Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

Topic: Charlotte

Juggling part-time work at university

📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year

I am a typical girl. I adore shopping, I love going for coffee with my chums and I love having a bit of money on the side to get my hair snipped, go to the cinema or buy some flowers in town on a Saturday morning. Many of the boys I know are the same; they like to put some pennies aside for grabbing a pizza and some beer when the rugby is on, or to fund a trip to Bristol or to buy the newest FIFA game. At University, having some ‘money for a rainy day’ is really handy.

This is why I decided to get a part-time job to keep up in tandem with my studies at the University of Bath. Naturally, you’re probably grimacing at the idea of getting in from a day of lectures and seminars and shooting off to a job. You also might think giving up that Sunday lie in and flat bacon breakfast for the workplace may suck too. I disagree- working whilst at University has definitely helped me to fund some brilliant Christmas presents for my friends and family, and I’ve met some truly lovely people at work and it’s definitely a release from my studies which is really welcomed at times, especially with those beastly exams looming!

Just to throw another spanner into the works, I’ve actually got two, yes two jobs at University! This sounds a little nutty, doesn’t it? How can I possibly work towards a ‘first’ classification (something I really want to achieve from University), keep up with people socially and have two jobs. Well actually, it hasn’t proved that hard! Stick with me here, it totally works for me!

I decided that the best and most convenient place to get a job would be on campus. This would mean I wouldn’t have to ramble down the hill, or get on a packed bus on a Saturday morning for work and I could be really close to my Halls of Residency. Fact: I did indeed manage to swipe up a part-time job on campus, and it takes me 37 seconds to get there! As barmy as it sounds to time my stroll to work, it really does show just how handy the placing of work is for me.

To get my job on campus, I decided to start job-hunting early. I frequently scrolled the JobLink website and listings provided by the University of Bath for students looking for jobs before I came to University. I did specify when seeking a job that I wanted a post on campus, but I did also send my CV to some cafes, shops and cleaning positions in the City of Bath; this frankly wouldn’t be too hard as it only takes a few minutes to get to town on the bus, and the buses are really frequent. The city is pretty compact too, so I knew that shops and eateries would be easy to find and get to.

I sent my application to a café/restaurant on campus called The Lime Tree and on the first day of Freshers’ week, I got an email inviting me to an ‘informal interview’ at the Lime Tree. I was still a little muddled as a disorientated, frazzled Fresher but I decided to go along and give it my best shot.

The interview was indeed very informal, and just felt like a chat over coffee with the managers, although some grilling questions did pop up. Luckily, it went really well and only days later I got an email saying that they would like to employ me as a member of their casual staff. Many of the contracts on campus are ‘casual’ which means in most cases you won’t have a fixed, rigid contract and you can essentially tailor your hours around your other commitments, picking and choosing when best suits you to work.

This is the 'Lime Tree' refectory on campus at the University of Bath. A place I work, to give me a little money on the side!

This is the 'Lime Tree' refectory on campus at the University of Bath. A place I work, to give me a little money on the side!

I find this really helpful as I don’t have to worry about whether going to a talk, listening in to an extra lecture or going out in the evening clashes with work, as I just choose not to work during those times. Add to this, another bonus of working on campus is that in 2014 the Students' Union campaigned for everyone to earn the ‘living wage’ and this means I earn a very adequate amount and I don’t have to go without a new pair of trainers when I fancy them! Yay!

Another advantage of working on campus is that you’re not tied to a contract in town which may require you to work during Christmas, Easter or over the summer as no one is on Campus at these times and thus I can go home without worrying about working or having to find cover in order to get time off.

If I was to offer some advice on getting a part-time job at University; here are my pearls of wisdom:

  • Prioritise your studies – Even if you’re offered extra hours or premium pay for adding on a few shifts a week consider whether this will affect coursework deadlines, examination revision or even just staying on top of your reading and learning.
  • Hunt around – Don’t settle for the first job as the pay may be poor, the hours offered may be a little skewed or it may be too tiring to return from and then cook a meal, clean your room, make a presentation etc. Avoid manual or labour-heavy jobs so that you are not exhausted when you need to get up for an early lecture!
  • Weekend posts rock – try and aim for places that are looking for ‘part-time weekend staff’, as opposed to only ‘part time’ staff as this may entail more work during the week, which is much less convenient than on a Saturday or Sunday. You don’t want to have to rush off from lectures to work or have work clashing with group work meetings. The weekends are the best time to cram in a paid position, although think ahead if your family are popping to see you at the weekend and try and swindle some time off to see them.
  • Keep tabs on payment – make an Excel spreadsheet or jot down the hours you work and the rate of pay you’re on. Make sure when you’re paid weekly or monthly that you’ve been paid the right amount and carry out some research to make sure that you’ve been taxed correctly.

I also am lucky enough to manage the social media presence of a Tea Business, and find that this too is very flexible around my degree.  Do remember that if you want to have another small job, or some voluntary work, alongside a a part-time job AND your studies then make sure it doesn’t distract you from the reason you’re here- to learn!

Good Luck!

Charlotte

 

 

Surviving Second Year Architecture

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📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Engineering, Second year

Second year. The year the work load increases dramatically. The year that people expect you to actually know things and, for Architecture Students, the hardest year of the undergraduate course.

Or so we were told in our introductory lecture at the beginning of the year.

I mean, thank you head of year for gently easing us back into university life after a summer spent free of work load and responsibility. The pre-crit stress that we all felt last year (reduced to a distant memory whilst sipping Piña Coladas on the beach in Zanzibar) came back into focus as we were given the course outline in the same room that we had pinned up and presented our work in only months previously.

