Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

Topic: Alex

Applying for placements

  

📥  Alex, Faculty of Science

After a four month break, it’s safe to say that second year has come as something of a shock. Just under two months ago I arrived back in Bath to a new house, the horrible feeling of having to pay bills on top of rent, thirty contact hours a week, new names to learn at extra curricular activities, and the dreaded placement applications!

I’m guessing that as an A Level student, there’s a chance that you’re probably wondering ‘What is this placement, anyway?’ A placement is usually a year-long (but sometimes six month) period of work experience in a company, attended between the second and final years of university. As a pharmacologist, my placement works a little differently to others at Bath.

For most people, a placement is a nice addition to a Bachelors or a Masters degree, and vital experience that will help you to land a job when you finally graduate. For me though, my placement year counts towards my Masters. My course is four years including a placement, but I still get a Masters (or at least, that’s the plan!) whereas my housemates will do four years plus a placement year to get their Masters, meaning that they’ll do five years in total at university. It’s a chance to see a working environment related to your degree, in my case, research in a pharmaceutical company and perhaps solidify your decisions about what you want to do when you graduate.

We’ve been talking about placements for at least six months now, but nothing really needed to be done until recently. In the summer when asked to upload a CV to Moodle (our online learning and file sharing type website), I didn’t think much of it. Then I started getting feedback on the CV, and five drafts later it was finally ready to send for placement applications. If only it were that simple! Since starting lectures again I’ve attended placement workshops, listened to speakers from major pharmaceutical companies, had a careers meeting and a mock interview, and filled in more placement application forms than I care to think about.

Each and every placement is different in terms of application. Some require a lengthy online form, others are more simply a CV and cover letter, but all require your time, effort, research, and most of all, enthusiasm! It’s not easy either – you can’t expect that you’ll get the first placement that you apply for! I’ve had to answer everything from my strengths and weaknesses, to my favourite parts of my course, my greatest achievement, give an example of a time a team I was in didn’t work well, and potentially the hardest of all, ‘What do you predict that a year at X would be like?’

What about when you get through the forms? You’ve spent hours spelling out your mind to a potential employer, and then it goes one of three ways. A) You get an interview (yey!), B) You get rejected, or C) They invite you to take part in an online test. So far, I’ve done three of these tests, all for one company, and they’re rather disheartening. You’ve spent hours and hours compiling the perfect picture of yourself only to realise that you’ve got to complete all these tests before anyone even reads your application. If you fail, they won’t even consider you, and worst of all is that these tests may be maths tests, but they’re just as likely to be those horrible non-verbal reasoning, or worst of all, a personality test.

Truly though, despite time consuming, the application process isn’t all that bad. Speak to any fourth year and they’ll tell you that their placement was worth every hour they spent applying and attending interviews. Of course, I haven’t got that far yet so I can’t tell you first hand, but everyone I know says that they came back from placement feeling much more independent, experienced, and confident in their subject.

Definitely, definitely look for universities that offer a placement in your course. I’ve only heard good things about it so far, and I’m beyond excited to get started on mine! It’s a lot of work, but you get better at everything with practice, so each application process helps the next, and the placement as a whole will be absolutely invaluable when applying for jobs.

In my next post I will write about placement interviews!

 

A Survival Guide to A Level Results Day

  

📥  Alex, Faculty of Science

With summer in full swing and the hottest days of the year upon us, I’m sure that A Level results day is on your mind (amongst equally important thoughts of ice cream, swimming and catching up with friends of course).

This time last year I was preoccupied by my Duke of Edinburgh expedition, music tour and generally catching up on all the vitamin D I missed in May and June but I remember that as soon as August hit, I was absolutely terrified. Unnecessarily terrified, but terrified all the same. I guess it’s normal to be nervous about results. It feels like those three letters are going to define the rest of your life and either send you shooting up to the stars or plummeting down to doom. It’s not like that, and whilst I know it won’t stop any stressing, there really isn’t a need to be quite SO worried about results day as I was. There’s some simple things that you can do to make the process a whole lot easier for yourself, and so here’s my survival guide.

Cheesy smiles with some friends on results day!

Cheesy smiles with some friends on results day!

Firstly, make sure you know what Clearing and Adjustment are and how they work! UCAS has a great page on how results day works, so make sure to check that out as your first port of call. In addition, Google can be a good friend when it comes to results day preparation and things to consider. Spend some time working out a plan, figuring out what all the words mean and generally getting prepared.

