Monthly Archives: March 2013

Harry’s final Year Blog: Costa Del Manchester

Nope, not this year!

Nope, not this year!

Without a hint of sarcasm: I haven’t set foot in snow at all in the last year, not a millimetre! I’ve passed through it on the way to London, and seen it snow, yet in Manchester it never sticks. All my friends from home are posting pictures of snow drifts, snowmen, and submerged cars but bizarrely, until you leave the city limits, snow just doesn’t happen here. In fact, at the moment it’s very sunny, (albeit absolutely freezing) outside! Although admittedly everyone at home is sick of the snow and being stranded etc, it’s kind of depressing being without it for over a year 😦

PRE -REG david

You’ll get used to performing oral presentations at Manchester

Regarding my oral presentation on “The Invasive Nature of the Hottentot Fig Carpobrotus edulis” the other week, it was a success! I haven’t got the marks back yet, but I didn’t capitulate or fluff up on answering questions. Luckily I had practice with performing it both in front of my project supervisor and housemates before the big day so I was relatively well prepared. I got some of the usual nerves right before it was my turn, but in all fairness since sixth form I’ve performed so many presentations that they don’t really bother me anymore. The main tip is to make sure you’re confident with what you’ve put on the slides, and know it inside out; pretending you’ve got flair makes you so much more confident!

Tip of the week

Make sure you’re completely happy and know what a particular module is about before the course unit change deadline. Sometimes the titles of the units can be misleading and can make them sound more fun than you think. In Manchester you’re given two weeks at the start of a semester where you can attend lectures and see the blackboard page (UoM’s kind of study intranet) so you can get a feel of how the course will go. It’s important to go to as many different lectures as possible so you’re certain which ones you’d like to take. Also, in the course handbook (you get a new one every year) it will detail how the unit will be assessed e.g. 70% exam, 25% essay, 5% online seminar.

I made the mistake this semester of picking Madness & Society, which has weekly seminars with a lot of historical reading, and a history style exam at the end. Also, the course content isn’t as interesting as I’d hoped. Unfortunately however I forgot there was a semester two course unit change period and just let it sit; now I’m stuck with it!


Alice Copperwheat’s 2nd Year Blog: Fantastic Field Courses!

Another long break between blogs but mainly due to my dissertation taking over my time! For life science students the dissertation is in the second year but it is only 9 pages long. However this still takes up lots of time, because once you get going with research you findlots and lots and it is hard to sift through what you actually need. I am glad it is done but I am sad to have to say goodbye to my topic of Finding Nemo. This week was the last week before the Easter holidays, which also meant the last day of being an ambassador. It has been a really good experience because it is an easy way to earn money, you meet lots of new people and you end up learning lots about the university. I thoroughly recommend it to everyone and I hope I can do it again when I am back of placement.

The most important thing I have done this week however, is book my flights to Costa Rica for my field course. A group of us have decided to book together and go out a couple of days early and stay for a couple of weeks after the actual field course. We did a lot of searching and got it for about £100 less than other people. The field course is just over two weeks and is based upon tropical ecology and conservation. The main aim is to look at the biotic and climatic differences of the country. Whilst we are there I am looking forward to visiting the amphibian research centre and the sloth sanctuary. The sloth sanctuary is where a former student, Becky Cliffe, did a placement and is now studying her PhD. She got lots of publicity from her placement, which even resulted in an article in BBC Wildlife magazine and a TV documentary. Whilst on the field course we are mainly travelling down the east coast and because of this my group of friends are looking at travelling around the west coast and other parts of the country. We are arriving a bit early, as this will allow us to get accustomed to the country and do a bit of site seeing in the capital city. In the two weeks after we will be partaking in a volunteering project where we will learn to surf in the day and help with turtle conservation at night. We are also looking at visiting volcanoes, zip wiring and staying with native families. This flexibility of the field course allows us to organise our own flights in order to travel as much as we would like after.

A three-toed tree sloth hangs from the trunk of a tree in the jungle on the bank of the Panama Canal

Last year I was also lucky enough to go on a field course, that time to South Africa. It was for 2 weeks during the Easter holidays and the university organised most things, which took a lot of the pressure off.  The aim of the field course was to study animal behaviour and my group chose to study spiders. We chose a particular species that was abundant there and looked at aspects such as body length and web size. It was an amazing experience and another thing that I would again recommend. I met lots of new people and got to experience life on a real project which gave me good practice in writing lab reports.