In just one semester we had 2 projects, 6 assignments and 1 exam. Now, this may not seem like a lot to anyone who has yet to study architecture but trust me, the two projects alone are enough to raise your blood pressure.

Yet, the thought of February and of relative freedom whilst on placement kept us sane as we struggled through each of our assignments. Yes, unlike any other architectural course, Bath offers a ‘Thin Sandwich Placement Course’ which essentially means that instead of undertaking a year of practical experience in the third year, you do two half year placements; one in semester two of second year and the other in semester two of third year. This is designed so that each experience prepares you for the following university year as well as giving you the opportunity to work in two different practices in order to expand your knowledge of the breadth of architectural practices.

Now, this does cause housing problems especially if you decide you want to go home for placement, venture to London or go even further afield rather than staying in the Bath or Bristol area. You will need to find another student to swap your tenancy with for the second semester but the university will help you with this. There is a business course which has placement at opposite times to architecture students thus typically a group of architects will be replaced by a group of BBA’s after January exams.

Unfortunately, this swap means that you do need to vacate your residency prior to the start of semester two and you may not necessarily have secured a placement by that time. Thus, you are either forced to return home or like some of my friends, to camp out on their sofas as their BBA friends took over their bedrooms.

I, however, decided to remain in Bath for placement meaning I still (thank god) have free rein over my bedroom. It’s depressing though, as the semester starts and I have still yet to find a placement, I find myself wishing that like my flatmates I too have lectures to go to and work to do. Instead my days are blank. I have sent out applications to 29 practices in Bath and I constantly refresh my inbox expecting a gushing email off someone begging me to work for them any minute.

7 have replied to me so far. 5 to say they are sorry but cannot offer me a placement at this time but that they are impressed with my portfolio blah blah blah. 1 is reviewing my application and 1 has asked me for interview. So now I am counting down the days to said date.

Portfolio ready for Interview

Portfolio ready for Interview

During the first semester I dreamed of being free. Now, I dream of a project of sorts to keep me occupied. Don’t get me wrong, the first few nights of going to bed without setting an alarm were bliss. I could wake mid-morning and not have to move until my rumbling stomach made it impossible to hear what McDreamy was saying on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. But, quickly the novelty of doing nothing all day has worn off. It’s funny, starting a series when you actually have time to watch multiple episodes a day is not as fun as beginning ‘Gossip Girl’ a few weeks before June deadlines last year.

Helping out at Bath Cats and Dogs Home

Helping out at Bath Cats and Dogs Home

In order to pass the days, I have re-organised my whole bedroom, carried out a much needed clean of the bathroom, volunteered more frequently at ‘Bath Cats and Dogs Home’ and even cycled to and from Bristol one day when I was feeling extra motivated to leave the house.

My newly organised bedroom

My newly organised bedroom

I spent over two hours in Bristol’s Starbucks finishing my book and recovering before forcing myself to remount for the 13 miles back to Bath. It is a lovely sign posted off road route which is relatively flat except a few assents on the outskirts of Bristol. Definitely a must do for anyone who has a bike in Bath – though it does get a little busy during peak commute/school times. A bell is a useful investment; I could only politely yell at the school kids to get out of my way.

The Bath to Bristol Cycle Way

The Bath to Bristol Cycle Way

I am really excited to start a placement and to be working full time – partly so that I can truthfully sing Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ but also so that I can experience life as a grown up and decide whether or not it’s what I want to be. I’m not sure how useful I will be to the lucky practice who hires me, but I guess I’m a fast learner. At least that’s what I will tell them in my interview tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

 

Mountaineering in Snowdonia

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📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Engineering, Second year

Snowdonia at Christmas sounds magical. A beautiful blanket of snow hugging the vast moorland, pulled up in peaks formed like a perfect meringue mixture to encase the mountains.

Snowflakes gliding elegantly from the heavens like well-choreographed performers as trees sway and clap endearingly, thrusting off dancers taking well-deserved rests on their branches as if to say ‘Encore!’

Well, at least that’s what I wrote in my A-Level English coursework.

The reality is much different. Fog. Rain. Coldness.

Should have checked the weather

Should have checked the weather

Yet, Bath’s Mountaineers are a hardy bunch and nothing will stop us ambling through the wilderness; map in hand, clinging onto our hoods with the other. We walk through thick or thin fog. Rain or hail. Hurricanes or gales.

Now I say us; this was my first actual Mountaineering trip, preceded only by one walk around Bath, one failed bouldering attempt and multiple socials. Well, I needed to get my money’s worth out of the club joining fee somehow.

Despite the disappointing lack of snow, the trip was really fun. Organised on the weekend after everyone breaks up for Christmas, it was the perfect end to the year. A chance to enjoy the freedom of no lectures and to relax – well maybe relax is the wrong word – before traveling home for the holidays.

We set off on Friday afternoon for a 7 hour drive to North Wales. I seriously wasn’t prepared for the journey time, I could have made it home to Carlisle in less time (though may have needed a boat for the last leg for anybody who has read the news recently). Yet, the journey gave us the opportunity to get to know each other and being friends with only 4 other mountaineers before the trip, I vowed to make at least one new friend. Particularly considering those four are ‘mountaineers’ like me who not so much mountaineer as socialise.

After getting lost on a country lane in the middle of nowhere, we arrived at this really cute house adorned with a log burning fire in the lounge, a massive kitchen and dining room and bunkbed styled dormitories – perfect for the 37 tired mountaineers who. Just. Needed. Sleep.

