Having graduated from her undergraduate degree in Urban Regeneration and Planning, Junyan joined The University of Manchester to study her master’s in Urban Design and International Planning.
On choosing my course
I took a few urban design courses during my undergraduate degree and developed a lot of interest around it.
The UDIP curriculum clearly strikes a balance between planning and design, which is ideal for me.
On my highlights
International urban design fieldtrip in Vienna! I really appreciated being able to see the ground realities, and got annotated by our wonderful team and those who work on the project (insider’s view!)
Besides there was a time in the class we were required to bid for the site for our group project within a couple of minutes, I believed many of us panicked. As an international student I’m comfortable presenting in English with a script in mind, presenting impromptu was something unexpected – but we did well! The experience is so valuable, and I believe it is an important skill in workplace as well.
Another highlight - I was awarded the Turley prize for the best Urban Design and Master planning Project. The learning process really enriched my understanding of place-making, of being functional and contextual, realistic and fun at the same time.
On my challenges
A lot of time and effort is required in private study apart from formal classes. Dissertation, group projects, studio course work, etc. I would say the time I spent on private study versus in-class learning is at least 1:8.
The design dissertation turned out to be the most challenging and rewarding experience to me. I got to choose my own topic which was very nice but also difficult in terms of how to frame the topic and approach it. I ended up with not having enough time to come up with pragmatic design solutions or recommendations. But this researching process was really fruitful and later on “intrigued” me to proceed my academic journey to do a PhD.
On my student experience
The UDIP programme has been the very enriching, engaging, challenging and fun. I was pushed out of my comfort zone for many times and were able to get to a better place in terms of how to design, how to conduct group work. I think the design part of the programme has congregated very well the academic and vocational perspectives. We had guest lecturers from design practice and from other academic disciplines, which is amazing.
Manchester has a vibrant and open urban environment. I was able to experience the atmosphere and passion around football, beers, pride communities, alternative culture and so on. There are abundant Chinese restaurants and supermarkets which also help to alleviate homesickness. It is also easy to get around by public transport regardless of the cost.
On being an international student and my advice for prospective international students
I really appreciated my year with UDIP, where I was exposed to a very friendly and welcoming environment. We had the chance to drink, have meals and hang out with people from all over the world, especially during the fieldtrip. Notably I became close to some from Middle Eastern countries, whose culture, food and language I have been curious and interested in. Outside of the classroom I got to encounter some interesting events often unexpectedly, markets, festivals etc., I remember there are family-oriented cycling events and naturism-oriented ones as well.
When I came to Manchester in 2017 I didn’t like city centre much. There weren’t enough nice open spaces. I always went for other cities or countries. The past year of pandemic has more or less prompted me to get around in my local area and things happening online.
I couldn’t recommend these areas enough – University Green and Brunswick Park on campus (which were under construction until 2019); Castlefield for culture and heritage; Northern Quarter for food and alternative culture; New Islington and Ancoats for housing projects; Salford Quays for a half-day get-away. Also the peaks on the east and seaside on the northwest would be wonderful places to explore.
I would also recommend searching for events on Eventbrite that interest you, most of them are free. I attended a bunch of insightful talks online during lockdown. Before lockdown there were interesting offline workshop as well.
Upon arrival, it’ll be great to attend orientation programmes organised by your departments, like a one-day trip in Manchester or to Liverpool. Whenever you need some advice, the Student Union and the international society are good places to go for. You may also want to find your favourite spots in the libraries and learning common because you will spend a great deal of time there!
On my extracurricular activities
I have attended a 6-week Japanese beginner class organised by the International Society, from where I met some really interesting people. I personally haven’t involved in any student societies, but I would definitely recommend a lot of wonderful sports societies in the university, such as yoga club, trampoline club … they are great!
On my future
I was unsure about my career proceedings during study but luckily there were people from the department who I could talk to. Eventually I decided to do a PhD and my course tutors very kindly wrote me reference letters and gave me words of advice. Being able to stay connected to these people whilst continuing doing research in the University really make me feel I am supported.
I would love to stay connected to those who are about to start a journey with UDIP and share my experiences. Feel free to drop me a message over email at firstname.lastname@example.org.