Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

Budgeting at University

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📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph

University, as I’m sure you’ll come realise for yourself, is a whirlwind experience. I’ve found myself to be so busy over the first six weeks of term that I’ve barely had time to think, but budgeting is an important part of life here and no matter how busy you are cash flow has to be considered. However, have no fear; hopefully this blog post will provide you with a little bit of information about my observations thus far when it comes to making your student finances go as far as possible.

First of all, let me put you all at ease; I’m not bankrupt yet. Living in the Quads on campus has been a real life saver as we (along with a few other residences on campus) get money put onto our library cards each semester. We can spend this money on food at any of the food outlets on campus and there's quite a range to choose from so you can easily get whatever you want at any particular time whether it be a sandwich or a hot cooked meal. During Fresher’s Week in particular, this was a popular topic of conversation as many of us didn’t think we’d spend the considerable amount of money we had been equipped with. How wrong we were – the food on campus is both varied and tasty (perhaps too good!) and I’ve found myself spending money on my card at least once a day.

Meals on campus range from around £2 in the Fountain Canteen up to around £10 for steak in the Parade and for proper sit-down service in the Wessex Restaurant on campus. This option to buy food with nothing but your library card in your pocket makes life a lot easier after a busy day of lectures when you can’t muster the energy to cook for yourself. Similarly whenever I’ve managed to finish labs early and there isn’t enough time to go back to the room; it’s nice to be able to grab a guilt free coffee on the way to a maths lecture.

From time to time everybody on my floor in the Quads gets together and heads out for a proper meal which is a really great way to spend an hour or so away from the madness of partying and coursework that is university. We can all use our library cards and meet up in one of the eating places to socialise over some food that we haven't had to cook ourselves in the communal kitchen. This is a bonus if you are like me with limited cooking skills and you need a bit of a break from pasta and toast! You have to remember that everyone here at the University of Bath is in the same boat, everybody is worrying about budgeting equally and I’ve found that this makes things a whole lot easier when it comes to keeping the costs down. Everyone has limited resources and everyone is juggling to get the most out of their money; everyone has to think about food, laundry, equipment, books, gym membership and of course saving enough cash for some essential socialising. I’ve never felt pressured into spending money I haven’t wanted to spend, and saying no is both accepted and understood by everyone.

In addition to this, I have found that the best way to budget effectively at university is to stay organised. Although I haven’t had the time to note down everything I’ve spent every day as I would have liked to, making time to organise your room and your food cupboard in the kitchen ensures that you frequently check up on supplies and are able to plan for the week ahead. This way, I’ve managed to make sure there’s always something in the cupboard to cook if need be (survival rations if you will), and I’ve never been short of clean underwear or clothes either! Organisation really is paramount to success both academically and in day to day living at university – my life here is so full that before I know it another week has passed by and I'm down at the boathouse for weekend training!

Another worry of mine before I came was whether or not a bus pass would be necessary in the first year. The majority of first year students I’ve met so far haven’t bought a bus pass and seem to be getting along just fine. Despite the fact that due to rowing commitments I have to travel into town every weekend not having a bus pass has still paid off. Day passes are less than £3 and the majority of first year students I’ve met only pop into the beautiful city of Bath once a week – not having a bus pass is entirely justified. It’s also completely possible to walk to and from the city centre and I’ve even walked to the boathouse on occasion. When the weather’s good and you find yourself with a couple of hours free on a Sunday afternoon a walk into the city is therapeutic and relaxing. There are many shortcuts through the fields which enable you to get into town surprisingly quickly. The scenery in Bath isn’t too bad either; living in perhaps the most picturesque city in England there really is nothing to complain about. You really do not have to have loads of extra cash in your pocket to enjoy it....

Bath scenery

Bath scenery

 

Lab work at Uni

  

📥  Alex, Faculty of Science

An important question for anyone planning to do science at university will be 'What are labs like?' When I came here, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from labs.

This semester we've had labs in microbiology, human physiology, biopharmaceutics, and research with scientific communication. That's four of out of six modules, which I don't think is bad going to be honest! I've got friends doing chemistry who have one day a week dedicated to lab work, but for pharmacologists, it doesn't quite work like that. The first few weeks were spent settling into lectures and learning some background, and now I spend between two and eight hours a week in the lab. Although the rapid changes in timetable can be a little disorientating at first, you soon get into the swing of things.

Seeing one of these hanging up with your clothes makes you at least feel like you know what you're doing!

Seeing one of these hanging up with your clothes makes you at least feel like you know what you're doing!

Since collecting my lab coat and goggles in induction week, I was excited for my first lab. I didn't really know what to expect, and so in my buzz, I didn't quite come prepared. I'm sure that right now, with offers and UCAS on your mind, labs are probably the last thing you're worried about, but here's my top tips for surviving them; maybe they'll be useful to come back to in a few months time.