That is all for now,

Over and out

A x

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Inez’s First Year Blog: Spring, Psychology and Digging up Stuff

Hey everyone,

It’s the start of the Easter break—another holiday- and time has completely flown.  With the last week of term came a flood of essays and deadlines.  My tutorial group and I undertook a very interesting volunteering project as part of one of our requirements for the unit.  There are platt1volunteering days at Platt Field’s Park at Fallowfield every few months, and we decided to go along for one of these last week. Our task for the afternoon was to clear a patch of the park, so we spent the afternoon digging up roots and weeds (?) or at least what I think were weeds. They were very stubborn and could only be dug up by using a lot of force! ( Or again this may just be because of my very poor gardening skills!)  We then raked up all the rubbish and made a huge pile of compost.  We had to sift through the whole pile and separate the beer bottles, chewing-gum wrappers, dead slugs, Coke cans- you name it, we found it! All-in- all, despite not being a plant-loving person, I had a lot of fun and got some much-needed exercise.  We’ll be doing a bake sale after Easter as well, and the proceeds from that will go to the park.

Lately I’ve been finding that a lot of my essays have been based on psychology/ ethics/ philosophy, which has been really interesting, but mind boggling too.  I find a lot of them also highlight the gender divide, which seems to leak into every area of society.  For instance, my last paper was about Freud and his contribution to psychology… and it was crazy how fantastical some of his theories were… He assigned the worth/status of a woman based on her husband, amongst some other quite strange analyses of hysteria.  Did you know the word hysteria originates from the Greek word for ‘ uterus’?  Another focused on the philosophical aspect of animal experimentation- which is quite thought-provoking but way too confusing to even contemplate on a Saturday night, so I’ll leave it there!!

My friend Maariyah and in the very rainy streets of London

My friend Maariyah and I in London

All the heavy stuff is now over and Easter for three weeks.. I’m currently in London with my friend in the raiiiiin….Its supposedly spring, but I don’t buy that. I’ve been plodding round in wet, soggy shoes with wet, soggy feet for the past few hours! I can’t wait for the radiant Zambian summer again!!   

Happy –rain-filled-Easter,



Inez’s First Year Blog: Spring, Spanish and Semester 2

A very big helloooo to you all…

Looks like spring is in the air; the weather lately has been very Lusaka-esque lately, with ( relatively) sunny skies and little rain. It’s been awesome to be able to walk the streets of Manchester without needing a heavy coat, or closed shoes. Oops. Look like I spoke to soon.  It just started raining a few seconds ago…Ahh I’m going to go home with wet feet this evening. Oh well, hope springs eternal!!

Exam results for the Faculty of Life Sciences came out last week. I did okay-ish, my average was a 2:1.  There’s always room for improvement though, especially since students who want to undertake placements face stiff competition.  There’s a requirement for placement students to maintain at least a 60% average at the end of first year.  Contrary to the popular myth that first year is a chilled time for partying… it’s actually more demanding than you’d think! Woe betide those who think it’s just repeated material from A levels/ IB!

Onto a less doom and gloom subject… My timetable has considerably relaxed this semester. I take four modules as opposed the six modules I took last semester.  So I thought it would be the perfect time to start learning a new language! Many of my IB classmates have gone to America and Canada and they tell me that Spanish is spoken widely there.  Sooo I decided to try out Spanish classes with the international society. And it’s been great! It’s quite similar to French, which makes learning a little easier.  It’s ironic though that in Spanish the thing we most often talk about are anime programs from Japan. That’s multicultural Manchester for you!!

Aside from the Spanish, March seems to be the month of essays, when semester 2 modules are well underway and deadlines are looming.  The next deadline is  for an essay which looks at Freudian psychology… one of my more interesting modules called “ Bodies  in History.”   One of the reasons I love my course so much is that we get to do an amazing array of topics, and not just the boring theory stuff.  

Hasta luego!



Harry’s Final Year Blog: Antwerp Mansion & Results

I finally got around to discovering the mysterious Antwerp mansion. I was desperate to get tickets after discovering they were sold out online and my housemates friends were up, so went to Gaffs (you’ll learn this is no ordinary cornershop- some kind of social hub undertaking many student-friendly dodgy dealings!) and they’d also sold out, so I had to meet someone outside a hall in Owen’s Park only an hour before leaving pre-drinks to finally secure a ticket! It was really good though, a very unique underground venue to say the least.

On the academic side of things, I had my results back from last semester’s modules and they were actually genuinely okay for once, 2:1s and a 2:2 which is acceptable. However when considering my poor run of form last year it’s just not good enough, I don’t want a 2:2!! My work ethic towards coursework wasn’t great last semester though to be honest, so I’m surprised I did that well at all, particularly in my dissertation.

Next week, I have the most important oral presentation of my life (so far at least) to look forward to, one that’s part of my final year project. I’ll have to present my dissertation to a lecture theatre full of academic who will then interrogate me afterwards, nerves ahoy! My advice on presentations is to go for it like you love the attention, and make sure you know the topic and layout of your slides off by heart. That way you can use simple sentences on the slide solely as prompts, and can speak confidently.

Tip of the Week

Buying a bus pass should be one of the first things on your list to do when you arrive at uni, if not in advance. Unless you live on North campus (free 147 bus) or on the University campus, you’ll probably use £4 worth of bus every day. Considering the bus pass is £200 it’s definitely worth it, not considering the ease of not getting change from the cash point for a ticket every day! Also, the Oxford road-Wilmslow road route in Manchester is the busiest bus route in Europe, so you won’t be waiting long for a ride if at all!

