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.


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!

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!

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.

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.


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.

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


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.

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.