The next morning we emerged at half 8 only to discover a group had already left for a walk. Mental considering a glimpse outside confirmed that I personally wouldn’t be venturing into the unknown any time soon. I mean the rain was relentless and mature trees were buckling in the force of the wind. So much for the idea of snow.

A morning spent playing board games in front of the open fire sounded much more appealing, particularly when 8 soggy mountaineers returned midmorning to dampen the hall way and fill up the drying room. However, as the day progressed and the rain still didn’t yield, a group of us decided that it was our duty to our namesake to actually explore the surrounding area and set off on an exhibition to the nearest pub.

Almost there!

Almost there!

It was a treacherous walk over soggy moorland and through a slate quarry, during which we learnt that the Welsh do not care much for well sign posted public footpaths nor strong features that can be easily identified on a map. However, we had fun bonding over our saturated boots and freezing fingers, and enjoyed lunch together huddled under the emergency shelter (much like a bright orange parachute).

worth the treck

We eventually arrived in the centre of Llanberis after walking for over 4 hours through the bitter wind and rain, thus a quaint Café serving steaming hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows averted our attention away from the pub. From there we organised for a mini bus to take us back to the house so we could shower and change before dinner.

It is mountaineering tradition that each year we don our finest clothes and enjoy a festive meal together served by committee themselves. And what a meal it was; a full roast complete with parsnips, pigs in blankets and cranberry sauce. Heavenly. The members were all to provide desert so it was a real feast of sweets. My caramel shortbread was obviously the winner though.

Group Christmas dinner

Group Christmas dinner

After dinner entertainment consisted of watching keen members attempt to ‘boulder’ around a table (aiming to scale the underside of the table without touching the floor). Mountaineers are such a crazy bunch – don’t fret though, we had a crash mat. Not wanting to make a fool of myself, I retreated to bed.

Now what’s a trip to Snowdonia without actually adding Snowdon to my repertoire of conquered mountains (current total 1)? Well, at least that’s what 7 of us thought. Despite the continuous rain which hadn’t wavered all weekend, we braced for the wind and began our ascent.

Not a pleasant walk I’ll admit but we did it. 2 hours up and 2 hours down was not bad considering our necks were aching from the continuous need to watch our feet in order to negotiate the rocky terrain and we could no longer remember what it felt like to be dry.

However, don’t let this put you off visiting Snowdonia. I can imagine myself quite happily strolling through the vast wilderness of North Wales on a sunny day and catching the train up to the café at the top of Snowdon in order to actually enjoy the views that the fog disguised.  Just make sure the café and trains are open when you go.

Sadly for us, we could only fantasize about a steaming mug of hot chocolate at the top.

 

 

 

The treck to university

  

📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Engineering, Second year

25 minutes by car, 55 minutes by bus, 1 hour 7 minutes walking. Or for me; 15 minutes cycling followed by a 20 minute trek up the mountain in order to reach campus in time for my 9.15’s. Gone are the days of leaving bed 5 minutes before a lecture. Gone are the days of afternoon naps. Being an adult is hard.

Second year is a very different experience, particularly if like me, you chose accommodation 3.7 miles away from the University. And if like me, you detest the use of public transport.

I guess you never really consider accommodation after 1st year before coming to university but it really does determine your way of life in the following years. I mean, I have to factor in an extra hour and a half each day travelling time, and I can’t just pop back home for lunch or if I forget something. Organisation is key. A lunchbox is handy. Missing a lecture from sleeping in is probably inevitable.

Deciding on second year accommodation is tricky, it seems you’ve only been at university for a few weeks before the first sweep of housing anxiety descends. There is enormous pressure to choose your future flatmates and to go on flat viewings together before you’ve even learnt all your current house mates’ names. How are you supposed to know who you want to live with the year after when you can’t even navigate your way around campus without getting lost?

We decided on accommodation a few weeks before Christmas after only two house viewing, both of which I couldn’t attend (it was the weekend before my design project was due). So there I was signing a housing contract on a house I had never seen situated in a place I’d never ever heard of and with people I barely knew.

My new room

Don’t get me wrong, I love my current flatmates and my house is amazing – albeit a little far away but when you live 5 minutes from Lidl, I can’t complain. Looking back though, it was a risk.

My advice to you is not to act too hastily. Ignore the pressure to sign a contract before you’ve even done your first load of washing and wait until you are sure of the people you will be struggling through second year with. I have friends who didn’t have accommodation sorted until June last year so don’t fret, you’ll find somewhere. Besides, more properties go online in January and the months following so don’t feel like you have to move fast in order to secure a house. Chances are a better one will go on the market later.

Securing a house before Christmas meant ease of mind yes, but after knowing these people for little over 2 months it seemed very rushed. Anything could happen in the months after our contract was signed; we might discover that one of the guys cannot be trained to put the toilet seat down or that one of the girls considers that hour long showers are practically a human right. I mean we have our sanity and energy bills to think of.

Speaking of which, I’m sat here writing this in multiple layers of clothing with my dressing gown on top because we are adamant that the heating will not be turned on until the thermometer drops well below zero. Getting out of bed in the morning is often a struggle but I like to think my morning dance routine to my alarm of ‘Hollaback girl’ sufficiently warms me up. Much like the cycle to the bottom of the hill. I set off wearing a jumper, cardigan, coat, hat, gloves, scarf and end up stripping to my t-shirt for the trek up Widcome Hill to the University.

