It’s getting towards the end of September, which means that a new crop of fresh-faced youngsters will have descended upon Manchester for their studies, completely changing the complexion of the city in the process. We think that’s a good thing, and so we’ve put together a few pointers for those of you who are new here. Some of it is simple advice we wish somebody had drilled into our heads before we started our degrees, some of it is common sense that so easily ends up forgotten. Hopefully, it’ll prove useful!
1. Don’t forget to put the work in…
You may have been led to believe that the first year of your course isn’t all that important; in most cases, it doesn’t contribute towards your final grade, and the 40% pass rate means that many are content to simply coast. Tempting though that option may be, it’s worth noting that the maxim “start as you mean to go on” applies: if you half-ass your way through the first year, it’s very difficult to get into the hard work mentality in time for the second year, particularly if you spend your summer doing nothing at all. You’d be surprised how many people engage autopilot from day one, and never manage to break free from that setting.
2. …and keep your eyes open for internships that will be beneficial to your career
Here’s the truth of the matter: these days, going to university and coming out with a 2:1 isn’t all that impressive. It’s a creditable result, but you’ll find that at least half the people on your course will achieve the same or higher. Which means that once you’ve graduated, when you find a job you’re interested in, you’ll need something to distinguish yourself from the other applicants. An internship can make all the difference; it’ll look great on your CV, and it’ll show that you’re committed to your chosen career.
We know that the prospect of employment won’t sound that exciting to a first year student; after all, there is so much to do as a fresher. However, there’s every chance that your first loan instalment will last all of a month (indeed, Samantha’s somehow lasted less than this). If you’ve never had that much money all at once before, you may not know how to budget it. We’ve both been there, and that first Christmas in halls can be a bit of a nightmare if you’re completely penniless. It’s worth noting that there are plenty of agencies in Manchester that will take on students, particularly closer to December, which is a busy season for the hospitality industry.
Another great tip as far as the loan is concerned is to pop it into a high interest savings account and set up a direct debit to your current account. People who are far better with money than we are did this, and it really ended up benefitting them. Whatever you do, do not blow it all in the first few weeks.
4. Talk to everyone
Seriously, talk to everyone you can during your student life. Never judge a book by its cover: get to know everyone on your course, and everyone in the same halls as you, and folks in bars and clubs. During the first year, you’ll come into contact with a ridiculous number of new people. Granted, six months later you’ll look through your phone and wonder who the hell half the people are, and along the way you’ll likely pick up “friends” who would have been better left on the shelf. But that’s part of the experience, and along the way you’ll meet any number of wonderful individuals.
5. Break free of the Oxford Road corridor
As you’re first finding your way around the city, you’ll be more likely to stick to haunts close to your new digs. Which likely means you’ll be frequenting Oxford Road, and a few of the streets just off said road. That’s fine for the first couple of weeks, but don’t get stuck in a rhythm that lasts all year long, because Manchester has so much to offer. The Northern Quarter, Chorlton, and Didsbury are home to some great drinking establishments for those occasions when you don’t fancy just getting pissed; Salford Quays on a sunny day is a wonderful place to visit, with plenty of things to do; and FC United play up in Bury, if you’re a football fan whose interest extends beyond the mainstream. Put simply: don’t just end up in Fifth Avenue every single time you go out.
6. No musical instruments at social gatherings
By all means, bring your instrument with you, or buy one and learn to play: Manchester is a great city for music. Just make sure you leave it in your room when it’s time for the social craic to start up. You don’t want to turn into the individual who always brings their instrument with them. At best, people will think you are a somewhat talented show off; at worst, they will think you are a poor musician who only brought his guitar with him as a cheap ploy to appear sensitive and get laid for it. So many people fall into this trap: don’t become another victim. On a broader note, don’t resort to gimmicks in an attempt to win popularity. Let people get to know the real you. They’ll either like you or they won’t, leaving you free to either a) make friends with them or b) move on to the next individual.
7. Put some thought into your food and drink choices…
If you are in some kind of shared accommodation, talk to your housemates and see if you can agree to pool your resources and cook together. You will save a ton of cash and have a bigger budget with which to purchase your weekly shop. If you can’t get people to agree to do this, then make meals such as shepherd’s pie in bulk and pop a few portions in the freezer. Also, carry a drinks bottle filled up with squash in your bag. If you tot up all the times you pop into a shop for a fizzy drink during a week, you’ll be surprised at how much you spend.
8. …and your clothing purchases
Check out some of the independent clothes shops in the Northern Quarter, as you can sometimes negotiate on price and you’ll generally come away with something unique (rather than the same old Top Shop-Primark-H&M outfits everyone will be wearing). In addition, places like the Ram & Shackle and the Creative Corner Cafe hold sales events where people set up stalls to sell their wares or to help you modify existing items, which could be very helpful when you’re short of cash. Those of you on fashion courses will likely have an enterprise module, where you’ll be tasked with setting up your own mock-business, and such avenues will be helpful during your studies.
9. Avoid the easily avoidable pitfalls
Manchester is a great place to live, and a great place to go out; however, like any city, there are certain things that you should always steer clear of. Indeed, we could have written an entire post on this alone, but let’s keep it simple. Firstly, don’t put your drink down in a busy club; most people who’ve lived in here for any length of time will either have had their drink spiked or else know of someone who has. Secondly, avoid Manchester’s parks after dark; they’re fantastic during the day (as long as the weather holds out), but they’re not safe at night, and saving a few minutes of time just isn’t worth the risk. And thirdly, don’t buy drugs from people on the street or in clubs; chances are that all they’ll be selling you is lies, not to mention substances far more dangerous than what they purport to have for sale.
10. And remember: not everyone loves students
We’re all for students; they contribute a huge amount to Manchester, financially, socially, and even culturally. Many of them (Samantha included) opt to stay on after university having fallen in love with the place. Most of our friends have at one time or another studied at MMU, UoM, or SU. So we’re definitely pro-student. However, by the same token a significant number of people find them really, really annoying as a rule. You can help not perpetuate negative stereotypes by being polite and respectful to individuals who work in the takeaways, shops, and bars that you frequent. Similarly, if you’re on the bus, be aware that not everyone wants to hear your personal conversation take place at ear-splitting volume. Basically, don’t act in a way that draws unnecessary attention to the fact that you’re a student.
Another few quick tips:
- Photograph your room when you move in, especially anything that is damaged. Keep the photos, unaltered on your PC so you have a record of the date they were created. This is just in case the landlord tries to screw you over for existing damage when you move out.
- If you’re in Student Village (or any kind of halls) make friends with the security staff. They’ll watch your back, and they’re the ones who conduct room inspections when you move out.
- Get an NUS card. You can get a wider range of discounts than with your library card alone.
- When looking for a house be aware that estate agents will describe Moss Side as “Rusholme”, and Whalley Range as “Chorlton.”
- Even if you feel lonely at first, try not to go home at the weekends too often. Everyone feels like this from time to time, but that feeling will quickly pass. Simply get out of your room and go and do something!
- Check out the special books collection on the fourth floor of the MMU All Saints Library. They have a really fantastic range of unique handmade books. It’ll provide you with an interesting few hours.