1. Listen in lectures and make lists when they tell you that you're going to need certain items for labs. For example, this week, I needed a calculator, and in a few weeks time, I need to remember my memory stick.

2. Here at Bath, we have unit handbooks, and these are needed for every practical. They contain the instructions and also some questions, and it can be a little tricky to do the lab without one (as I discovered in my first lab!), so make sure that you remember to take it!

3. Store your goggles in the pocket of your lab coat so that you don't forget them (and make sure that they're actually in there before putting the lab coat into your bag because the spares are huge, scratched, and rather uncomfortable - just like school!)

4. Always keep a padlock, sharpie (or an otherwise unbranded permanent marker pen) and hair bobble in the front pocket of your rucksack. You need to provide your own lock for the lockers, you'll get into a muddle if you can't label your glass wear, and putting your hair up with an elastic band is not pleasant.

5. Last but not least, expect the unexpected. You may think that you sussed practical at school or college, but you didn't. The equipment at university is bigger, and often considerably more expensive. You have to think for yourself, because nobody is going to give you a detailed demonstration and hand it to you on a plate.

As it was, my first lab, microbiology, was so interesting. There's nothing like a white coat to make you feel like you know what you're doing as you learn aseptic technique. I probably could have done with a third hand though, because opening and closing several bottles and pipetting liquid in and out all whilst being close to a Bunsen flame, not leaning over your work, and desperately trying not to touch ANYTHING with the sterile tip of the pipette can be rather a challenge for your brain. You make it though, and if when you come back the following week to find that your bottles are free of contamination, you're filled with a feeling of victory. It's like 'yes, I'm a proper scientist now!'

Of course, you're not a proper scientist yet, and labs only ever get harder (but that also means much more interesting!). You'll soon find yourself working with partners and in small groups, which requires a certain level of communication. Remember that nobody has done it before, so just put your ideas and thoughts forwards, regardless of how quiet you are. You certainly won't be the only person in the room who got something wrong, and for now at least, there's usually time allowed for mistakes, and you can repeat something if it all goes completely wrong. It's all about learning, and there's no point in rushing if you or another member of your group is lost, because it just makes the next session even harder.

Labs are really great fun, and I'm always looking forward to the next one. For anyone doing a science degree, I'd say to make sure you check out how much contact time, and in particular lab time you'll get at each university. You're never going to graduate to be a fantastic chemist, neuroscientist or pharmacologist if you don't know how to use pipettes properly, create spread plates, or whatever else it is your employer might ask you to do. It's all well and good knowing the theory, but if you can't apply it, you won't keep that job for very long.

 

Decision making

  

📥  International student, Mirella, School of Management

To be 17 or 18 is just horrible. You are just about to finish school and people are already nagging you with questions like: "What are you going to do after school?", "What do you want to study?", "What do you want to do with your future life" and all you want to at the moment is to enjoy your time with your friends.

Let’s just assume you already know that you want to go to university because you have heard student life is great fun  (to be honest it is great fun) , but now you have to think about 5 universities you want to apply to if you want to (or if you are an international student like me you might even broaden your horizon and look at other good university countries like Switzerland or Germany).  How do you know which university to go to?

I want to help you a little bit by sharing my top 5 list of things you should look at before applying to universities.

  1. Course. Think about what sort of area you want to study in. I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to study but I knew that it should be something with Economics but not quite Economics.
  2. Town or city. Do you want to study in a small town or in a big city? If you are not happy in a big city like London then don’t apply even though they have really good universities- you have to spend at least 3 years there and these years should be awesome ones.
  3. Location. Where is the university and how are you going to get there? I know this might sound silly but I considered location as I quite fancied the idea of going home to Vienna for a weekend.
  4. Rankings. University rankings might not be the most important thing to look at, but I think it is quite pleasing to know that you apply to a university or course which is one of the best in the country.
  5. Extra curriculum. What does the university offer? Do they have a gym? Do they have many societies? Do you actually want to join a society? (Yes, you definitely want to!)

So why did I apply to Bath in the end?

  1. Course. “Management with Marketing with a placement year” sounded brilliant. It was just what I was looking for.
  2. City. Bath is probably one of the most beautiful cities to study in and I quite fancied the idea of strolling through the city centre with a coffee in one hand and a book about marketing in my other.
  3. Campus. Isn’t it great to think that you would live on a campus, which is like a small town just for students and the staff. (It is quite brilliant to live on campus. My friends in Vienna have to leave about 30 mins before a lecture starts, whereas I just leave 3 mins before!)
  4. Rankings. I read online that 93% of students in Bath are satisfied with the university
  5. Placements. The University of Bath is great when it comes to placements and in my opinion a placement year is a great way to get an insight into an industry or company where you would like to work after graduation.

And if you are in doubt about your decision just visit an Open Day. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to one but I had already been to Bath once and I knew that I could definitely live here for the next 3 years.  However, I am going to be one of these annoying, cheering student helpers this year that helps out on Open Days and tells you how great the University of Bath is  (apart from a few ugly 60s or 70s buildings).