Personally, I’d say that being prepared is the most important of all. No matter how convinced or unconvinced you are that you’ve gotten into your dream university, anything could happen. Until something changes on Track or you open that envelope, it’s stupid to hedge your bets. Pack a bag the night before because you’re bound to be a wreck in the morning. Try and get an early night and as much sleep as you can, as you’re going to need to concentrate tomorrow. Do something fun the night before and perhaps spend time with friends. Ban the word ‘results’, and whatever you do, don’t panic.

Things that I’d advise you pack into a small bag:

  • Calculator
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Your results so far and any correspondence from UCAS
  • Your mobile – fully charged!

If you’re worried or you wake up super early, check online for which universities have Clearing places available. Make a list in order of preference, just in case you need it. Think about questions you may need to ask those universities and don’t forget to think about things like accommodation and module choices, too. Maybe you won’t need it, but looking it up will kill some time before you start fidgeting around impatiently waiting for Track to open.

Track WILL open early. UCAS will tell you that it won’t, but it will, and it does every single year. Be prepared for this, and also be prepared for Track to crash as so many people will be trying to log in. Considering when you want to open Track is important, too – before or after you get your results from school? In the comfort of your home, or after you’ve done anything important like driving to school? I decided to drive to school and then open track, but because it opened early, it meant I was driving there knowing it was open. I’m not sure if it helped at all, but equally, it got me away from my parents and meant that if I hadn’t got in, I hadn’t then got to drive my car in tears. Whatever you decide to do, STAY CALM. You’re going to need a level head today, especially if you miss your firm and insurance offers and need to go through Clearing, or if you decide to go through Adjustment.

Don’t forget to eat breakfast, relax as much as possible and make plans to have fun afterwards, no matter the results. Most of all, breathe and enjoy yourself. There are tears of joy and excitement to be shared, friends to be happy for, and usually a group of slightly awkward looking teachers with smiles on their faces. Results day is a happy day, but it’s also one of the most bizarre emotional rollercoaster’s you will ever go on. Enjoy, good luck, and remember that everyone is so much more than letters on a sheet of paper.

 

First Year Is Over: tips for future Freshers

  ,

📥  Alex, Faculty of Science

Thursday 28th May was the day of my last exam of this first year at Uni. It popped up on timehop this morning that a year ago today was my last day at school (or sixth form, college, whatever you want to call it!). What happened? Where did this year go?

So much has happened in the past year that I couldn't possibly recount it all, but a year ago I was saying goodbye to the people that I've grown up with, and last night I was saying goodbye to a final year friend who's graduating and going to live in Canada. It feels like five minutes ago that I was doing my A Levels but in the last year I've gotten my A Level results, moved to Bath, made so many friends, joined two societies, done something new every single week, had good and bad cooking experiences, figured out that kitchens are grim and you should spend as little time as possible in them, had a year of lectures, sat five exams, had my first job interview, and generally grown up. Lots.

Photos of my first year at Bath!

Photos of my first year at Bath!

In September, I'll be applying for placements. In a year, I'll be finishing second year. In two years, I'll be finishing my placement, and in three years I'll be graduating. If all those years go as fast as this one has it's going to be weird, because it'll only feel like a few hours before I go out into the real world.

There's about a million things I could tell you right now, and a million people I need to thank for helping me to survive the last year, but what do you as prospective students want to know? I guess that now would be time to write a survival guide to first year. So, we're off again with 'Alex's top ten tips' - this time, tips to survive first year.

1. Saying goodbye probably won't be easy, but it's really not as a bad as you think it's going to be. It doesn't matter if you're going to the same university or moving all over the country, there will be group chats with your home friends, you'll have the best nights out when you go home, and you'll find ways to visit each other. Nobody is ever really that far away, and even when your Skype mostly consists of 'You're frozen, I can't hear you. Where did she just go? Oh, I think someone lost connection.' you'll still feel like you've caught up with your home friends in a way that you'll never quite be able to perfect with anyone else.

2. Whatever expectations you have with regards to what university will be like, you're wrong. From drinking every night to what attitudes people will have, what lectures are like and how it's 'so much easier than A Levels'. Just don't trust anything that you hear, because near enough every single expectation you have will be smashed when you get here.

