such a hard-core procrastination rutt that he ended up finishing the music for his opera, Don Giovanni, hours before its premiere in Vienna in 1787. Legend has it; the ink on the musicians’ scores was still wet, minutes before the opening curtain call…

So firstly, don’t feel bad!

In the words of Henry Miler, ‘Life, as it is called, is for most of us one long postponement.’

Film Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

However…

Taking procrastination too far, to the point of hindering creativity, limiting full potential and suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation (not a joke), can be damaging both physically and emotionally. So… Like the good natured citizen of putting-it-off-sville that I am, I’ve compiled a few of my very favourite bad habit busters for your reading and GIF-viewing pleasures below.

Prioritise

For many of us, listing can easily become a source of distraction. (Serial post-it note user here). However, when you reach that moment of realising the proximity of an ill-fated task and the palm-sweats hit, writing or typing out a list of manageable sections in order of importance can actually be quite helpful, not to mention calming.

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For example, *worst case scenario* say you’ve left a written assignment to the last minute, take a moment to assess the placement of marks. Will it be more important to perfect each bibliographic reference as you come to it, or will your professor look more favourably upon a well thought-out, coherent structure? For those of us who stave off work till the last minute, it’s worth producing drafts of increasing quality as opposed to handing in an incomplete, abruptly-finished piece.

It’s so much easier said than done but… Try not to be a perfectionist!

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We can’t always elicit the kind of review Magneto gave Mystique’s natural form in X-Men

Break Tasks into Manageable Chunks

Similar to the advice above – breaking large, and overwhelming tasks into subsections can really increase the approachability of the beast!

You can also think of this in terms of time: For example, if you’re finding it really hard to concentrate on a task without veering off into another 40 minute session of Candy Crush, give yourself small, achievable goals:

– Work straight for 30 minutes (or more) without any interruptions

– Take a 5 minute break

– Repeat!

Once you conquer one chunk, you’ll gain momentum, and I guarantee that as the blocks accumulate, you’ll feel more inclined to power through without that scheduled break you assumed you’d so desperately need!

Publicise your Goals

Don’t be a private procrastinator – the most dangerous breed! Try to publicise your intentions, perhaps not on a large scale (the world doesn’t need any more gushing Facebook posts) but in a more intimate style: Talking to classmates, close friends and family about work and the personal goals we set for ourselves, can often add that extra dimension of much needed pressure that pushes us forward! Fear of embarrassment can be one great motivator!

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Cut out Temptations

Temptations can be anything from the elastic band on your desk, to the background noise of your housemate watching First Dates that you just can’t tune out! In the latter case, I’d advise moving to a quiet study space where there are as little distractions as possible. Even being in a more focused environment like the Main Library or the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons (open 24 hours) can make such a difference to your frame of mind. I personally recommend the cosy Muriel Scott section of the library!

Focus on the Reward

Or perhaps the consequence of not completing a task in good time.

Try to imagine how good it will feel, knowing you submitted an assignment, truly content with your efforts. Or, if you feel a more negative spin is required, think back to how infuriated you were, or will be, handing in a piece of work you know, that with the adequate time, you’d have the potential to do so much better on!

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Don’t create ragrets you have the power to prevent!

Treat Yo’ Self

This last one is so important! Reward yourself for achieving those small milestones as well as the big, even if it’s something as small as cup of tea after working for an hour. For those of us not quite as close to the bright, white light of procrastination remission, it’s worth training our minds into a more positive work ethic, and if that means investing in a hot chocolate every once in a while, then cheers to that!

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And once the madness of submission, presentation or even performance is over, don’t forget to relax and catch up on a few episodes of that show you’ve been so good at avoiding!

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Thanks for reading fans! X

 

5 Reasons why you should work at a Summer Camp!

By: Mary Johnson

I admit I was once a cynic amongst the converted… Those tanned, cheerful folk, returning rejuvenated from THE ‘best summer ever’. However, after experiencing it all first hand, I can truly say that spending my summer as a camp counsellor was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

So, if you’re still sitting on that white picket fence about it, trying to decide whether or not committing to a summer State-side is for you, let me give you a few reasons and a gentle shove in the right direction…

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1. The Friendships

Without a doubt, the bonds you make at camp are unique. Complete strangers become your colleagues, your room mates and your confidants, all in the space of orientation week. You see each other at your best and your worst; first thing at breakfast as you race to the granola bar, to last thing at night before you close your eyes, agreeing that the fan must definitely stay on. It’s like an impossible recipe for friendship to get wrong!

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The kids aren’t such bad company either!

 2. It will be Beautiful!

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Most camps are situated in some of the most stunning, well preserved locations in the country. As a sailing counsellor, I got to enjoy the crystal clear spring-fed lake that we were so fortunate to call our waterfront. N.B. Free up that iCloud storage in preparation for the hundreds of photos you will no doubt take of everything around you…

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The commute to work – It’s no M6 but it’ll do

 3. It’s Pretty Straightforward

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One of the things that really appealed to me when applying, was the seamlessness of the application process. There’s a great range of recruitment companies out there, ready and eager to get you employed (and take a cut of your earnings…) That said, if you’re in it for the money and less so for the experience, you may want to rethink your summer plans! #notfo’golddiggas I personally went through Camp America and found their VISA and staff application processes really straightforward.