So was it the right choice to choose the University of Bath?

I have only been here for just over 2 months, so my opinion is mostly based on the great Fresher's week and all the other fun stuff, but just look at the lake:

The stunning lake

The stunning lake

Who wouldn't want to study here?

And if I had known before how awesome my flatmates are (especially Lydia), I would have applied even sooner.

School vs. University

  

📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

I found that I spent so much time and effort working to get into university that I didn’t really give much thought to what it was like when I would get there. Especially in terms of the work. I was told by lots of teachers in my sixth form that there was a much bigger jump between GCSE and A Levels than between A Levels and university. In lots of ways this is true as both university and sixth form expect a similar amount of work from their students.

From this...

From this...

to this!

to this!

However I found that there were two main differences inthe type of work. The first one, for my course (French and Spanish) at least, is that my teachers only mark big assignments, normally only ones that count towards your grade at the end of the year. Weekly homework is normally gone through in a seminar rather than marked independently by your teacher. And there are no detentions if you don’t complete the work. The teachers and professors at university are there to teach you, not punish you. They set you the work so you can get the most out of your course but it is up to you to do it. This is perhaps the biggest difference between school and university – you are now expected to be in charge of your own learning. So if you are too tired/too lazy/literally do not want to do the work you don’t have to. But I promise you that work is set for a reason. And so while maybe letting one or two French grammar exercises go is not the end of the world, it might help you avoid late night cramming sessions later in the year!

Another big difference between school and university is the way your course will be taught. I heard a lot about lectures, seminars and tutorials when I was visiting but it was never really explained what they were. My course (French and Spanish) is mostly seminars. These are basically the same thing as classes in sixth form. They are normally 1 hour long and have about 15-20 students in each seminar. Seminars are an opportunity for class discussion, to work with the other people on your course and to ask your teacher about any problems you might be having.

I also have 4 lectures a week. These are normally 1-2 hours (2 hour ones normally have a break in the middle) and are a lot bigger, some lectures can have 50 people or more in. In a lecture the teacher will lecture, i.e. talk to you on a topic, maybe with a PowerPoint presentation. Lectures can be a bit of a shock in the first semester as it is a very different way of learning. I was not used to being taught in this way and as the lecturer can talk for long periods of time I often find it difficult to concentrate. The best way that I have found to help me stay focussed is to take notes. This is especially important for the lecturers who don’t write anything down on their slides meaning you can’t go through anything you’ve missed later.

However when note-taking remember the key word is ‘notes’. Don’t write down word for word what the lecturer is saying as you will never be able to keep up. Just aim for key words and phrases and important names and dates which means you can also look up anything you missed later. Another technique if you’re really struggling to follow a lecture (which can happen sometimes in a two hour 9am French lecture) is to record it. Then you can listen to it later and take notes in your own time. However this does involve a bit of extra work and so isn’t for everyone.

When starting university I think it is important to be aware that things will be different and try to be flexible. Don’t panic if you’re feeling overwhelmed or you feel like everyone else gets it and you don’t. That’s probably not true. Everyone struggles a bit at the beginning but there is a lot of support out there for you. Also once you are used to it you will enjoy having more control over your learning and being trusted to sort it all out yourself.

 

Life as an Architecture Student

  

📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Engineering

Do you remember in primary school when your teacher would give you a card board box, some paper and a tube of paint and tell you to use your imagination? Do you remember the excitement that the freedom sparked? Well, if you’re thinking of that memory fondly, Architecture is the course for you.

Essentially my first six weeks have been spent working in a group to design and build a sculpture following the theme Kin/gnosis (google it, it’s very abstract). At first we modelled it in scale 1:10 out of a specific amount of card, paper, balsa sticks and cotton, then we had to replicate it in real size out of wood, canvas, softwood sticks and rope.

Now, as someone who hasn’t used a saw since year 8 wood work, working out how to create different wooden joints was quite a challenge, particularly since our design involved a lot of awkward angles. So many in fact that when we explained to the workshop technician how we wanted the sculpture to look, he laughed until the smile faded as the realisation sunk in that we would be requiring a lot of assistance, especially me, as someone who doesn’t know the difference between a screw and a nail. (I joke, I’m not that bad, nails are the ones with a spiral groove right?)

Disaster struck in the second last week before the deadline when we discovered that that weight of the boards would not suffice in counter balancing the weight of the sticks, thus our sculpture would merely be a wreck on the floor if we could not find a way to modify our design. Thankfully, we asked one of the tutors for help and he aided us in making it feasible and structurally sound. Though, even then we were paranoid it was going to fall over and spent many fretful hours imagining how bad it would be to have to support the frame throughout the crit (a review in front of tutors). A worry that was amplified when we asked the head of the project what would happen if our sculpture did not stand - he chuckled and walked away.

