Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

Topic: Hannah

Open Days- things to do while visiting Bath

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📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

The season for open days is coming up! An open day can be really useful to help you decide which universities you want to apply to. You’ll be able to visit your subject department, learn more about the course, meet some of your future lecturers, and get an opportunity to explore the campus and accommodation.

While open days are often pretty busy with trying to cram in all the talks and events you want to attend and trying to see as much of the university as possible, it’s also a good idea to get a feel for the town or city that you’ll be living in for the next three or four years. While I haven’t been into the city centre on a regular basis during my first year at Bath, I’ll be living in the city next year and in my final year after I have completed my placement. That's twice as long as I’ll spend in my first year university accommodation, and so open days are a good opportunity to see what Bath has to offer. If you’ve got some time to kill before your train home after the open day, or if you will be spending the night in Bath, the city has some great places to explore.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey on a sunny day!

Bath Abbey on a sunny day!

One of the main attractions in Bath is the beautiful Bath Abbey. Entry is free (although they do ask for a small donation), and there’s a lot to see inside. When I visited the Abbey with my family (it’s a great thing to do when family and friends come to visit you in Bath) we spent ages reading the plaques and stone tablets of people who had been interred in the abbey and buried in the churchyard. People from all over the world have been buried there – I think we read nearly all of them! You can also go up the bell tower, and although they do charge (around £7), it offers amazing views of Bath. There are only certain times of day you can go up though so make sure you check in advance if this is something you want to do!

Museums

Hopefully you will visit Bath on a sunny day, but if not there are plenty of things to see and do indoors as well. Bath is famous for its link to Jane Austen, several of her novels are set here and she herself lived in Bath for part of her life. The Jane Austen Centre offers a wide range of information about her life, her family, and Bath society during the Regency period. The museum is situated in a house very like the one she would have lived in, and there are frequent talks and tours. There is also the chance to dress up in Regency period costume – something me and a friend enjoyed a lot when she came to visit me!

Trying my hand at old fashioned writing in the Jane Austen Centre

Trying my hand at old fashioned writing in the Jane Austen Centre

If, like us, you hadn’t had quite enough dressing up in the Jane Austen Centre you can also visit the Fashion Museum which has a really good exhibition of fashion from the 1700/1800s to modern day. Again, there is a whole room dedicated to dress up, this time with crinolines, corsets and a special backdrop so that you can take photos. The fashion museum is also free for Bath university students so it’s a good place to go when friends visit you at Uni.

Enjoying the Fashion Museum

Enjoying the Fashion Museum

You can find out more about the great museums in and around Bath here.

Walks

If the day you visit Bath is sunny then I would recommend either the Bath Skyline Walk or a gentle stroll alongside the River Avon. The Bath Skyline Walk is a round walk of around six miles that starts in the city centre, climbs to the top of the hill where you get amazing views of the city and then descends back down. The walk is accessible from the University campus – walking round the edge of the golf course just above the university you will soon find signs pointing you to the walk. If you prefer a walk more in the city there is a path that runs just alongside the river and gives you great views of the city.

Shopping and Eating

And last, but not least, what lots of people come to Bath for: shopping. Bath has an excellent range of shops- both chain high-street stores (Primark, H&M, Topshop, Zara etc.) and also many smaller boutiques and independent stores. Wandering round the shops is also a good way to get to know the city centre and to try out some of the great cafés and restaurants in Bath. If you’re looking for a light lunch or a snack I would recommend the Boston Tea Party (amazing lemon cake) and although I am still to try it, the world famous Sally Lunn’s is very popular as well.

Whatever your tastes you should be able to find something to see or do in Bath that suits you. I think that getting a feel for the town you are going to live in is as important as getting a feel for the university, so don’t pass up the opportunity to sample what Bath has to offer!

 

Bath Snowsports Ski Trip 2016

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📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah, Second year

As you probably know by now the University of Bath has a week’s holiday (inter-semester break or ISB) at the end of semester one (September-January) in the last week of January before semester two (February-May) begins. It’s a chance to relax after exams and recharge your batteries before the second semester kicks off. You have lots of options for your ISB, last year I used it to visit some friends at their universities and I spent a couple of days in Paris with the family I au paired for in my gap year. Some people prefer to spend some more time with their families at home as you don’t get a very long break over Christmas (and most of it is spent revising) and some go on holiday with friends. One of my housemates decided to spend her ISB in the Gambia topping up her tan.

I opted for something a bit different and decided to go on the Ski Trip – organised by Bath Snowsports. This sports club is one of the biggest in Bath and each year they offer the chance to go on a ski trip. In 2016 the trip was to Val Thorens in France. Initially I wasn’t really sure if I would enjoy it, I was worried there would be more focus on the nightlife than actual skiing and before I signed onto the trip there wasn’t a huge amount of information available on what it would be like. In this post I’ve broken the trip down into 5 sections, so that if you do decided to go you’ll know more or less what you’re getting.

