Sharing the inspiring stories of our students and their amazing achievements
As a 3rd year medical student and founder of Manchester Outreach Medics, Ben aims to make medicine accessible to all.
"During my time in secondary school, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. As I began to think about my career, I thought about the best ways I could help people. I love science, problem-solving, communicating and working in teams, so pursuing medicine was the clear choice for me.
Throughout my first two years at University, I volunteered with the charity Reach Out and this was mainly by mentoring and leading other volunteers. I absolutely loved being part of the charity and it was also good for my own mental health and wellbeing. In my third year I moved to Preston to begin my placement. I wanted to continue my volunteering work, so I set up my own society – Manchester Outreach Medics (MOMs).
MOMs is a widening participation project which aims to provide an insight into the application process and life at medical school by going out to colleges and running workshops. My friends soon heard about the idea and before we knew it, we had a society with lots of volunteers! Being the person behind MOMs makes me feel a mixture of pride and fortune.
I’ve been very lucky with the volunteers from day one and they were the reason I kept going with the society. I’m really lucky to have the team I do. I feel more confident and lenient in myself as I’ve faced challenges in setting up initiatives, seeing my visions and getting people behind them. The society is always at the back of my mind, but I do find it very rewarding.
Earlier this year after a MOMs event in Blackburn, a sixth form student who was applying for medical school came up to us to say 'thank you'. She mentioned how she found our event more helpful than the typical industry ones. Thinking about it, that was my biggest achievement as its quite powerful to think how a few students who run the events in their spare time, at little cost, had a big impact in such a simple way.”
Amelie is an Elnora Ferguson Equity and Merit Scholarship recipient from Rwanda. One of 16 Equity and Merit students this year, Amelie hopes to use her MSC in Global Development and Urban Planning to build a better future for her country.
"After studying for my undergraduate degree in architecture and working for three years in Rwanda, I knew I wanted to study for a postgraduate degree abroad. Luckily, I found the Equity and Merit scholarships at Manchester. What struck me the most about the scholarship was how it encouraged women to apply – this was a major plus for me to go for it.
When I found out I was awarded the scholarship, it was a huge moment for me. Coming from a family of seven, I was the first one to go for a master’s degree. My family were really happy for me. I talk to my family a lot about my life in Manchester. When you live in a different country the way you see things change. Everything is different. As a person my confidence in speaking English has developed. Studying for classes, understanding technology and balancing my time was also a challenge, but with time it got better.
I like to tell my younger brother about the library as he loves books. He’s still in high school but wants to continue onto university. As a family we didn’t really talk about studying for a further qualification. But when I talk to them about my life in Manchester, it makes them want to do more themselves.
When I graduate my plan is to go back to Rwanda and apply my knowledge to the development of my country. In 1994 Rwanda experienced a genocide and it is still re-building itself, improving infrastructure and housing for people. I think it is the perfect time for me to go and contribute my knowledge to my country, which is something I feel empowered, challenged and honoured by."
For two years, Kelly coordinated the popular Ted X UoM talks for hundreds of people and she's using the experience to help create her future.
"When I wrote my personal statement for university, I realised I was lacking some extra experience and I felt I should have done more throughout my high school. Once I arrived in Manchester, I thought I should get involved with new things that I had never tried before.
After visiting the Students' Union fair, I joined Enactus Manchester which is an entrepreneurial and volunteering society. I thought it was a good choice to get involved with a society related to my degree subject as it could enhance my business skills. By joining Enactus, I got to know the person who started Ted X UoM and they encouraged me to apply for a role on the committee.
When I saw the role of Event Coordinator, I didn’t want to miss out as organising events was something I’ve always been interested in doing. Luckily for me, I became the Events Coordinator for the first year of Ted X UoM and in its second year, I became the Vice-Chair. Organising two Ted X UoM talks has been my biggest achievement at University.
When the latest conference ended, I couldn’t believe it. It took over a year of planning and it was great to see it all come together – it felt like a dream! Although I’m thinking about pursuing two completely different careers which can be quite confusing, I always make sure I’m making my time at Manchester worth it. I think it’s important to be open to opportunities and to not be afraid to take them."
After an unforgettable year studying abroad, Jake returned to Manchester feeling more confident and excited for his future.
"I studied abroad in Vancouver for a year which was phenomenal. Starting university again was a bit odd as I was basically a first year student again – but because I knew things I wish I had known, it made the experience slightly easier. I got involved with a couple of societies and by doing so, I made lots of wonderful friends.
I feel immensely fortunate to have such an amazing experience in Vancouver. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited. The entire experience built my confidence and I made friends who I’m sure will be friends for life. I also developed great friendships with my lecturers and met lots of contacts who I’m sure can help me with my future plans.