3. I've said it a hundred times, but get involved and join societies! Keep up with your hobbies, and you'll probably find that you fit in best of all with your society friends.

4. Freshers' flu really does exist. As does post Christmas flu, post Easter flu, and flu every single time someone's friend, boyfriend or parents come to visit. With people coming from all over the place, they bring with them a whole host of viruses. Stock up on the paracetamol, cough medicine, soothers, tissues and painkillers. Oh, and effervescent vitamin C! You'll need them. Trust me.

5. It's time to accept that you can no longer be a neat freak. It doesn't matter how hard you try to clean the kitchen over the first month, you're soon going to have to accept that you can keep your half a meter square disinfected and make sure your plates are always clean, but someone else's won't be. There may bowls of stagnant water on the side, the cooker may be grimy, and there may be someone who leaves the hob on every time they use it. Just ignore it, work around it, and you'll be fine.

6. Learn how to mute whatsapp and Facebook messenger. Group messages are great but not when you're trying to sleep. You don't want to know the amount of times I've woken up to over a hundred messages.

7. Expect the unexpected. One day you'll wake up to find five boys sleeping on your kitchen floor, bump into what must be your flatmates grandma in the toilet, or see a girl you've never met eating cereal on her own at your kitchen table. Just say hi, accept, and move on. Soon it'll become normal and you just won't think much of it anymore.

8. Appreciate your parents. When they visit, let them take you for dinner, do your food shopping, and supply cake. Obviously it's great to see them, but the food is even better. That's something you can never truly understand until you've eaten pasta and sauce every day for a week because you're out of money.

9. Sleep. Lots. People here don't care if it's at 3am or 3pm. If you're tired and you've got nothing to do, just sleep. Oh, and chances are people won't judge you if they spot you in your pyjamas at an inappropriate time of day, either. It probably won't even get mentioned. You'll all be friends soon enough, anyway.

10. Even though it's only been a year, the goodbyes that you say at the end of first year will probably be nearly as tearful as the goodbyes you said when you moved to university. It's amazing how close you'll become with the people you meet at university, and despite the fact that you'll probably be living or studying with these people again next year, you're still sad to see each other go. You should have seen us before we went home at Christmas! There will also be a few people who you meet who graduate, or go on placement. Those goodbyes will be even harder, and you'll probably end up wondering how it all happened so quickly.

With our exams nearly finished, I know that your exams can only be just around the corner. Summer will pass in a flash, and as I'm moving into my house in September, you could be moving into my room. That's weird. I guess it's strange because I'm sure every year of Freshers feel like nobody else could ever have as much fun as they had!

Societies: Preparing for a new year

  ,

📥  Alex, Faculty of Science

As the year is drawing to a close, it's time for societies to start preparing for a new year. I've been a member of both BUGS (Bath University Guides and Scouts) and ChaOS (Choral and Orchestral Society) this year, and whilst I've enjoyed the orchestra rehearsals and concerts that we've had, it didn't take me long to work out that BUGS was where I really fit in.

After the new Student Union officers were elected, societies began to elect their committees for the coming year. I deliberated for a long time about if I could afford to take on a new role. I really wanted to be on the committee for BUGS because it was a society that I had loved being a part of, but I wasn't too sure that I'd be able to do it with my workload. Clearly people do, every single year, but I'm a bit of a workaholic and wasn't quite sure. There's a reputation to live up to when you follow on from an outgoing committee like the one we had this year! Eventually, I decided to bite the bullet and write my manifesto, and next thing you know, I'm due to be the Guide Rep for 2015/2016.

Figuring out the most inventive way to make a s'more!

Figuring out the most inventive way to make a s'more!

Societies are a big part of the community here at Bath and are a fantastic way to get involved and meet new people, especially people from older years and different courses. I've found them extremely valuable; apart from the odd early morning run (at times when I can be completely confident that the whole world is in bed and so won't see me), I'm definitely not sporty. Bath is a university that is known for it's excellent sporting facilities, but our societies are great too! If, like I was last September, you are absolutely terrified about meeting people when you start at university (don't worry, most freshers are!), joining a society can give you a common ground with other people, and therefore something to start a conversation about. The baking society aren't going to think you're mad for talking about cakes, the fashion society will probably 'get' your interest more than your flat mates do, and if CoffeeSoc or The Curry Appreciation Society are your thing, then they're available too.