Three Valleys Piste Map

Three Valleys Piste Map

Travel

I will not lie to you, this is definitely the worst part of the ski trip. The journey ended up being around a 20 hour journey on the way there and a 16 hour journey on the way back (and I got off early!). However despite those travel times it’s not as bad as it sounds. We were mostly held up at Calais, as the coach takes the ferry over to France, and while we were there we could get off the coach and stretch our legs a bit. It’s also a good idea to use the bus journeys to catch up on sleep as you won’t get a lot of it on the trip! Rechargeable batteries for phone/iPods/laptops are another essential. Some people who weren’t keen on the idea of an endless coach journey, or had a placement to get back to, chose to either fly out there or back or both for around £65-£80 one way if you book in advance.

Food & Accommodation

Before you go on the trip you will have the option to sign up to a “friendship group”. You will get the coach with people from this “friendship group” and it is likely that your rooms will be close together. The size of the group can be as big or as small as you like (although there had to be a minimum of three people). This year there were 5 people per room and you sign up to rooms with the people in your friendship group.

Our great value apartment

Our great value apartment

Although the accommodation was a little cramped, one bedroom-kitchen, one toilet, one shower and another bedroom with bunkbeds, this just added to the fun of the trip and as it’s only 6 nights the size of the accommodation doesn’t really matter. Though I signed up for a self-catered apartment as they were cheaper you also have the option of partially catered if cooking really isn’t for you. Two of the people I was sharing with also chose the “bread in bed” option for an addition £7.50, and two baguettes were delivered to our door every morning, making breakfast much easier. For making meals we brought some ingredients from home (snacks, pasta, pesto etc.) but there were plenty of supermarkets in the resort. I also ate out for dinner twice as you can find fairly inexpensive meals (10-15 euro per person).

Our accommodation

Our accommodation

Skiing

Now to move on to the best part of the trip – the skiing! Whether you’re a beginner or an expert this trip caters for everyone. I went with several friends who had never skied before, some who had only dry slop skiing experience and some who had been a couple of times but still weren’t very confident and they all decided to take three days’ worth of lessons. They all agreed that the lessons were really useful and good value for money. As I’ve been several times before I decided not to have lessons this time and to make the most of my three valleys ski pass. Val Thorens is connected to two other resorts, Meribel and Courcheval (ski map below) and so we made several day trips to try out the runs there. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and had both blue skies and perfect skiing snow. The trip also offers some skiing workshops, such as off-piste skiing.

Pro skiers

Pro skiers

Après

A lot of people’s favourite part of the trip was the après-ski, or the nightlife. Bath Snowsports offer you a £12 wristband which gets you free entry into most of the bar and clubs, discounted drinks and discounts at the supermarket in our accommodation block. I would strongly recommend buying the wristband, even if you don’t plan on partying much, it helps save you a lot of money. The après was divided into three parts; a bar with a DJ up on the mountain until around 5-6pm, live music/DJ’s in one of the bars 10pm-12am and then onto a club. This meant that you can pick and choose what you want to do, if you’d rather focus on the skiing then you can choose just to go and relax in one of the bars, but you also have the option to go out and dance the night away! One event I would really recommend going to is the Mountain meal, dinner in one of the restaurants on the mountain. For £30 we were treated to beef fondue, salad, chips and half a bottle of wine, with night-skiing down afterwards.

Après on the mountain

Après on the mountain

Money

A big worry when going skiing is that it will be really pricey. While I won’t deny that the ski trip is an expensive holiday it’s still relatively cheap for going skiing. I paid around £650 (including a £50 damage deposit, wristband, mountain meal, accommodation, ski hire & lift pass). It’s also recommended that you take around 250 euros spending money for the week. However I only took 200 and I had some left over, even after eating twice in a restaurant so you can definitely manage on less.

I had a really amazing week in Val Thorens and if you’re thinking about going next year, I would really recommend it!

 

Au Pairing

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📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

I have worked as an au pair twice, once in Paris, France, where I was looking after 10 year old twins and a 3 year old for 10 months and once in Zaragoza, Spain where I was looking after a 4 year old for 2 months (guess which was easier!). As a language student au pairing is a fantastic opportunity to improve your language skills and to experience the culture and daily life of the country you are studying. Even if you’re not studying another language it’s a great way to live abroad cheaply, have some new experiences and make some new friends!

In this blog post I have revisited all the questions I had before I became an au pair for the first time – so if you need a summer job, are about to go on a year abroad, or want to take a gap year here is all my advice and experience.

So, what exactly is au pairing?

Being an au pair is basically child minding, just normally in a different country! You look after a family’s children and in exchange you live with them as a part of their family. Most au pairs live in the same house as their family, with their own room and sometimes their own bathroom. You will also receive a weekly salary, which in France and Spain ranges from between 50-90€. As an au pair you shouldn’t be working more than 30 hours a week (normally 6 hours a day Mon-Fri, though some families may exchange a weekday afternoon for Saturday morning) and if you do work more hours (for example babysitting) you should be paid extra.

In France the family had had the garage converted into a living space of about 30m², with bedroom, kitchenette and bathroom, where I lived. Several other au pairs who lived in the centre had their own small flat, either next to or above the family’s. This is the better situation, especially if you’re already at uni/graduated and are used to living on your own. It’s nice to have your own space where the family doesn’t disturb you. In Spain I lived in a flat with the family, I had my own room and shared a bathroom with their child. Although this means you get a little less privacy it also means that I was better integrated into the family and also gave me lots of chances to talk to the parents and so improve my Spanish.

Is it right for me, even if I don’t speak or study a language?

