Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

Topic: Second year

Starting my Industrial Placement

  

📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph, Second year

As some of you may already know, I am currently on my placement as part of the ‘year in industry’ scheme available to the vast majority of students at Bath - the Electronic Engineering Department is no exception. To be quite honest, when I joined Bath back in 2014, I didn’t really envisage going on placement and I was certainly very apprehensive about taking time out of my studies to work for a year. How naïve I must have been? Going to just one of the many talks provided by the engineering placement team persuaded me of all of the benefits of taking a year to experience industry in its fullest. One thing that really surprised me is quite how much information is available to students about the placement year, which, in general, doesn’t even take place in Bath. The placement team could not have been more helpful. I attended loads of lectures about the year away prior to even applying for a placement scheme and now that I am on placement, I can say with confidence, that this level of support carries on which is fantastic.

The myriad of connections Bath University has with the engineering industry worldwide means that the number of placement schemes listed on the University Moodle Server feels unending and really allows for a very personal and thoughtful choice of which schemes or jobs to apply for. Personally, I wanted to find a relevant, well known, engineering company in the South-West. A country boy, I didn’t think I could handle the bright lights of the city just yet. Fortunately, this was no problem at all with hundreds of placement opportunities dotted about the South-West region. This range of choice meant that I needn’t apply for jobs outside of my search radius as there were numerous opportunities within it.

Having followed the very thorough and helpful instructions provided by the university team, I was quick to send off several cover letters and applications for various jobs in the South-West including Babcock, Centrax and Pipex px NOV. At this stage, out of the control of the swift acting placement office, it was a waiting game to see what opportunities materialised; meanwhile the placement team were flooding me with further options into the summer months as other positions became available.

I was very lucky to be accepted by a Plymouth based company called Pipex px who have recently been acquired by the American engineering giants National Oilwell Varco (NOV). Pipex px NOV is proving to be a really worthwhile placement scheme and I am benefiting from the wealth of experience and opportunity across the now enlarged global company.

Following a swift induction to the organisation I was set to work right away. Moreover, I wasn’t just making cups of tea – from day one I was able to apply the skills learned at Bath to real world engineering problems. One of the things that has surprised me most thus far is how much the employer appreciates the Bath IMEE course and recognises the vast skill set I have developed at Bath. From minute one I understood that my presence within the Engineering Services Department was on a very professional basis as I was assigned an audacious desk space, an engineering grade PC and four screens to play with – yes, four computer screens!

My favourite lunch break destination on the Moors

My favourite lunch break destination on the Moors

Another of the many things that I have come to appreciate during my first few weeks is just how tailored my Integrated Mechanical and Electrical engineering course is to the requirements of engineers in industry. I have already been contracted to design, model and draw a water filtering system – skills that I have ‘mastered’ during the first two years of my degree course. To my surprise, the system which I have designed has already been sent to the factory for production - albeit a prototype -  to be sent to various sales teams in the States. How extraordinary?! I would not have been able to do any of this if it had not been for the rigorous design modules that I have studied in Bath.

Always kept on my toes, it was not long before I was requested to ponder over some beam calculations as part of a feasibility study. This was a real test of my memory, having studied statics as part of the Solid Mechanics course in year one. To my relief, I was able to re-enrol on the course using the University Moodle Server – something I never thought I would do. Yet another pleasant surprise.

It goes without saying that my CAD skills have been completely overhauled since entering the professional workplace and I very much look forward to becoming better and better in such fields. I already fully understand why the year in industry is so recommended by the Bath team and I cannot wait to re-enter year three with the array of new skills I will develop over the next year. As always, I will keep you posted…

 

Bath University Boat Club's Campaign at Head of the River Race 2016

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📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph, Second year

A little while ago I was lucky enough to travel to London with my Novice Rowers from the University Boat Club for their biggest race to date. The Thames riverside was packed for the annual Head of the River Race which attracts an array of clubs, schools, university teams and international crews. This year, as one of the Novice Men’s Captains, I have worked incredibly hard to get the Bath University Novice Rowers racing as much as possible and, despite the quality of the competition, the Head of the River Race in London was not to be an exception on our calendar. Collectively, thousands of hours of training had led up to this race, including tens of early morning sessions in the build up to the event. It was going to be make or break for my Novice Men and right from the off I was very proud indeed.

