Many students choose to move to a different university for postgraduate study. This can be for a variety of reasons ranging from wanting to study at a university with a higher ranking, to simply wanting to discover a new place. Whatever the reason, there are both positives and negatives to starting again somewhere new.
MSc Biological Sciences student, Emma Hazelwood, made the switch from Sheffield to Manchester last summer and has found the move both challenging and refreshing. Here, she provides a few pearls of wisdom to students who may be considering postgraduate study elsewhere…
Finding somewhere to live
The first step in deciding where to live is choosing who you want to live with. Fortunately, I happened to have a friend who already lived in Manchester who I could live with. If living with a friend is not an option, websites such as Spare Room (www.spareroom.co.uk) can be useful. Alternatively, you may be able to find someone online with whom you have a common interest or mindset. For instance, there are many local Facebook groups for specific interests where people often post looking for flatmates.
The next step is finding a flat or house. The easiest way to do this is to decide on a budget, look through estate agent websites, and visit anywhere which looks like it might be suitable. Of course, student halls are always an option. However, in my experience, they are often more expensive and not as well maintained as private accommodation. When looking for somewhere to live, proximity to university may be a priority – most postgraduate courses can be quite intense and so you will probably be at university (or in the library) most days.
Making new friends
Leaving all your friends behind can be one of the scariest parts about starting somewhere new. However, remember that there will be lots of other students in the same situation as you. If you are doing a course with a lot of contact hours, you will likely make friends with your course mates. If your course includes activities in smaller groups, such as tutorials or seminars, a great way to make new friends is definitely suggesting an activity together after class. Even though it can feel awkward as no one knows each other, I would highly advise going for a coffee or drink, especially if you don’t have many contact hours. Likewise, if someone else suggests a meet up in the first few weeks it is worth prioritising.
Another way to make friends is by joining societies. Most societies have regular meetings or socials, where you can get to know people with similar interests. There is a university society for almost anything you can think of. Some examples include political societies where there may be a weekly debate or talk; musical societies where you can play an instrument in a group; sports societies which generally have multiple teams and require varying levels of commitment. Most student unions have a comprehensive list of societies on their website and there will be a freshers fair at the beginning of term where you can chat to current society members. Do not be afraid to join a society on your own – you will not be the only one. Even if you were not in any societies before, joining one and taking up a new hobby is a great way to meet people, make friends, and get out.
Getting used to a new university
Alongside potentially moving to a new city, you will also be getting used to a new university. This involves learning about the buildings and possibly a new form of teaching. In terms of getting to know your way around, this is something that comes with time. I recommend looking up the particular building you need to get to before starting your journey.
Getting used to a new way of teaching can have several challenges – mainly writing for new marking criteria and learning material in a different way. As for writing for new marking criteria, there may be an element of trial and error. Most marking criteria can be found online in the module information. It may also be useful to talk to a coursemate who did their undergraduate degree at that university. As for learning material in a new way, my top tip is to keep organised and take lots of notes – it will be a lot easier to settle into the course if you know what you need to know and how you are being assessed.
Overall, moving to a new university can be challenging but at the same time very rewarding. In starting again in a new place, you develop many life skills, including confidence and independence. Hopefully, these tips will help you get the most you can out of your postgraduate experience.