Having just graduated (it’s been 57 days, 2 hours and 3 minutes… but who’s counting?) Cerys Spilsbury reflects on her time at university and life afterwards…
For all of the new students – welcome to the University of Manchester! You are sure to have a fantastic, fabulous and fun-fuelled time. When I first started my degree it was a scary period; I didn’t know anybody on my course or in my halls of residence, and I left with friends for life and co-founding a theatre company without having to blackmail anyone!
If I could go back in time and give myself any tips, it would be to:
- Use and abuse your student discount. The saying ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ has never been truer. Once it’s gone, it’s unfortunately gone. Sign up to UniDays with your student card or get an NUS card and be sure to carry it around with you at all times. You never know when you’re going to be able to use it.
- Sign up to anything that takes your fancy during the Fresher’s Fair. Don’t worry about committing too much to anything – they will all have taster sessions you can go to and try out, and from there you can whittle down your choices. You never know what might come about if you try anything once!
As you get further into the year and your work load starts to build, balancing your study and other commitments is definitely something to keep track of. I learnt this the hard way, but there is a much easier answer: plan, plan, and plan. Make sure you know when your deadlines are – and keep checking! Sometimes you can have a date in your head and then find out it’s sooner than you thought. Lecturers don’t want you to fail, and encourage you to send essay plans to them for feedback – be sure to take advantage of this whilst you can! Their comments are often invaluable and can be the key to raising your mark to the next grade. The sooner you are able to get into that habit, the better it is as you go onto third year and eventually into your dissertation. Plus, who doesn’t love higher marks?!
Speaking of third year, check your blood pressure levels. It’s a busy time, for you and everyone around you. With so many different commitments going on, taking time to relax is vital for both your mental and physical health. Whether it’s in a group or on your own, allocate time each week for you to de-stress and re-energise.
I have to add – something I think is really important to remember is that studying drama doesn’t mean you have to become an actor. There are so many opportunities to explore different areas such as writing, directing, and producing, and even if you don’t enjoy one discipline, there are so many more for you to try. Initially, I came into UoM with a passion for comedy acting, but at university there were more things going on than I had imagined, and I quickly fell into producing, and loved it.
One of my highlights at university, and that helped to develop my producing skills, was getting involved with the University of Manchester Drama Society, and I would absolutely recommend signing up right away at the Fresher’s Fair (or afterwards – there’s no time limit). Not only did I meet some amazing people but it was also one of the most enjoyable experiences I had during my degree. It also led to co-founding a company, Bareback Productions, and taking the play up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe independently this summer, where we were able to meet other companies, talk about ideas and managed to bag ourselves a cheeky 5* review as well!
Most importantly, I would say acknowledge that there is life outside of university, and Manchester holds lots of opportunities in it as well. Try not to be overwhelmed, and take things in your stride. Whatever you end up doing, I’m sure you’ll have fun.