FBMH Stories: Ania Garstka

dsc_4636As part of our #FBMHstories for Instagram, we caught up with Ania Gartska, a first year BSc Psychology student who shared her experience of being a fresher.

Why did you choose to study at The University of Manchester?

Manchester was my second choice. I applied to London first, but I’m actually glad I have ended up in Manchester as it is very open to international students. As a student from Belgium, this is good for me.

It is also very modern and pretty — my parents told me it would look very industrial, but the mix of old and new is great: on the one hand you have Whitworth Hall and right next to it is the Ali G [Alan Gilbert Learning Commons], which is modern.

You’re a first year student, so have only been here a few months. How are you finding it so far?

I have made a lot of new friends from different backgrounds — I met one of my volleyball teammates on a campus tour. My current group of friends all met online before coming to Manchester — we’re now all hanging out and it’s great. It’s kind of weird to think that we met on one of those group chats for people starting university. We Skyped before we came to uni! It wasn’t awkward when we met in real life and we’re now planning to all live together next year.

It’s great that you’ve met lots of new people already! How was freshers week?

At the Ice Breaker we met a group who had a really drunk friend and he gave us a strip tease. I mean, he didn’t do it fully – it was a public space, but he started taking off his clothes and we were like “ooh okay, didn’t think he would do this”.

One night, my friend dragged me to a club. I wasn’t really up for going but I thought I will just go — and I met the 3 people from my school in the club that night! We hadn’t talked about it; nobody knew the other people were going out. It was such a coincidence. I have known one of the guys since pre-school!Another story is one that was a huge coincidence! I went to a European school in Brussels and three people from my school came to study in Manchester too, but we hadn’t met up for a long time and hadn’t met up in Manchester as everyone was studying different things.

What are you most enjoying about your course so far?

Mental Health and Wellbeing is the side of the course I am most looking forward to, but that’s not until the second semester, so I can’t really say much about that.

At the moment, I am really enjoying how we’re being taught. The lecturers are very passionate and make interesting slides to catch your attention. They’re all very creative. It’s a pleasure to listen to them. It makes it easy to learn when the lecturers are engaging. You can choose to sleep in a lecture, but if you listen it’s actually very interesting.

What do you like to do in the city?

I really like the cafes; I am going to be stereotypical and say that I love the Northern Quarter.

My favourite cafe is Ziferblat, which is a cafe where you pay for the time you spend there, not the food. It’s very warm there, like a big living room. They have board games and books, and you can draw things. I did a drawing while I was there. Things like that make it feel more like home.

Where is your favourite place on campus?

I do like the Ali G. I can’t get in the right headspace to study in my room and I really enjoy that it is a quiet and homely space, but other people are sat around, so it makes me focus. The library is also amazing. Yesterday I discovered study rooms that I really like. I went in at 8am this morning! It’s a good study environment.

What are your interests beyond psychology?

Philosophy! I really enjoy John Stuart Mill. His philosophy is that everyone should do what they want, as long as they don’t harm others.

I also play volleyball. I like team games. I’ve been out of practice for a while due to an injury, but the team here is lovely! I’m in the third team, so I haven’t really been playing matches, but it’s good for me because I’ve had a two-year break. We had a toga party where all the teams met and everyone was really nice. There is a Volleyball vs Cyclist challenge soon, which I really want to go to.

What do you miss most about home when you’re at university?

I miss the Brussels Metro! I also miss people speaking French, I really do. I have joined the Francophone Society here, but so far I’ve only been to one social. So, to make myself at home I listen to a French podcast.

How will you be celebrating the festive season?

When I go back for Christmas we have 12 dishes. We don’t have a Christmas dinner, but a Christmas Eve late dinner. You have to wait for the first star to show in the sky and then when everyone is ready you sit down and enjoy the food. There is also no meat – the only meat is fish.

We often put one chair out for an “unexpected guest” which was more useful for the old times when homeless people would knock on doors, looking for shelter. Some people do knock on doors now, but not many. Nobody has knocked on our door, but we keep the chair out because it is a tradition.

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