Having loaded the rowing boats onto the trailer in the early hours of Friday morning before heading to lectures, it was an early night for everyone prior to a very early departure to Putney on Saturday morning. The majority of us travelled by car to the capital city and were quick to unload and rig the boats in Putney along the side of the river. It is very rare to see so many rowers (let alone rowing boats) all in one place and it was an amazing experience for everyone involved.

Due to enormity of the event, the novice rowers were quick to boat on the Thames and ended up sat in boating queues for a huge amount of time. Although cold, this meant that they were fully immersed in the racing shortly after arriving and could focus solely on the job at hand – completing the course in as little time possible. The course, which is traditionally the reverse of the Oxford Cambridge boat race course, was their longest race of the entire calendar and hence was set to be gruelling! It wasn’t long before myself, as a captain, and all of the other spectators who had made the trek from Bath, set off towards Hammersmith Bridge to watch the event unfold.

The Novice crew in action

Once propped up along the railings of Hammersmith Bridge (which was very cramped due to the sheer numbers of people watching the race), it was time for racing to begin in earnest, with the fastest international crews being let off first. Senior University teams were quick to follow; Bath University Championship VIII being no exception. It was great to see the senior crews put in a strong performance and hold off arch rivals Bristol, over the length of the course.

Some of the crews taking part in the Head of the River Race 2016

It wasn’t long before both of my Novice crews made an appearance in the distance and everyone associated with Bath began screaming words of encouragement. Coming through the bridge, both teams looked incredibly strong with no obvious faults in technique or mechanical failure. This made the day even more exciting for everyone in London. It was the first time in years that Novice crews had raced the HORR course, let alone completed it with such confidence. I was incredibly proud and relieved to see that all of our hard work over the course of the year had paid off. All rowers came off the water with beaming smiles, although exhausted they had clearly enjoyed the experience and were delighted to have been part of such a prestigious sporting occasion.

Once warm and dry it was time to de-rig the boats and load them back up onto the trailer before making a speedy exit and heading home. We all made it back to Bath safe and sound, but most importantly, we made it home just in time for a team meal out in the city centre followed up by a round (or two) of well-earned drinks.

As the mad weekend of rowing and racing came to an end it was swiftly time to return to our studies on Monday morning. There’s never a dull moment in Bath! Having said this, it is impossible for rowing folk not to be excited about the hectic season of regatta racing coming up after exams. The summer cannot come quickly enough…

 

Second Year Mouse Project

  

📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph, Second year

Semester 2 for the Department of Engineering at the University of Bath was always going to be busy, but I never expected it to be quite as varied and exciting as it has turned out to be!

At the start of this semester all of the Electrical engineers and all of the integrated IMEE engineers were given a basic ‘mouse’ chassis and told ‘go’! The challenge for us was made very simple- in groups specified by the department, we were to design and build a mouse to follow an electronic track by any means possible. Although the end result may sound fairly mundane, the circuitry required was fairly complex and, as always, having a developed understanding of the underlying theory really helped.

The nature of the task meant that, as a group, we were going to need to spend hundreds of hours in the labs as well as a long time discussing the theory that underpinned our whole design. I really enjoy the group work that is carried out within the department at Bath because, more often than not, you are able to work with people you haven’t ever worked with before and learn about things that you may never have considered if working alone.

Our (unfinished) mouse!

