THE UMASS
Blog

Making the most of Manchester… on a budget

I won’t lie – I love to shop but what satisfies the itch of retail-therapy more than anything is a well found bargain. 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.

2. Don’t be fooled by the array of £1 shops, 3-for-2 or Buy-One-Get-One-Free deals that Manchester has to offer. I have been 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…

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 online *Mini tip: Unless you absolutely need a completely new copy of a book to annotate, go for a second-hand version instead! 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 desire to buy things take over,  try and look ahead in the semester to budget your money rather than blowing your cash on unnecessary luxury items. Work out your monthly expenses to calculate what you’ll have left over to live on. Once you figured out what you need to live,  you can plan how you’re going to treat yourself (e.g. 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. You can also go to Brodericks in the Library and Learning Commons for a hot drink or a dessert to break up the study session.

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.

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 cheaply (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.

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.

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!

Happy hunting friends!

Student Finance need-to-know

Student finance: for many a worrying aspect of attending university. Before I got to university I remember being extremely worried about sorting out my student loan and other student finance related things. I will share with you some if my tips so you’ll be financing like a pro!

First things first: do you research. Student Finance (SF) is the organisation that helps students with receiving student loans, and there are separate branches for England, Wales and Scotland. There are two main types of loans: a tuition fee loan and a maintenance loan.  The former is paid directly to your university and covers the cost of your course. The latter covers your living expenses such as rent and your weekly shop. If you decide to take a student loan, you will be entitled to a Tuition Fee loan that covers all of your tuition fees. How much you get on the maintenance loan depends on your household income. There are other support grants and loans available, including support for parents and adult dependants, so make sure you check what you are entitled to on the SF website.

Before you start your new course, you will need to set-up an online account. You’ll then be assessed based on your household income, before receiving confirmation on how much you’ll get once all your information has been processed. You will need to apply each year for the maintenance loan, but rest assured, SF will remind you that you need to do this. As long as there are no changes in your circumstances throughout your course your finance will stay the same for the duration of your degree.

Don’t wait until the last minute to apply for your student loans; do it as early as you can to allow room for any issues that may arise (e.g. additional documentation required). I had a nerve-wracking time trying to sort the loans out because I forgot to apply before my first year. Luckily, the SF staff were really helpful. The process isn’t too hard as long as you follow the advice and you consult with SF staff if you’re unsure about what to do. Do send your application early (you can change your course and university later on) to avoid the stress of any problems.

Finally, students at The University of Manchester may be eligible  for bursaries and scholarships. These are grants that students do not need to pay back. Some of the bursaries are dependent on household income, others can be based on academic performance. For the former, the University will use the same SF assessment to determine if you are eligible for the bursary.

So remember:

  • make sure to start your application early.
  • research: do your background reading on your eligibility for loans and what is available to you.
  • ask for help when you’re not sure what to do next .
  • relax – we all managed it, you can too!

 

Resources you’ll find useful:

Student finance at Manchester 

Scholarships & Bursaries at Manchester 

Official Student Finance website

SF how to apply 

 

 

 

 

Choosing a course

Not sure what course is right for you?  Feeling daunted by the thousands of courses available at hundreds of universities?  Well, read on, as this month I will be giving you some advice on how to choose the right course for you and where to find the best resources for course-hunting.

When I was in high school my favourite subjects were the sciences, especially Biology, History and Spanish; I always knew that I wanted to pursue higher education but deciding what degree course to do wasn’t always crystal clear for me. I chose A-levels subjects I liked and thought I would figure the rest as I went along.

I did work experience placements in a school, at a retail shop and at a hospital for a year. These first-hand experiences helped me think about what future careers I could strive towards such as medicine, management, education and so on.  I really enjoyed my voluntary work at my local hospital and I knew this was where my skillset was best suited and I really enjoyed it! So, what are my first two pieces of advice?

