Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

Topic: Undergraduate

Being a student society committee member: Chem Ball MMXVI

  

📥  Undergraduate

Everyone wants to find their crowd at university. Everyone wants to find people they identify with, activities they love doing, events they look forward to attending. Some students will relate to course mates, bonding over late-night revision sessions and that one unanswerable question in the tutorial. Others will turn to societies, and peruse the hefty list of hobbies, values, and beliefs to find their people. For me, it was a winning combination of the two.

September 2014 was the month I became a chemistry student at Bath. All I ever wanted was to do was to be a scientist, and to belong in a department with like-minded people. As soon as I arrived, I signed up for the Bath University Chemistry Society: 'Chem:Soc', and that’s where it all started. I attended every social going, making new connections and getting to know my peers. The Chem:Soc Christmas meal 2014 was distinctly notable, as here was my earliest memory of the formation of my chemistry friendship circle. I’ll always think well of the West Gate pub for that!

The focal point of this year however, was the Chemistry Ball. Held at the Roman Baths and Pump Rooms, the night promised panache, class, and the opportunity to see our lecturers unleash their inner party animals. For the weeks building up the Chem Ball, I could barely contain my excitement! Little did I know that the Ball was going to very much shape my second year experience at the University of Bath, for this was the night that inspired me to run for the Chem:Soc committee.

ChemBall- it was just so fancy!

I didn’t have much time to mull this over – elections were in the weeks following the ball. This was probably a good thing because elections are stressful, and your irrational mind tells you that nobody will vote for you. I ran for the position of treasurer, faced with opposition, and decided to go full steam ahead with the campaign. My friend chose to run for chairman, and we both went in blind with nothing to go on but determination to help our fellow students find their feet as we had done in the year gone by. You can see where this is going; we both won our positions!

So Project Chemball MMXVI was born. The first thing we did was book the Pump Rooms eight months prior to the ball. Whilst we were looking forward to running all our socials, and providing points-of-contact for our members should they need us, we did everything within our power to host a party unlike one we’ve ever thrown before. We thought we were being super clever branding the ball with a Roman numeral trademark, linking the anno Domini ‘2016’ with the BC world of the Roman Baths. It was a project invested in by a curious cohort and executed by a strong committee (seriously committee guys – you’re the best).

My role as treasurer was hard. I was the right-hand (wo)man to the chair, and basically told him what we could and couldn’t afford to do. Getting my head around SU commission was tough; having to negotiate with restaurants and bus companies was out of my comfort zone. We even haggled with the Chemball caterers, something my meek conscience had never dreamt of doing. Everything we did, we did with Chemball MMXVI in mind. It was not cheap, we knew this from the start, but making profits on our welcome social, Bristol social, and Christmas dinner allowed us to subsidise the ticket costs and widen the inclusivity of our highly-anticipated night.

300 tickets sold to placement students, chemistry students, natural scientists, lecturers. The day of the ball had arrived! I woke up and immediately started to document the progression of the day; the morning in to afternoon, the afternoon in to evening. Lectures (really sorry) seemed to go on forever – we were just too excited (and at this point, ridiculously nervous). I rushed home to allow a shameful amount of time to get ready and then bundled into a taxi with the rest of the committee to go and get the party started.

It was a damp night which wasn’t particularly convenient for running around town carting speakers from cars to the venue, but alas, we managed. Having chatted to our event managers and double checked the quantity of champagne available, we were good to go. A queue started to form outside under the sleety skies, and suddenly everything felt under control and almost serene. From there on in it was relatively smooth-sailing. Conversations were flowing (as well as the wine) around the steely green water, laughter was bouncing from ancient wall to ancient wall, and my heart-rate was beginning to settle down. A black-tie event; I was overwhelmed with how smart everybody looked and the efforts that were made. Not that I didn’t think my peers were capable of scrubbing up well, I just struggled to believe that they were doing so because of an event that I’d helped to run.