Spending hours and hours soldering and testing circuits in the laboratory spaces may be frustrating from time to time but there is no better feeling than when your circuit works well and reliably, week in, week out. Moreover, the work ethic required has imposed an impressive nine-to-five approach to the degree course. I’ve never seen so many people working so hard all at once. Not only is this really good practice for the real world and placement year, but it means that everybody can work really efficiently in the day, with fewer lectures breaking up proceedings. Likewise, given my busy schedule with the rowing captaincy, as well as all of the other academic work that I am immersed in this semester, the nine-to-five schedule works very well indeed.

Although the mouse project is one of the most exciting things that the IMEEs are doing this year, there is always lots of breadth to the IMEE course. Yet again I have really enjoyed a modelling assignment that we were given. For this assignment we all had to model the heat transfer through a tile on a space shuttle. Although this was daunting at first, with lots of theory work required, the fact that the situation could be related to a real world example meant that it was very interesting indeed. In fact, it was very easy to get distracted by all of the background reading and forget completely about the programming at hand.

The race track with a completed mouse in situ

The race track with a completed mouse in situ

On the whole, as we come into the final few weeks of the year, let alone the semester, everything is speeding up and everyone is feeling extremely busy. There is a fantastic energy about campus as everyone makes sure that things get finished ahead of revision week. For me personally, although nervous about the mouse challenge race day in the final week, I have worked hard to get all of my other reports done so that I can really enjoy my time at Bath in the last few weeks and focus solely upon my beloved mouse!

As you may well know, my life at Bath is made up of two fundamental chunks; my time within the engineering department and my time at the boathouse. Although I am forever busy with my course, being such a big part of rowing this year has helped me unwind at the weekends and gives another purpose for my time at university. Not only is my course ramping up as the end of term approaches but so too is rowing with regatta season just kicking off. All in all, this means I have to endure lots of early mornings and a regular 4.50AM alarm clock. Although miserable at times, early mornings on the river (especially in the sunshine) are often a great way to refresh and energise before a day in the labs on campus. I just hope the sun keeps shining and the rain stays away!

 

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!

 

The build up to applying for a placement

  

📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph, Second year

In addition to the hectic schedule of second year engineering, it is also expected that we start to look for placements for our year in industry. For the majority of engineers at Bath, both electrical, integrated and mechanical, a year in industry is something that is really appealing. Bath is renowned for its strong placement office, and I know that both I and my colleagues chose Bath due to its strong links with industry, both in the UK and abroad.

In this blog post I hope to give you a brief description of how I’ve gone about searching for the placement that is right for me and the support offered by the university. Given the number of industries Bath has links with, as well as all of the other placements advertised worldwide, it really is a mind boggling situation and guidance is important in terms of finding the placement that is correct for you – thank goodness I’m at Bath…

At first I was very worried about the rush to secure a placement. For some reason I imagined that the list of places available would be limited and that only a lucky few would find a position, let alone a role that they suited and they were enthusiastic about. Oh dear, I could not have been more wrong. Since I signed up to the placement scheme at the end of my summer holidays I have been inundated with emails from the placement office saying that numerous new roles have been announced. Day in, day out, the emails arrive and hundreds upon hundreds of places are on offer. This immediately calmed my nerves and I was able to relax and really dig through the list of placements available to find a select few I was really interested in. This was no easy feat, but I was very glad to have too many placement opportunities to consider than too few!

I quickly learned to be very, very selective with the placements I researched. Given the sheer number of opportunities available, I was even able to choose some jobs on the basis of their location and where I’d like to live, irrespective of the role being advertised – what a luxury! For some of the bigger companies, especially those that are expecting a lot of applicants, the deadline for applying was early on in the semester and many of my course mates worked hard to get their CVs and cover letters submitted in time. For the majority of placements however, the application deadline is very relaxed and most placements do not expect applications until semester two (after the Christmas break – hoorah!).

As I opted to apply for these companies (as opposed to the bigger names in industry), I had plenty of time to put hours into researching the role and planned to write my cover letters during the Christmas break. Moreover, this time frame enabled me to really focus on the coursework throughout the semester and allowed me time to fulfill my duties as one of the captains on the rowing team.