When you're doing a course like Pharmacology (no, that's not Pharmacy or Farm Ecology, and yes, I want to go into cancer research) it can be very easy to feel isolated. Except for the thirty other people in your year, absolutely nobody knows what your course is, and when you get past the 'name, age, course, location' conversations of Freshers' Week and your flat mates reach the 'so what societies did you join?' question, they still don't understand much more about you when you say 'Oh, I'm a Rainbow Leader so I joined BUGS' - you may as well be talking a completely different language. I guess what I mean is, if you join a society there's common ground with the people in the society. It's easier to have a conversation if you've got somewhere to begin, and it's nice to spend time with people who you don't necessarily see every day.

So, when you get to uni, go to the activities days, sign up, and talk to people from societies that you're interested in. You probably don't realise that each society has a core committee team, but we do, and our job is to help you! Until handover is complete, I don't know exactly what every part of being a committee member entails, but I do know that it's going to be lots of fun, just like the last year has been. It's put a buzz of excitement in the air, and we can't wait to meet you!

As exams get closer and closer, it's bizarre to think that in June it'll all be over. Of course, many societies have things to end their year (summer camp for us!) and that means it's our turn to be the new committee. We're in the process of handover and so the end of the year is already starting to feel like the beginning of next year. For me, it's strange to realise that the people who you looked up to in your first year are moving on, going on placement, or graduating. They won't be around anymore, and now, it's your turn to be in charge. I have to try and live up to their reputation, and it's not going to be easy, they've been fantastic! BUGS have made my first year a heck of a lot less scary, has been a fantastic way to make friends, and they'll be some people who I'll be very sad to see graduate and don't want to say goodbye to.

I'm absolutely terrified of heights but Kat managed to successfully get me round a high ropes course at a BUGS event earlier this year (thank you and well done!)

I'm absolutely terrified of heights, but Kat managed to successfully get me round a high ropes course at a BUGS event earlier this year (thank you and well done!)

Freshers week isn't far away now, so get thinking about things like societies. I'm sure that once the goodbyes are over I'll be bouncing back to meet you with a smiling face in September!

 

The Roman Baths

  

📥  Alex, Faculty of Science

Bath is well known for its architecture and history. You only have to type the word 'Bath' into Google to discover that much. The Georgian architecture sets it apart from other cities, and whilst my nan may have still describe it as 'just shops, like any other city', I'd like to think that there's much more to see and do around here than back home in Leicester.

As a student of the University of Bath you get free entrance to the Roman Baths. Whilst many students choose to go and visit during their first few weeks, I decided to wait a little longer. I'm not really all that interested in history after dropping all humanities five years ago when I chose my GCSEs, but I knew it would be something that my parents would enjoy doing when they came to visit me. My dad has always loved taking us to museums and telling us all about the history of places we go to (sometimes not entirely truthfully either, I'm sure!).

The weather wasn't great but the Baths were still spectacular

The weather wasn't great but the Baths were still spectacular

As it was, they didn't come until March. I think I must have been quite literally the last fresher to have been visited. Still, I did go. Much to my surprise, I actually rather enjoyed myself. The museum is split into sections. Firstly you walk around the main Bath, and then through a series of smaller rooms before a final area with glass cabinets full of items related to the Romans and the Baths. There isn't much written down, but they do give you an audio guide to go around with which tells you more information. We refused this after a bizarre experience on HMS Belfast in London at Christmas, so I can't really comment on how useful they are. It was very impressive even without the audio though, and you could see that it would have taken years and years to build without the modern technology that we have today.

My dad and I at the Baths

My dad and I at the Baths

To go in, as I said, is free for Bath students. Adult tickets are £14 and children are £9, but you can buy a saver ticket which also gets you into the Fashion Museum and Victoria Art Gallery for £20/£10.75. The opening times change throughout the year, so I'd definitely recommend checking the website, but on the whole it seems to be about 9.30am-5pm. We went on a Thursday which meant we avoided the queues and got to see everything properly, but if you're planning to go in the summer or on a weekend, it's probably chaos. Most weekends are chaos in Bath- there's just so many tourists around. An unrelated tip for when you come to university in September: don't go to do your food shop at Sainsbury's on a Saturday. There's absolutely nothing more frustrating than trying to weave through three hundred tourists with three bags of shopping and a backpack when you know the next bus is due in two minutes.