Cycling to Uni

Cycling to Uni

Many people cycle round Bath and I would really recommend bringing a bike to Uni particularly if you’re living off campus. However, cycling on the roads can be quite hazardous particularly if like my flatmate, you don’t have efficient breaks. Let’s just say he ended up splayed on the boot of the car in front – luckily unscathed but inevitably very shaken up.

Route to uni

It has been a bad week for my house in terms of injuries and illness. Conversations are currently punctuated with numerous coughs as everyone seems to be dying of something. Fresher’s flu is definitely not a myth.

I have (touch wood) yet to be infected by said disease but I do have a sprained ankle to make up for it which I personally think is worse. Honestly the past few days have been a nightmare – I had to take the bus to Uni the other day.

I became an invalid on last Wednesday night after tripping down some steps on my way home from a night out – I swear I wasn’t even drunk. But living far from town meant I had to hobble 40 google minutes (60 crippled minutes) home to bed. Each step became progressively worse but I was adamant that I could do it.

The next morning was horrible. I woke to an inflamed ankle that I couldn’t put any weight on and had to navigate getting ready for my Architecture study trip to Stonehenge on one leg. We were leaving from the bus station in town at 8am so obviously no one was awake at 7am to offer sympathy when I stumbled out of the house and started limping to the bus (a 30 minute walk away).

Besides having to walk slower than a sloth in the sun, the trip was really fun – I had never been to Stonehenge before and the architecture department even paid for us all to view the rocks up close. £9000 yearly tuition fee is definitely worth it for the £17.70 admission price it saved us.

My ankle seems to have healed quickly so I intend on returning to my usual commute to campus tomorrow morning. Wish me luck.

 

Conquering Kilimanjaro : Poa Kichizi Karma Ndizi

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📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Engineering

All I remember is seeing the peak in the near distance and thinking that’s it, I’ve almost done it. After four and a half days, we were finally only 45 minutes from our goal.

Two hours later and we were cursing our ever the optimistic guide but we were there. We had made it. Somehow.

I swear I slept the majority of the time it took us to crawl from Steller Point (5756m) to Uhuruh Peak (5895m). Looking back, I think we must have had a 5 minute nap for every 10 minutes of walking - I never knew rocks could be so comfortable.

Before I set off, I never could have imagined how physically exhausting yet enjoyable this trek would be. I was naïve to the physical intensity of walking each day carrying a rucksack containing 4 litres of water, and to how many nature pees drinking this much would entail.

Our adventure began when we landed in Kilimanjaro airport at 2am local time and our luggage was strapped to the roof of a mini bus for an hour journey to the hotel in which we had our first taste of African ‘roads’. At least the jolts and bumps kept us awake.

K1

Ready to go!

We had a day at the hotel to recover before beginning the ascent the next morning, so naturally we jumped at the chance to visit a nearby orphanage rather than sleeping. With a tour guide from the hotel, myself and three other girls set off to glimpse our first proper sights of Tanzania. On the way we stopped off at a shop to buy sweets for the children, $10 for two packets of sweets and our guide received two ‘free’ cigarettes – something strange happened there.

A thumbs-up at the local orphanage

A thumbs-up at the local orphanage

To end our tour, our guide took us on the scenic route back to the hotel through the maize plantations and passed his ‘friend’ the witch-doctor. Needless to say we were thankful when we discovered his friend wasn’t in. Though to ease our disappointment our guide took us to his own home where we met his wife (slightly bewildered as to why there were four British girls in her house) and children. You can imagine it was quite an awkward experience with us all told to sit on their marital bed but it was an interesting insight into how the locals live. Afterwards, we persuaded our guide to walk us back to the hotel without stopping for coffee at one of his friend’s shops and he arranged for a driver to take us into the centre of Moshi (the nearby city). It was getting dark by the time we had finished looking round and bought souvenirs and we were eager to get back to the hotel. Suffice to say, we had some stories to tell the others when we got back - they didn’t even know we had left.

Disaster struck the following morning 15 minutes pre departure to the base of Kilimanjaro with both mine and my friend’s camel-packs breaking. I don’t know who thought a sack of water with a tube attached that you drink from was a good idea because as the sopping bed sheets we left in our room indicate, it’s not. There was a mad dash to buy another water bottle and more water before we set off. Probably not the best way to start the adventure – stressed and wet.

At base camp

At base camp

Our climb began after signing in at Machame Gate (1640m) and taking the obligatory photographs whilst our permit to begin the ascent was being processed. The fact that we were actually climbing the highest peak in Africa was yet to sink in and there really was not much difference between this walk and climbing Bathwick Hill albeit with walking poles and stunning scenery of the rainforest. Stopping regularly for a piece of our packed lunches and the inevitable nature pees, the morale of the group was really high. I guess it’s easy to bond with people after accidentally hitting them with a walking pole – I gave up with my poles after day 1, I just couldn’t coordinate my hands and feet.

We reached Machame Camp (2850m) after about 8 hours of walking to find that our tents had already been set up, the porters are truly incredible. Not only do they carry our 15kg bags on top of their own gear, but they walk twice as fast as us.

The next morning, we were awoken at 5.30 after a sleepless night of tossing and turning in which I think I must have eventually managed to drift off just before the time to wake up. Typical. After breakfast of porridge (runny gruel) and cold toast we set off, leaving the glades of the rainforest and ascending a rocky ridge to Shira Camp (3847m). Lunch was served when we reached camp then we embarked on an altitude acclimatisation trek up to 4000m in which people began to show signs of altitude sickness. Personally, I felt fine apart from tiredness - the lack of sleep from the last few days had caught up and I fell straight to sleep after tea that night.

