Lydia’s Top Tips for Starting a Master’s degree at the University of Manchester
Whether you’ve accepted your unconditional offer or are still in the application process, congratulations on deciding to undertake a master’s degree at the University of Manchester! Manchester is a great city in which to do your master’s, but it’s no easy task nonetheless (take it from someone in the middle of theirs)! There are a bunch of things that can make or break your master’s year, but here are my top tips for making it a smoother experience!
1. Find your ‘thing’ outside of class
Even if you’re incredibly excited about your studies, you might find that your master’s year will be draining – possibly dull – if you don’t engage yourself in something outside of your course. As much as you might feel the guilt of not staying on top of your schoolwork 24/7, having a regular nonacademic activity – be it physical, creative, etc – can give you the relief you didn’t know you needed from the constant pressure of your studies (or simply a relief from 8 hours of staring at your computer screen). The good thing is that Manchester has a ton of opportunities to choose from, whether university-sponsored societies or activities in Greater Manchester. Be it trying dance classes in the city centre, joining a university hiking society for weekly countryside hikes, or volunteering at a community centre, find an activity (or several!) to get into outside of your textbooks.
2. Find a time management strategy that works for you
If you haven’t learned how to before, a master’s program is a key time to learn how you best manage your time. Whether in a taught or research master’s, you’re going to have a lot of time in between scheduled lectures and will have a lot of work to prioritise in that time. Figure out a work schedule (before the chaos of exam season) that enables you to prioritise the materials, plan ahead for bigger projects, and schedule in time for non-academic activities. Managing your time also means figuring out the places and times of day that you’re most productive (i.e., are you more of a late-evenings-in-the-Engineering-Building type, or an early-start-at-a-nearby-café type?). This will help you pace through the semester instead of being dragged through it by the foot!
3. Make an effort to connect with others
Unlike work or undergraduate studies where you may have seen the same people frequently throughout the week, you may find that you don’t have as much time to interact with people in the university setting, especially in a research master’s program. This is why it’s important to reach out to people and make time to connect. Besides lectures, societies are great places to meet others, especially those with similar interests. Once you meet people in class or a society, keep up the connection! The most popular option is grabbing a pint at a pub at the end of the day. Otherwise, for non-pub goers, it could also be going to a football game, going to the gym, or taking a free walking tour of Manchester!
4. Build a support system and use it!
For us international students, doing a master’s abroad might be particularly difficult by virtue of being away from the support systems we had at home that could’ve helped us through the most stressful times of the semester. For this reason, it’s important to form a network of people early on that you can come to for personal and academic support. This could include a few close friends or flatmates, students of the same faith or cultural background, as well as university sources such as your academic advisor and the Counselling and Mental Health Service. Whether you feel homesick, or you’re not performing as well in your program as you’d hoped, or you simply want someone to talk to, your support network will help you get through the more difficult seasons of your master’s experience. This and other tips in this list can help contribute to a much smoother master’s experience.
Written by current student, Lydia Nyachieo