As well as the Baths, the Bath Abbey is also worth a visit if you get the time. I think we could have left my dad in there for hours and he would have been happy. My parents also asked me to take them to the Crescent, which I did. I hadn't been before but personally I thought it was rather unspectacular and time that may have been better spent elsewhere!

In all, my parents thoroughly enjoyed their night in Bath, and I'm glad I left the historical things to do with them when they came, because I don't think I personally would want to go twice in a year. It was nice for them to come here instead of me having to do a four hour door to door train journey to go home for the weekend, and whilst they may have been horrified by the state of my kitchen, (Yes, I live with boys. It's absolutely disgusting) there's plenty to do in the city so they didn't have to hang around in my flat for long. The Baths in particular, I'd definitely recommended as something to plan to do with family.

Good luck with exams, and maybe we'll see you around in September!

 

The best revision food

  , ,

📥  Alex, Faculty of Science

With exams just around the corner, revision is the one thing that is (or at least, should be) on everyone's minds right now. Having already given you my top tips to survive exams, the next thought on every student's mind is food.

Being away from home means that you have to think and plan for these things. You don't get the guarantee that there will be one hot meal placed on the table each night like you do at home. You're living on your own, and you've got to get it sorted. On top of that, revision makes us all hungry. Surely you know that by now? So, with this in mind, I decided it was time to start working out what the best revision food is, and for that, sixteen of my friends told me their favourite revision foods.

You probably won't be that surprised to hear that eleven of the answers included something chocolate based - biscuits (Oreos, bourbons, you know the deal), hot chocolate, eclairs, covered raisins, or even just plain old chocolate itself. I was also told that chocolate covered coffee beans are a great way to stay alert. Personally, I can't imagine anything worse.

I got a few 'healthy' (ish) answers, too - cheese, frozen grapes, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries and toast. Oh, and of course, those chocolate raisins are a great way to 'at least kid yourself into being healthy'.

With the only other suggestions being crisps, Haribo, Ben and Jerrys ice cream, tea, other types of biscuits and Monster energy drink (great for an all nighter apparently, not that that's generally advised), I decided I was going to have to give them a little prompt. What's the REAL FOOD that you eat? Because of course all students, myself included, eat three regular meals each day like I told you to do back in January (yes, that's sarcasm). We got as far as pizza (is that really an improvement on the previous list?) and pasta bake.

The top piece of meal advice however came from a fourth year: 'Spending Sunday evening making up batches of pasta bake/bolognese/curry which can be frozen and reheated for the rest of the week typically works best for me :-)'. It means your cooking time in the week is super short, you can stay focussed, and you don't have to get bored of eating pasta every single night or spend money that you don't have ordering takeaway.

Personally, I'm one of those people who has my routines and sticks to them. It's granola and yoghurt or Nutella on toast for breakfast, salad or soup for lunch, and whatever I have in the cupboard for tea. The last few weeks has resolved largely around quick things - pasta and homemade veggie sauce or stir fry, or things that you can 'leave to cook' - sausage hotpot, baked chicken with vegetables and potatoes all wrapped in a foil package. I've got four portions of frozen curry and two of frozen chilli for emergencies, but equally, there's one pizza in my freezer.

I guess what I'm saying is plan and practice. Back in September I hated the freezer but now I'm using it for everything from bread to chicken and full on meals. This year, I've developed the ability to make just about any meal with no more than ten minutes of prep, and it hasn't meant that I've had to sacrifice my love of vegetables, either. I'm sure my flat mates would happily tell you all about my vegetable obsession.

Homemade chicken pie!

Homemade chicken pie!

Good luck with your exams (and appreciate the home cooked meals while you can, it's all going to change when you're at university in September!)

Thank you to Alex, Alice, Andy, Beckie, Catherine, Charlotte, Chloe, Ella, Ellie, Jess, Kat W, Kat R, KH, Lizzie, Lizzy, and Rachael for all your help in writing this blog!

 

Should I do a year in industry?

  ,

📥  Alex, Faculty of Science

Yes. That’s the simple answer, anyway. I presume that you want to know why though? Over the last few months I’ve watched my younger brother deliberate apprenticeships or university, the BSc or the integrated masters, the placement year or not?