4. FOOD

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In most cases, 90% of the food you have is lovingly made on site by your camp’s kitchen staff. However, the rest of your culinary decisions are at your full discretion on days and evenings off and depending on the local eatery scene, the possibilities can be endless… Think ice-cream huts serving virtually every flavour under the sun and endless ‘soda’ refills on trips to the cinema! *Bumps up health insurance in preparation of type 2 diabetes*

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The Maine event: lobster

 5. The Authentic American Experience

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Before coming to camp, I had never stepped foot on American soil (bar the embassy) and I can’t think of a better way to have first experienced it! From the amazing welcome I received and the total immersion in all things American, including late night Walmart trips and Fourth of July fireworks, to my after camp travels along the East Coast, it was all amazing!

 My only regret is not doing it sooner!

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Land ahoy! Next stop, Camp 2017!

Making the most of Manchester… on a budget

By Mary Johnson

There have been times when I feel like I’ve single-handedly cured England of any hint of a recession from just one lone shopping spree. I won’t lie, I love to shop but what satisfies the itch of retail-therapy more than anything is a well found bargain.

Naturally as a student, I always have an eye out for discounts and I’m happy to share some of my golden rules and tips for life at the University right here…

  1. ‘It’s not a bargain if you don’t need it,’ is probably one of the most relevant phrases to keep in mind when you’ve got your hunting goggles on. It’s so easy to be blinded by a ‘great deal’! Do the odd catch-and-release exercise and you’ll realise you never really needed a multi-pack of low quality USB leads or that personalised cotton tote in the first place! If worse comes to worst, you can always return after the heat of that initial sighting and purchase on further reflection. I repeat, IF YOU DON’T NEED IT, PUT IT DOWN.
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  1. Don’t be fooled by the array of £1 shops, 3-for-2 or BOGOF (Buy-One-Get-One-Free) deals that Manchester has to offer. Admittedly, I have be known to get carried away in Poundland and later that day found the very same item at the likes of Lidl or Aldi for a considerably better price!
    Be wary of these places friends…

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When realisation hits

3. Try online! A word of warning, do some research before splashing your cash – or your bank card –  as you can often find what you need for much less on sites like Amazon and eBay. *Mini tip: Unless you absolutely need a completely clean copy to annotate, go for a second-hand version of the book! Those declared ‘Used – Like New’ often are ‘like new’ and a fraction of the price! Personally, I also really like the worn-in feel of an older copy!

Here are a few of my favourite deals and tips on and off campus:

On campus

As student loans land and the initial adrenaline and unattainable dreams of booking first-class trains everywhere take over, *adopts motherly tone* try and look ahead in the semester to budget your money rather than blowing your cash on an unnecessary luxury expense. Work out your monthly expenses to calculate what you’ll have left over to live on and you can plan ahead on treats like cinema trips, going out and holidays abroad!

Meat Free Mondays at the Students’ Union: all dishes without meat are half price at Union Bar every Monday! Such a fantastic deal – for both you and the environment! Give yourself plenty of time as it can get pretty busy… I really recommend the goat’s cheese pizza.

Brodericks £1 drinks in the Library and Learning Commons (and possibly dotted around elsewhere). A sweet dessert to compliment your veggie lunch earlier on in the week, go on you can afford it. #treatyoself

Prepare a packed lunch! Try and plan your shopping; buy in bulk and save yourself a fortune instead of eating out. I can’t stress how much a good lunch-making habit will save you in the long run. – A lot!

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When you’re allergic to seafood but really want in on the sushi trend.

Speaking of running…

Sporticipate! These are literally free exercise classes organised for students by the University. The Sugden Sports Centre also offers a great 9-month student membership for only £120! This may sound like a lot of money to part with in one go, but I’ve done the math and if you go regularly it really works out (pun intended)!

Off campus

Get a part-time job! (This is a bit of a joint one as there are some great jobs going on campus too!) Aside from the obvious financial benefits, balancing a job alongside your studies is a great demonstration of independence, personal time management and teamwork skills. A job can mean meeting a whole new circle of friends outside your academic discipline and a healthy change of scene every so often. Not to mention, it’s one form of procrastination you won’t feel guilty about because you’ll be earning.

Loyalty cards – if you don’t have a Boots card, get one! You can thank me later! Paperchase have also started a fantastic deal for their members, which I’m very excited about – FREE coffee every week from their cafe on the top floor. (This is not a drill people!)

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Caffeine dependency level: Lorelai Gilmore

Charity shops! I don’t mean the ‘cool’ overpriced ones, we’re talking Oxfam, Red Cross and Cancer Research (the Holy Trinity)… It is so worth inhaling those funky steam-cleaned ‘thrift store’ odours to find genuinely high quality clothes at ridiculously low prices!

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Me when I first laid eyes on the 100% wool coat I snagged from Red Cross for £12

Happy hunting friends!