Day 3 was a much gentler incline but with the increasing altitude many people were struggling. I ended up walking with one of the guides most of the way to Lava Tower (4630m), at 23 he’d already ascended the mountain over 60 times and he explained that to become a guide you have to climb up and down carrying all equipment in 3 days. That made our 6 days look pitiful in comparison and we had someone else carrying our things. He taught me some useful phrases to say in Swahili to add to my repertoire of ‘Jambo’ (hello), ‘Mambo’ (Hi, how are you?) and ‘Asante Sana’ (Thank you very much). In response to ‘Mambo’, I could now say ‘Poa Kachizi Karma Ndizi’ (Crazy cool like a banana) which always made the porters laugh – probably at my accent or lack of.  The talk turned more personal and he told me about his life away from the mountain (he gets only two weeks rest between each ascent) and asked me if he could add me on ‘Facebook’ when we reach the bottom and if he could show me his room in Moshi. Luckily I would be going on Safari the day after the mountain so there would be no time for such sightseeing.

Lava Tower was our stop for lunch then we descended to Barranco Camp (3976m) to sleep. The motto is walk high and sleep low. After breakfast we were faced with the task of scaling Barranco Wall, our first taste of actual climbing – hands were required to pull yourself up and at tricky points the helpful hand of a guide. It was here that the true fitness of the porters was shown, they nimbly negotiated the rocks effortlessly whilst balancing a huge bag on their head. Amazing. Just like the view from the top of the wall. It was bizarre standing above the clouds and peering down to an expanse of white, you could really sense just how high you had climbed. Yet, behind us the imposing snow-capped peak still felt out of reach.

A rewarding view

A rewarding view

We slept for 3 hours at Barafu Camp (4673m) that night before beginning our ascent to the summit at 1.30am. In the pitch black, with only our head torches to light our path, we shuffled along wearing all the clothes we had brought to shield us against the bitter cold. The sun rose at about 6am offering a little bit of extra warmth and teasing us with the view of the peak – still so far off.

Sunrise from Kilimanjaro

Sunrise from Kilimanjaro

But through sheer determination, 32 out of 34 of us made it to the Roof of Africa. We had completed our challenge and raised an outstanding amount of money for The Children’s Society. Even now as I write this, I cannot believe how much I have achieved in my first year of University.

Uhuru peak- the roof of Africa

Uhuru peak- the roof of Africa

 

 

In which I use my Children’s Society T-shirt as Pyjamas

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📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Engineering

My charity sash has been officially hung up, my stickers disposed of, and my collection buckets cast aside. No longer will my life revolve around raising money. I might actually be able to spend my Saturdays doing something fun rather than baking cakes. I might actually have a lie in on a Sunday. I might actually have time for my course.

If you haven’t already guessed it, I’ve reached my fundraising target!

In just under 6 months, I have raised over £3000 for The Children’s Society. Man that feels good to say.

I exceeded my target last night with funds from a quiz my friend and I had organised. She is raising money to go to Honduras next year where she will be volunteering for 2 weeks with a charity called ‘Operation Wallacea’, an organisation dedicated to promoting eco-tourism and conservation in developing countries. So combined, we were raising money for both children and animals. Bingo. Who could resist?

Fundraising2

The quiz

Speaking of bingo. The quiz had a twist (my Dad got a bit carried away when he was asked to be question master). Along with the usual rounds of questions, Dad decided to start with Bingo – the winner winning bonus points for their team. Dinner was served at half time, after which we had another bonus round which involved the teams racing to complete a dot to dot the fastest (my idea). We had the puzzle stuck to the bottom of one of the chairs on the team so before completing it, they had to first find it. One fell off when I walked past a table so I casually picked it up before they noticed – it wasn’t until I crawled under the table to secure it to the bottom of one of their chairs again that they gave me funny looks.

I also fulfilled my dream of watching grown adults play with straws when we set the teams the challenge of building the tallest tower solely out of plastic straws and blue tack. Honestly, it’s more fun than it sounds, even if one of my friends’ team bribed me for more blue tack and cheated by using the wall as support. Nobody was fooled though - they won the ‘boobey prize’ for finishing with the least amount of points.

Fundraising

Building!

I guess I can add pulling pints to my list of fortes now as I spent the night serving people on the bar. I now have a new sense of awe for people working behind a bar as pulling pints is much more difficult than I had ever thought. There is a real art to the perfect pint as the ‘beer drinkers’ kept telling me. I mean, who knew that the head needed to be of sufficient size or that the liquid should be clear sans bubbles. I’m sure it’s revolting either way.

Over 100 people turned up on the night to support our adventures. It almost got to the point where we had to stop letting people in – we only had one spare table and we had only provided food for 120 people. Fortunately, there was plenty of food for everyone, and the helpers got to share the left over lasagne and cakes whilst pretending to tidy up the kitchen.

£1200 was raised between us that night, and everyone was very supportive of our goals. However, some people kept telling me stories of how their friends had attempted to climb Kilimanjaro only to become a victim of altitude sickness and not reach the top. Honestly, I did not want to know.

I still don’t feel prepared to climb almost 6000 metres but is just over a month away. Better start breaking in my walking boots then.

 

Mystery 'shopping' at the Advice and Representation Centre

  

📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Engineering

I thought I would laugh. I thought I would mess up my lines. I thought I would give the game away but I didn’t. My performance was flawless. Well, the people at the University’s Advice and Representation Centre believed my act anyway.