The Roman Baths by night, as captured by our brilliant photographer Freddie

At 8pm sharp, we were called to dinner. A delightful array of soulful food in the most elegant of rooms. Towards the end of the meal, the chairman and I were allowed to climb up the balcony to take some photos of the dining room. This didn’t go unnoticed; suddenly the room started to applause in the kindest of gestures and I was stunned with the alien notion of feeling completely in my element (excuse the pun). My experience with Chem:Soc, as horrifically cheesy as it sounds, helped me to find my place in chemistry. It was a confidence-booster, a challenge, and a bonding experience with my peers. Yes, it was irksome at times, it was tiring, and it involved playing ‘mum’ on nights out. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Me and Robin (Chairman) enjoying the night

 

Management sandwich placements at Bath

  

📥  Undergraduate

Hi there!

Welcome to my first student blog post. I am a second-year BSc Management with Marketing student, drowning in work but loving every second of it. As you may know, the University of Bath’s School of Management is renowned for their various ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ sandwich degrees. The thick sandwich degree structure, entails is a ‘juicy’ year out working in an industry relevant to your course; an industrial placement. These placements are invaluable experiences that stand you in good stead for future graduate job applications.

In contrast, the thin-sandwich degree structure is ideal for students who wish to fulfil more work placements of a shorter timespan throughout their course period. These placements often take place over one semester. The University encourages students to enrol in a sandwich course structure and have established an incredible support system for the application process. This post will hopefully provide you with some inside details on how the thick sandwich degree Industrial Placement application process is carried out and possibly convince you to choose this type of degree.

There is more than one type of thick sandwich in Bath

A bit about the University of Bath support for placement students …

There are three fundamental elements that support the Industrial Placement Application Process; Mock Applications, lectures as part of your Personal Development Program (PDP), and a Placement Team specific to your course. In addition to these support systems, the University has a general Careers Centre and hosts many on-campus company presentations, events and Careers Fairs. All of these are great opportunities to take advantage of and are useful to you when seeking and applying for a placement; be sure to make the most of them if you come to Bath to study Management. Furthermore, if you are unsure of which company or industry you would like to work in they are geared to assist you and guide you.

It is currently the week of my mock interviews; the second stage of the mock application process. The first stage of this application process involves sending my CV and cover letter; which I worked on throughout my first year at University. The Placements Team sends feedback on CVs during the summer holidays, and this helped to ensure that I was prepared to start second year off with a stellar application just waiting to be sent out. My interview is tomorrow and I feel well prepared having attended the University Careers Fair where I spoke to my mock company to get an idea of what they look for in a prospective student. In addition, I have attended all of my course specific PDP sessions which are really good at helping to create that special cover letter, develop interview skills and guide you on how to be successful in the application process.

With the right support, interviews don't have to be scary!

Interacting with Companies on campus…

Many PDP sessions are led by external speakers from various UK firms. These professionals aim to present their company principles and values while giving valuable tips for the application process ahead. I recently attended a Slimfast session on ‘Networking while on your placement’. Here I learnt some keys facts about the firm, developed my understanding of the importance of networking and how to go about it in a professional manner (as well as getting my hands on some great freebies).

In addition to these compulsory PDP sessions, we have many opportunities to attend various optional sessions. Some of the optional sessions which I attended include; a PwC Presentation on Psychometric Testing and a MARS presentation on why sustainability is a strong focus in their company. Your placements team works hard to ensure that there is something for everyone; they are persistent in posting about opportunities to ‘meet the firm’ at company presentations and networking events. A highlight from my second year so far has been the pizza and networking event arranged by the Placements Team wherein returning Industrial Placement students and students currently seeking placements were able to gain some personal insight and tips on company placements whilst socialising over pizza. A great way to network.

Get involved with societies that improve your employability…

Here at Bath, there is a diverse and exciting range of societies that have all sorts of weird and wonderful things to offer and can really help to boost your employability. Among these societies are the business-related ones such as The University of Bath Management Society, Enactus, Women in Business and Bath Entrepreneurs. These groups are geared to enhance your employability by sharing external company events and competitions and hosting speakers to stimulate your entrepreneurial mind. In addition, they hold socials in the beautiful City of Bath; so, there is a work hard/play hard mentality if that interests you.

For the entrepreneurs out there…

For those of you that are keen entrepreneurs, Bath Entrepreneurs and Enterprise Bath are two groups to look out for during your time at university. Enterprise Bath hold many entrepreneurial competitions such as Apps Crunch, The Business Plan Competition and Dragons’ Den. If you have a business or app idea that you would like to develop, be it in a group or individually, then these are just for you.