For those who were organised during the summer break, myself included, the placement office wasted no time in amending CVs that were sent to them. This is one of the things I have appreciated most about the placement office. The team were very thorough in optimizing and correcting my CV appropriately whilst considering the types of jobs that I would be applying for. This resulted in a complete overhaul of the CV I had thrown together over the summer and made my CV look very polished indeed.

Having chosen a few placements that intrigued me, I set about checking all of the details associated with the roles; job description, size of the company, location, accommodation and so on. I was in no rush and could ring home to discuss things I was unsure of. After all of this, if I had any questions concerning the application or what to do next (I always did), I sent an email to the placement office. They were always very, very speedy to reply and the advice they gave was reassuring. Often they pointed me in the direction of the Moodle page where a massive amount of information is listed, including the experiences of past placement students as well as databases of where everyone else has applied – this is particularly useful when it comes to finding somewhere to live during a year in industry!

My biggest concern during this time was missing out on placements that were not yet announced and subscribing for placements I was not completely bowled over by prematurely. This problem was quickly resolved after questioning the placement team. The team was very understanding (I imagine they are asked some questions over and over) and told me to write a letter to respective employers in advance if I was aware that their placement scheme was yet to be announced. This reassured me further and has resulted in a very stress free experience altogether.

In addition to all of this, throughout the semester there were also seminars hosted by the team which guided us in writing and submitting applications, interview technique and what to expect when we finally got to the job. All in all, I have been tremendously impressed by the efforts the university makes to make this big decision as easy and stress free as possible. Prior to coming to Bath I was very naïve and somewhat unaware of this massive opportunity. All I can say now is that I am extra-glad I came to Bath and it is a real advantage to be part of a department that is so involved with our jump into industry.

Click here to read more blogs about placements at Bath

 

 

Ich bin ein Berliner

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📥  International student, Mirella, School of Management, Second year

After two horrendous weeks of exams, it was time for the long-awaited and deserved Inter-semester break. Different university societies plan different trips during this week-long break before Semester 2 starts. The most well know trip is probably the Ski Trip to Val Thornes, which I have heard is quite awesome and you can read Hannah's blog post about it here.

As the Chair of the German Society it was my responsibility to plan the trip to Germany’s capital Berlin. The planning had already started in October, so I was really glad when exams finished and my little German society group was able to finally board a bus to Gatwick Airport. After a little detour on the motorway as our bus driver missed the exit to Gatwick and a lot of panic from my side, we arrived at the airport at 11 am and landed in Berlin in the afternoon.

Our hostel was literally in the middle of Berlin – the former East Berlin - just right next to the famous Alexanderplatz with its TV Tower. At the check-in it felt like we had never left Bath as it was a Belushis pub and hostel, which we also have in Bath and most of the staff only spoke English and hardly knew any German. However, once we left the little hostel bubble behind us it hit me hard that we are in Berlin, one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in Europe. You will find a typical East German building called Plattenbau in one street and just around the corner you will find a modern skyscraper.

It was crazy to see how the division of Germany and especially Berlin still has an impact on the city itself. The city itself remembers its famous division wall- the Berliner Mauer – with two brick rows on the street to mark where the wall stood. For me it was unbelievable to imagine that this city was divided into a Communist and a Democratic part for such a long time and that this ended just a few years before I was born.

As this was more or less a study trip to experience German culture and get a sense of living in a German city, we planned a lot of activities. It included a lot of German food – Currywurst, Schweinsbraten and Bread – and of course good German beer and Radler, a mixture between beer and lemonade. Considering I ate meat twice a day you would think that German cuisine only consist of meat dishes, but the vegetarian in our group always found something to eat as well. Even the non-drinkers were able to survive without drinking beer.

