Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

A Day in the Life of a First Year- Weekend Edition

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📥  First year, Laura (Psychology)

Before I came to uni I was really unsure how people spent their free time. Would I be constantly in the library? Going out every night? At the gym? Well, it’s fair to say, the answer to all three of those ideas is no. I’ve visited the library on a handful of occasions (and only then because my laptop broke), I’m too poor to go out anything like every night, and, well, let’s just say I haven’t made it to the gym every week, let alone every day. So one quiet Saturday towards the end of first semester I thought I’d document my day, to show what it’s really like to be a first year.

First thing’s first; coffee. An essential for starting any day. Here I had it in a flask which I stole/borrowed from my flat mate, because my mugs just don’t hold enough. It was a very grey, dismal day, which made me really not want to go outside. That’s pretty lucky, because at uni you really don’t have to! Love it.

My usual start to the day

My usual start to the day

Next was breakfast. As I do on many mornings, I managed to overestimate the capacity of the bowl, and subsequently had a bit of a microwave-porridge explosion. But being the good flatmate I am I quickly cleaned this up. I then topped my porridge with some peanut butter and fruit- 10/10 and would definitely recommend. It’s nice to add a little bit of colour to the beige diet every so often.

Oops

Oops

Upon returning to my room it came to my attention that my washing basket was on the verge of overflowing. I do a big wash every week and am still yet to work out how to reduce this, but it’s not so bad! In Norwood, my accommodation, the washing machines and tumble driers are on the fourth floor, so, armed with my Circuit laundry card, a couple of washing capsules, and, of course, my coffee, I headed to the lift. I put my washing on for its 50 minute cycle and headed across to the library.

'the close proximity of the washing machines means fashion choices just aren't an issue

'the close proximity of the washing machines means fashion choices just aren't an issue

You’re not allowed any food or drinks in the library, so, er, obviously, I wouldn’t have dreamt of taking my coffee in… I found an empty computer and set to work on my lab report, which took much of my focus and mental energy towards the end of the semester. I’m not sure how long I stayed and worked on this for, probably until I was on the verge of a little stress-cry or until my stomach began to rumble, but I headed back to Norwood pretty quickly, moving my laundry to a drier and went to my room, probably with a little stop in the kitchen for some food enroute.

As the end of the semester approached, I felt an urge to use up everything in my cupboards and freezer, and decided to make a food plan of what to eat each day in order to achieve this. I’m never usually this organised and I’ll admit I didn’t actually stick to this, but it’s a pretty good idea in terms of helping you work out what you need to buy, and prevent the inevitable ‘eating a daily share bag of crisps’ habit which I’d fallen into by about day 3.

My foodplan

My foodplan

Following on from this I decided to whip up some pasta sauce. A friend from home came to stay for a few nights during the last week, and so I wanted something easy for us to eat. As you can see, it looks awful, and we ended up buying something from the parade bar to avoid having to eat this bizarre concoction of ‘everything in my cupboards put into one saucepan’. Mmmmm.

What is even in here?!

What is even in here?!

I then returned to bed; a common theme in my life, and did some some more work. I probably had a nap here too, which is one of my favourite ways to fill the time between meals.

Later, my friend Lara and I decided to go for a walk. This is pretty much the only ‘hobby’ I’ve acquired at uni, as we both realise that we haven’t moved in several hours/days/potentially weeks and go for a stroll around campus. We’ve ended up in a field of cows, lost somewhere on the golf course behind campus, and, my favourite, stargazing with our other flatmates. This was a little less eventful, but we got to see the nice sky.

Taking a walk near campus

Taking a walk near campus

I haven’t documented my food consumption here but I would have had lunch, dinner, and many snacks, before heading over to one of the other kitchens on our floor. We usually hang out in each other’s rooms but if someone’s making dinner we’ll go to the kitchen, and tonight we were discussing housing for next year, which is a major source of stress! Thankfully we’ve now secured our house and paid our tenancy fees and deposits, but this was one of many stressed conversations. I think the empty vodka bottle on the table is somewhat symbolic.

As it was a Saturday night by about half 10 the sounds of Klass could be heard from the SU below. We had our usual ‘shall we go’ debate which this week was unsuccessful, probably as by this stage of the semester we all had about 9p to our name, and fairly soon went our separate ways. Ear plugs in I went to bed pretty soon. Crazy student life, right?