In the end, we couldn’t have built it without the helpful technicians who would happily assist you with lap joints, dowelling and even with providing heavy metal struts to add weight to our otherwise unbalanced sculpture.

The finished sculpture

The finished sculpture

Yes, our base piece was crammed on the underside with metal bars or as we called them our ‘fixings’ – not technically breaking the rules - but without them, it never would have worked. Needless to say when we came about transporting the sculpture to the crit room, we were careful to try to hide the base. Didn’t work. The tutors who judge our pieces had a little snigger as all 5 of us supported the sculpture in carrying it into the room, the metal bars noticeable like a black dog in snow. But alas, it stood up and our crit went really well with the tutors liking the design concept and also the way it was made.

If you ask any architecture student about crits, they will tell you not to expect much sleep/spare time in the week preceding. I guess as long as you manage your time well and work productively this doesn’t have to be true, though I was at the studio till 10 on one occasion, but when your jobs are to operate a screw driver or hammer in some nails, it’s really fun and time passes so quickly.

Alongside the making process we had to produce a design report explaining the journey we took to reach the finished outcome complete with sketches and detailed elevations. My top tip for you would be to spend a few hours over the summer learning the basics of ‘In Design’ and ‘Photoshop’. I hadn’t so I felt a little lost when it came to making the report though luckily two members of my group had and were amazing.

So even if your strengths lie in drawing rather than sculpting or digital modelling rather than wood work, there’s always a job you can do. And if you are good at them all – brilliant, you can help me out.

After crit is over, you get the satisfaction from destroying your sculpture. The thing that has been the bane of your life for the past few weeks gets to be turned into a pile of sticks on the ground. It’s exhilarating and yet a little piece of your heart melts as it dawns on you that all the sweat you put into it making it feasible was for nothing - well good marks would be nice.

Destroying it!

Destroying it!

What’s more, there’s the architects social on the evening which is basically a chance to get together with your group to cry/celebrate the end of the project. Seriously, it’s like the end of an era. It’s likewise an opportunity to socialise with the people you have spoken to at 7.30 in the morning whilst queuing for a workshop slot or shared cakes with whilst sanding down a piece of wood at 9 o’clock in the evening. It’s surprising how much you can bond with people in weird circumstances.

Reduced to a pile of sticks!

Reduced to a pile of sticks!

 

Settling into university life...

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📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph

It’s now over a month into university life and time to update you once again. For those of you who are wondering how long it takes to feel settled in a new place, with a new bunch of people and with a new course to tackle, this blog post should reassure you. Following the madness of Freshers’ and the excitement of the initial weeks, I now really do feel at home here and have managed to settle into university life properly. This does not mean that life is any less hectic, every day is still packed to the brim, but I feel I have found my feet and feel more confident with student living.

Academic side of things

Five weeks in and the IMEE course is just getting going. The study hours have increased accordingly but the new topics I've had to grasp have been both challenging and exciting. When I've had any queries I have been reassured by the ease with which I can email or approach my various lecturers and ask them for help - there's no question too big or small. My Further Maths A-level was definitely a good thing to do for this engineering course and it has helped with the maths elements covered so far but a recent highlight has involved a real Red Bull F1 car! The University of Bath played host to Al Peasland, Head of Technical Partnerships for Infiniti Red Bull Racing, and this was a chance to get away from the maths for a moment and see the glamorous side of engineering close at hand. Hundreds of budding engineers, myself included, queued to ensure the best seats in front of a genuine Red Bull F1 car. Fuelled by a certain energy drink, supplied free of course, we all sat open mouthed as Peasland delivered an inspirational speech on the work his team is doing. As if I weren't busy enough, it was time to give Team Bath Racing more thought; building, driving and racing the Formula Student racing car suddenly seemed very interesting indeed.

Red Bull F1 car on display

Red Bull F1 car on display

Sporty side of things

As mentioned in a previous post, I quickly realised that it would be foolish not to use the incredible sporting facilities here at Bath and that participating in sport would enhance my student life greatly. It is undoubtedly an excellent method of overcoming the less welcome effects of the odd night out, but also an opportunity to broaden your social circles and meet likeminded people from a range of different academic disciplines.

The rowing training is now in full swing and although painful at times I've found friends that I would not otherwise have met. Circuit training with the novice rowing team is attended by loads of people from all over the place and is a talking point of the week. Following circuits you may be aching from head to toe but you know that you couldn't have started the day in a better way as you walk out of Founder's Hall feeling like a champion (along with about 100 other champions!). The sessions on the river at the weekend are also a great way to clear the mind and see Bath from a completely different angle. I'm not sure if I will become one of the best rowers in the world but this new activity has definitely been a good way to feel part of a team and part of the university. It has been exciting to try something new and have physical challenges to balance the academic ones.

