Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

Almost Christmas

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📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph

I have officially made it to double figures – week 10 has arrived! Time has flown by and I cannot believe that it will soon be time to head back down the M5 to home. In this final blog post of my first term I will try and reassure you once again and just describe, in a nutshell, what my life has been like at the University of Bath since the last time I wrote.

First and foremost the academic lectures have all continued as normal and as the weeks roll on some of the engineering jargon is beginning to click. The topics I found challenging earlier on in the semester are beginning to make sense – this is a very satisfying feeling and I can now see light at the end of the tunnel. With many of the sciences, in addition to lectures, you get given multiple problem sheets per week and these are a brilliant way to ensure that you know what you think you know. They give you a chance to put into practice the theory you’ve sat and listened to over the past few weeks. My one piece of advice concerning these bad boys is to ensure that you actually do them! It is very easy to get lost in a trail of dust behind those students who conscientiously do each and every problem sheet and so it is vital that you motivate yourself to give them all a go.

On top of this, the Mechanical and IMEE engineers are set two small pieces of drawing coursework to complete before Christmas. With so many budding engineers on campus this has been a hot topic of conversation; my advice for all drawing assignments and portfolios (if you are lucky enough to get them in the future) is to get them done early, to be organised and avoid leaving your portfolio to the last minute. It is far easier to chip away at a portfolio page by page rather than to try and get it all done in one sitting a day before the submission deadline.

Enough of the academia, fascinating though it is, and onto the other reasons why life at the University of Bath is so enjoyable....

As you may already know, this year I’ve joined the Novice Rowing Team and through this I have already experienced a myriad of new things and met so many new people. These last few weeks have been particularly exciting as the rowing team prepare for Christmas events and buckle down to winter training. Despite being a bit chilly at times, rowing on the water between Bath and Bristol is the best excuse to get outside in the fresh air and when the sun is out there could not be a better place to be.

Aside from the rigorous training regime set by the Novice Captains, we’ve all taken to saving money on the bus fare and by cycling to and from the Boathouse (yes, this includes a gruelling cycle up Bathwick Hill). If you’re planning on cycling into town regularly when you come to Bath let me reassure you once again, Bathwick Hill really isn’t that bad – although daunting on the first few attempts, you soon get into the groove and can just relax into the hill – back up on campus in no time with energy to spare for a shower and a dash to the Lime Tree restaurant. It is certainly worth contemplating the notion of bringing a bike to campus....

BUCS Indoor rowing event at UWE

BUCS Indoor rowing event at UWE

This weekend in particular was a great weekend for the rowers; we all (novices included) went down to UWE (the University of the West of England) to compete in the BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sport) Indoor Rowing Event. This can be summed up by saying that it consisted of a hall full of rowing machines and several hordes of sweaty, testosterone fuelled athletes ready to give it their all and race for their university. This unattractive description aside, the atmosphere was electric and it was yet another day where you could meet new people and take the time to talk to the rowers you knew less well. The day was a brilliant opportunity for everyone to smash their PBs with the rest of the Bath rowers yelling them on whilst they pulled as hard as they could. For a previously active but essentially lazy surfer from Devon, this is a whole new world to me. I have never done regular training like this before, I have never felt this sort of team spirit and this event in particular was unlike anything I have ever witnessed. At the end of the day everyone came home smiling (and aching) but at least now we can all say we are BUCS athletes…

Another busy week is ahead. Week 10 does not allow for any let up. Rowing training continues for the Bristol Head race this weekend and the lectures continue relentlessly – coursework deadlines to meet too. I will keep you posted as these final two weeks promise to be as equally crazy as the first two. Christmas spirit has taken hold of all accommodation blocks and the end of term is in sight. I am not sure how I will cope with the quiet life of Devon in a few weeks' time but at least the holidays will give me a chance to recharge my batteries ready for next term...

 

The Snowball

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📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

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

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

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

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

My mask for the masquerade ball

My mask for the masquerade ball

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

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

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

The Bath Pavillion

The Bath Pavilion

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

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

 

Life in the fast lane...

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📥  Harry, School of Management

It still amazes me how much you have the chance to get involved with at Bath. I am constantly wishing that I just had a bit more time in order to cram in another society or sport but I am barely being able to keep up with the ones I’m already signed up for. Today I’m going to share with you an awesome experience I’ve been lucky enough to be apart of for the last few months: Team Bath Racing.

