Rachel’s First Year Blog

Hi everyone!

The last time you heard from me I was under deep exam stress, but they’re all over now!! My last one was a ‘Labs’ exam on the Thursday, and afterwards a few course-mates and I went to Black Milk Cereal (the weird and wonderful cereal café in Afflecks I’ve mentioned before!) for an extreme sugar fix, which I’ve never appreciated so much! It was good to chill because my Friday was mostly spent running around and packing for the weekend… because I went ice climbing on Glen Coe Mountain in Scotland with the Mountaineering Society!!

It’s safe to say, I’ve never been so cold, tired and wet in my entire life. The weather was so bad on the mountains on Saturday: -10°C and 70mph winds… MY HAIR FROZE!!! (I was actually so proud of this). We learnt how to use our ice axes to hike up the side of the hill, which was hard going, especially after my goggles came off in the wind and my glasses started freezing solid! At one point, our instructor told us to huddle down on the ice, as the blizzard got insanely strong, before we built a massive group ice shelter in the side of the hill to huddle in. No wonder the day was called “Winter Survival”!! The Sunday was less intense by far, with less wind so we could actually SEE the amazing views. We used our crampons to climb up the side of a mountain, whilst learning how to read the snow for signs of avalanches. IT WAS INCREDIBLE!! The day ended with snowman making, another 8-hour bus ride back to university, and four hours sleep… before I got up for my first 9am of second semester!

Hover over photos to view captions:


I’m studying loads of new modules this semester – ‘Microbes, Man and the Environment’, ‘Excitable Cells’, ‘Drugs: From Molecules to Man’, ‘Biochemistry’, ‘From Molecules to Cells’ and a ‘Human Biology’ lab course, which means some weeks I have an extra 9 hours in a lab and lose my free Friday (sad times). I thought I’d enjoy ‘Excitable Cells’ the most, as in the first lecture we learnt how the brain and spinal chord develops in the embryo, which I found really interesting. But my favourites are currently the Microbes and the Drugs module. ‘Drugs: From Molecules to Man’ is a pharmacology-type unit, and it’s really cool to learn how drugs interact with receptors in the body to cause effects – indeed, this was the basis of my first lab session in which we were working on rat ileums. Similarly, bacteria are a lot more interesting than I initially thought! In ‘Microbes, Man and the Environment’ we are learning about everything from the origins of life to how bacteria cause disease… it’s really interesting!

The fact that I’m able to study such a wide range of modules was one of the reasons I applied to study the Life Sciences degree course at The University of Manchester. It may sound confusing given that the Faculty itself is named ‘Life Sciences’, but you can actually study such a degree programme for your first year. This is an option for students who aren’t entirely sure which Life Sciences course they wish to study – it’s a year of exploring your interests! There are only 15 students currently studying on this course; so it was really easy to make friends! It is the broadest course available as we were physically able to tailor our degree programme; we had 90 credits of optional modules to choose from, barely any compulsory modules, yet we’re still in the same lectures as everyone else – as everyone has a common first year to allow easy changes between courses. I felt like such flexibility was perfect for me, as it would allow me to experience anything I wanted, to help me make a decision about my specialisation for second year. I’ve thought about opting onto Biology to maintain the broadness, and the modules look really interesting and varied –from ‘Animal Behaviour’ to ‘Clinical Drug Development’!

I think all of this sums up why I put Manchester down as my first choice when deciding which university to go to. Other universities seemed to lack the sheer breadth and diversity that I wanted, and The University of Manchester offered this– even from the chance to do an integrated Masters course, study abroad, or go on an Industrial Placement in my third year (ranging from helping the sloth sanctuary in Costa Rice, studying sharks in the Bahamas to being stationed at the Medical Research Council in The Gambia. Like, hello?!?!). It seemed like a no-brainer to me.

The city was also an aspect that convinced me out of my firm choice dilemma. It’s an insanely diverse and lively place with its many quarters – just the other week we went out into the Northern Quarter and explored some quirky cocktail bars, and the next day there was a parade and fireworks in China Town for Chinese New Year. It’s lovely to be in a place that’s global in its celebration of many international festivals, yet is equally such a close and friendly community to allow you to meet people from all around the world. In the last few weeks I’ve had a goodbye coffee with a friend going back to Japan after her semester abroad, a cute film night with my Norwegian friends, and amazing cheesecake-and-oreo-milkshakes (at Black Milk, where else?!), as my Chinese friend and I were saying goodbye to our rock climbing friend who was going back to Norway. It’s really nice to be able to say I have made friends from around the world.

Lanterns around Manchester for Chinese New Year

Lanterns around Manchester for Chinese New Year

Then to end it all, the open day cemented Manchester as my firm choice, as it highlighted just what an inspirational place the university was. We were told about the latest research going on in the faculty and their global impact … and it was MIND BLOWING. Even my Dad – who has no interest in science whatsoever – walked out saying he would go here in a heartbeat. From the effort put in by the university at this point, I could see that The University of Manchester wanted to invest in us as PEOPLE. This was clear from the students showing us around; all were brilliantly friendly, full of life and passionate about every aspect of life at Manchester – from societies and volunteering, to work experience and opportunities. I felt like no other place encouraged me to come as much as they did; from the fascinating videos about their latest research, to reminders about the 100+ industry placements I could go on. And considering that Manchester had just been named European Science City of the year… why would I go anywhere else?!

Until next time!


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