Practical side of things

I was convinced that I had packed too much to come to university but as the weeks have progressed plenty of students are making phone calls home to ask for a delivery of forgotten items. I realised that it would be fantastic to have my bike on campus and despite the hills of Bath, it would be very useful for early morning outings to the boathouse. Plus, I could enjoy some road cycling with other keen cyclists and explore the surrounding area. So the inevitable phone call took place and soon I too was unloading another car boot full of gear that had been left behind on the initial trip - happily my bike is now here along with industrial quantities of pasta, cereals and toiletries lest I starve or forget to wash! I suppose it is natural that you discover what you really need as the weeks go by - I am sure that I will become more expert as the terms go by so that I learn to utilise the car lift to Bath to full advantage and prevent unnecessary purchases of items that are sat at home in the shires.

Social side of things

Just when you think you have an hour to yourself you find that something is going on in your halls or there is yet another un-missable event taking place. This week I got a chance to go out in Bath itself and the city really does offer a choice of venues that are ideal for a fantastic night out with friends even on a student budget. Although not as big or as well renowned as the nightlife in Bristol, the quaint bars and clubs make for a brilliant night. The fact that the rowers are generally taller than the majority of people on campus is also a huge help when trying to find friends across the dance floor!

Resident Tutors also ensure that you never have a chance to feel lonely or at a loose end. They concoct a diary of events held throughout the semester and only add to the seemingly endless list of activities both on and off campus. This week, despite a very packed schedule, I went down to 'Revolutions' in the city for a ‘cocktail master class’ kindly arranged by our Resident Tutors on Tuesday evening. This was yet another great University of Bath experience and I ended up meeting yet more people I’d otherwise never have got to know – it was such brilliant value for money too!

Perhaps not the best preparation for the following morning's circuits but never mind… at least it's all feeling like home now.

 

Taking the Leap and Diving In

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📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Engineering

Time often acts in peculiar ways with minutes passing by in what seems like hours, or whole weeks becoming memories in seconds. Both sensations hit me as I crossed off the days until arrivals weekend with a feeling of anticipation and excitement. The weeks preceding the first departures for University blurred by in a succession of BBQs and river days until the dreaded first ‘last night out’. It’s strange, ever since sending off the much revised final draft of your personal statement being a Fresher is all you can think about, though when the time comes you long for more time to spend with your friends and family.

I was lucky, leaving mid-September meant I was neither the first nor last of my friends to head off thus I had time to say ‘goodbye’ yet not have to experience the feeling of being left behind. So after a succession of nights out; each one promising to be the last (or so I told my Mum) and my Facebook Newsfeed increasingly becoming filled with pictures of drunk Freshers’, it was my turn to go.

The 7 hour car journey felt like an eternity as we inched closer to my new city playing the game of ‘Spot the student’ at each service station and set of road works. A game which I’m pretty damn good at now – tip: just look out for pillows spilling out of car boots or hooded teenagers wearing headphones to drown out the sniffs of their parents as they realise their ‘baby’ is all grown up. I can imagine I would have been an easy spot for other bored families - your welcome – me, nestled in a den of coats and pillows in the back of our already too full Ford Galaxy. A fact that was amplified when we arrived and were greeted by too cheerful yet apprehensive volunteers to help unload my new life. I mean how can you tell two relative strangers that you couldn't decide how many folders you would need so decided to bring 11 or that you’re crying because the doorstop you made doesn't actually hold open your bedroom door? But alas we managed and I must say my room looks good.

My beautifully arranged room (and folders)

My beautifully arranged room (and folders)

Now for the kitchen and to finding a spare cupboard. Naturally all the prime spots were full but I found a decent free one next to the microwave (handy I thought) and was halfway through unpacking my sweet and sour source jars when I heard people enter. A Greek family who all proceeded to introduce themselves and shake my hand. Turns out they are the family of one of my flat mates who wasn't actually there, suffice to say I scuttled back to my room after that very awkward encounter.

My next greetings went smoother, I had already prepared my answers to the mandatory questions though I swear it would be so much easier if everyone walked around with a fact file badge and a map of England then we could get to the more important questions so much quicker, such as ‘Did you bring any spare weights that I could put in my door stop?’ or ‘Did you bring a sewing machine?’ Nobody had.

Despite this major flaw, they are all really nice and we’ve had no arguments yet, though I did have to resort to washing my hair in my sink as both showers were occupied. Thankfully, I haven’t quite been desperate enough to take my mum’s advice of peeing in the sink. I must admit I've been close on several occasions. Somehow the walk from my warm room upstairs to the loo in the middle of the night is not a very appealing adventure; though one which I've done many times especially in Fresher’s week after drinking too much erm…water.

Fresher’s week did not disappoint, with a different event every night it was well worth buying the official Fresher’s week wristband allowing free entry to all day and night activities. My particular favourite being the Toga party hosted by Greg James. I’m not even embarrassed to admit that I was that girl who had already cut up and sewn her bed sheet prior to arrivals thus I was pretty proud of my attire that evening. Gracefully though, I did help my flats mates replicate my toga style yet without the proper tools, it was difficult. Note: people are kind of crazy about fancy dress here so be prepared for plenty of weird ideas for costumes.