In my opinion au pairing is right for pretty much everyone, unless you really really hate children. Au pairing is a really good way to live cheaply and easily in another country. As you don’t work long hours you will have loads of time for weekends away to visit other places and also to explore the place where you’re staying. In France I usually started work once the children got home from school around 4pm and worked until 8-9pm when the parents arrived from work. During the day I took French classes (twice a week) and visited Paris as much as I could. In Spain, as it was during the summer, I worked from 9am-3pm, which gave me all afternoon off to relax by the pool or meet up with other au pairs in the centre of Zaragoza.

As to the language, au pairing is a good way to learn a new one and it doesn’t matter at all if you don’t speak a word of it before you go! I arrived in France with only French GCSE and left 10 months later with a level close to the first year of university. In Spain, although I am already fairly comfortable in Spanish, I also took some writing classes and spoke as much as I could with the parents, which helped improve my fluency. But even if you don’t really want to learn a language au pairing is still for you! I have met many au pairs who speak only English with their host families (some families will prefer that you do this) and spend most of their time with other English speaking au pairs. They are using au pairing as a way to travel and meet some new people, and picking up some words and phrases along the way.

 In Bercy, Paris with some German au pairs


In Bercy, Paris with some German au pairs

How do I become an au pair?

If you’re a member of the EU and want to au pair in the EU then it’s really easy! The first time I went au pairing I did it through an agency. This has a lot of advantages. Both you and the families are screened and checked and if there are any problems you can report it directly to the agency and they will be able to help you to sort it out, or if necessary, place you with a new host family. It will also be easier to meet fellow au pairs as the agency will have a list of families with au pairs in your area. For an EU member in the EU the agency shouldn’t charge you! To au pair to France I went through two agencies free of charge. Some au pairs I have spoken to have ended up paying £300 or more to be placed with a family – this is too much. Firstly I spoke to Dr Ruth Campbell who runs Au Pair Ecosse, an agency that normally places French au pairs in Scotland but also has contacts to place au pairs from the United Kingdom in France. She then put me through to Europair, an agency which places au pairs all over France. As the site is in French, for those who don’t speak it, it may be better to get in contact with Dr Campbell first.

However, if you’re a little more confidence and you don’t want the hassle of filling out lots of forms for an agency, then you can also set up your au pairing placement directly with the family. I chose to do this when I au paired in Spain as I was going for a shorter amount of time and knew what to expect from the family. I used the website Au Pair World. You create a profile which host families can see and then you can search for a host family that matches your requirements (country, number of children, length of stay etc.). Once you have found a family you like you can send them a message and being getting to know them. Be warned it does take a lot of patience to find the family that is right for you, and sometimes when you think you have found the right one they might chose to go with another au pair. But persevere! Using this site I found a really lovely Spanish family who were very keen to make me feel welcome.

Where should I go?

This is totally up to you! If it’s your first time au pairing I would recommend staying close to home, in Europe, sometimes it takes a bit of time to adapt and it’s nice to know you can go home easily for a visit. It will be very easy to au pair in most European countries, obviously I would recommend France or Spain but you can go basically anywhere. If you’d rather an English speaking country it’s also possible to au pair in places like Australia and the US, though in this case it will probably cost more as you’ll need a Visa. In this case I would definitely recommend going through an agency.

Au Pairs in Spain (I was a little unprepared for this photo)

Au Pairs in Spain (I was a little unprepared for this photo)

What should I expect from my host family?

Your host family should treat you as part of their family, like an older sibling to the child(ren) you are looking after. They shouldn’t try and take advantage of the fact that they have live in childcare and make you work lots. You are also there to explore a new country and have fun! If possible try and get your host family to write and sign a contract with you about how many hours you work and how much you get paid. If you are really unhappy with the family and not enjoying yourself then leave. It is not worth being in a situation that makes you miserable. That being said au pairing can sometimes be hard so don’t give up immediately!

What will my host family expect from me?

In accepting you as part of their family for a while they’ll expect you to act like part of their family. Although obviously you don’t have to spend all of your free time with them it is a good idea, especially at the beginning, to hang out with them a bit and get to know them, especially the children you’ll be looking after. I usually tried to eat dinner with my host family during the week, and to spend at least one afternoon with them at weekends. If you’re there to improve language skills talking to the parents can be one of the best ways to do this and if they’re good host parents they should be happy to help you. Just remember that although you’re working for them you’re still a guest in their house so be considerate of their rules and routines.

Beautiful sunset and La Tour Eiffel

Beautiful sunset and La Tour Eiffel

How can I meet other people my own age while au pairing?

Meeting other au pairs is very easy. No matter where you go there will probably be a Facebook group you can join (search for: Name of place, au pairs, the year you are going) and if you go with an agency they will probably provide you with a list of contact details for other au pairs in the area. If you’re au pairing during the school year you might also meet other au pairs while picking/dropping the kids off at school, or your host family may know other families who also have au pairs.

Going to language lessons is another good way to meet people. In Paris there was a French school (France Langue) specifically for au pairs which only had lessons during the day, rather than in the evening when most au pairs are working. However if you don’t want to speak English all the time (most likely the language you’ll be speaking with the other au pairs) it’s a good idea to try and meet some local people, though this is often much harder. In Spain I placed an advert for a Spanish-English conversation exchange on a local council website for young people and I met a girl my age who needed to improve her English for an oral exam. Another way is to join a sports club which several au pairs did in Paris and they were able to meet lots of French people.