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to do an integrated Masters degree, and that of course meant a placement year. Surely to be more highly qualified means better job prospects? Even so, if you decide not to do a Masters or a Masters simply isn’t offered at your university or for your course, you should consider the BSc with a placement year anyway.

Okay, maybe it seems like I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m only a first year, after all. But I’m not getting ahead of myself at all. For me, industrial placement applications are just around the corner, and whilst of course coping with exams and coursework are my top priorities right now (you can see a post on tips for that here) I do still have to write and submit a CV by May 4th and be thinking about preparing for interviews and writing applications from August.

CV writing

CV writing

It doesn’t matter how pressurised university can be at times, the other things just don’t go away and with placement year being such an important part of my degree, I can’t help but let it spin around and around in my head. While my first year grades don’t count towards my degree, they will be seen by the companies where I apply for placements. And that in itself is the first reason why you should choose a university where a year in industry is possible. I’ve always enjoyed working hard and have kept myself motivated, but if you’re someone who struggles to do that, keeping on track during the first year can be hard. Surely it has to be easier if you know those grades count for something, and will be seen by someone?

Second, it’s a good way to earn some money, get involved, and work out what you want to do. Although some people do end up on self-funded placement years, most placements are paid and it can be an excellent way to save money for your final year when your student loan is smaller. Not only this, but for those people who don’t know exactly what they want to do or what area to focus on when they graduate, a placement year can be an excellent time to work this out. You may find that you don’t like the sector in which you do your placement and choose to work somewhere else, or you may love it and end up working with that company for the rest of your life.

Third- you’ll learn skills. Somehow, somewhere, you’ll get better at something. You’ll attend interviews and gain confidence, learn lab based or computer skills, communicate with a workforce and become part of a team. All of these skills are important for university as well as employment, and the break from university based work means that students who take a placement year come back ready and excited for their final year.

Fourthly, you’ve got experience behind you for when you graduate. You’re much more employable if you have experience as it means that the people who employ you have less training to give you. If you do really well, you might even get a job offer from the company at which you did your placement.

Finally, number five, I’m told it’s when you really grow up and see who you are. The jump from home to university can be strange, I’ve already said that I think the jump from halls to second year housing will be strange, and then there’s the jump from the university safety net and into the real world for a year. It’s a chance to really grow up before you come back for the massively important final year. It’s the time to make mistakes before you have a house and a family as well as a job.

There’s just five reasons why you should consider a placement when making those final decisions about which university to go to. I’m sure there’s a hundred more if you think hard enough. Sadly, I’ve not been there yet, so there isn’t much more that I can say. What I can say is that I’m excited, and I hope that the real world is ready for me!

 

Second Year Housing

  ,

📥  Alex, Faculty of Science

When you're applying to universities and accepting offers, there's one thing that likely won't cross your mind. That's housing. Yes, you care about where you'll live in first year but it’s often not considered important to think about second year. I know that I certainly didn’t. Don't you think it would be worth breaking the stereotype and thinking about it? After all, most student accommodation is pretty samey, but moving into a big city has many challenges in itself.

Life is very much easy as a first year. You fill in a form online and the accommodation is allocated to you on a first come first served basis. I was lucky enough to end up in my first choice accommodation, in Norwood, right in the centre of campus with the added luxury of allowing you to get to the little shop, a cash machine, the SU and the library without ever going outside (however if you decide to have a Wednesday or Saturday night in, prepare to be dancing from your bed).

It was arranged for me and although I had to sign a few forms and agreements, the money comes out of my account automatically three times a year and I can roll out of bed at 8.55am if I need to. Guests can stay, there’s no bills to pay and the kitchen and bathroom are both less than five steps from my bed.

Second year isn't as simple as first year accommodation. For starters, it's time to move to town. Second, you need to decide who to live with. You have to consider bus routes and shops and position. You've got to decide how many bathrooms you'll need or who is going to get the little room. You need to decide if you want to live in a student area, which agent to go with, how much you’re prepared to pay in fees and how much rent you can afford. At times, especially as student houses are taken, leaving little to choose from, it can be very overwhelming.

It’s very much an expectation that by Christmas you’ll know who you’re going to live with and where you’re going to be. I was rather worried about that and I didn’t necessarily feel that comfortable and ready to make that decision so early on, but there’s simply not much choice. As soon as houses are released contracts are signed and deposits paid. While I went home for the inter semester break, my friends viewed houses, and it was expected that the five of us would be making a decision very shortly afterwards.

