Blog

Student View - The Power of Mentoring

by YPU Admin on May 20, 2020, Comments. Tags: BMH, mentoring, speech and language, student life, and student view

Introduction

Hi. My name is Abi and I’m a final year Speech and Language Therapy student at the University of Manchester. For the past 4 years I have studied communication and eating and drinking impairments! Throughout my course I have also had clinical placements, working in hospitals, schools, clinics and patient’s homes.

I am also a student ambassador which means I represent the university on campus tours, school visits, and open days. I’ve loved my time at the University of Manchester and want to tell you about something that has massively helped me during my studies – mentoring.


What is my experience of mentoring?

Mentoring is a relationship whereby one person shares their knowledge, skills and experience to help someone else to progress in their life, study, career and so on. A mentor could be a friend, family member, leader in your community, academic staff etc. Whilst at university I have both been the mentor and the mentee!

I have mentored younger students by sharing my experience of university life. For example, I started a society to inspire students to pursue social justice and later handed the leadership on to a girl called Amy. Mentoring Amy looked like going for coffee a couple of times per term and being at the end of the phone if she needed advice.

I have also been mentored myself, both personally and academically. Through my faith community I have received regular mentoring from inspirational leaders. They have helped me to think through decision making processes, like what career opportunities to pursue and how to spend my time whilst in Manchester. During my first year it was also great to be mentored by a peer on my course, they lent me textbooks and answered any questions I had about the course. Being mentored has made me more confident. I have learnt so much about myself and the world around me by listening to wise mentors!

How can you make the most of a mentor at university?

Hopefully those brief examples have shown you how helpful and game-changing mentoring can be. Mentoring can be informal or more formal, it’s really what you want it to be. University can feel like a big step up, both academically and personally. I want to reassure you that there are ways to reach out for help and surround yourself with amazing, supportive people.

I’m now going to share a few handy mentoring tips:

  • Ask someone – it sounds obvious but ask someone to be your mentor! This can be someone at home who you’ll call or meet up with a few times a term, or it could be a person you meet whilst at university. They may say no (this has happened to me!) but that is ok, another person will be delighted that you’ve asked them! Do you have an older sibling, club leader, family friend you admire and want to learn from?
  • Create an agreement – Mentoring takes commitment, so it’s a good idea to make a plan with your mentor. When will you meet/call? What do you want to get out of mentoring? Pinning down the details should leave more time to discuss what matters during your meetings.
  • Share stories – If you’re stuck for how to start your first mentoring session why not share your story. For instance, what drew you to studying your course? Why did you pick your university? What are some important moments for you from the past year? Even if your mentor already knows you pretty well it’s powerful to tell your story. This sounds deep, but you will get so much more from mentoring if you can bring your whole self to sessions. Maybe your mentor will also share their story with you too!
  • Ask questions and hang out – Hopefully your mentor will be ready with some probing questions, but you can also ask more about their experiences. I was once mentored by someone who had similar passions to me, and I loved asking her questions! For example, who has been most influential in your life? How did you balance work and play? I agree with the experts who say that most of mentoring is ‘caught not taught’. Spending time with a mentor can make a lasting imprint on you. So, hang out with your mentor, observe how they live their life, and be inquisitive!

Resources/Links


 

Studying Samuel Beckett

by YPU Admin on May 11, 2020, Comments. Tags: English, english literature, Humanities, literature, samuel beckett, and sexuality

Introduction

My name is Eleanor and I am a third year PhD student at the University of Manchester. My research looks at queer sexuality in Samuel Beckett’s work during the 1960s. You might know Samuel Beckett as the playwright who wrote Waiting for Godot, but did you know he was also a novelist, poet, screenwriter, director for both television and film and a short prose writer? My work focuses on the 1960s in particular because Beckett’s work during this period begins to change into something much more minimal (the scenery is often a plain white space, bodies nondescript and their actions often simply breathing and sweating) and, simultaneously, much more gender-fluid.

Here I am giving a paper at the 4th Annual Beckett Society conference in Mexico City.

In Depth

At school, my favourite subjects were English Literature, Religious Studies and Art & Design. I never got on very well with Mathematics or any of the sciences, although now, surprisingly, I find that I am using theories from these disciplines in my work as well! My undergraduate degree was in English Literature at the University of Sussex, and I did a Master's in Comparative Literature at Queen Mary’s, University of London, which allowed me to study a broader range of literature in other languages and in translation—as well as translation theory—and to make more comparisons between subjects, such as comparing literature with music, art and performance.[1] This has helped a great deal with my current studies, as Beckett wrote in both English and French, and did a lot of self-translation, as well as working in aural and visual mediums.