I hope that’s answered all your questions – happy au pairing!

 

Working as an Outreach Tutor

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📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

I really wanted to get a job in my first year at university. I enjoyed earning my own money while I was working as an au pair on my gap year and it’s always useful to have a bit of extra cash at Uni! Before I arrived at Bath I received an email offering students the opportunity to apply for the roles of Admissions Ambassador, Outreach Ambassador and Outreach Tutor. In all three roles you are essentially working as a representative for the university, engaging with prospective students. I applied for all three posts. Although of course you can get jobs in Bath itself and I know several people who do bar or restaurant work, working for the University as an Ambassador or a Tutor is really useful. The jobs are really flexible – you can work when and if you’re available and the University are much more understanding about time off for exams. The pay is well above minimum wage (around £7 or £8 an hour) and it looks really good on your CV. And it's also really good fun!

Admissions and Outreach Ambassadors

These are very similar roles but offered by two different departments within the University. Admissions Ambassadors work on events organised by the Higher Education Advice Team (HEAT) while Outreach Ambassadors work with the Widening Participation Office (WPO). The WPO are committed to support and encourage the progression of students from underrepresented groups into university and other forms of higher education. Both roles involve helping out with events on campus, such as summer schools, taster days and open days, and events off campus, such as Higher Education fairs, visiting schools to help out on projects and running activities. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to work for these roles yet (due to a very awkward 2nd semester timetable) they are a really good opportunity to develop key skills. Both roles offer training days on how to be an effective leader and how to come up with, organise and run group activities.

Outreach Tutors

Tutors work for the Widening Participation Office (WPO) and the main objective of the scheme is to encourage secondary school students to come to university.

As tutors we work with KS4 students (years 10 and 11) giving them a bit of extra help in class and also answering their questions about university. We mainly work with the higher achieving students to help boost their grades and their confidence. I applied to help tutor French and Spanish students at a local secondary school. I have some experience of private tutoring (I helped out a friend’s sister with her Spanish AS Level, but it still counts!) but I have never worked in a school before so I was a bit nervous on my first day.

My official badge

My official badge

It felt very weird being back in secondary school – my first time in 2 years! I was assigned to a year 10 Spanish class helping them with coursework and then exam preparation. The first few sessions were a bit frustrating as I was only allowed to help them in English as the coursework is done in controlled conditions. But with coursework out of the way they are now revising exam topics – something I can definitely help with! Although for the last few lessons I have been working more as a teaching assistant in the class room hopefully in the next couple of weeks I will be able to work with smaller groups on their grammar and pronunciation. It’s also good revision for me as well, although I could talk to you in Spanish about the Spanish Civil War I can’t remember what the word for armpit is (la axila if you’re wondering).

And these roles aren’t only for first year students. If you sign up as a Fresher you’ll still be able to do them in your second and fourth years. I’m hoping I’ll be able to carrying on tutoring next year, hopefully at the same school with the same class and be able to see the student’s progression. I’ve enjoyed the tutoring so much that I’m thinking about going into teaching!

 

French and Spanish at Bath

  

📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

As you may have realised from some of my previous posts I study French and Spanish (full course title: Modern European Studies: French and Spanish) at Bath. In 2014, the year I was applying to universities Bath was ranked by the Guardian as one of the top ten universities for modern foreign languages (MFL). A very high percentage of its graduates find work 6 months after graduating.

The main reason I chose Bath, and not Southampton, which was my other top choice, was because the majority of the course at Bath is taught in the target language. Very few other universities in the UK offer this and although it may not seem that important it can have a hugely positive impact on your progress. But it’s difficult to know what the course is really like from the prospectus or open days. Here’s my breakdown of what studying modern foreign languages is like.

Seminars
My course is divided between seminars and lectures. Seminars focus on actually learning the language while through the lectures I learn about the history, politics and culture of French and Spanish speaking countries. I have six weekly seminars, three for French and three for Spanish. For each language I have a grammar seminar, a reading and writing seminar and an oral seminar. These are very similar to the language classes that you have at A Level, except that each seminar focuses on a different skill.

In the first year you are introduced to a wide range of topics such as translation, comprehension, essay writing, transcription, formal letter and CV writing. These are designed to help you both in your professional life after university and also for your essays and exams. In terms of grammar each seminar covers a different aspect from tenses to prepositions to the subjunctive. Sometimes the grammar seminars are incredibly useful, helping you to understand something you never really got at A Level or introducing something you were never taught before. In the first year some seminars can feel a bit frustrating as some of the material you will most likely have already studied at A Level or GCSE. So don’t worry if you feel like everyone will be better than you at university, the first year is all about making sure everyone’s at the same level.