I’m in my final year and in all honesty, I don’t really know what I want to do after I graduate – which is a blessing, but also a curse! My experience at Manchester has taught me so much about myself. I now understand more about what I like and dislike which in itself has been invaluable. Through my course I’ve learnt how science is cool, but at this stage in my life, I know I don’t want a hard-core career in research.
As a result of being at such a great University, I’ve had so many opportunities to get involved in. The best things about my experience here have been the things on the side of my degree. At first I was initially a bit hesitant to study abroad as I didn’t want to leave Manchester because I loved it so much. But if anything, the time away made me appreciate all the unique things about the city and made me realise, I actually love Manchester even more."
As the winner of the Eli and Britt Harari Graphene Enterprise 2016 Award, Sebastian is tackling the global issue of water scarcity and looking at ways to improve the quality of people's lives with graphene.
"I applied for the Eli and Britt Harari Graphene Enterprise Award not really thinking I'd win. But I thought it was worth the shot and would be a good experience to think through the idea of seeing how a project could be commercialised. I took on the challenge and discovered how there was space for my idea.
Winning the award was a big surprise, but it was great and very exciting. As part of my graphene NOWNANO CDT (centre for doctoral training), I’m working on a desalination project which looks at incorporating sustainable energy to tackle the global issue of water scarcity. This project in particular caught my eye as what motivates me the most is working on technology which improves the quality of living and people’s lives.
The aim of the game is to think how technology can solve problems and have an influence for the better in the world. I’ve been interested in science for as long as I can remember and I have two main channels of interest. One being the curiosity side of science and analysing how things work in particular ways. The other is more focused on how human history has evolved and how technology has factored in to it. There are big problems to overcome, but I think being on the verge and change in technology is really exciting – particularly in Manchester.
I’ve loved my time here. I started my undergraduate degree at Manchester and I met some great academics and friends. Getting experience in my final year to work with graphene was great. It was a dream come true. I joined the University a year after the Nobel prize for graphene was awarded. So you could say I was eyeing it up from the beginning! Manchester is a great place to learn.
There’s plenty out there and it is so important to try and broaden your fields and not just live in the bubble of what you usually do. If you saturate your life and thoughts with one idea, you become less elastic. The world is full of problems and regardless of what you study, you can find some way to solve one of those issues. If it’s something you care about, dedicate your time to make it better. If everyone does that, even to a small extent, people would be happier and the world would be a better place.
Through her love for physics and maths, Martina set up the Nuclear Physics Society to inspire others to develop their knowledge and break the mould.
"When I arrived in Manchester, I thought to myself 'wow – this is a cool place!'. I think Manchester is really on top of its game when it comes to physics and maths. Coming here to study from Norway was new to me and I tried to get involved in a variety of societies and projects related to my course. As time went by, I realised I could do more myself and I set up the Nuclear Physics Society.
The society started out rather small, but students and professors soon began attending talks and signing up. Within a year, the society grew to over 200 members. As well as organising lots of interesting talks, we recently went on a trip to CERN which was incredible. Running the society is a lot of work, but I get good feedback and can see how the work is inspiring others, which makes me want to do even more. Knowing how I’ve inspired others with the Nuclear Physics society has also helped me to maintain my own motivation.
There’s no doubt about it, the physics and maths field is very male dominated. I often ask myself – why should it be like that? There are so many great women physicists and I think it’s more important than ever to break the mould. If I can help with that and inspire or make nuclear physics more accessible to women that would be amazing.
I remember when I first set up the society, I felt so nervous about public speaking – but now I love it! I feel my confidence has blossomed and my passion for the work I do has grown. Sometimes it may be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I remind myself how hard work pays off and people will appreciate it. With that in mind, it makes it all worth it."
Aiswarya volunteers her time to improve the lives of asylum seekers and refugees from Syria with the Refugee Conversation Club.
"When I first came to Manchester I looked for opportunities to volunteer and I discovered Student Action. I got involved with lots of different projects, but realised I really enjoyed being part of the Refugee Conversation Club and this year I became one of its leaders.
Every Saturday for two hours we run a session for all the asylum seekers and refugees in the area to learn English. Our learners mainly come from Syria and each one has different English proficiency levels. The club has a team of over 20 volunteers who help out and they are fantastic – we wouldn’t be able to do it without them!
Each week myself and my two co-leaders, meet up and plan a lesson for our learners; this varies from learning the alphabet and key topics to playing ice-breaker games.What motivates me the most is seeing how much our learners benefit from the sessions. You can see how much it has improved their lives – it’s given them the confidence to go out and look for jobs or study for qualifications in English.
My time at Manchester has been the best three years of my life so far. I've met people from all over the world, made some great friends and had opportunities to make a difference. I’ve realised no matter where you are in the world, there is always someone who needs your help and how you have the ability to improve someone else’s life. There are so many opportunities to help give back – what’s stopping you?"