The girls that I'll be living with next year

The girls that I'll be living with next year

I’ve already told you that I wasn’t one to consider second year housing when I chose my university. The last thing on my mind was the length of private contracts, the reliability of buses and the cost of gas and electricity. First year has seemed to pass in a whirl, and while just moving out can seem like a big deal, you don’t realise how little you’ve grown up until you start considering renting from a real agent. Campus life isn’t real at all, it’s very much a safety blanket in terms of accommodation and budgeting, living in row after row of similar buildings.

Although I know that many of you will have accepted offers by now, I guess what I’m trying to say is to not forget the little things. University isn’t all about the course content or the first year halls, but there are other important things too. I haven’t done badly, our house is lovely, but I have friends in other cities at both ends of the spectrum. One will be paying half as much as I pay in Bath next year while another couldn’t find a house until the very last second and will have to make do with sharing a room. Some will stay in halls for their entire time, and while it may seem more practical, it’s not always ideal.

My top tip for open days is not to ignore the city. Even if, like Bath, campus is up a hill and a ten minute drive away, you’ll be moving into the hustle and bustle eventually and it’s important to know that it’s what you want and where you want to be. Catch a bus, wander around the shops, and ask the students you see when you’re there.

 

What shall I do with my summer?

  ,

📥  Alex, Faculty of Science

After fifteen years of six week summers, the same routines and plans and back to school on September 1st, university can sometimes feel a little strange. It never really crossed my mind exactly how long my summer was about to become, but over the last few weeks I've realised that I have a whole four months at home and more time to kill than I could ever have imagined.

Of course, I want a job. I'm a student for goodness sake! We're renowned for our distinct lack of money and ability to spend it wisely. Even if you do spend your loan wisely, it never seems to go far and inevitably parents are the ones who end up supplementing that loan. I need to work, there's simply no question. I don't mind what or where, and as someone who's never had any jobs before, I don't exactly have any tips (any that you have for me would be an appreciated comment!) so I won't try to give you any. What I will say however is- think about your summer. Of course money is important, but is there something that you could do with that summer that would make it even more worthwhile?

If you're a scientist, do everything you can to get some shadowing of lab work. It's tricky, but it's worth every shot you've got because it'll give you an edge when it comes to the placement year.

Spend time with your family and friends. Work and work experience are important but when you're away for so much of the year, making sure you keep those relationships going is important. Go on that family day out, sit and have meals together and visit your friends. Laugh, smile, relax and forget about assignments for a few months!

But something that's going to be a part of my summer and something that you should take time to consider is volunteering. By now you've probably realised from my blogs that I'm a volunteer for Girlguiding. I'll be taking a few days this summer to run a camp and a fun day, to give opportunities to children in my local area.

But that's not what's on my mind right now. Today, I'm sat on a train on my way home. A few hours ago I left a week long training course in the West Midlands. I've been training to be a monitor for an educational charity called ATE. What does that mean though? If I've learnt anything this week, it's that the work of a monitor simply cannot be explained. There's not any words to describe what our role is, because it is so many things. I guess the easiest way to say it is that I'll be spending a week of my summer volunteering on a week long residential for this trust. The children will come from all over the UK and the world, from all sorts of backgrounds, and they'll be attending summer camps called Superweeks. For one week I'll be a sister, a mum, a friend, and a role model for eight children. I'll be volunteering my time and I'll be making a difference.

Travelling home with new found friends!

Travelling home with new found friends!

Yes, money, jobs and family are important. Yes, you'll need time to yourself. But this summer, I'm giving you all one challenge. Go out there and make a difference. It doesn't matter what you choose to do, but be a volunteer, give some of your time and make another person smile. It'll be worth every second.

 

“Help! Which university should I choose?”

  

📥  Alex, Faculty of Science

At this time of year, cries of help and sighs of frustration can be heard coming from sixth forms around the country. By now, most students have received their offers and rejections and now have the potentially troubling task of deciding where they should go.