1. Find your passion. Find what you enjoy. Do you always look forward to one class more than another and why is that? Some times, enjoyment isn’t the same as passion. Teachers can make subjects that are boring (in your eyes) seem very fun so don’t let that mask what you actually enjoy doing.

2. Search for opportunities to experience careers you may be interested in. If you are considering teaching, do a placement at a school to get a feel for what it’s like, maybe you’ll really enjoy it? Maybe you like it but prefer another field?

Not everyone knows exactly what career they want to pursue and that’s fine. Many courses lead to many careers, and only certain degrees are required for certain jobs. A sociology degree, for example, can allow you to pursue management, human resources and teaching careers (and many more!). Many degrees at university offer similar possibilities after graduation. However, it is also important to realise that there are certain careers that require a specific degree – if you want to be a dentist, for example, you must study dentistry. So if you know what career you want to end up in check what are the avenues available to you in order to work in your chosen field.

Doing your research is very important.  There are open days available where you can attend lectures, seminars and workshops. This is a great opportunity if you’re undecided to attend and talk to faculty staff and current students. The latter will be the best avenue to get a first-hand insight into what your course is like. When I got to Manchester I was worried about the problem-based learning (PBL) style but, having attended an open day, I realised that this was something that I liked more than the traditional lecture series so it worked for me. Find what works for you!

Finally,  if you get confused and you aren’t quite sure what you want to do and you have some time, go for a walk or a hike or read a book, take some time out, refresh your mind and weigh up what you like and dislike about each course you’re considering and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be left with what was always meant to be…

And remember…

‘’My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style’’. Maya Angelou

 

 

 

 

Resources I think you’ll love:

Open days: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/open-days-visits/open-days/

Course finder: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/

UCAS: https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/getting-started/ucas-undergraduate-what-study

 

 

Into the wild with University societies

The Students’ Union in the University of Manchester is the home of over 400 societies that cater for all kinds of interests, hobbies and activities. Even though the campus of the University is in the city, many students travel out to unwind, enjoy some natural beauty and escape the city’s buzz.

Getting involved with the UoM outdoors clubs has brought me health, happiness and friends, and is definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Many students turn to the outdoorsy clubs for a dose of adrenaline to shake off the work-week. As well as being a great chance to exercise, travel and enjoy some natural beauty, spending time in the outdoors has been proven to help reduce stress levels and improve mental wellbeing. Thrill-seekers can choose to spend their weekends climbing snowy peaks, kayaking down roaring white-water rapids, or exploring ancient underground caverns. Below are some of the more popular options available:

For hikers and those seeking picturesque views:pic1

The University of Manchester Hiking Club (UMHC) is one of the biggest University clubs, and has trips every weekend exploring the mountain regions of the UK.  UMHC travels far and wide, from the tranquil waters, lovely villages and green rolling hills of the Lake District, to the rugged, wind-swept wilderness of the Scottish Highlands.  The club caters to people of all levels of fitness, so whether you want a relaxed walk in the nature or a big 20 km day of summit-bagging and scrambling, UMHC has something for you.  UMHC also has fell-running and climbing groups, weekly socials and is very popular with international students as a way to travel to the more remote parts of the UK.

To find out more about UMHC, check out their Facebook page

Pic4.jpg

For vertical thrill-seekers:pic2

For those who prefer their mountain climbing to be vertical, the Manchester University Mountaineering Club (MUMC) is the first choice.  MUMC has weekly trips to Manchester’s many climbing walls, such as Rockover and Manchester Climbing Centre. It also organises an annual winter skills trip where you can learn the basics of winter climbing and other mountaineering techniques.  In the warmer months MUMC run climbing trips to the Peak District and Wales.