My current research brings queer theory to an area of Beckett Studies to which it is absolutely crucial, while simultaneously allowing this research to reflect back upon the current state of Sexuality Studies.[2] The theoretical work that my thesis has opened up is different from what I had imagined when I started my PhD, but in an exciting way! The journey you take when you study literature can be unpredictable and messy and that’s what I love about it. Often, you will find that literary criticism has been subject to compulsory heterosexuality. This term was coined by groundbreaking feminist scholar Adrienne Rich to explain how society expects, assumes and reinforces heterosexuality as dominant. At its most basic, my work seeks to undo this.

I also work as a Teaching Assistant, which has been an extremely rewarding role and has taught me a great deal. When I graduate, I would like to continue to teach at university level. I work as a Widening Participation Fellow, I am a tutor on the MAP programme, I undertake Research Assistant work, and I am the administrator of the Beckett Society. On top of this, I also have a part-time job as a customer service assistant at an art supplies company. When you do a PhD part-time, you have to keep a very strict calendar, and be very aware of your limits.

Samuel Beckett

Going Further…

The reason that I fell in love with studying literature was theory. Theory is a broad category, which encompasses all sorts of ideas, from feminism and Marxism to deconstruction and psychoanalysis. Some people don’t see theory as very valuable because it doesn’t have a material output, like a science subject might. However, studying literature is important because it examines the bedrock of our lives: not just language itself, but narrative and how it is constructed. In studying literature, you are also able to examine the narratives of productivity that are fed to us by society and find better ways of ascribing value and importance.

A rainbow printed onto the road in the Castro District, San Francisco, ready for Pride celebrations.



[1] Translation theory asks at how best to translate a text – can one translate for both sense and feel? How to make up for the importance of sound and rhythm? How to make up for small but significant differences in meaning and account for cultural context? It has been suggested, for example, that the translation of poetry is impossible.

[2] Queer theory is a broad category of theorizing that foregrounds sexuality and gender, reading texts through a lens that is often denied us in critical theory. Eve Sedgwick, one of the most famous queer theorists, suggests ‘it's about how you can't understand relations between men and women unless you understand the relationship between people of the same gender, including the possibility of a sexual relationship between them.' This is why it is so crucial that queer theory be brought to Beckett Studies, as this has so far been neglected in scholarship.



 

Intern Insight - The School of Life

by YPU Admin on May 1, 2020, Comments. Tags: animal ethics, ethics, french, Humanities, intern, intern insight, language, and spanish

Introduction

Hello! I’m Krystyna. I’m a graduate intern at the University of Manchester and I work in the Student Recruitment and Widening Participation team. This means that I work in a team which works closely with schools and colleges in order to show learners what university is all about and what other options young people have to continue their education and succeed in the future.

I studied French and Spanish at the University and in my final year I did an extended research project on the topic of anthropomorphism – the way that animals (or non-human characters) are treated as if they had human qualities. Not at all French or Spanish! But what does all this have to do with what I studied and my current job?

         

What is the School of Life?

You may have heard people refer to university as ‘The School of Life’, but what do they mean by this? Arriving at university is an experience unlike any other. You are likely to be living without your family for the first time, independently, with a group of other students. You can meet new people every day if you want to through your course, and though the various societies (clubs) and activities going on on-campus or in the city. You are faced with so many new situations that your ability to overcome problems gets better, and you find yourself getting more confident. More confident and learning a whole lot of new skills and knowledge. All of these experiences give you an insight into the world beyond your comfort zone and prepare you for your future whether you have a career in mind or not.

As you find your feet, and get deeper into your work and settle into your student life, you also start finding out more about your interests – what are the things that spark something inside you? What are the things that get you excited? Where is it that your strengths lie? What do you want to get better at? These were some of the questions that helped me make the most of the opportunities at university.

How does this help you grow?

University isn’t only about attending your classes and only sticking to classes from your course – that’s right! If you’re doing a business degree you can take up a language and vice versa! I was able to take a course on animal ethics in my final year which explored the relationship that we, humans, have with animals. Not only was this fascinating, but it also changed my world view. This, paired with my growing abilities in the languages I was learning, made me reconsider my future. I started thinking beyond my subject and started thinking about how I wanted to impact society in the future.

I became a student ambassador in my first year through to my final year. This is a role in which you represent the university at events and get to talk to people visiting campus about your experience there. As an ambassador, one of the things I enjoyed was the opportunity to work with schools. I would help university staff run events that encourage secondary school pupils to take up languages and in my final year, I was able to teach four beginner French lessons to 12 pupils in year eight at their school. This is because many, if not all, universities also work with their local communities in many different ways and I was able to be a part of that.   