Not only did Fresher’s week provide fun stories every night (which incidentally can be read about in the Uni’s own, lovingly delivered, daily magazine, ‘Minty Fresh’), but it also gave you the opportunity to sign up for sports clubs and different societies, and most importantly to get the free Domino’s pizza at the Fresher’s fair.

Me, I decided to join the RAG Society which stands for ‘Raise and Give’. Together they raise money for 4 main local charities; Time2Share, Jamie's Farm, Forever Friends Appeal and Unseen. All of whom do amazing work to improve the lives of the local community. They raise money through various fun events such as the upcoming Paris Hitch (hitch hiking to Paris in the quickest time possible), a Take Me Out styled event and many more.

With RAG I’ve already spent the day dressed as an elephant (not a rat like some passers-by rudely thought) in Cheltenham armed with a bucket and the motivation to raise money. £72.44 for 4 hours was pretty good I thought. I also was a zombie for their Zombie apocalypse night on Halloween. I got to spend the night scaring my ‘victims’ in a dark lecture theatre. One of my best nights here, I must admit.

 The Children's Society: Helping underprivileged children across the UK


The Children's Society: Helping underprivileged children across the UK

I also jumped at the chance to climb Kilimanjaro for The Children’s Society in June this coming year. So now the only barrier between me and reaching the highest point in Africa is my fundraising target of £2990, oh and 5,895 meters. Will keep you updated on that one.

 

First few weeks as a mature student

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📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Millie

I’m writing this rather later than intended, as I have been incredibly busy, and also been lucky (!!) enough to come down with Freshers’ Flu not once, but twice. A word of warning: you will get Freshers’ Flu. There is no way of avoiding it – it manages to get absolutely everyone at some point! Apart from that everything is going well though. I’m going to write a bit today about the first few weeks at university, some of which will be related to me being a mature student, and some that won’t.

As I mentioned in my first post, I was lucky enough to come along to a 3 day workshop run for incoming students in the Humanities and Social Sciences faculty who had done an Access to HE course. We all found this really helpful. There was a really wide mix of ages, from 20 through to people who have children in their 20s, and from several courses, although a majority were Social Work students. As mature students a lot of us had concerns about starting Uni, but we had a lovely few days discovering that we all had the same worries and nerves, over lots of biscuits! There were all sorts of sessions run for us; we had some sessions on developing as a student, both personally and academically, some taster lectures and seminars, and some sessions on academic skills. There were also optional evening activities on offer; there was a meal one night, and another night we had the chance to use some of the amazing sports facilities that the Uni has, and did a Pilates class and played some badminton, and then we had food vouchers to spend in one of the food venues on campus, so it was a really nice sociable few days.

All of the staff were lovely, and really friendly and reassuring, and we were looked after very well. Quite a few of us stayed in accommodation on campus for the 3 days, and it was great to have the time to get to know the campus before the chaos of Freshers’ Week.  It also gave us more time to get to know each other and chat. If you have the opportunity to do this workshop, or something similar, I would definitely recommend it. I wasn’t sure about going when I first heard about it, but I am really glad that I did, as I think it helped quite a lot with the settling in process, as well as making me feel less isolated. There were 2 other psychology students, which was great, as it meant I could walk into the departmental induction sessions and see a couple of familiar faces.

I didn’t have a typical Freshers’ Week. I am not a big party girl – I don’t know if that is because I am a mature student, or if it is just my personality, but clubbing is not my thing, and although I do drink, I don’t drink for the sake of getting drunk, which is the student stereotype! I didn’t go to any of the main events during Freshers’ Week (that is what Bath calls the big club night each night), but they also had lots of other events on (called select events), for people who fancied something a bit different, and I went to several of those. There was a murder mystery night, which was really good fun, and a ceilidh, which made me realise how unfit I am, but was brilliant! Then there were pizza and board game nights and film nights every day, and loads of other less typically student things, which I thought was really good. It is also worth remembering that Freshers’ Week is also Induction Week in your department, so as well as whatever you’re getting up to at night, you do have some welcome and induction events during the day!

Photo of items collected during Freshers' Fair

Freshers' freebies!

All of the clubs and societies run taster sessions during the first few weeks, and I think it is a good idea to go along to as many of those as you can, because they are a lot of fun, and a good way of meeting people. As well as things I knew I wanted to do, like dance and theatre, I also went to taster sessions for trampolining (lots of fun and I’d like to do it when I have more free time), Latin and Ballroom dancing, which I’ve never done before, so that was fun, LitSoc, and several other things. It’s also good to go to things like Freshers’ Fair, which is on during the day in Freshers’ Week, and is basically full of companies and organisations giving out information about what they do, but is a great place to score lots of freebies, some of which can be quite valuable, for example I won a £20 voucher for Frankie and Benny’s! I also picked up more pens than I know what to do with, loads of lollipops, which have somehow disappeared, some free bus tickets, T-shirts, and all sorts of other things. I’d advise going earlier than I did – get there as early as you can, because we turned up in the afternoon and some stalls had run out of freebies, but it is definitely worth a visit.

