Six weeks of the second semester have gone, and the pressure of having the assignments ready is greater every day. In my case, my main concern is to choose a final dissertation topic and narrow it to a single question. I am afraid of not choosing the right topic or selecting the topic that I like the most but which could be difficult to develop or find available information.
Fortunately, I have found incredible support from the School since many professors have spent their time talking to me and hearing my ideas. Although I am still in this process, all that assistance has helped me to get closer to defining my research question. Also, all of them have been open to supervising my dissertation according to their expertise.
I recommend new students not be scared about this aspect. For me, it is the second time that I am going to write a dissertation; but for many classmates, it is their first time. For this reason, the School assists you during the entire process. In fact, I find the Research Methods unit very useful to address the first stages of the dissertation. However, I suggest having from the beginning, at least, a field of interest; an area that you would like to research and dedicate all your effort during the last months of the course. Typically, you will shape your final decision throughout the units and according to the lectures, but your general preferences are not going to change.
On the other hand, you will have all the regular assessments and duties of the semester, making time invaluable. This semester is shorter than the last one concerning the optional courses, but it demands more time. You will have long assignments to finish in two months, with most of the deadlines after the spring break. So, if you want to enjoy the break, please organise yourself very well, start working on the assignments early and take advantage of time, don’t waste it.
Bearing that in mind, I would like to share some of the recommendations made by Omar Gamboa (2017), a blogger of El Tiempo, one of the leading Colombian newspapers. Among all his suggestions, I want to point out the importance and the convenience of having a ‘To-Do’ list, assuring that you will not forget your duties, and avoiding the stress of keeping all in your mind. With this list, you can also organise your activities by importance and by length. In this way, one can allocate a short part of the day, could be the first part, to finish most of the shortest tasks and reduce the list. Then, one can concentrate on the most important activities during the rest of the day.
Additionally, I strongly recommend using any free time to advance in your assignments and avoid struggling with them at the last minute. I have found the cloud services (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) strongly useful, because they allow me to work anywhere and anytime, even on my mobile phone or tablet. Also, the University has its own cloud drive, which offers storage of 25 GB per student to help them to have all our work with us.
Besides, the University has important alliances with IT companies. For instance, all the students have access to a Microsoft Office licence during their studies. This has been wonderful to me because I could download all MSOffice apps in my devices to take advantage of free time.
Finally, the University has its own app called iManchester and the interactive map is priceless at the beginning of the semester when you do not know the Campus. This map saved me much stress to arrive classes on time. I encourage all new students to check the University IT Services’ website to harness all its tools (www.itservices.manchester.ac.uk).
In conclusion, to make the most of this intensive year, you have to be prepared to work hard and use your time smartly. Take advantage of all the resources offered by the University, both human and technological, and of many more resources that you will discover during your studies. In that way, you will really love being a student.
Enjoy your University time!