             

How does this help shape your future?

As I came closer to finishing my degree, I started to understand that my degree doesn’t restrict me to finding a job linked directly to my studies. I started to understand that at university you learn so many different skills that can be applied to many different jobs. At university, not only did I gain independence, experience and learn about many things that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned about (such as studying linguistics, and animal ethics, and even studying abroad), I was able to reflect on my experiences and skills, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and find where it is that I want to go next.

If you decide to come to university, I hope that you will push yourself to learn and experience new things, get involved in the work that your university does in its community and discover, from these experiences, where your passion might lie. I hope you have an excellent experience in the School of Life!


 

Intern Insight - What's it like to Study Abroad?

by YPU Admin on April 24, 2020, Comments. Tags: BMH, intern, intern insight, psychology, Study Abroad, travel, usa, and year abroad

Introduction

Hi, my name is Emma and I currently work as a graduate intern at The University of Manchester. Before I was an intern, I was a student here! I studied Psychology and graduated in Summer 2019. I chose Psychology as it was my favourite subject at A-Level and I chose Manchester as I loved the city and also the Psychology course allowed me to do a Study Abroad year. This means that my third year of University was spent 3204 miles away from Manchester, studying at The University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US!

What was it like to Study Abroad?

I won’t lie, the first two weeks that I spent in America were super hard. I had so many questions running through my head… Have I made the right decision? Will I ever get used to this new country? Will all my friends still be my friends when I get back? But, just as with my first two weeks starting in Manchester, all of the worries and fears disappeared as soon as I got into the flow and got more used to my surroundings. Through fun events put on by the International Programmes Office at UMass, like American football games, quizzes and BBQs, I made friends with lots of other British and Australian exchange students who were all going through the same culture-shock as me.

All of my American friends were amazing and super supportive, I even spent the Thanksgiving holidays with one of my friends and her family. It was also fun introducing our new American friends to all the finest things about the UK… aka Love Island! I loved spending time with my American friends and learning about their country but it was also super nice to have my UK and Australian friends that were going through the same as me and to be able to talk about our home comforts.

One of the things I enjoyed most about my Study Abroad year was (funnily enough) the studying. The way University is structured in the US is different to how we study in the UK. My timetable in the US ran so that Monday, Wednesday and Friday were all the same and Tuesday and Thursday were the same, whereas in the UK, each day is different. I actually liked the US way better as it meant I had shorter lectures and was able to digest the information better. In America, they also have mid-term exams (just like the movies!!). This meant that instead of being tested just at the end of the semester, like in the UK, you were tested more frequently throughout the year. Again, I personally enjoyed this more as it felt like I was being tested on my knowledge throughout and it meant I really did have to stay on top of my work!

      


What are the benefits of Studying Abroad?

The academic benefits of studying abroad are endless. I had to adapt my learning style to fit in with the way University works in the US and this meant that coming back to the UK for my final year, I was able to use all of the new skills I had learnt and ways of working to help me achieve higher grades. I was also able to take modules that aren’t available at Manchester such as LGBTQ+ Psychology, Educational Psychology and The Psychology of Adoption.

As well as the academic benefits, there are so many personal benefits to studying abroad. The most obvious personal benefit for me was getting to travel. I’d never been outside of Europe before so getting to explore cities like Boston, New York and Toronto was something I never thought I would get the opportunity to do. Another personal benefit was gaining even more independence and confidence. I feel like if I can just up and move to the other side of the Atlantic on my own, there isn’t much I couldn’t do now. I’ve also made friends for life – I’ve got friends up and down this country as well as a best friend in Sydney and some of my closest friends dotted around the US.  

If you can do a course that offers a year abroad or semester abroad, I would say 100% go for it. The benefits are endless and you will have the time of your life. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so glad that I decided to go!

    

Going Further...

If you’re interested in finding out more about anything that I have spoken about please head to these links for more info:


 

Young People’s Activism in Times of Austerity

Introduction

Hi my name’s Liz and I’m a second year PhD student in the Geography department, where my work focuses on young people’s activism in times of economic and political change. My research is done in collaboration with the young engagement organisation RECLAIM, and explores the following questions: Why might young people get involved in activism, and what kind of campaigning work are young people doing? How does learning about politics from a young age impact young people’s lives? And how are small charities managing after a decade of cuts to public services?

In depth…

RECLAIM is a Greater Manchester-based youth leadership and social change organisation committed to supporting working class young people to have their voices heard. Young people (aged 11 and up) working with RECLAIM campaign against a number of issues including young people’s exclusion from political decision making, a lack of representation within politics, and negative class stereotypes. 