I’m settling down into university life now; I handed in my first assignment last week, and I have another due this week, plus a group presentation to do, and I’m also busy with the societies I’m involved with, and other extra-curricular things I am doing, but I will write more about that another time! Speaking of assignments, I’d better stop writing this now and start writing that! Why is it so much easier to write 1000 words of blog post than 1000 words of a lab report?!

 

Reflecting On The Past Six Weeks

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📥  Alex, Faculty of Science

After slowly collecting up my belongings, five weeks ago, I moved to Bath. My first day involved a lot of queues and documents. When I’d finished trying to get my parents out of my hair, having a stress about the cleanliness of the fridge, and hanging up my clothes, I suddenly found myself sat on a bed in a little room on the eighth floor of an accommodation block in a city that I’d only ever spent a few hours in. That first day is rather scary, but trust me, there’s no need to be scared. Find your doorstop from the bottom of your suitcase, get your door propped open, and say hello to each and every person that walks past. At some point, your brain will have the revelation that actually, all of your flat mates are in the same position. It won’t be long before you’re all crowded around the kitchen table having the obligatory Fresher’s conversation.

‘What’s your name?’ ‘Alex’

‘What are you studying?’ ‘Pharmacology’

‘Where are you from?’ ‘Leicestershire’

‘Where’s that?’ ‘The Midlands’

‘But the Midlands doesn’t exist?’

Yes, if like me, you are from the Midlands, you’re about to spend the next four years of your life advocating its existence. Apparently, there’s only North and South.

Unpacking and preparing

Unpacking and preparing

Fresher’s Week passed in rather a whirlwind, and it wasn’t long before the reality of university life kicked in. Vitamins, tissues, olbas oil, and paracetamol will get you through the first couple of weeks as you attempt to overcome Fresher’s flu. When you’re recovering from a severe head cold, it can be difficult to take on the reams of new information. My first lecture largely consisted of a nervous five minutes trying desperately to spot a recognisable face in the biggest room I’d ever seen, an excessive amount of coughing (try putting 200 people all with some sort of virus into the same room!), and a fair amount of desperately trying to scribble down every word the lecturer said. Don’t do it, you’ll never get down every word. I’m warning you now, just don’t try. PowerPoint slides are there for a reason, so print them.

For Pharmacologists at least, there will be a moment a few days later when you discover that the lecturer’s for one module won’t use a PowerPoint. Yes, you heard it. Not one PowerPoint for a whole lecture series. But how can you teach without one? You’ll soon realise that schools have forgotten the art of using a marker and a whiteboard, and actually, whoever invented PowerPoint and projectors was probably just trying to confuse you. University may be very different to school on all sorts of levels, but actually, my Chemistry lectures make the most sense, and they’re the ones which I enjoy the most.

Teaching at university is rather different to how you are taught at school. At home, we still have middle schools, and so from moving to upper school in year ten to finishing my A Levels, I was in one place. I knew the teachers, I had my friends, and I knew how things were taught and what was expected of me. I knew that classes started at 8.45am and finished at 3.15pm. Sometimes, I can now feel a little like I’m drowning in the workload, because this time, the jump really is huge. There’s no more chatting to your friends, or answering problem sheets in class. Although we do have smaller ‘class-sized’ groups to answer questions, I spend most of my time sat in front of a lecturer with about two hundred other students. Putting your hand up is suddenly a massive ask, and you can find that there’s little structure. With a timetable that changes on a weekly basis, some days I can have my first lecture at 8.15am and finish my last at 7.15pm, but others I can lounge around until midday, have one lecture, and then head back to my flat. This semester, my hours vary from 11 to 23 hours a week, and for each hour we spend in lectures or workshops, we have to do one to two hours outside. That can mean fifty hour weeks, and will probably explain why the library is open twenty four hours a day.

My flat mates and I on the first night at Uni

My flat mates and I on the first night at Uni

It wasn’t long before I was fully immersed into a world of lectures, workshops, societies, friends, socialising, reading, essay writing, and sleeping. I’ve found that friendship groups have popped up all over the place, and so there’s always someone to hang around with. Some of the best bits for me have been the simple things; we had a flat roast dinner and I went to the Pharmacology pub quiz. Although there are plenty of opportunities to party if that’s your thing, you don’t have to go out every night. A group of six of us from my course decided to go the pub quiz social, and while we only came third, and were the only first years there, it was a good chance to see Molloys, and get to know each other a little better. There’s only so much that you can get to know about someone whilst simultaneously trying to make notes in a fifty minute lecture. Take time to appreciate the little things (and to try and work out which of your new friend’s is called Ellie, which is Ella and which is Emma).

