DominiKa Piasecka is in the second year of a Multimedia Journalism degree. Originally from Poland, she came to the UK with her family five years ago and they settled in London. Shortly after moving to Salford and taking up her place at the university, DominiKa’s family returned to Poland.

Finding herself starting university in a strange city, DominiKa decided to throw herself into her new life and take up as many activities as she could.

“I was told that you had much more time in your first year, so I decided to make the most of it,” she says. “I was a student rep, I ran two societies, I was an intern with the engagement team and I wrote the Create At Salford blog, which promotes the university by showing the work of its staff and students.

“Being away from my family, at first I was calling my mum every day – everything felt different and and lonely. Then after that first week I went home to see my family, and then I found that I was missing everyone and everything at uni!”

DominiKa took advantage of her free time in her first year by completing the Salford Advantage Award, a formal certificate that boosts employment prospects by proving students have committed to a minimum number of hours of work experience, as well as presenting their achievements to a panel of university dignitaries.

“The engagement team internship was part of the award,” she explains. “I also did work experience with the Croydon Guardian in London and then I was an intern at the Nubian Times, a Manchester based newspaper aimed at minority groups. The award is a fantastic achievement – you evaluate what you’ve done, reflect on it and present your findings, so not only are you doing the work, you’re building confidence and gaining new skills the whole time.”

Now in her second year, DominiKa has found she needs to devote more time to her studies, but still finds time to fit in plenty of activities. “I’m the chairwoman of the Japanese Society, and also the president of VegSoc (Vegan and Vegetarian Society),” she says. “That society is run across the three Manchester universities and I manage the Salford branch, although it’s not quite official yet.

“We organise a lot of events throughout Manchester: groups of us go out to eat in vegetarian and vegan restaurants, and we do something called vegan pot luck where everyone cooks one dish and we share them. We have film screenings, we have cookery nights, and we also offer support to people who want to become vegan or vegetarian. We do recipe swaps and exchange tips on our 500 plus member Facebook group and we also organise trips to Unicorn, the organic vegan supermarket in Chorlton. In the summer we have picnics, and this year we’re planning an overnight camping trip.”

When she’s not taking part in one of her many extra-curricular activities, DominiKa can be found at MediaCityUK as part of her Multimedia Journalism course.

“I heard the University of Salford was good for arts and media and so I was always going to apply here, but when I came for my interview and saw Media City, that was the moment I decided I wanted to stay. There are so many opportunities here, everything is on your doorstep. I want to work in print journalism, so it’s great to be so close to the Manchester Evening News, the UK’s biggest regional newspaper outside of London. And, because the exams in relevant modules such as court reporting and media law are based on NCJT [National Council for the Training of Journalists] exams, it’s excellent training for the real thing. If we want to take the actual NCJT exams and become accredited, we can sit them at uni, which is really helpful.”

As well as the amazing facilities at MediaCityUK, DominiKa has discovered other advantages to Salford life.

“Salford is a great place to live: even though it’s right next to Manchester it’s much cheaper than the city centre,” she says. “I have a great flat for just £80 per week, and I know that the same sort of place in Manchester is around £120. I also get to keep my doggy with me in my flat. She’s a beagle cross called Milka, she’s 10 years old and she’s really cute. Whenever I go out walking with her everyone always says how cute she is. I took her with me to all the meetings and groups during welcome week, everyone was petting and stroking her. Oh, and she’s also our pet at the Japanese Society!””

“Being at university is so much more than doing a course. When you go onto employment and you tell people you only did a degree, you’re saying the same as everyone else. You have to make the most of what you’ve got.”