How many buses can you count in this shot of Oxford road? I got at least 18!!

How many buses can you count in this shot of Oxford road? I got at least 18!!

Tom’s Foundation Year Blog: Exciting Prospects to Come.

Hello everybody! I apologise for the lack of blog posts the past couple of weeks, it’s been a very hectic month or so, but that’s no excuse and normal blogging will resume with immediate affect!  So like a said it has been a very busy month. Once exams where over and celebrating had finished it was straight back into learning, but that’s OK when the topics we are covering at the current moment are so interesting. We’ve started physiology, respiration, photosynthesis, plant transport as well as looking at alkanes and alkene in chemistry and various statistical calculations in maths. All are really interesting topics especially when you consider the pure precision, and organisation of thousands of cells which all work in perfect harmony to drive our bodies and various other organisms. Really does blow my mind sometimes! The great think at Manchester is the fact they back up the theory learnt during lectures with fantastic practicals and lab sessions. Just the other day I had a three hour lab session where we were making our own cell stains and examining them under high power microscopes and doing various tests to determine the identity of numerous of cells. Managed to snap a couple of really good pictures by just pointing my camera down the lens!

There’s been a lot of constant revision and coursework deadlines which have been keeping me occupied. As foundation year students we have constant, almost bi-weekly multiple choice, and written exams. They are only small 20ish minutes tests, but I find them really useful as it encourages you to keep on top of the revision and prevents you from learning everything at the last second. Furthermore it gives you a really great indication of your understanding of certain topics, giving you an idea on what areas you need to work more on before the big summer exams.

Apart from working I’ve been up to various other activities. I’m continually training for a couple of cycles races coming up after Easter where I will be representing the university at the British University Championships. It’s very exciting and makes me proud to be representing such a great university. Just hope my legs don’t burn out! The other weekend I made a trip to the heart of the nearby Peak District. It was absolutely freezing, with snow still on the peaks, but spectacular views certainly took my mind off the freezing weather. I’ve also joined the local climbing and bouldering center with a couple of friends. I used to climb regularly when I was younger, so it was brilliant to get back into climbing, especially considering the centre is local and offer discounts for students! It’s a lot of fun and a great work out, by upper body was non-existing the following morning!

Finally during Easter, myself and a friend are hitchhiking to Morocco! I’m super excited and it should be a brilliant experience. We are doing it for a great cause, raising money for a charity called Link Community Development, which works to provide a quality education in various countries in Africa, including Ghana, Uganda and Ethiopia. It helps build as well as maintain schools to provide a quality education. It also provides education and awareness for HIV to try and prevent it from spreading. If anyone would like to know some more information or donate money to the charity please visit my Virgin Money Giving site:

I will of course tell you all about it and share loads of pictures!

Till next time chaps.

T x




Inez’s First Year Blog: Exams, Anxiety and Austen

Hey everyone,

Hope you had an awesome winter break and a less-than-terrible exam period.  Exams ended last week… And I have to say I didn’t know what to expect.   I was terrified… and a recurring scenario would play before my eyes: Upon entering the exam hall, everything I revised would just vaporise.  Vanish.  Disappear.  Leave. And I’d be left staring at the blank answer sheet…. With NOTHING in my head!! I’d answer the multiple question paper using the “ A,B,C,D” methodology.  For those less experienced in the arts of anxiety and knowledge-procurement, this method is  simple and user-friendly. Idiot-proof.   It relies on an easy-to-follow thought process.  You think to yourself, “ hmm, what letter have I not used in awhile—A,B,C or D?”  If your answer sheet is severely lacking in “A”s—well then—fill in as appropriate.

Thank goodness, nothing so extreme happened! All the same, I wish information would be as willing to enter my brain as it is to leave it. Diffusion rather than vaporisation.    I have to say though, in university, for the first time I’ve actually enjoyed studying some modules- I was surprised by that.  I guess doing something you like has its perks!  I could drone on and on and bore you to extinction with my list of exam- related complaints. But I’ll be kind and spare you today!

I had applied for the Manchester Autumn Mentor Program last year September-ish, and that’s probably one of the best things I’ve done whilst in uni.  I got assigned to  a lovely lady named Kate, who is a features editor at New Scientist.  I got to  see for myself what a day in the life of an editor is like.  It was amazing! The topics they write features on  are so diverse- they range from articles on whether humans really are altruistic, to articles on the evolution of language.  The latter particularly interested me, because I’ve always loved archaic, olden English.  This probably stems from my IGCSE  Literature class, when we would read Jane Austen’s  lively, witty prose in a sun-soaked classroom.   One particular quote of hers burned itself into my brain-  “I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me that trouble of liking them.”  Probably not politically correct, and said with bad intentions- but the woman echoes my rather selfish, bad-tempered sentiments. She’s a genius!!

Until next time,