Team Bath

Ready to go!

If you’re going to study Mechanical Engineering at Bath then the chances are you will have heard of Formula Student. Or if you haven’t, you definitely will by the time you arrive at Bath. Team Bath Racing is the top Formula Student team in the UK. For those of you not in the MechEng sphere Formula Student is a competition where students design, build and run a single seater formula race car from scratch. It’s high tech stuff (and as a business student it’s completely over my head) but anyone with a love of motorsport, business or mechanical engineering has the capacity to help out in some way.

Over the last month I’ve actually been lucky enough to take part in a few tests trialling out to be a driver for the team. The day starts with the team checking over the car to make sure it’s both safe and set up for optimum performance before loading it up into the truck to transport to Colerne, which is a local airfield where the team tests the car (about 10 minutes from the university). Once we arrive we set up the course on a stretch of unused taxi way using cones to create a twisty test track designed to challenge the car and driver. After this we do a track walk (it always helps to know where you’re going) before getting kitted up, helmets on and belted into the car.

Our awesome car

Our awesome car

At the first test we actually had to do an ejection test (no there isn’t an ejection seat unfortunately) but you did have to be able to get out of the car in under 5 seconds in case of fire. Unfortunately on my first attempt I only managed 6 seconds meaning I died in a petrol fuelled inferno, but the second practice I managed 4 seconds thank goodness. There were 3 drivers testing out on the day, myself, Max (Super Fast German) and Mark (who races at MSA level) so competition was very high! It was a great experience to be able to drive the car though, which was actually very nippy for it’s size and a great challenge as getting used to driving the (as Top Gear would describe it) flappy paddle gearbox was particularly tricky!

It’s an awesome piece of machinery - carbon fibre monocoque, full data system - the lot! The scale of the project is just crazy for a student initiative.  But I think it’s an absolutely brilliant example of why you might want to consider studying at Bath - not only is it a world class university it also offers you the opportunity to get involved in what it is you love doing. No matter what it is, you can almost be sure there will be a group of equally enthusiastic people who want to get involved in the same area, and with a fantastic Students Union behind you, the sky is the limit (there is actually a gliding club so it really is). And if the sport, club, society that you want to be a part of isn’t already here then you can create it yourself!

So how do you get involved in all these crazy activities you ask? Well, during freshers week there are sports and societies fairs happening all week which is a great chance to go round and talk to all the different clubs and find out what they’re about. Once you find a few you like, sign up and attend a taster session! After that if you still think it’s something you’d like to get involved in you just need to buy your membership fee (it’s really not much for what you get don’t worry!) and away you go!

I hope this post helps, and maybe I’ll see you at the race track next year!

Harry

 

Don't Panic: 3 Uni study tips

  

📥  Harry, School of Management

One thing is for sure about your first semester at University, it will go incredibly fast! It feels like literally just yesterday my parents were waving goodbye and I was embarking on Freshers Week. With just 3 weeks of term left the last few weeks have been pretty hectic as the first wave of scary assignments are due and the dreaded in-class tests started appearing.

I am of course, over-exaggerating.  Your first assignments are in actual fact not that scary and the in-class tests really aren’t as difficult and horrible as they might sound. However, when you do them for the first time they can seem like they’re a bit daunting. I know I’ve definitely been panicking a bit the last few weeks so I’d like to share with you a few top tips so that when you arrive at university you won’t need to worry at all!

As a Business Administration student, the first semester is largely about introductory modules in the various areas of business. This is designed to get everyone up to the same level before progressing onto the more advanced topics. Obviously some students have studied some of the module topics before (for instance I’ve already studied 2 years of economics, where as others have no economics experience but are absolutely amazing at Accounting - which I am definitely not!). Which is where my first top tip comes in: Study Groups!

When it comes to learning everyone is different, but I certainly find it much easier to get to grips with that pesky statement of financial position when I’m learning in a group of friends. It’s a great way to exchange knowledge, get motivated to study and mutually benefit everyone.

Study groups are great

Study groups are great!

Second up is Office Hours, what on earth are they you ask? Well, each lecturer at the university will have set office hours advertised. This is usually a few hours a week where you can simply drop by their office and question them on that tricky problem you’ve got stuck on. My real tip though is to utilise this time - I spent far to long sitting around not being able to work out problems because I didn’t want to bother my lecturer with my silly problems. It’s really important to remember that’s exactly what they’re there for - so no matter how small your problem, as long as you’ve spent time considering and working on it then just pop along and get it sorted before it comes to exam time! If you really don’t want to head along to their offices, try grabbing them at the end of a lecture or during the break.

