Blog

Only showing posts tagged with 'undergraduate' Show all blog posts

Study Abroad: Where will your degree take you?

by YPU Admin on November 12, 2015, Comments. Tags: European Studies, french, languages, politics, Research, Study Abroad, undergraduate, and UoM

Introduction

Hi, my name is Carys Rees-Owen and I am a recent graduate of European Studies and French. Doing a joint honours degree gave me loads of options, which is why I chose this degree. I studied French, History and English Literature at A levels – I always knew I wanted to study French at university, as I loved languages, but I also wanted to specialise in another subject. European Studies allows you to choose any module from the Politics, History or Economics department, with one or two compulsory modules in European Politics every year. I decided to focus on politics modules as I’d always followed the news and took part in debates.

In Depth

Choosing Where To Go

The best thing about my degree was the option to spend my third year abroad in order to improve my French. I had the choice of studying abroad, teaching English abroad as an English Language Assistant or working abroad. I wanted a bit of variety, and definitely wasn’t ready to get a proper job or internship. I wasn’t too eager to spend a whole other year studying either, but I did want to experience life as a French student. I decided to make a compromise – I applied to study at a university in Lyon, France for the first term and then applied to be a Comenius assistant in Martinique, a small French island in the Caribbean, for the second term. A Comenius assistant is similar to an English Language Assistant, however with the option to teach another subject besides English (like politics). All assistant jobs are funded by the British Council, meaning all my accommodation, food and travel costs were covered as well as an allowance for living. I also got an Erasmus grant for studying at a European university, so the cost of going abroad was never a big worry for me.

My Year Abroad

I moved to Lyon, France’s second biggest city, at the end of summer 2013. After a lot of searching, I managed to find a flat with another 3 French students just down the road from my university. The next five months are a blur of cheese, good wine and French cafés. I loved living in France, but studying there was completely different to how I imagined. Lectures lasted 3 hours long (when in Manchester they last an hour) and it felt a bit more like high school – there was a lot less discussion and debate than I was used to in Manchester. I studied Politics modules there, but in French. It was interesting to see how similar topics were taught in France but from a completely different angle. I did struggle at first with my courses but as my French improved I found it a lot easier. I saw such a drastic improvement in my French in such a short amount of time, and definitely took advantage of discovering a new city.


I then moved to Martinique in January 2014. It’s such a beautiful island, with so many white sandy beaches, thick jungle and a great mix of French and local Creole culture existing there. I worked in a high school for 5 months, working roughly twelve hours a week.  This meant that the rest of the time I had there I was free to do whatever I wanted. I spent my time on beaches, hiking in the jungle and mountains and exploring the island. Teaching English was challenging, especially considering that my pupils were only 4 years younger than myself but it was a really good way to integrate into the local community. I made really good friends with some of the other teachers there, who taught me more about the culture and history of Martinique.


Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better year abroad. I got to experience French student life, as well as spend months lounging on white sand beaches in the Caribbean. More importantly, my French improved drastically, as did my confidence. Moving to a completely different country without knowing anybody is incredibly challenging, and sometimes frustrating, but the experiences I had were definitely worth it.

Going Further

Getting the chance to study abroad isn’t just limited to language students either – check if your course allows you to study abroad for a semester! I’d recommend checking out these websites for more information on what you could do:

www.thirdyearabroad.com  

http://www.britishcouncil.org/study-work-create


 

From undergraduate to PhD student

by YPU Admin on March 14, 2014, Comments. Tags: biomedical science, pharmacology, postgraduate, and undergraduate

Introduction

If someone had asked me at the start of my final year of my undergraduate degree, ‘do you fancy doing a PhD when you finish uni?’ my answer would have been an outright NO! Yet, here I am, now in my second year of my PhD in the role of exercise on cardiovascular disease risk in psoriasis.  So what changed my mind? Well, it was only when I entered my final year of my undergraduate degree that I actually started to seriously consider my career options. My undergraduate degree was in Biomedical Sciences and I wanted to find out what I could do with my degree (aside from the obvious career pathways like Biomedical Scientist or scientific research).


In Depth

So, after hours of trawling the internet, numerous career appointments and countless chats with my academic tutors I had a much clearer idea of what was out there. However, despite all this time and effort I invested into researching potential future careers I still wasn’t 100% sure. Although, I particularly liked the idea of becoming a medical writer because writing is something I like doing and something that I enjoy. Also I had a lot of time for my subject area as I found it interesting and enjoyed learning about various aspects of science.