Lectures
The second part of your course will be lectures – I have two two-hour lectures a week, one for French and one for Spanish. Through the lectures you will cover the history, politics and culture of Spanish and French speaking countries. The lectures are also done completely in the target language (though if you’re lucky you may get a lecturer willing to do a short summary in English). Although this can be a bit challenging, especially if you have any two-hour lectures at 9.15, it is so useful to have all your notes and to have gone over all the material in the language you are leaning. When I came for my open day Bath presented the MFL courses as very modern and language focussed. For the most part they are but don’t be surprised if you get a history module which requires you to read a book. For example last semester in French we were studying the French Revolutions (1789 onwards) and we also had to read Germinal by Emile Zola, published in 1885. This came as a bit of a shock but it was good to have a bit of a challenge to set yourself, and knowledge of the history of France and Spain make it a lot easier to understand them as modern day countries.

Some of my Semester 1 & 2 reading

Some of my Semester 1 & 2 reading

European Studies
The European Studies part of my course is worth 20% and, as it is open to all language and politics students, is taught in English. I really enjoyed this part of the course last semester. The module was an ‘Introduction to European Studies’ and explored what it means to be European, how European identity has been shaped, and some key points from European history before 1945. This semester, picking up where we left off, we are studying Europe post 1945, looking at the effect the Cold War had on Europe. I found that a lot of what I covered in these lectures tied in with my French and Spanish lectures and helped to give me a sense of the international context.

Assessment

There are three main ways you are assessed on a languages course; through presentations, essays and exams.

Presentations are a big part of the course as they allow the teachers to assess your level of oral communication. Being able to give a successful presentation will also be helpful after you leave university. Don’t worry if you’re not used to public speaking or if you really hate it, you will be given plenty of support both from your teachers and classmates, especially as most of the time you will be working in groups. Presentations are part of the assessment for both my Spanish and European Studies lectures. You will be given a choice of topics or questions and then with a group of people (usually three to five) you have to create a 20-25 minute presentation, explaining the issue and then offering an answer or solution to the question.

After you have given the presentation you will then be required to write a 750 word “report” on the presentation, either expanding on an issue raised in the presentation of summarising the content. You receive a group mark for the presentation (though are marked individually for the report) so it’s a good idea to make sure everyone in your group pulls their weight! These presentations normally count for 33% of your mark, the other 67% will be through an essay or an exam. Last semester I had a 1,500 word essay for French, a 2,000 word essay for European Studies and a 2 hour essay based exam for Spanish, where we had to write 2 essays. The exams and essays are quite similar to the ones you will have written at A Level, the only difference being you will be expected to do all of the research yourself and you need to include references.

European Studies Lecture Notes

European Studies Lecture Notes

I really enjoyed my first semester at Bath. Although at times my course was challenging, it wasn’t too demanding and with only 13 hours a week contact time (the maximum you will have for any languages course) I had lots of time to settle in to university. It also gives you lots of time to join new clubs or become involved with the sports teams. And French and Spanish aren’t the only languages on offer! Bath also has courses in German, Italian and Russian (with both Italian and Russian ab initio options) and the Foreign Languages Centre (FLC) means you can also pick up a third language. Having both Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons off I have started learning German for two hours a week and I am now considering spending some time in Germany after I graduate.

 

Refreshers Week

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📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

So, you're back from inter-semester break, hopefully well rested and ready for the start of your second semester at Bath. Alongside your first week back the Student Union run “refreshers week”, a bit like a second freshers week, to kick start the semester. For a lot of people refreshers week means 6 nights of non-stop partying but there are plenty of day events all over the university. These give you the opportunity to have another look at all the sports and societies Bath has to offer.

Like Freshers' Week many employers and businesses are invited to participate to help you think about your placement year and life after uni. Although it can be tempting to dismiss refershers week, as you’re getting back into the swing of lectures after a week off and you just want to have some fun with your friends, it’s really worth going to a few events. It was nice to have a look at things I could get involved in, as now I’m much more used to life at university and I’m more interested in trying something new.

Nightlife – return of Klass and Score

I won't deny that one of the main features of refreshers week is the nightlife. There are student events every single night of refreshers week, and the return of Score (Wednesdays) and Klass (Saturdays) – the club nights at the Students' Union. It’s very tempting to try and beat your record from freshers week in September and go out every night because, well…why not. And some of my flatmates have chosen to do exactly that.

But remember you’ll also be having your first week of lectures and seminars and while these early ones aren’t absolutely crucial (a lot of them, especially for my course, were mainly introductory or reviewing content from last semester) it’s a good idea to start getting back into routine. Also a word of warning for going out on your first night back – it was a fairly bad experience as 90% of the freshers had decided to go out to celebrate being back at Bath and the queue to get in was not my idea of fun. However I did have some really good nights out this week – for me it was nice to try out some places I hadn’t been and my new timetable (only one 9.15!) meant I had some more choice for what nights to go out.

Vintage fair

An event I really enjoyed was the all-day Vintage Fair held in the SU on Tuesday. The Fair was also there in September but as I didn’t have a chance to go it was good to have a second opportunity.  They had a really good range of items at very fair prices – a pair of Levi’s shorts for only £15! Although I didn’t buy anything (living on a student budget), it was nice to have a browse. Also it’s great that the SU organises this event as there are very few vintage/charity shops in Bath.

The vintage fair

The vintage fair

Refresh Fair

The last big event of refreshers week was on the Friday, the Refresh Fair, a smaller version of the big fair we had in Freshers week. On this day lots of employers, societies and sports teams all have stands so it’s really easy to have a look for anything you’d like to get involved in or apply for. On the ground floor of the SU it was mostly employers and other companies – Dominos was handing out free slices of pizza and we stopped by the Apple stand to hear about how to apply for an internship or a part-time job at Apple (and also picked up a voucher for a free song on iTunes!).