Office Hours

 

Third and final is Time. Keep track of it and don’t leave it to the last minute (although we all inevitably will right?). I know I got caught out by the fact that 3 deadlines all fell within 1 week, and didn’t allocate enough time in order to get them all done. Which involved a lot of Red Bull and not much sleep. I’ve certainly learnt for next time!

So there you have it, 3 top tips on not panicking about assignments and in-class tests. Get in groups, utilise office hours, and keep track of time!

Until next time!

Harry.

 

How should I work at university?

  

📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

Following on from my post about the difference between school work and university work I thought I’d talk about how to work at university. As I’ve said, the university gives you a lot more freedom, and you take responsibility for you own work. This can feel a bit strange after sixth form where the teachers tell you how and what to do for your assignments.

Presentations

In my first semester here I had to do quite a lot of presentations (good practice for language oral skills). The presentation, normally 15-20 minutes is done in a small group, and you receive a group mark and then have seven days to write an individual ‘report’. This is totally different from the kind of work I did in sixth form which was very teacher led. Here they ask you to teach each other. My first presentation was a bit of a disaster. I tried pretending it wasn’t going to happen and/or hoped that someone else would take charge and organise it. No one did and we ended up starting work on the presentation, worth 33% of my mark for that semester, two days before we had to present it. Try not to follow my example – it isn’t worth the stress. Having learned from my mistake I contacted the group for my second presentation around two weeks before it was due. This gives everyone time to do some reading around the topic and come up with some ideas before you meet up. We then divided the work up, so everyone did some of the presentation at home, and then met up a couple more times to do the introduction and conclusion and do a rehearsal.

What not to do...

What not to do...

Written assignments

The report part of the presentation, and in fact any large written piece of work you have to do, can feel a bit of a challenge. Lecturers and teachers are often quite vague about what they expect and, especially with the report, it can mean a different thing to each teacher that sets it. Writing my first report was difficult because I had no idea what was expected of me. And looking back I realise what I should’ve done was ask. The teachers are there to help you, and you also have your personal tutor and peer mentor (a 2nd year who will usually be doing the same course as you) who you can ask. You can send them an email or schedule a meeting and they can push you in the right direction.

First year - how much do I need to work?

Another thing to be careful of when you start university is the amount of work that you are doing. Some people, when faced with work that they aren’t used to and a less teacher led way of learning, will panic. They will spend all their spare time studying and set up camp in the library. Other people will go completely the opposite way, with the independence they aren’t used to, and not turn up to any lectures. Try not to fall into either of these traps.  Most first years won’t count towards your degree (it’s a good idea to check this out) and the pass mark is usually quite low. As long as you are working consistently, doing your homework, and handing in your assignments, you should do fine. There is no need to stay at the library until 2am. But the work has been set for a reason. Remember that you are paying to be at university. Don’t waste that on sleep and partying. Do the work that’s needed, but don’t forget to relax and enjoy yourself as well!

Reading and deadlines

Especially on courses like languages, politics and psychology you will be asked to do a lot of reading. This can be in the form of books, chapters from books, articles, original historical sources etc. The reading will often be set so you can discuss them in your seminars. I will be honest, not all of the reading set is essential. Some of it is just set to give you a better understanding of the course material and mean that you understand what is being taught in your lectures and seminars better. But a lot of it will be helpful. It’s never fun being asked by a teacher to talk about something you don’t have a clue about. General advice is just to do it. Another thing is deadlines. These are pretty serious in university. On my course if you hand an assignment in 5 days late you can only get 40% of the mark. Any later than that and you get 0%. Try to work with your deadlines in mind. If you’ve got an essay start reading and planning for it a couple of weeks in advance. Give yourself enough time to do it at your own pace, and make sure you have time to read and check it before you hand it in. Don’t follow the preferred strategy of one of my housemates who stays up until 5am the night before.

Although first year may not count it’s a good idea to sort out your working strategies now. If you sort out how to work this year it will make your first year at university much, much easier.

*A lot of what I say here is quite specific to my style of course (so languages, politics and international studies). If you’re studying biology or engineering then your experience of studying may be quite different.

 

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!