Another thing which interested me was intellectual property, which was first brought to my attention in one of my pharmacology lectures. I soon learned that I could become a patent attorney. The more I read about this area of work, the more it appealed to me. This career path is an opportunity to merge law and science. Naturally, because I don’t have a background in law (like the vast majority of patent attorneys according to my research) this career requires you to undertake training and sit examinations. This is something which doesn’t really bother me too much (after all I’ve already spent years doing it and a couple more won’t hurt!). Anyway, after reading up on what’s required for this type of career I found that a PhD is ‘preferable.’ Now I know this doesn’t mean a PhD is essential, however, I thought whether I decide to go into medical writing or become a patent attorney, either way a PhD will stand me in good stead.

So that’s when I took the plunge and began searching for a PhD. I had a specific criterion already in mind in terms of what I wanted from a PhD. The things I knew for sure was: a) I wanted to stay at the University of Manchester, b) I wanted a PhD with a studentship so I didn’t have to worry about funds for the next 3 or 4 years and c) I didn’t want a PhD that was solely lab-based (I didn’t mind a bit of lab work but I hated being in the lab for hours on end!). So with all this in mind I started looking at what was on offer and began to pick out projects which captured my interest.

Eventually, I decided to apply for two PhD projects. I realise this doesn’t sound like a lot but the way I saw it was a PhD is a huge commitment and I wanted to be sure that my chosen project was something I was interested in and something I wanted to dedicate my time and effort to. And so for this reason I was very selective in terms of my applications for PhD projects. Something else which really helped me decide on which projects I wanted to submit applications to was going and actually talking to the supervisors about the project and what exactly I would be doing as a PhD student on their project.

So… out of the two applications I submitted I was invited for interview for one of the projects along with two other candidates. The supervisor requested that each candidate put together a presentation covering various topics including: why did we want to do a PhD, why did we want to do a PhD in Manchester and why did we want this specific project. Each candidate was also sent a copy of the research proposal which we were asked to read and comment on in our presentations. We had to say how we would structure our approach/time to the work outlined in the proposal and also comment on how we would perhaps improve the proposal and what other ideas we had.

The interview itself was, as you can imagine, nerve-wracking and very stressful! However, it was a valuable experience. There were five interviewers on the panel, three of which were my potential supervisors. Personally, I found the interview particularly stressful as I was up against two other candidates who both had a Master’s degree along with other research experience, whereas I had just come to the end of my undergraduate degree and was expected to achieve a 2.1.

Anyway, after the stress of my final exams and the PhD interview I found out (just a few days after the interview) that I had been awarded the position on the PhD programme. Naturally, I was over the moon and accepted the place on the programme! Now here I am in my second year of my PhD and I am thoroughly enjoying the experience so far.

Going Further

Find out about studying Biomedical Science at the University of Manchester here.
This blog was originally posted on the University of Manchester careers blog, which can be found here.
You can find more information about careers in Biomedical Science here and here.

 

Chinglish – the influence of English in China?

by YPU Admin on February 27, 2014, Comments. Tags: languages, Research, and undergraduate

Our ‘Undergraduate Research’ section will provide an insight into research conducted at an undergraduate level and feature case studies of undergraduate researchers at the University of Manchester.

Introduction 

Hello! My name is Susie Jones, and I graduated from The University of Manchester in 2013 with a joint honours degree in English Language and Chinese.

The topics I studied in English were very different from those studied in 6th form – there was a greater focus on linguistics (the scientific study of language). Although different, I found it really interesting and decided to focus my studies on language variation in my final year. I was interested in how and why certain groups of people speak differently, whether these differences have changed over time and across space, and whether they have an impact on people’s attitudes towards language.

As for the Chinese side of my course, I started studying it from scratch and my year abroad in China inspired me to find out more about the language and how it works. Although writing a research dissertation wasn’t a compulsory element of my course, I felt it would be a good way to get a deeper understanding of the language I was learning and develop a range of skills.


My research

While I was in China, I noticed that people often used different words for the same thing. Not a particularly strange phenomenon (this occurs frequently in English too), but I found it odd that in Chinese, some of these would sound quite similar to English. For instance, a bus would sometimes be called ‘gong-gong-chee-chur’ but could also be called ‘ba-suh’, which is obviously inspired by the English pronunciation.

There are lots of examples of these two languages ‘borrowing’ from each. Did you know, the saying “long time no see” is actually taken from Chinese? It’s a result of language contact as the world becomes smaller and people have become more geographically mobile.

So I set about putting together a questionnaire to test whether Chinese speakers in China were more likely to use an ‘Englishised’ version of a word (one that sounds similar to English), or an indigenous equivalent (one that is originally made from Chinese sounds).  My supervisor (a specialist in language variation and change) helped me design a questionnaire  to test the words that speakers would use, which included naming pictures, filling in gaps and judging the acceptability of sentences containing ‘Englishised’ words.