It was my first task as a Mystery Shopper for the University and quite a peculiar mission. When I first signed up for this job back in Fresher’s Week, following an email about the role, I imagined testing whether I was asked for my ID when buying alcohol on campus. I thought it would be easy; stress free. I was wrong.

My task was simple; to go to the Advice and Representation Centre in the SU and ask to see an advisor. I was to act upset and panicked, to act like I needed to speak to someone urgently and if asked what my problem was, I was to refuse for confidentiality purposes until revealing my true identity to the advisor. Two advisors should be available at all times throughout the day for anyone to drop by to talk to so it was my job to test this service.

I was apprehensive for days before mustering up the courage to undertake my first acting assignment. I mean what was I going to wear to look the part? How should I do my makeup? My hair?

Cunningly, I chose to go on stage straight after receiving my first set of injections for Kilimanjaro thus I was already feeling rather tender and sensitive - perfect for my character. With my heart pounding and mentally reciting my hastily prepared lines over and over, I entered the office.

I joke. After a few minutes of waiting on their sofa whilst she tried her best to find me a solution, I was given the option to speak to someone confidentially. At this point I was definitely beginning to lose my composure. I mean, here was a woman desperately seeking someone to advise me on a problem that I didn’t actually have. I felt so bad that I began thinking up lavish stories about what I could say this pressing issue was so that I didn’t feel like I had completely wasted her time. Of course, this wasn’t part of my task and so I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when I was able to reveal my true identity.

I’m still waiting for my Oscar but in the meantime I have received an Amazon voucher for my moving performance. Autographs are available upon request.

But seriously if anyone does have an issue they would like to discuss with someone confidentially, I would definitely recommend going to the Advice and Representation Centre. I was dealt with professionally and it really seemed like they cared about my wellbeing.

The Centre is situated right in the middle of campus in the Students' Union and is open every week day from 9 till 5. They offer confidential advice and support whether you have a question about housing, academic issues or just want someone to turn to. They also offer a wide range of services including free legal advice and sexual health products at cost price. So, if you ever need advice about anything whilst on campus, no matter what your problem is, the ‘ARC’ is definitely the place to go.

It’s reassuring to know that there is always someone to confidentially talk to about anything during term time, it makes coming to University just a little bit less scary. As well as the ‘ARC’ centre, a group of students run ‘Nightline’ every night from 8pm till 8am. This service enables any student to ring if they need to talk to someone anonymously. Even though the volunteers cannot give out advice, they can guide you to finding your own solution or just offer a confident to your worries.

It’s safe to say, you are never alone at The University of Bath.

 

 

 

 

 

Putting the 'Fun' into Fundraising

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📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Engineering

It is less than 3 months today till June 8th, the day I will be beginning my trek up Kilimanjaro and very possibly one of the last days of my life.

Having reviewed the itinerary for the trip, I’m having serious doubts about my physical capabilities for conquering a mountain. On the last day they expect us to wake at midnight in order to climb the final stretch to the top in time to witness the sun rising over the horizon. The paragraph goes on to explain that we then slowly descend and casually mentions that we will be “trekking for 16-18 hours” this day.  That’s more hours than I’m usually awake for.

Somehow when I signed up for this challenge, my only worry was my fundraising target of £2990. I was naïve to the physical intensity of the trek, and having never actually climbed a mountain in my life, the prospect of spending 4 days walking uphill seems very daunting. Yet, having raised over £2300, the adventure is beginning to appear increasingly real.

Collecting outside Tesco

Collecting outside Tesco

Looking back on all my fundraising exploits, I have no idea how I have managed to raise so much money. I am just thankful to everyone who has supported me in getting this far and – excuse my soppiness – but I have been truly overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, family and random strangers.

Now you might think that raising money is solely comprised of bucket collections in which you don your best ‘puppy dog’ eyes (not difficult after being stood in the rain for two hours) and pester strangers into giving up their change. However, I have learnt that there are so many other things you can do if you are willing to give up the time.

I can’t remember my last Sunday lie in as for the past month or more, my friend and I have organised to sell tea, coffee and cakes to the congregation of many of Bath’s Churches. We now have a good repertoire of cakes that we can make in the limited space and faulty appliances of an Eastwood kitchen – not easy I’ll tell you. Especially as our flatmates constantly judge our baking with snide comments about breaking their teeth on the biscuits or laughing at our bowl of burnt chocolate after misjudging the microwave’s viciousness.

My Just Giving page- almost there!

My Just Giving page- almost there!

It has been an interesting experience going to the coffee mornings with my friend who has never been to a Church service before. On one such occasion, we thought it was a good idea to go out the night before meaning we had had very little sleep and my friend still appeared to be drunk. Not a combination I would advise when we had to stand through a 2 hour church service. Upon arrival at the Church she unknowingly agreed to being an Orthodox not realising that this was an Orthodox Church. This led to many peculiar looks as the congregation began their worship whilst she just stood there looking bewildered and I consulted my kindly donated ‘A child’s guide to being an Orthodox’. Despite being a little out of our comfort zone, our cake sale proved a huge success and we were even treated to lunch afterwards (though the jacket potatoes were a tad ‘al dente’ and a woman desperately tried to set me up with her ‘charming’ son).

Another sacrifice I had to make was turning down all of my admirers to bag-pack for loved up couples and last minute rose buyers on Valentine’s Day. Cupid’s powers were obviously in our favour though, as we managed to raise over £400 so I’m sure my potential dates understood – my cat was pretty upset though.