Embracing German food and beer

Embracing German food and beer

For me, the most interesting part of our trip was to visit the German Reichstag, the house of the German parliament. In this house you can actually feel the drastic political changes Germany underwent in the 20th and 21st century before it became this European superpower. The outside of the building was built in the monarchy, whereas inside you will find a modern glass cubicle designed by Norman Foster to house the united German government. However, the parliament only started its work in the new building ten years after the reunification. In the inside you will also find Russian graffiti left by the Russian soldiers at the end of the Second World War and you will still see some marks left by bombs.

Russian Graffiti in the Reichstag

Russian Graffiti in the Reichstag

The most impressive part about the building is probably the glass dome. The idea behind it is that members of the parliament should look up to see members of the public walking around to be remembered why they are in parliament in the first place. The public on the other side can look down on the elected members to have an eye on them so that something like the Nazi regime cannot happen again.

All in all, I can only recommend going away in the inter-semester break with a society. You will see a new city, you will meet new people and you are predicted to have some fun and might even make some friends.

 

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.

 

Applying for a year abroad

  

📥  Matt, School of Management, Second year

There are certain expectations that you should set for yourself if you're planning to go to university.

  1. Someone will always steal your milk and not own up to it
  2. You will often be faced with the choice of going to your 9:15am lecture or sleeping in
  3. You are going to spend most of your Christmas holidays studying for January exams.

Personally, the third one is holding true at the moment but this year I am also in the midst of applying for placements for my year abroad. As part of my International Management & Modern Languages (French) degree, or FIMML for short, I spend my third year in France. I have 12 months abroad and this can be spent in any of the following combinations:

  1. 12 months placement
  2. 12 months in a French business school
  3. 6 months placement / 6 months business school.

For anyone who is considering applying to France, it is worth noting that the French government has just brought in a law which restricts placements to 6 months maximum within any organisation. In order to spend 12 months in a French placement, it is now necessary to apply for two separate 6 month placements in different departments of the same company or different companies altogether. My cohort is the first to experience this new law and therefore it will be interesting to see how it all plays out!

Preparation

From the offset, our year abroad officer, Ninon, has been brilliant in preparing us for our applications. I will not get bogged down in the details of the preparation but if you attend all her presentations which will be scheduled into your timetable, you will be ready to start applying. In terms of learning to write French CVs and cover letters, this will be dealt with in your french seminars but it is coordinated between Ninon and the seminar tutors. For this reason, I would say it is crucial that you do not skip any of your French seminars in 2nd year.

Ninon's presentations have included:

  • A presentation on all the different business schools
  • Advice on applying for placements
  • Organised meetings with 4th year students who have just returned from their year abroad, and much more.

All of this information has helped me to make an informed decision on how I want to spend my year abroad and I'm going to attempt to apply for two 6 months placements. I've actually just submitted my first application and am now moving onto my second so let's discuss that and see how straightforward it was.

If you want to go to a business school, it acts like an exchange. Uni of Bath takes some of their students and in return they take some of ours. There are a number of prestigious French business schools which you can apply to including multiple ones in Paris, Strasbourg and Nancy. You'll be inserted into one of the business courses and complete your modules in French. These marks are then converted and added to your degree at Bath. I had the pleasure of visiting Nancy last June and it is a beautiful city in the east of France. I was also in Strasbourg train station however, I'm not sure if that counts.

Nancy Ville, France

Nancy Ville, France

Applying

Around November, companies will start making placements available to apply for. These will be sent to your year abroad officer and they will then post them on Moodle. Moodle is an online service which every university student has access to with their online login details. It also contains all your course and module resources. Once on Moodle, you can download the job advertisement, see the application deadline, see who you need to send your applications to etc.

My first application was to a company called Thales. They're a huge global company, specialising in defense, aerospace and security and all those sorts of things. Thales, like many other companies will have a good relationship with University of Bath because of our fantastic reputation. As a result, some of the placements advertised will be exclusively for University of Bath students which reduces the competition to your cohort.

Some applications will ask you for a CV and cover letter in French or English. I chose to send both in french because the next step will be a Skype interview in french. My logic is that if I have already submitted two documents in good French, my interviewers will already have faith that I can write well in french on the chance that I stumble with my french in the interview. It is worth bearing in mind that most companies will appreciate that you are not yet fluent and the point of the year abroad will be to become fluent in french so there is some leeway (apparently). Still, you want to impress them right?