The questionnaire was sent to 72 Chinese speakers in China who were of a range of different ages, came from different areas of China and had varying levels of education. This way, I would be able to see whether these three variables would have an effect on the words that they chose.


Conclusion

Before doing the research, I had predicted that a speaker’s age, location and level of education would have an impact on whether they chose a more ‘Englishised’ word or not. However, my results showed that these factors didn’t have much of a bearing on their linguistic choices. Rather, speakers were more sensitive to the deeper linguistic characteristics of the word itself (the number of syllables or location of stress for example). With further research, these types of findings could have a significant impact on the work of translators, dictionary writers and those who work on language policy.

Overall, the influence of English in mainland China has not been as extensive as it has been in other Chinese speaking regions such as Hong Kong and Taiwan, which have been historically more open to the rest of the world. It’s a nice example of how socio-political circumstance can have an impact on the way we speak and demonstrates how language is intrinsically connected with the way the world works. 

Any time you think some other language is strange, remember that yours is just as strange - you're just used to it.
Linguistic Mystic.

Going further

For more information about the English Language and Linguistics courses at the University of Manchester, click here.

For information about languages at the University of Manchester, click here.

Mandarin Chinese isn’t as difficult as you might think! Find out why here.

There are many reasons to study languages - find out why here.

 

Undergraduate Research

by YPU Admin on September 26, 2013, Comments. Tags: Research and undergraduate

Our new ‘Undergraduate Research’ section will provide an insight into research conducted at an undergraduate level and feature case studies of undergraduate researchers at the University of Manchester.

Introduction 

Hi, my name is Samantha Levitt and I have just graduated from The University of Manchester with an undergraduate degree in English Language, Literacy and Communication. During my time at the University of Manchester, I undertook 2 separate pieces of research; one in the second year of my course and one in my third and final year. My second year piece was based on child language acquisition but in my third year I decided I wanted to research something completely different.


My research

At the time of choosing my third year research question for my 12,000 word dissertation, I was working part-time at The University of Manchester in their Recruitment and Widening Participation department. The role of the department is to implement activities which encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds which are under-represented in Higher Education to raise their aspirations and consider Higher Education. I was specifically working with a programme called the Manchester Access Programme (MAP) which supports college students in the Greater Manchester area applying for university – I was a participant of the programme myself. My interest in this area of work led me to consider the possibility of using this subject area and the programme as the basis of my research.

Once I had the name of my Research Supervisor, I met with her to discuss whether my research was possible and if so, how I would do it. She agreed with me that she felt this was a good line of enquiry, although believed that I needed to refine my research in order to ensure that I was going to be able to fit all of my research into 12,000 words. With the help of my tutor, I decided I would use MAP as a case study for investigating how effective Widening Participation programmes are in supporting the students involved.

Experience

Once I had my idea, I needed to decide how I would collect my data. I had the choice of either collecting quantitative (numbers and figures) or qualitative (opinions) data. After much consideration, I decided upon qualitative data as I wanted to gain evidence on how the students felt about the programme. Also, my insight into the programme taught me that there was a large amount of quantitative gained by the team but there was only a small amount of qualitative data so it would be more useful to the programme to gain some qualitative data for them to reflect upon.

Once I had decided which type of data I wanted to use, I had to think about which research method I would use. After much reading and discussions with my Supervisor, I decided that interviews and focus groups would allow me to expand on ideas the participants have and would allow me to have a select few participants who provided a large amount of information.

Possibly the biggest challenge of my dissertation was actually being able to fit all the information I had gathered into 12,000 words as I had collected a large amount of data, read extensively about the subject area and had a lot of opinions regarding  how I collected my data and came to various conclusions. However, the large amount of information meant that my research was successful in establishing a variety of conclusions. The conclusions of my research indicated that MAP was highly successful in supporting their students in a variety of ways such as the scholarships the students receive, the advice they get from the programme and the experiences they have such as, being able to write an academic assignment with the help of an Academic Tutor from the University. However, my research also highlighted some improvements that the programme could make.

Current job

Shortly after handing in my dissertation, I applied to for the position of an Undergraduate Recruitment and Widening Participation Intern (MAP Programme) and was successful. Therefore, my dissertation not only gave me great skills such as research, independent work and academic writing but it also allowed me a great insight into a profession and helped me to decided that this was definitely the career for me. Also, the knowledge I gained from completing this research gave me a great head start when I started my job.


Going further...

More information about the Language, Literacy & Communication course at the University of Manchester, click here.

Further details about the Manchester Access Programme can be found here.

The Guardian recently ran a feature about how to plan and write a dissertation.

Look at the British Council of Undergraduate Research which recognises the research taken by undergraduate students. It also gives you the opportunity to browse journals and articles written by undergraduate students.