Interested? Learn more about MUMC here

For aquatic adventures:pic3

If you’re more drawn to exploring the rivers and rapids of the British countryside, the Manchester University Canoe Club (MUCC) runs trips kayaking all over the UK.  MUCC is suited to all abilities, from beginner paddlers to white-water warriors, and have gentle river trips as well as technical white-water adventures.  If you’re new to kayaking,  MUCC have skills sessions as well as weekly canoe polo practises, socials and circuit training.

Check out the society Facebook here

To discover the world beneath our feet:

For a truly extraordinary subterranean experience, the Manchester University Speleology Club (MUSC) can introduce you to caving, where you can explore underground rivers, marvel at spectacular stalactites and abseil into ancient caverns.

Society Facebook page

For social city running:

For mid-week outdoors recreation, Run Wild puts on weekly runs around the city’s parks and footpaths. It also participates in races such as the Great Manchester Run (10 km) and the Manchester Marathon.

Society Facebook page

For a chilled out day slacklining:

If you’d prefer a more chilled-out day in one of Manchester’s green spaces, the Slackline Society is a great way to hone your balance and core strength whilst enjoying sunshine and nature.

Society Facebook page

pic5

 

How to achieve more

Glancing at the clock and wondering where the day’s gone?  Fretting over a mountain of work and imminent deadlines?  Wish you had more time for hobbies and new activities?

We’d all love to have more hours in the day or a time-turner like Hermione’s, but sadly we can’t bend the laws of nature and magic apparently isn’t real 😦 .  But there are many things we can do to improve our efficiency, make the work day more productive and ultimately achieve more.

I have juggled a social life, part-time jobs, society committee positions and a full-time degree. I have therefore learnt a few tricks to keep myself afloat and still get the grades I want.

Here are some of my top methods for maximising productivity and achieving as much as I can:

 

Get a planner

It seems obvious, but having one place to note down the times and locations of your classes, meetings and other commitments really helps you stay on top of things and seeing opportunities to  fit in other activities.  Staying organised and managing your time well is definitely one of the best ways to make the most of your day.  A two-hour gap mid-afternoon might be the perfect time to catch up on an assignment or hit the gym. That class-free afternoon you have every week might be a great opportunity to squeeze in some volunteering.

Not only does a planner help you maximise the amount of work you can get out of your time, but it can also help you maximise the number of social activities and fun events you go to as well!

 

Make a to-do list

Another simple idea but still certainly one worth considering.  Having a list of tasks that you want to accomplish and splitting them into smaller, more achievable targets, will help you stay organised and motivated throughout the day.  By keeping this close at hand, like on your phone or in your bag, you can easily check your list if you have some spare time and want to fill it with something useful.  I send loads of emails whilst stood in lifts or in the queue at a shop!

To_Do_List.png

 

Take breaks and observe your natural patterns

Taking regular breaks whilst working on a mentally demanding task is often the best way to fight off the fog of fatigue, keep the brain juices flowing and maintain productivity.

birchfields park autumn

But don’t just spend 5 minutes surfing the web or texting your friends – getup, stretch your legs and have a change of scenery. This is a much better way of shaking off the cobwebs and refreshing your hard-working mind.  Maybe go make a cup of tea with a friend or step outside to enjoy some fresh air?

 

Listen to your body

On top of taking regular breaks, try planning your work according to your natural rhythm.  For example, I find that my brain is usually at its best in the morning making this the best time to do my most mentally demanding work, like thinking about a project, writing a well-worded essay, or learning a new concept.  By late-afternoon my mind starts getting tired, so I usually go for a run or a cycle to help re-energise and get some fresh air pumping through my lungs.  I then save the easiest tasks for the evening or just go out and do something fun.  By observing how you tend to feel over the day and planning your work accordingly, you can really help boost your efficiency and get more done!

 

Make your health and fitness a priority

A healthy body supports a healthy mind, so devote time to looking after your body and keeping fit.  Not only does exercise invigorate your concentration, boost your productivity and help your mental well-being, but it can also be used as a refreshing break from your studies.  Aerobic exercises are particularly good as they stimulate the release of endorphins into the body – natural painkillers and mood elevators that help reduce stress and revitalise the brain.  One of my favourite breaks is to go for a run around one of Manchester’s parks – it feels wonderful to see some greenery and it provides a great excuse to blast some music or have some time to think to myself.