On that note, did you know that you can use your own business as your Industrial Placement! This has been done before and has proven to be an incredible hands-on experience in which you gain practical skills, immensely develop a business-like mind and create something of your own at the same time. Bath alumni Rob Huysinga did exactly this on his 6 month BBA placement where he co-founded the company Pan-N-Ice. Who knows, maybe this could be you one day.

Well, there you have it, insight on the Bath University Industrial Placement Process. I hope that this blog post assists you in understanding the ‘thick sandwich’ degree at Bath and for current students reading this; good luck with your applications!

 

Cooking and Eating as a First Year

  

📥  Undergraduate

Whether you’re the Queen of England or Dave from Westwood, there is one thing that connects us all. That rumbling feeling in your stomach in your 9am because you just rolled out of bed without breakfast, or that insatiable lust for Domino’s after a night out; hunger is universal. But that’s where the similarities end. For some, food is sustenance. For others, it’s their purpose in life.

Personally, I never thought too hard about food when deciding to come to Bath - I knew I wanted self-catered accommodation and I trusted that I could feed myself somehow, but beyond that I had no plans. However, with such a busy Freshers’ Week and the first few weeks, it's useful to have a clearer idea of how you’re going to eat. It’s not something you want to be trying to figure out whilst you’re getting barraged with new information about timetables and socials. With that in mind, here are some cooking and eating habits I’ve found so far as a student in Bath.

The Budgeter

This person is smart and responsible. Their kitchen cupboard and fridge shelf will always be organised and well-stocked, yet they never seem to spend as much money as you. Their secret? Online shopping. Bulk buying may seem unnecessary when you live five minutes from Fresh but when you see an online deal for half-price pasta sauce and you buy enough to drown in, you can sure as hell bet you’ll have food for the next few semesters at least. Just make sure you really like pasta.

On a serious note, as much as online shopping may seem lazy, it is simply the most convenient way to get your groceries when you live on campus. They deliver right to your door and let you return the crates at your leisure. Make sure to buy in bulk and shop with some friends or flatmates to lower the cost of delivery.

The Eater-Outer

On the other end of the sensibility spectrum is the person who likes to eat out all the time. The person who makes a beeline to The Parade Grill after every lecture and knows the menu to every restaurant in town. Everyone has their own habits though, and especially in the first year, you might find yourself being a bit like this person. And for good reason, because eating out is a social occasion – I found one of the easiest ways to get to know people on my course was to talk to them a bit during lectures and then ask if they wanted to get food afterwards (note: this only works for certain times of the day).

The Meal Planner

The Meal Planner is a truly gifted person. They have the magical superpower of seeing into the future, and they can predict what they’re going to be eating for the next five days. Pasta. Pasta. Pasta. Pasta. Pasta.

But for all the sacrifices their taste buds will have to make, their schedule will reap the rewards. A one-hour gap between lectures is often not enough time to walk back, prep, cook, eat and walk to your next lecture. If you do a course with more than a few days where you’re short for time at lunch, consider breaking out the plastic containers and freezing some Bolognese. You’ll thank yourself later.

Stocking up in 'Fresh' on campus

The Junk Foodie

Bless the junk foodie. They’re not harming anyone. They just want to eat their crisps and biscuits in peace, and not deal with their flatmates asking if that is indeed what they’re having for dinner. Yes, it is. Now if you’ll excuse me and my diminishing figure, I have deadlines to attend to (junk foodies often appear when assignments are due. If you see one, make sure it has lots of its drink of choice, coffee.)

The Meal Dealer

The Meal Dealer is similar to the Junk Foodie, in that it’s choice of eating habit is based mainly on convenience (or laziness, depending on how you look at it). However, they differ in one key aspect: the willpower to endure the huge queues at Fresh during lunch and dinner hours. The meal deal (sandwich, snack and drink) costs a measly £3, and is something that can keep you upright during your afternoon lectures, though as a dinner option it leaves you wanting more.

So, there you have it: five different eating and cooking habits at Bath. With a range of lifestyles, eating habits, budgets and some of the finest restaurants (and kebab shops) in the country, you’ll be spoiled for choice when your stomach starts rumbling.