Looking back on it, I’m not sure where the last five weeks have gone. I’ve joined three societies, made a whole host of friends, visited my mum for her birthday, and eaten exactly what I wanted. Every single day. Being a student is a lot of fun, and I’m already convinced that the stress of A Levels and the hassle of UCAS was worth every single second.

 

Moving In and Making Friends

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📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

Moving to university can be a pretty big deal. It is stressful and complicated and emotional. On my moving day I had a lot of complaints from my family members about the amount of stuff I was taking, and the subsequent lack of room in the car. I was told that there wouldn’t be enough storage space, I wouldn’t wear all those clothes etcetera etcetera. This was all lies. Take as much as you like. If you’ve still got room in the car cram some more stuff in. The rooms at Bath, or more specifically the Eastwood Accommodation (as I can only speak from personal experience) have plenty of room. I have a wardrobe and three separate cupboard spaces. And if you don’t have enough space Mum and Dad can just take it back with them.

As I was moving from London to Bath the drive was fairly short and straightforward but we took our time. We stopped off for a walk and lunch and I’m really glad we did. It’s the last time you’ll see your family for a little while and you should make the most of it. Especially as you’ll want them to leave the minute you’ve unpacked the car (sorry mum). It can feel a bit lonely and scary just after they’ve left and for me the best thing to do was to throw myself into unpacking and meeting my new housemates. I think it said it on every advice page I read about moving to university but make sure you bring a door stop with you. You’ll want to keep your door open a lot (first week especially) as it makes it a lot easier for your housemates to come and have a chat with you. And when you move in go and knock on people’s doors, introduce yourself. Everyone is looking to make friends and will appreciate you coming to say hi.

Don't forget a doorstop!

Don't forget a doorstop!

After I’d unpacked all my clothes and got my room looking a bit more homely I decided to put away all my kitchen stuff. But I ran into a bit of a problem. I’d decided to come on the Sunday of moving in weekend. The accommodation office advised this as there would be less traffic and so it would be easier to get to the university. And this was true. I think around 70%-80% of people moved in on the Saturday which meant the Sunday was quiet and it was easy to collect my keys and room information. However I got no kitchen cupboard space. Literally none. And however friendly your new housemates are no one is nice about kitchen cupboards. So I lived fresher’s week with all my stuff in a plastic box on top of the fridge. Not the most practical solution but it worked. However, three weeks in, I have two cupboards and a drawer so just give it a bit of time if something doesn’t go quite right for you in Fresher’s Week.

Making new friends is a really big part of your time at university. It is also hard. After my gap year working in France, I assumed making friends at university would be easy. If I’ve already spent a year making friends in a foreign language how hard can it be to do in English? But it is always difficult, wherever you are and however old you are. Driving to Bath I almost felt like being sick I was so nervous. I knew the majority of my housemates had arrived the day before. What if they were all already best friends? What if I didn’t like any of them? What if none of them liked me? The whole concept of first year university accommodation a bit strange. You are essentially moving into a house with a whole group of people you’ve never met and might potentially have nothing in common with. The university doesn’t send out questionnaires to match you with people with similar interests to you. These people are total strangers. But I was lucky. In my house of 13 I get on very well with all my housemates and some are starting to become close friends. I’ll probably end up living with some of them next year. And three weeks in I’ve realised that randomly putting you in with a group of strangers gives you the opportunity to make friends with people you might never have spoken to or met anywhere else. If they weren’t my housemates I can’t imagine that I would have ever met some of them as we all do different course. Or if I did meet them we might not be such good friends. And he majority of people I’ve talked to, either from Eastwood, Westwood, Marlborough or any other university accommodation, get on really well with their housemates. Most people are really enjoying the chance to meet new and step outside of their comfort zone a little bit.

But of course sometimes you just really don’t get on with the people you live with or you just don’t have much in common with them. If this is you, don’t panic! The university gives you a million other opportunities to make friends. Firstly, though it may seem obvious, there are the people on your course. Given you’ve both chosen to study the same thing at university you’ll probably have something in common. These people will be the ones you spend a lot of time with, they’ll help you out if you have a problem and they’ll be the people you study with. As I’m doing French and Spanish I got together with a couple of people from my course to watch a French film. I don’t know them that well but hopefully I will soon.

Then there are the clubs and societies. There are so so many of these at Bath. Whatever you’re interested in; juggling, baking, knitting, there will be a society for you to join. Bath is also very sporty so your first year is a good time to start a new sport or maybe go back to one you used to do. They’re also a really good way to meet people who enjoy doing the same kind of things that you do. All the clubs and societies have regular socials, some are weekly, others monthly, and often trips away as well giving you loads of opportunities to get to know some new people and consolidate those friendships that you’ve already made. So go along to the Fresher’s Fair and sign up. And I will share a little wisdom from a UniSmart Fresher’s Week talk with you, “when making friends it’s more important to be interested than interesting”.