With every new donation came a surge of media requests interested in my story (well my local paper was interested anyway after my mum boasted about me at her keep fit class). It was safe to say I was not expecting a call mid-chip from a reporter seeking insight into my endeavours whilst at the pub with a friend. This was proceeded by many puzzled looks as I divulged information about my life, becoming particularly flustered as she asked me what I liked to do in my spare time. Err, I didn’t think I could tell her that I don’t actually have a life. Even with this stuttered interview and an even more awkward photoshoot involving posing by a tree donning the photographers camera bag (apparently I needed to look the part) it has led to a vast amount of support from my fellow villagers. So worth the paparazzi I’d say, though I never want to have to go through that again. I mean I basically said ‘yolo’ as my reason behind this trip.

Preparations are well under way for my last fundraising push; a Quiz Night with a twist in my local Village Hall. The twist being that as well as questions, we’re going to be setting the teams challenges. I have the Architecture department to thank for the idea of a task to build the tallest tower out of straws – something we did in Fresher’s Week which proved rather difficult. Though, I must admit those were some very artistic sculptures. Somehow, the sight of grown adults playing with straws proved too tempting not to include - I feel I might enjoy the quiz more than my guests.

I’m optimistic that by my next blog post I will have hit my target, yet, if not, my student loans comes through soon so I may have to make a very generous donation to The Children’s Society. I have until 13th April to raise the rest. Wish me luck.

 

A visit from afar

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📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Engineering

Two bus rides, a flight and a train journey. Yes, my sister had to tackle all of these when she travelled from Edinburgh to Bath to spend a weekend with me celebrating the end of my exams. Something that she somehow never ceased to forget, particularly when it came to who would do the washing up.

The week before her arrival I, being the dedicated sister (not because I was procrastinating from revision), researched things to do and see in Bath thus we had the whole weekend planned. ‘Wagamama’s’ Friday night for tea, 5k Park Run Saturday morning followed by rowing on the river Avon and the Bath Skyline walk on the Sunday. Yes, I wanted her to experience all of Bath’s wonders – and secretly to keep her out of the flat so that my flat mates couldn’t make up weird stories about me or vice versa.

So, as soon as the examiner released me from my final exam, I was instructed to run down the hill to the train station to greet her. The timings meant that she arrived in Bath an hour before my exam finished so on top of the travelling, she had to wait in the centre of Bath alone. All hard feelings were forgotten when we reached Wagamama’s, a Japanese restaurant that neither of us had been to before though was highly recommended. It did not disappoint even if half way through our main course I received a text from one of my flat mates asking where we were sat in the restaurant. I had mentioned to them that we were going so naturally they all decided to come too – I thought they were joking until I spotted them on my way to the loo.

After sharing dessert and sipping our complementary free Green tea, I introduced her to Widcome Hill, one of the hills that runs up to the University. After all, we needed to burn off the calories from our trio of desserts and I needed to prove to her that I wasn’t exaggerating when I compared the climb to Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

Back at my flat, we began planning the following day only to discover that the ‘Bath Boating Station’ where we were going to hire the rowing boats from was closed for the winter – obviously, I was too focused on my revision to notice the opening dates. So with the weekend ruined, we decided to look around the shops in the centre of Bath after the Park run instead (if we could still move).

It was our first ever Park Run so we were rather nervous as to what the standard of ability would be like. I guess those nerves were reason that I didn’t sleep well on the Friday night though it equally could have been because I had to share my single bed with someone who liked to hog the duvet and hot water bottle.

The Park Run wasn’t as scary as we had anticipated so I am now determined on doing it most weekends as part of my training for climbing Kilimanjaro. Ok, so I didn’t go this week but that was only because it was my friend’s birthday the night before so you know… I suggested we all did it together in the morning but for some reason none of them were keen.

Park Runs can be found all across Britain and are essentially a marshalled 5km route which anyone can walk, jog or run regardless of fitness. There were children as young as 5 completing the route when we did it. Bath’s route is very close to the University and boasts some impressive views to spur you on so it’s a perfect way to keep fit even without any previous jogging experience. The only downside is that some of the marshals take pictures of you on route thus be prepared for some lovely new profile pictures of you in action.

After a shower and breakfast, we headed down the scenic route across the fields into the centre of Bath. It was a bad decision. Having rained the night before, the fields were very slippery and I ended up falling over. Furthermore, I had to walk around the shops covered in mud for the rest of the afternoon much to the amusement of my sister. I made her walk up Bathwick Hill as punishment.

The following day we set off on the Bath Skyline Walk. A signposted 10km circular walk around Bath. We began at ‘Baths Cats and Dogs Home’, an animal refuge on the edge of the University campus, so after an obligatory look and cuddle of all the animals they care for, we followed the signs through woods and across fields.

Bath Cat's and Dog's Home

Bath Cat's and Dog's Home

You almost forget that you are just outside a busy city until the view opens up to reveal the beautiful Georgian ashlar cityscape of Bath. What’s more, the people you pass on the walk (naturally the majority clad in tweed) actually smile and greet you much like everyone does in my village at home. Now, I understand if you’re from a large city, you may find this bizarre. You may get paranoid that the sweet smiles are actually them plotting your murder, but fear not, we only do that if you don’t smile back.

It took us just over 3 hours to complete the walk what with our periodical stops for selfies – yes, after Christmas, I am now the annoying owner of a ‘Selfie stick’.

The selfie stick

The selfie stick in action

I’ll admit we received some rather funny looks particularly from those in tweed.

It was sad when the weekend was over but quite frankly I was exhausted. Alas, my single bed felt very lonely that night.