Jenny has made a difference to the local community through her inspiring work with Incredible Edible and time spent helping Breakout Student Action.
"I'm now a Student Action project lead for Incredible Edible and I’m part of a team that manages two plots in Fallowfield and a greenhouse in Platt Fields Park. Incredible Edible gives communities the opportunity to grow their own sustainable fruit and vegetables and promote biodiversity. We encourage students to get involved by organising gardening events and make the produce available for the community which can be a useful source of food.
It's encouraging seeing the support from the community as everyone seems really positive and keen when they see students volunteering at the plots; with one being near a main road people come to chat or drive by, cheer and beep their horns.
We’re currently supporting a new Incredible Edible plot at St. Peter’s House Chaplaincy and we’re looking at how the student-led plots can work together with the chaplaincy team to share resources and knowledge. The chaplaincy also started 'bee-sitting’ hives from the Manchester Art Gallery - my time volunteering has thrown up some off-beat experiences, doing some city bee-keeping is certainly one of them! As I’m in labs a lot for my course, my work with Incredible Edible and the bee-keeping has given me the chance to get outside which I love doing.
I also help out with Breakout Student Action which takes local children from disadvantaged areas in Manchester on days out during the school holidays. I recently passed my mini bus driving test and a few weeks ago drove the Breakout group to Chester Zoo which was so much fun – I even managed to parallel park which was a bonus! It was so rewarding seeing the children getting involved; some of them had never seen a giraffe before. A few days before our visit to the zoo, a giraffe was born - they were besotted which was lovely to see."
With a desire to help the homeless people of Manchester, Lucia helped to set up the Big Change Society to help raise awareness of homelessness with students and bring about change.
"Before I knew it, I was at the end of my first year when I realised I didn't get involved with many extra activities since starting at Manchester. Over the summer I made a promise to myself that when I came back to University I would get involved with more.
I watched a documentary which highlighted the gap between the rich and poor in a developing country. What struck me was how close the rich and poor lived to each other. I was shocked at how so many wealthy people could walk past people with nothing every day. But then I realised, I walk past people who are on the streets suffering every day. I wanted to do something about it, so I went to the Students' Union (SU) for an event on homelessness.
The event inspired me even more to get involved, so I went to see the University's volunteering team, where I met Milly. Milly helped me to secure a work placement with the Big Change – a homelessness initiative from many of the grassroots homelessness charities in Manchester and the City Council, promoting long term change.
Following on from my placement, the Big Change campaign asked for help reaching out to students. I began by speaking with the SU to see how work supporting the homeless could improve and ran a couple of focus groups. The work led to me and my friend, CJ, setting up the Big Change Society earlier this year, which aims to support the wider campaign and raise awareness to students.
I've learnt a lot since setting up the society. Initially it was a challenge to get students on board and to develop particular roles for them, but I’m proud to see how people are starting to lead themselves. We now have seven other people taking on leadership roles within the society and it’s great to see how well attended the events are and how the team are working together for the future of the society.
My experience with the Big Change Society has made me feel more empowered. Now that I’m about to graduate I know I can do something that makes a difference to others. I want to have a career in business but I remember people telling me I’d never be a leader. They said I wasn’t that kind of person - but by looking back at everything I’ve achieved, I know I can actually do it."
Described as the 'heart and soul of SPORT Manchester' Jason juggles his PhD studies with inspiring the community to play badminton.
"I started playing badminton in 2009 and when I began my PhD, I felt I needed a side project to help my work-life balance. Since then badminton became more of a serious activity for me. I decided to start taking up more roles with SPORT Manchester and I became the badminton club's president; I also began helping at community events. For me, badminton made my life a bit more balanced as its quite a different and novel activity to do.
By leading the various badminton events, I’ve been able to interact with over 500 individual participants and I don’t think in any other situation I’d be able to meet so many people. In my opinion what makes sport fun, is how pretty much anyone can take it up. Helping at the Moss Side Sports Club and Levenshulme High School has been amazing. I really enjoy encouraging others to play badminton and it’s great to see them develop their skills and become part of the club’s community.
A year ago I had no plans to get as involved as I am with SPORT Manchester or the badminton club. The thought of organising events seemed like too much hassle. However, my initial negative mind-set has completely changed and now it makes me think how nice it is to do extra activities. Whenever I have the opportunity to do something, I say “why not?" – you never know it might be something you come to really enjoy and if you don't give it a go, you may regret it. I truly believe what you put in, is what you get out."
WHAT WILL YOU DO TO CHANGE THE WORLD?
The University of Manchester gives you the opportunities to do more and be more. We call it Stellify. It's time to let yourself shine.