Refresh fair

Refresh fair

I signed up to the Economist, who were offering 12 issues for £12 – I’ve been looking for a magazine to subscribe to and I couldn’t pass up this offer. If you’re studying a course like Politics magazines like this can be really useful for finding case studies or examples to use in your essays.

On the second floor were stands from lots of societies at Bath who were offering more taster sessions so you can go along and see if it's for you.

Performances from societies, taster sessions, film screenings

Throughout refreshers week there were also performances from societies – including an amazing demonstration from the Pole Dancing Society (PoleSoc). You could also go to taster sessions for some sports – self-defence anyone? – and free film screenings where held every night by the FilmSoc and The Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Anime societies, proving that there really was pretty much something for everyone during Refreshers week.

Lectures

And what would the first week back at uni be without lectures? It was a bit difficult to get back into the routine of working – Sunday afternoon was entirely devoted to catching up on all the work I hadn’t done during the week, but thankfully I am now (mostly) on top of it all again. My new modules look interesting this semester and after nearly a month off I’m really happy to be back.

 

Intersemester Break

  

📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

Unlike a lot of English universities, instead of having three terms, Bath has a system of two semesters. Semester 1 runs from September to January and Semester 2 from February to May. This means, at Bath, you will have pretty long winter holidays, a short break at Easter and will most likely finish in the summer before most of your friends. It also means that you get a week’s holiday after exams are finished in January and before semester 2 starts – also known as inter-semester break (ISB). Although you can use this time to unwind at home (and you’ll definitely need a bit of a relax after exams!) this holiday occurs just after Christmas, so you will have already spent quite a bit of time at home. What a lot of people prefer to do is to go and visit their friends at other universities.

When starting university it’s likely your old friendship group will be pretty broken up. Your friends will chose to study all over the UK and it can feel like, living so far apart, you may all lose touch. ISB is a great opportunity to make sure this doesn’t happen. Go and spend a couple of days with someone you didn’t have long enough to catch up with over Christmas – you can also try out the nightlife, meet their new friends and see what life is like at another university. One of my flatmates chose to visit 4 of her friends – doing a short tour of the UK. During my inter-semester break I did something similar – spending a weekend in Paris and a couple of days visiting a friend at the University of Warwick.

Paris

On my gap year I spent 10 months working in Paris as an au pair. Last summer it was really sad saying goodbye to the kids and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to go back ever since. Only having one exam I luckily finished quite early in the exam period, giving me enough time to get to Paris for the first weekend of the break.

Some of you might be wondering how I could jet off to Paris on a student budget but there are surprisingly cheap ways of getting to Europe. I took the Megabus to Paris, it’s very convenient given it goes from London (where I live) to the centre of Paris, and a return costs only £36.50. Although the journey is long (8 hours each way) I think it’s worth it for the low price I paid and after the many journeys I made on the Megabus last year to come home, I’ve gotten pretty good at sleeping in uncomfortable places.

Seeing the family was really lovely – we celebrated the youngest ones birthday and I was able to catch up with the older children who had just started secondary school. They also took me to the theatre which was a good way to practice my French (though I did get a bit lost halfway through!). I was sad again to leave them though I was looking forward to my next journey – to the University of Warwick.

Warwick

Again I managed to travel fairly cheaply to Warwick, using my student railcard the trip from London to Coventry only cost £3.95 each way. The idea of visiting people can feel a bit daunting as travel can be expensive – but with a student railcard and buses (National Express, Megabus) there are always cheaper alternatives.

I was looking forward to catching up with my friend Sophie, who studies law at Warwick and also seeing the university. Although I had considered applying to Warwick I had never visited it and this would be my first visit to another university outside of open days. Warwick is a proper campus university – it sits in between Warwick, Coventry and Leamington Spa.

Warwick University

Warwick University

On arriving at Coventry Sophie and I went straight back to the university so I could have a look around (it has some really lovely buildings) and also go to a talk on TTIP (The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). This was really interesting as I’d heard a lot about TTIP on Facebook and on TV but I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. After than she took me back to where she lives to meet all her housemates.

As I took a gap year most of my friends at other universities are in their second year, meaning they don’t live on the university campus anymore. Sophie lives in Leamington Spa, a little town about 20/25 minutes away from the university. Leamington is very pretty – we did some wandering around the shops and then Sophie took me to have afternoon tea, a pre birthday celebration! Although I already know where I will be living next year it also nice to see what living in a second year house would be like. I really enjoyed the couple of days I spent at Warwick – it was great to see another university and even better to catch up with Sophie.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

I then came back to London to see my family and celebrate my birthday before coming back to Bath. I had a great time in inter-semester break and now I feel ready to start my second semester at university.

 

January Exams

  

📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

The majority of courses at Bath have exams in January. Most of you will be used to this as it’s the same for most schools and most A Level courses in England. But it can still feel a bit soon – you’ve only been at university four months and already you’re expected to do exams? But it is important to remember that these exams don’t matter too much. While it’s a good idea to do well in them, if you don’t just take it as a learning point, work out what you did wrong and how to do better in the summer exams. It’s also a chance for your teachers to work out your weak points, and a chance for you to see them too. Your teachers can then provide helpful material and you know what to focus on.