We know that economic cuts, also described as austerity measures, in the UK and across parts of Europe over the last decade have had devastating impacts on public services, and, affecting young people in particular, youth services. These austerity measures are experienced differently across social groups and places around the UK, and we know that working class communities and charities have been disproportionately affected by cuts to services and the changing funding landscape. In this context it’s important to explore the ongoing marginalisation of young working class people in political decision making, and how young people are campaigning and engaging in activism in times of economic, social and political change.

Picture of three boys on a bridge in London, one is wearing a t-shirt that says “working class young people being seen, being heard and leading change. RECLAIM.”

My research involves working with staff and young people at RECLAIM over a year to explore the kind of activism and campaigning young people are doing and why, how young people feel about gaining a political education at an early age, and what impact austerity measures have had on RECLAIM. Each day is a bit different, but mainly the research involves going along to events and workshops run by or for young people, going to team meetings, hanging out in the office and doing some interviews and workshops with staff and young people at RECLAIM. In the current global pandemic all face to face fieldwork has stopped, and instead I am following team meetings and other activities online and delaying some of the research with young people until the social distancing measures are lifted and it is safe to continue with face to face research. 

I hope this research will provide some important information about how young people are pushing for social change, what supports young people’s activism and what acts as a barrier, and what small charities are doing to manage a difficult funding situation.

Picture of a group of young people and RECLAIM staff and volunteers outside Rochdale town hall holding placards. 

My Route into Geography

I’ve done quite a few different things over the last 10 years and I never imagined at 18 that 10 years later I would end up doing a PhD in Geography – as you’ll see I took quite an unusual route to get here…

I really loved languages and reading in school and I was interested in learning about the cultures and histories of different countries so after trawling through university prospectuses and getting advice from teachers I decided to apply for a languages undergraduate degree. I went to Exeter University to study French and Italian, which included a year abroad. Doing a languages degree was great because alongside the language classes (French and Italian grammar, speaking and translation), I also got to study French art, Italian novels, and the history of both these countries. But the real highlight was doing a year abroad teaching English in Rome, I made lots of friends, visited some beautiful places, and ate A LOT of delicious pizza and ice cream!

I also did some modules outside of my degree in politics and international relations and for the three years that I was in Exeter I was very involved with Amnesty International and did a lot of campaigning against human rights abuses across the world, including a lot of work on gender equality and women’s rights, which is something I’m still passionate about.

When I left Exeter I was fortunate to get a paid internship with a small project in London called the MsUnderstood Project, working on young people’s experiences of gender inequality. Following this I worked briefly as a teaching assistant in a year 1 class, and in a bookshop as a Christmas Temp, and then got a job as a research assistant at the University of Bedfordshire where I stayed for two and a half years. My job there involved working with young people to think about the best ways of protecting children from harm, and how to improve services to make sure they listen to children and work in the best way to support children and young people.

All these experiences instilled in me a real desire to work to support young people to have their voices heard in a variety of settings, to make sure policies and systems work for young people, based on their expertise, and to work to challenge wider structural systems that typically exclude children and young people from power and decision making. When the opportunity came up to do a PhD in collaboration with RECLAIM, who are doing brilliant work on these issues, I thought this be a fantastic research project to work on, and so far it definitely has!

Going further...

  • For more information about Geography at MAnchester, visit the website: https://www.seed.manchester.ac.uk/geography
  • Amnesty International UK is the organisation I first started working with when I was a student, to find out more about their work to protect human rights across the world you can check out their website here: https://www.amnesty.org.uk
  • The MsUnderstood Project was set up to improve local and national responses to young people’s experiences of inequality. The project has now finished but you can find information about the project and a number of resources on their website: http://www.msunderstood.org.uk
  • The University of Bedfordshire have a number of resources, many created in collaboration with young people, aimed at improving support for young people who have experienced harm. You can find out more about their work here: https://www.beds.ac.uk/ic
  • You can find out more about RECLAIM and the brilliant campaigning work they are doing here: https://www.reclaim.org.uk 
  • A recent campaign run by young people at RECLAIM was the #IfWeDidThis campaign, you can watch the video here: https://www.reclaim.org.uk/ifwedidthis
  • Kids of Colour is a Manchester-based organisation which provides a platform for young people of colour to explore race, identity and culture and challenge the everyday, institutionalised racism that shapes their lives. Their website has loads of brilliant videos and information about upcoming events (when these are back on): http://kidsofcolour.com
  • If you are interested in campaigning work Campaign Bootcamp have interesting and informative blogs, along with other resources to help you get started: https://campaignbootcamp.org
  • To keep up with me, check ut my Univerisity of Manchester page: https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/elizabeth.ackerley-2.html