I had already made the decision when I applied which was my favourite, but I was very lucky to get four offers. Although I knew that I wanted Bath to be my first choice, there was one offer from another university which was tempting. Due to my personal circumstances (these were from a list of things such as low income, parents not been to university, postcode, and school), I had met the requirements to tick two of their boxes which meant that if I chose that university as my first choice, their offer grades were considerably lower than other universities. If I put them as my second choice, the grade requirements were actually higher than anywhere else. The problem? I didn’t really want to go there. So surely the decision to put Bath as my first choice was an easy one, then? I wish it had been, but for me, it wasn’t as simple as that. I was extremely fearful that I may not get the AAB grades needed to study pharmacology at Bath, and BBB just sounded a lot more realistic. In the end, I decided to take the risk, and I’m glad that I did because I exceeded the entry requirements for Bath, and I love it here just as much as I expected to. I guess what I’m saying is, sometimes you should just go with your instinct. If it doesn’t work out, there’s always clearing, or the option of a gap year.

Of course, my intention of writing this blog is to give you advice, but that’s not easy. Everyone will have a different opinion on what they want from a university. Just because I wanted a campus university in a fairly small city, with a pharmacology course that would allow me to study modules in cancer research, it doesn’t mean that you want the same. The list of priorities will be different for everyone, but here’s a few things that you could ask yourself, and the answers in terms of The University of Bath.

Do I want to go to a campus university, or something that’s more spread out? If you want a campus university, then Bath is for you. I love being close to everything, and being within a few hundred meters of the campus shops, restaurants, a bar, cash machines, and a bank is very, very convenient.

Arriving at a sunny campus!

Arriving at a sunny campus!

Is the first year accommodation near to the places I’ll have lectures, or will I need to get a bus? How much will it cost to live in halls? Trust me, I seriously appreciate being able to roll out of bed at 7.30am and still make it to my 8.15am lecture. Isn’t that enough said?

What modules are available to choose? Is my area of interest covered? Not only do you want to think about the course, but you need to consider the quality of the course, and also if the optional modules are in subjects that you think that you will enjoy. If you want to specialise in cardiovascular pharmacology, then there’s no use in going to a university that focuses its course around the brain.

Can I do a placement year? A year in industry is a fantastic way to get experience, and gives you better job prospects after you graduate. It can also be useful to find out what sort of sector you want to work in, for example clinical or research. Lots of courses at Bath offer the year in industry, and they’re also pretty successful at getting applicants into the places that are available.

What are the sports facilities like? Bath is known for its sports centre, but I’m not all that sporty, so you’re probably best to check out the website for more information.

What societies are there? Can I continue with my hobbies? Although societies take a slight back seat from sport, there’s still plenty of options at Bath, from languages, to music, to baking, and pole dancing. Whatever you enjoy, there’s likely to be something for you. It’s important not to forget about your hobbies when you arrive at university, because a break from studying and a break from alcohol is good for you occasionally!

Is this university well recognised for my course? That depends on your course, so check out league tables online.

What is there to do in the city? Although we may be a small city, there’s still lots to do in Bath, as well as the SU which means you’ve only got to crawl a couple of hundred meters to reach your bed. Check out the Bath leap list for more information.

How far away from home do I want to be? I’m three hours away from home, and I personally think it’s a good distance. With my railcard, I can get home and back for £30, but I also don’t feel obliged to visit my family every weekend because I’m so close. I have friends who are an hour away from home, and people that moved eight hours away to Scotland. You have to find the balance, and think about what’s important to you. I didn’t consider location too much, as I didn’t think it was that important, and the course and campus took priority, but everyone is different.

How does the university rate for student satisfaction? In Bath’s case, the answer is ‘high’. You just need to google ‘Bath Student Satisfaction’ to see that much!

What’s the Students' Union like? Busy. It doesn’t stop, ever. There are two club nights a week, but there’s also a bar that has pool tables, quiz night, and I hear is pretty full when the football or rugby is on, too.

There’s honestly hundreds of things that people consider when they apply for university, so that list certainly isn’t exclusive. Most of all though, if you get an offer, go to the UCAS day!

Even if you’ve been to the open day, take the opportunity to visit again. By now, you’ve probably seen tens of universities, so it’s unlikely that your memory of the first one that you visited will be very clear. UCAS days provide an opportunity to look around with a small group of like-minded people, to share opinions, and to ask any questions. It gives you an opportunity to talk to students who are on your course, and to see the facilities that your department has to offer.

Often, you can just walk around a university, and ‘know’ that it’s where you want to be.