 

Writing a personal statement for a Science course

  

📥  Undergraduate

As we are well off into the winter term, with UCAS deadlines creeping up, I am aware lots of students are starting to construct or finish their final statement drafts. I remember being in that position a year ago and I specifically remember trying to find constructive advice online and ending up with rather vague tips. And so, I’ve decided to summarize what I learned throughout my application journey in 5 steps and how I received 5 offers from top universities.

Making progress on my personal statement

1. Do additional reading around subject

This is quite an obvious point, but nonetheless very important. If you have already caught up with this task during the summer holidays- great, but if you’ve found yourself in a position where you need to get on with this quickly here are some tips.

Don’t think additional reading relates to books exclusively. This can also relate to scientific journals with research that interests you, and most of these journals post electronic copies online for the public. Another source is scientific articles (make sure the website is verified for authenticity), which will elevate you above peer applicants as you will build up knowledge of the forefront of your chosen course and be able to reference, or even talk about, relevant scientific developments. For example, in my statement I talked ‘a bit about Solid State Physics and more specifically PVD (physical vapour deposition) developments, which is a very budding field in my respective course. And the third source of “reading” I’d recommend is documentaries! This is a very fun and interactive way to get your head around a topic, especially for people who benefit from visual methods of learning.

2. Demonstrate course-specific vocabulary and knowledge

This, of course, relates to my previous point and requires some in-depth reading on your part to acquire some of that vocabulary. Through reading other successful statements I’ve discovered that admissions officers appreciate when applicants use degree-specific terminology, rather than overused phrases, references and quotes. Some of these overused phrases include:

“From a young age…”

“I’ve always been fascinated…”

“In today’s world…”

These recur in nearly every application, so it would be best to find similar phrases to avoid these clichés. There’s another thing to consider when using terminology is to remember to use it in an intelligent and relevant way. Just sprinkling scientific words won’t necessarily boost your application. I will come back to this in point 5.

3. Show a genuine passion

Many applicants will attempt to do this, even if they don’t necessarily have given passion, by using phrases that include “passion” and “desire” rather than expressing it by demonstrating fore-said knowledge all throughout the statement. A really good way to approach this, without coming across as trying too hard, is to relate seemingly unrelated experience to your course in a positive way. For example I related my art skills to my ambitions and skills in Physics by referring to the practice, dedication, organization and focus needed. But, as you have a limited word count, don’t overdo it to the extent of it taking over the majority of the text. It should be subtle references all throughout the text.

4. Balance pastoral and academic aspects

Although most universities don’t admit mainly focusing on the academic portion of your application, it is very much reality. When we look at it subjectively, universities receive thousands of applications and hence will try to sort students purely on the academic highlights. The bad news is that this in turn means you should only include a small personal part (roughly 5-10% of the statement) talking about hobbies, interests and pastoral extra-curriculars. The good news is that you can promote any achievement and elevate it to a higher level by relating the skills you acquired and how they’ll help you in future studies. If you happen to be a high-achieving student, it is very important to choose which of those achievements to mention, as you don’t want them to take over the majority of your statement or to be focused in one paragraph like a list (admissions officers don’t appreciate lists).

5. Seek feedback

Also- a very obvious point, but I need to say my two cents on the matter! Obviously, you’ll want to have met with or start setting up meetings with your respective subject’s Head of Department. But what I would also advice is to meet with teachers from different fields to get different perspectives. What I personally did was meet with an English teacher for tips regarding my vocabulary and statement structure. Basically- seek advice from any teacher willing to give you their time and although sometimes you’ll find different teachers’ advice contradictory, that is when you have to decide which solution would boost your application in what way and whether it would benefit the way you want to present yourself to the admissions officer. A great way to approach teachers for advice would be to send them a draft beforehand, arrange a meeting (give them enough time to read through it and deduce what needs to be talked about) and bring a printed copy of your statement to the meeting so you can work through the text and take notes on things your teacher addresses. Through doing this a few times you’ll end up going through different drafts and hopefully  come out with a personal statement you and your teachers think reflects you and presents you best to the universities you’ve set your eyes on.