Another useful tip is to try and get into contact with any Bath students who have either had a placement with the company or are currently on placement with the company. I am really lucky because I actually have a friend who is on her year abroad with Thales at the moment. Well, I use the word friend. To her I'm probably just the annoying Irish kid who is constantly begging for help with his CV at 2am (3am in Paris). If you're reading this, I'm sorry but also thank you. Yeah. Moving swiftly on.

So I typed up my cover letter which was one page long; I tweaked my CV to make it specific to the role I was applying to and I emailed it to Thales. It was right before the Christmas holidays so I don't expect a reply for a little while. However, I'm going to send another one tomorrow and hope that I get an interview for at least one of them. In the meantime, I'm going to go back to spending time with my dog. It is Christmas day after all. Happy Holidays!

My Dog 

 

My role on rowing committee

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📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph, Second year

As you should all know by now, ever since I started at Bath, rowing has been a big part of my life at university. In my first year I was lucky to be selected to row in some of the top novice crew boats. This led to training twice a day, every day, throughout the second semester of first year and I had to devote the majority of my weekends to the boathouse. Although this may sound like a burden, I believed, and I still believe, that it was great to do something at university to take my mind off academia and coursework. This year is no different, but for completely different reasons. Let me explain why…

Towards the end of last year, I put myself forward to be elected as one of the Novice Captains for the boat club. Fortunately, I was elected, and this year I am a Novice Men’s Captain – a hefty responsibility.

Rowing training at the University of Bath

Rowing training at the University of Bath

Being part of a sports committee is a much bigger job than I could have possibly imagined but I am enjoying it much more than I ever thought I would. In addition to my studies, an average week at Bath now involves arranging crews, organising novice rowing sessions, coaching the novice rowers from the motorised ‘launch’ coaching boat, attending committee meetings as well as endless administrative tasks. The administration involved with committee work has been the biggest shock to me, but it is also very rewarding. I very much enjoy being able to answer the thousands of questions the novices pose, whether rowing related or just concerning day to day life in Bath. As a whole committee we need to make important decisions about the direction that the club is moving in and, most rewardingly, we need to enter our novices into as many races as possible.

Due to the strength of the committee team this year I am proud to say that the boat club has entered novices into more races than ever before and by entering small events, we have even won some mugs! Last week, we entered a record number of five crews into the University of Bristol Head on the River Avon. This is the first big event of the year and although as a novice, I raced at this event, I did not realise the amount of time and effort the captains had to dedicate to organising crews and making sure everybody and everything is in the right place at the right time.

UBBC Head race

UBBC Head race

In semester one alone I have learnt lots of new skills from my role. For example, I have had to liaise with the professional university coach and arrange for boats to be delivered from nearby boat clubs for our novices to race in. This took lots of planning given the busy timetable of my engineering course and the pressures of coursework submissions which are constantly niggling away in the background.

I am often asked by the hundreds of novices that have signed up for rowing whether it is worth the amount of time we have to commit to captaincy. My response is always the same; although I have had to forfeit my chances of rowing competitively as a senior this year, I have met lots of interesting people and feel like a massive part of the club without actually competing myself. The work we do on sports committee is so far detached from my course that it acts as a perfect respite from the busy schedule of coursework that second year engineers are faced with – this is brilliant news.

Early morning rowing on the River Avon

Early morning rowing on the River Avon

My role on committee at Bath also helps to juice up my CV. The Bath University Students Union is very aware of the amount of work we do and we are elegible for lots of awards and exciting opportunities solely because of our volunteering and organisation. In short, there are lots of hidden benefits to the job, thus making the 4.59AM alarm call and early mornings at the boathouse much more bearable.

Away from the course, second year IMEE is far from relaxed. More about this in my next post however…

 

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.