UoM exercise

A good diet is also essential for a healthy brain, so support your concentration levels with lots of nutritious fruits and veggies, and remember to stay hydrated too!

 

Get some sleep!

The amount of good-quality sleep you have also has a huge impact on your concentration.  We’ve all heard people saying that we need 8 hours a night to be healthy, but this actually tends to range between 7 to 9 hours depending on your physiology and how mentally demanding your work is.  Ensure you get a restful night by avoiding electronic screens close to bedtime, as these stimulate the brain and can make deep sleep more difficult.

So there it is – my top tips for making the most of your time and increasing your productivity.  Give them a try and achieve more!

Living at university

Living away from home is one of the biggest and most significant aspects for any new student at university. For the first time the prospect of living away from home is tangible. You’re filled with both excitement and apprehension. You’ve watched countless YouTube videos of hall vlogs to get a feel for what may be to come. You’ve searched Student-Forum and prodded every last drop of insider tips you could get. But even with all this information you’re still nervous and excited and expecting the unexpected.

As a fellow Mancunian I have experienced living away from home and living at home. In my first two years of my degree (Medicine) I was timetabled to be on campus so this meant I could easily commute from my parent’s home to class which saved me lots of money and meant I could do more with my student loan.  But everything changed when my campus became the hospital and so I moved out to make the journey easier, but it turned out to be more of an experience of a lifetime than just a way to cut time spent travelling.

So, what is it really like to live away from home whilst at university? I would say: Fun. Different. Enriching. Despite not living in halls I have countless friends who did and they absolutely loved it – halls gave them an opportunity to meet new people, form strong friendships for life, and learn how to cook and find your first university family. Everyone says you become independent in your first year (and in the next few) and this is very true, there’s nobody to do your laundry; YOU have to commit to that laundry trip every week. On top of this you will have to learn how to budget, so between attending socials and doing the weekly shop you should always consider what you can afford. Get a budget calculating app to help you breakdown your weekly or monthly spend – this can help you save for those great holidays to come. If you’re not a fan of tech, write down a rough estimate of input versus output and get a visual idea of what you have in your pocket and what you allow yourself to spend.

Brightside do an awesome student budget calculator to help keep you financially organised: https://studentcalculator.org/

Halls are where the majority of first-year students move into.  There are various different types of halls including catered versus self-catered, so consider what you would prefer to have. Some people don’t mind sharing a shower; others hate it – if you’d rather have your own then choose an en-suite room. After getting settled you’ll meet your roommates and attend lots and lots of fun socials with them. This group of individuals are commonly the first family you’ll have at university. Most students move out into private shared housing after their first year, but some people choose to stay in halls until they graduate.

The way in which you are put into groups for your first year in halls is by random selection, this means that you can sometimes be living with people who you may not necessarily click with.  However, don’t fret – a lot of people find themselves in this situation and it’s totally OK. If this is you, I would stress the fact that whilst halls can give you one way of meeting people, there are tons of other opportunities to meet others (e.g. societies, sport clubs, people on your course and so on). No matter what you decide to do you will find your group of friends at university – whether that’s in halls, in a sports club or a society.

To find out more about accommodation at The University of Manchester visit:

http://www.accommodation.manchester.ac.uk/

Halls and living away from home can both be great experiences. You become less dependent on others to do things for you and you get to have fun with a very likely-awesome group of individuals from different courses and backgrounds. But don’t worry if you don’t live out – there are still opportunities for you to get involved including course and society socials. The University accommodates all, both in the literal and metaphorical sense! So enjoy your time at University whether you decide to commute or move out.

Best of luck,

Safiya