Study the Student: Aaliyah Riaz

Welcome to our new blog series- Study the Student. In this series, we will be catching up with current undergraduate students at The University of Manchester, who have previously taken part in some of our access schemes. In our first post of the series, we’ll be talking to Aaliyah Riaz, a First Year Medicine Student, who participated in the Manchester Access Programme before coming to study at university.

We’ll be asking Aaliyah about all things university and MAP, with some really helpful tips and advice from Aaliyah for current Year 11 and Year 12 students- so read on to find out more!
Who are you?

Hi, my name is Aaliyah, and I am in my first year studying Medicine, at the University of Manchester. I like reading, particularly crime or mystery novels, graphic novels, and comics. I enjoy drawing and baking in my free time, but that is usually limited, as I have 5 younger siblings and thus it is often chaos at home. I am part of widening participation and completed MAP during Year 12-13. I live at home, within Greater Manchester, thus commute into Manchester for university.

What degree do you study? What do you enjoy most about studying this degree?

I am currently in my 1st year studying Medicine at the University of Manchester. Medicine is taught in a PBL (problem base learning) style at Manchester, which I like as it gives me independence to learn content and then also allows me to consolidate my knowledge in a casual yet collaborative environment with my PBL group. I really like learning about the physiology of the body and conditions and pinning that to real life cases.

Where are you from and what school/college did you go to?

I am from Bury, Greater Manchester. I went to a state high school: The Derby High School and a sixth form: Holy Cross College.

Did you always know you wanted to go to university?

I really loved science growing up and problem-solving, detective-type activities. I was always (still am) curious in how things worked, and I also liked helping people. All these qualities aligned with the career of a doctor, which I became increasingly interested in whilst growing up. For my ambition to become a doctor, I researched in high school and spoke to past students during Gateways events during high school, I thus became aware I had to go to university and obtain a Medicine degree to pursue my dream career.

How did MAP help prepare you for university? What would you say are the main benefits in taking part in the programme and would you recommend taking part in MAP to a prospective student?

I honestly found MAP to be extremely useful and just an enjoyable experience. Immediately, I was introduced to others who also wanted to go to university and were in similar positions as me, which made the process a little less daunting. I am the first person in my family to attend university or any form of higher education, so I did not know a lot about university before attending MAP, so MAP gave me the chance to learn more through the University Life events.

I was initially nervous about the MAP Academic Assignment- at the time it seemed scary, especially as I was doing all science-based subjects, with no experience of essay writing. However, I really enjoyed completing my MAP essay. I enjoyed learning about a topic I was interested in, and I also learnt many skills along the way; this included researching and referencing skills, which put me at an advantage coming into university and having to complete projects which needed those skills.

Decision Manchester was immensely helpful; it allowed me to submit my application earlier to the university and see whether I would receive an offer to an interview. This was extremely helpful at the time, as it meant that I could relieve some stress, by knowing my application was satisfactory enough to receive an interview; that allowed me more time to start practising for interviews. It also meant that in the case it did not go well, I had time to rectify any errors and improve my application. There is also the grade reduction offer that is available after you complete MAP; this can be really helpful in relieving some stress regarding the entry grade requirements and can really be helpful if needed.

I would really recommend any prospective students, who are eligible, to participate in MAP; it honestly is extremely helpful in getting into university and even after, with the financial support and social opportunities available for MAP students. It is also an enjoyable experience, where you can learn more and have fun during a time which would otherwise be pretty stressful.

Could you briefly describe the sorts of things you do in your degree (e.g. lectures, seminars, essays etc). and what sort of things you learn about?

For Medicine at Manchester, we are taught in a PBL (Problem Based Learning) style of teaching. We start the week off in our group of around 10 other people with a case. We discuss it and compile research questions that we focus on throughout the week. This research is supported by online lectures which I can watch comfortably in my own time. We then come back together at the end of the week, to discuss our findings of the case and consolidate information. There are also weekly anatomy topics that link to the case, that we go over in a zoom session and then in the anatomy dissection rooms. We also learn about pharmacology through online workbooks. Every week, we also have sessions to practise communication skills and physical skills in labs. Each semester covers different topics. This roughly covers the first 2 years of study, which are preclinical. From Year 3 onwards, we then have clinical placements, in hospital or clinics.

Have you got a favourite module/topic that you’ve studied?

I am currently in my first year studying Medicine, so I haven’t covered a huge variety of topics. However, I really enjoyed learning about Immunology, through cases about HIV and Breast Cancer in Semester 1. I also am really enjoying Semester 2 topics, which is focused on Cardiorespiratory system- so heart and lungs. This is surprising as I thought I wouldn’t enjoy these topics after having found it difficult in A Level Biology, but I am really finding the cardiorespiratory topic interesting.

Do you know what you want to do after university? If not, do you know some of the things that other students on your degree often do after university?

I would like to become a doctor, after having completed my Medicine degree. I know I would like to work in some form of clinical environment, but I am not entirely sure what I would like to specialise in yet. However, I am aware that there are many options after a degree in medicine- other than just the clinical pathway as a doctor; there are also teaching, researching and publishing opportunities, along with many other.

What would you say to a student in Y11/Y12 from a similar background to you who is thinking of going to university? Do you have any advice or helpful tips?
  • Try to stay on top of revision.
    • If you use spaced repetition, it’ll avoid you the stress of last-minute revision before exams, which will cause you unnecessary stress and can be unhealthy in long term.
    • Getting into a method of practising independent learning, will also help you in the long-term studying at university or when working.
  • Research all about your course and the university immediately.
    • Some courses have grade requirements and even require certain A Level or B-tech subjects to be studied in Year12/13. It is best to check this out beforehand.
    • When researching about university, use official websites like UCAS or the university websites to find out more about the course and requirements.
    • To find out more about student life, use websites like The Student Room, Brightside mentoring or online forums, as you can get honest advice from students who were in similar positions to you and who actually study there.
    • Don’t just focus on university rankings; make sure to research more about facilities, students’ unions, opportunities, student support and even the location of the university- what student life actually is like.
    • If you have questions or you are confused about anything, don’t hesitate to ask. You could email the university directly or check the university website or even ask a Unibuddy on their website. It is better to clarify than not knowing or remaining confused.
    • Get involved in programmes like MAP if you’re eligible or attend open days if you can. They can give you better or additional insight into university, than just researching online.
  • Make sure to take care of your mental health and wellbeing.
    • Ensure to take time out to enjoy hobbies and free time.
    • I know that A Levels, and even life in general, can be stressful, so make sure to relax alongside studying and applying to university. Find something that keeps you grounded, that you can enjoy or relax because of.
    • If you do need help or any support, make sure to reach out; it’s easier said than done, but there are people who will want to help and won’t judge you, so please be aware of this and reach out if needed.
Well, that was our first instalment of ‘Study the Student’. Thank you so much to Aaliyah for her amazing responses and really helpful advice for current GCSE and A Level/BTEC students. Next time we’ll be catching up with a former participant in the Manchester Distance Access Scheme!