I’m very lucky with my course – I only have one exam in January and two essays to do (though one does have to be written in French!). One of my housemates has five exams and an essay worth 100% of a module. It varies from course to course, some, like the sciences will have more exams and courses like languages and politics are usually more essay based. Although you will have to work and revise over the winter holidays it is important to remember to have a break. It might be the first time you’ve been home since the start of term. Make sure to take a bit of time for yourself, to relax and enjoy being with your family and friends. Don’t overwork yourself!

Enjoying my revision on a rainy day

Enjoying my revision on a rainy day

It’s a good idea to stay on top of your revision but at the same time there’s no point in starting too early. Wider reading is really good way to start off revising – your lecturers can’t teach you everything in a once a week two hour lecture and do expect you to do some work on your own. My exams will be in the form of essays – I have two hours to write two essays. I took a gap year and so I haven’t done an exam or written an academic essay in about a year and a half. Although obviously content is important I realised I also needed to revise how to write an exam and to have a few practices.

As I said I haven’t written an essay in a year and half and it surprised me how much I’d forgotten. I have two essays due in January – one 1500 words and one 2000 words. Although compared to some peoples workload it’s pretty light, to me it still felt daunting. Your lecturers will release a selection of essay titles (usually about 10) and sometimes a suggested reading list for each question sometime in December so you have time to think about them and talk over any issues with your teachers.

On reflection it’s a good idea to think carefully about the question you’re going to choose. When I read the two lists of questions I had for each of the two subjects I panicked. On the first list I saw one question that looked alright and so chose it immediately. I went to the library and got out half of the recommended books. The more I read the more confused I got – it took me about a week and a half to go back to the list and choose a different question. This made such a difference and I had the essay finished within a week. This showed me how important it is to choose an essay that’s right for you, an essay that you will be comfortable writing. You won’t get the kind of help you’re used to in school, although you can always go and talk to a lecturer if you’re having problems, but it’s important to choose a question you know you can write more or less independently.

Stay organised – try and stay on top of your work. Try to choose a question fairly early on – this means you will get the choice of the books in the library (rather than having to use the only book left) and you can start doing the preliminary reading and planning. I find planning very important in all my essays – I write a plan, with all the relevant information on the plan and then write the essay from the plan. I often spend much longer on the plan than my essays. It’s also important to leave enough time to check and proof read your work.

It’s often a good idea to get friends or family to read the essay for you – my friends and I in our house all proof read each other’s work. In terms of exams start revising as soon as you’ve learnt all the material. You don’t have to do heavy, intense 8 hour a day kind of revision. Just do some reading and note taking around the subject, go over your lecture notes, maybe do a couple of practice exams, get friends and family to fact check for you. University exams are not a huge jump from A Level, what I found most different is the amount of support you get. In school teachers help you every step of the way, in university you are expected to help yourself. Once you get used to this, and it does take a bit of getting used to, you will find your university experience much easier!

 

Cooking in Self-Catered Accommodation

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📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

When choosing accommodation for your first year at university the main decision you’ll have to make is between catered and self-catered. There are of course pros and cons to both and it’s quite a difficult choice to make when you’ve had no experience of living in them. A lot of people panic about cooking and cleaning for themselves at university and I wasn’t any different. Before I came to university I had a reputation in my family for being a terrible cook. So I always thought that I would live in a catered accommodation. It can make life easier, as there’s no stress about cooking when you’re tired or have a lot of work to do and you don’t need to do regular food shopping. Have a read of Joseph’s blog for more info about living in catered accommodation at Bath University.

But surprisingly enough I chose to live in self-catered. As my parents pointed out everyone is self-catered in second year anyway and first year is quite a good time to get used to looking after yourself. You have less to do in first year and so more time for cooking! However, and I cannot say this enough, I knew absolutely nothing about cooking before I came to university. I used to phone my parents and friends for advice every time I made a meal. If this is you, don’t worry. Uni is actually a great place to try stuff out and it’s totally stress free because you’re only cooking for yourself. This means you get to cook exactly what you want and if you make a mistake or it doesn’t look like the picture in the recipe book doesn’t matter! It will also provide a lot of laughs for your new housemates!

Shopping

Food shopping is a pretty important part of self-catering and if you don’t keep on top of it you will end up eating a lot of pasta and toast. As the uni isn’t in town and is on the top of a massive hill shopping can seem like a bit of a pain at first. No one wants to trek all the way into town every single week and haul a load of shopping back on the bus. There is a shop, Fresh, on Campus but because it’s the only one buying food there can end up being expensive. Although there are lots of fairly cheap restaurants and food outlets on campus it’s nice to make your own meals in your kitchen – this for me was the best way to get to know your flatmates. So my solution was online shopping. Delivery vans are a common sight on the roads around Eastwood. I usually shop with Asda and get good deals and good quality food.

Cupboard stocked-up!

Cupboard stocked-up!