 

My Flatmates

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📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Engineering

As my first term draws to a close, I feel it’s time to write a blog post about the bunch of weirdos whom I’ve been living with for the past 4 months. My first impressions of them arouse from their Facebook profiles after joining the University’s social media page for my accommodation block. So after a bit of mandatory Facebook stalking in which I found a very strange ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ involving a dance routine to ‘Ice Ice Baby’, numerous ‘Selfies’ and what seemed to be vast differences in culture, I was quite apprehensive as to what to expect.

I guess you never know who you are going to meet at University but I can honestly say that my housemates are all lovely, even with their many quirks!

Room 1: Mr. Selfie. Day one and we were required to take a ‘selfie’. Halloween; ‘selfie’. Christmas meal; ‘selfie’.  Pretty much any group activity and it’s ‘selfie time’. We all dutifully stand in place (too shy at first to refuse) with his face largest on one side, soon to be uploaded to social media as a document to our first year together.

Room 2: Me. Winner of best housemate. No more information required.

Room 3: The ‘Star’ Man of the House. Very open about past exploits, yet for some reason gets annoyed when you repeat those stories to his home friends accidentally. With a heavy first night in Freshers’ Week where he returned at 6am to kindly wake me up by the sound of his drunken stumbles, it was safe to say he wasn’t my most popular housemate. Though, he has since tamed and now the only sound I hear from his room pre-midday is the periodically ringing of his alarm as he hits ‘snooze’ yet again.

Room 4: The House Ninja. Our resident Judo champion who is always getting ‘Ippon’. A Judo joke featured heavily on our ‘Rumour Board’ linking her to a variety of males.. Her local knowledge is also useful as she from is Bath. Winner of funniest housemate.

Room 5: Mr. Thinks he's Northern. Pft please. Coming from Chesterfield, he claims to be from the North too, despite clearly being from the Midlands. A map has been handy on many occasions to prove him wrong. Though, at least I’m not completely alone in fighting against the sea of ‘Barrths’.  It was him who was the guilty party concerning the weird ice bucket challenge but has yet to regain his dignity. He has a didgeridoo.

Room 6: Miss No Food. A vegetarian who dislikes milk, moist food and even sliced bread. To be honest, I'm not quite sure what she eats. Inevitably, she won the title of weirdest diet – a category created just for her. We’ll be climbing Kilimanjaro together this year despite her constant worry that she won’t raise enough money for The Children’s Society. However, I’m more concerned about her making it up the mountain alive as she’s scared of everything (coming from London to the ‘Countryside’, she believes there are snakes on the golf course behind our accommodation) and is still adamant she could survive on 3 cereal bars a day if she doesn’t like the food on the trek. I’m not convinced.

Room 7: Miss Always Out. Multiple trips home to visit her boyfriend and weekends in Bath together at the nearest Travelodge. I don’t know what they could be doing there. Probably brainstorming innovative ways to raise money as she's also climbing Kilimanjaro with me.

Room 8: Mr PlayStation. The proud owner of the games console which is perfect procrastination for some of my housemates, particularly over exam time. ‘Fifa’ is the game of choice, which I've tried - and am great at - but is not for me. My main involvement with the game seems to be requesting it is paused so I can get into my cupboard, which is awkwardly positioned under the TV screen. Winner of most improved housemate (possibly because he moved the PlayStation from his room to the kitchen).

Room 9: The Other Architect. It is very useful to have someone from my course in the house as it made going to the first few lectures much less intimidating and is proving handy when revising for exams for last minute revision help. Winner of prettiest female - which should've been me. I was runner-up and I'm sure she voted for herself.

Room 10: The Greek Stallion (or so he made me write). It was his family who I had an awkward encounter with on the first day where by his parents promised me that Greek night would be a regular occurrence. They said their son would gracefully cook for us all every week. Although he won Best Cook, I'm still waiting.

Room 11: The Other Charlotte. I pulled her name out for our flat’s Secret Santa so decided to give her something to remind her of home. Wine and cheese. Yes, she's French and the cheese stunk out my room for days before the present giving. Winner of House Ghost as it can be long periods of time before she emerges to make herself some more mozzarella and olive oil salads.

Room 12: The Man Bun Wannabe. Recently started styling his hair in a top knot yet with hair no quite long enough, he resorts to wearing bobby pins to scrape it back. Being a talented musician, he provides us all with some much needed musical entertainment and often sings at the ‘Open Mic Night’ at the bar on campus. We finally persuaded him to play his own song "Frozen by Flames" about his recent heartbreak which was a really beautiful moment for the flat. Winner of cheapest housemate - Sainsbury's basics only.

Room 13: Mr Blame. If something goes wrong in the house, it's him that gets the blame resulting in his catchphrase "it wasn't me", although it nearly always is. This makes him a prime suspect for THAT poo. Something that was reflected in the house vote, though has yet to be admitted.

So that’s my house. The people I’ve been living with throughout my time here in the South and even if they don’t always wash up after themselves or take the bin out when it starts over flowing, they’re like family. Albeit, like any family, there are dramas including plenty of totally hilarious and not at all annoying practical jokes.

On one such occasion, I made my sleepy way up to the first floor toilet after waking only to be greeted by the dining room table set with out-of-date milk on soggy cereal. I laughed so much. A laughter which only augmented after fumbling my way across the chairs to find the recycling bin in the toilet. Ha Ha. I don’t think it’s possible to live with any nicer people than these guys even if they do occasionally make fun of my accent or splatter eggs all over the kitchen. I obviously have my favorites but they'll probably read this so I'll best keep that information to myself, after all I have to put up with them again for the rest of the year.

Table outside toilet

My housemates' practical joke!