However supermarkets aren’t really geared to people only shopping for food for one person. Most deals include 2 or 3 of something when you only need one or big packets that go off after you’ve only eaten one portion of them. This is where your new best friend, the freezer, comes in handy. I often cook three or four servings of a meal in one go and then freeze the rest. This can be really helpful if you have any late night training or societies as you can just heat up your dinner when you get home (and it’s healthier than ready-made meals). Also another way of getting around this problem is to do one shop every two weeks. This means you can buy some things, like meat, in bulk and stock up on things like milk and bread as and when you run out.

Ideally I aim to spend £25-£30 a week on food, though sometimes I do go over this, especially if Fresh have their £3 Ben and Jerry’s deal! Also don’t worry of you find you spend too much or you always buy too much/too little when you first come to uni. It takes a bit of time to work out what’s right for you.

Cooking

Shopping is the easy bit – now you’ve got to actually cook it! It can be very tempting at the beginning to try and live off pasta, especially after Fresher’s week when you barely have the energy to get out of bed and go to lectures let alone cook. And I won’t deny it – pasta is great. You can have loads of different sauces with it, it goes with meat and vegetable and it’s a quick and easy dish. But it can get quite boring and pasta 7 days a week is not exactly healthy eating. Most of my family are very good cooks so I am quite used to eating good home cooked food and a few weeks into university I realised how much I was missing it. So I did some research online and found some simple and cheap recipes that came out really well.

Student Recipes is a good site because it organises its recipes by ingredients so if you’ve bought some chicken and aren’t quite sure what to do with it have a look on here for a really varied list of meals with chicken.

BBC Good Food is good for all the basics. There are a lot of really easy dishes that I didn’t know or understand the methods for and they are really well explained here.

Online recipes are also good as people leave comments of their own experiences making the dish and suggestions for improvement, so have a quick flick through before you start!

Batch of shepherd's pie

Batch of shepherd's pie

I have several easy to make meals that I always fall back on. Chilli con carne is one of my favourites, simple to make, freezeable (and doesn’t lose any of its taste when reheated), and you can have it with rice, cous cous or pasta so it doesn’t feel like you’re eating the same meal over and over again. Risotto is good as well – you can add virtually anything to it which is a good way of using up any left overs. Other simple meals are roasted vegetables, shepherd’s pie, roast potatoes, sausages, quiche, frittata, toad in the hole…it all depends on what you like! Some people like to cook with their friends and take it in turn to cook for each other which can give you a bit of a break. Just make sure you find someone with similar tastes to you!

In the end I was really glad I chose self-catered accommodation – I now enjoy cooking (and I used to hate it) and its fun trying out new recipes even if sometimes they don’t work out. So don’t be put off applying to self-catered because you feel like you can’t cook, it’s a great time and place to learn!

 

The Snowball

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📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

The University of Bath’s nightlife is normally pretty casual. There’s always lots to do but you don’t really need to get all dressed up for it. On Wednesdays and Saturdays the Student Union (the SU) have club nights, Tuesdays are the pub quiz and during the rest of the week you can swing by the bar for a drink with your friends. There’s nightclubs and bars and restaurants in town too – a lot of them offer special rates for students so you can always have a good, and fairly cheap night out.

However, the university’s annual Winter Ball, the Snowball, is something a little different.

The Ball is primarily an event for sports teams, as it’s organised by the Sports department, but anyone can (and does) go. It takes place over two days (this year the 26th and 27th November) and each of the sport teams are assigned a day to go on. However if you’re not a sporty person, don’t worry! The Snowball is for everyone – some decide to go with their team but lots of people just go with their friends and flatmates.

The event is always black tie (so don’t forget your suits and dresses when packing for Uni, as this could save you some money during the first year!) and this year it was also a masquerade ball. Cue a visit to one of Bath’s many costume shops. Bath uni loves its dress up and there are at least three costume shops in the centre of Bath making buying a mask nice and easy. I spent half an hour debating the pros and cons of certain masks, because it obviously had to go with my dress, before settling on a white and gold number.

My mask for the masquerade ball

My mask for the masquerade ball

What to wear wasn’t so much a problem for me. Living on a student budget meant I couldn’t really afford to go and buy myself a new dress but luckily the dress I wore for year 13 leavers still fit me. A lot of people I know did this so don’t worry if you don’t want to buy a new dress! However we have a resident shopaholic who bought herself several dresses before she found one she was happy with – so you can also use the Snowball as an excuse to buy that dress you’ve had your eye on for ages.

Getting ready is obviously one of the most important parts of the night so we took our time. We started at 6pm as hair curling can take a long time. It was really nice to get dressed up for a change – everyone seems to love an excuse to have a fancy night out. Lots of girls decided to wear heels but as you’ll be on your feet all night it's a great idea to take a pair of flats to change into!

The Snowball is held at the Bath Pavilion, which is a really lovely hall in the centre of Bath and not far from any of the bus stops. This is a big plus if you’ve decided to wear heels.

The Bath Pavillion

The Bath Pavilion

The pavilion is big which meant it didn’t feel overcrowded. I’ve heard a few people complaining about the ticket prices (£20) but for what you get at the Snowball – a free drink, live music, a photobooth and even a silent disco, which was my favourite part of the night – I think it was worth it. Also compared to the prices of other events at other universities it was very good value for money. It was a great way to forget about our December and January deadlines and have a bit of pre-Christmas fun.

If you miss the November Snowball then the good news it that there is another Ball in May.  I’m already looking forward to it!