Laura x

 

Choices…

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

Life is full of decisions we need to make, and sometimes that’s not easy. Right now, being in the latter stages of my PhD, the big decisions I need to make is “what next?”. “What are my options?”. “What do I want in my career?”

Sometimes, it does feel like I’ve ended up here without really thinking about the next step – I mean, I never really imagined that I’d be doing a PhD at all! For me, it was more a case of “I liked doing my dissertation project, perhaps I would like doing something similar”, and I have no regrets. But, when it comes to thinking about my career, rather than more short-term goals, it frankly scares me… Am I meant to know what I want to be doing in, say, 10 years’ time? I think part of the reason I get scared is that I feel as if my decision needs to be a concrete one, which, thinking about it, doesn’t really have to be… right?

It wasn’t until recently, when I attended a PG Skills course on careers, that I realised I basically had most of what I thought was important in my career already. That seems something totally unexpected if I’m honest! Well, perhaps deep down I knew, but that really was eye opening! Although I’m not yet decided on what my “end goal” is, I have an aim for the near future, and that’s far more than I thought I had.

Knowing now that I want to look for post-doc. jobs, it has made it slightly easier – however, there is still the question of what exactly I want to work on. For now, it probably would be ok to just look for projects that are interesting to me (which hopefully will match my skills!), but then what? Would that project guide me to the next stage? Or what if it only confuses me? – actually, is there any point in worrying about it at this stage? Is there anything wrong with waiting to see what opportunities arise, and taking them when they come along?

I think this is probably a hard choice for everyone, and there probably is no right or wrong answer in terms of how we go about making this choice – everyone will have a different way. The one thing I hope for is that, whatever I do decide, I will be happy with my choice and have no regrets.

 

Saving money hacks for University

  

📥  Charlotte (Sociology)

Dollar, Wonga, Cash, Bucks, Chips, Squids, Dough, Gravy, Loot and Readies. I haven’t gone nutty – these are my favourite slang words for money and ultimately, all I know is that money is short at University. I’m sorry to say it, but you better start tightening your belt!

One of the first things you will learn when arriving at University is that waking up, logging into your bank account and seeing your student finance money is better than waking up on Christmas morning. It’s ace. I remember when I got my first installment feeling a little flustered, and I struggled to stop myself from going straight to the Topshop website, and ordering a gigantic takeaway to my bedroom. I was loaded!

The catch is that this money has got to last you several months. As truly lovely as it may seem at first to essentially be ‘rolling in it’, this feeling won’t last for long and it might hit you square in the face if you spend it all and find yourself living off Weetabix and weak Tesco value tea with UHT milk for 10 weeks of the term. Here are some of my best tips for saving money at University, so you have a little extra to spend on treats, luxuries and not on dried pasta and shampoo from Poundland.

First up: budgeting rocks. I’m sure you promised your parents and your pedantic Grandad that you would indeed ‘keep your eyes on your pennies’ and you’d budget, but honestly, it really is a great weapon for looking after your money. Buying a simple cash book, or even just jotting down your spending each week on the back of your planner can be really helpful and allows you to see exactly where your money is going. I’ve also found that instead of waving my debit card around each week, I get out cash on a Sunday and only allow myself to spend this as then I can keep total tabs on my spending (and keeping some cash on you at all times on campus is convenient especially for buying bus tickets and buying event tickets!). Small purchases such as a bottle of milk here or a pair of tights there can really add up, or they’re easy to forget so scribbling these down can help you stay on top of your spending. This also means that the Bank of Mum and Dad’s gates don’t have to be opened too often, and you’ll get son/daughter points from the family!

Another handy pointer is to write a shopping list each week and when shopping for food, drink and other necessities to only scoop up what is on your list. Writing a meal plan makes this easy and doable. Additionally, try and avoid making lots of small trips to the shops as they add up. Instead of 4 trips totalling £7 to Sainsbury’s during the week, grabbing everything at once can be a lot cheaper and buying in bulk can be immensely economical in many cases.

Applying for scholarships and bursaries sounds tedious, but it’s very easy and can have huge financial yield for you. The University of Bath offers a plethora of scholarships for eligible students, and having a search online can also flag up many bodies essentially giving money to students to aid their studies and University life! A quick Google will help you find out what grants and donations are available for you.

Say yes to NUS! The National Union of Students offers a discount card which can save you money in a multitude of restaurants and shops both online and in-store. For example, on Mondays and Tuesdays you can snatch up 40% off in Pizza Express and the guilt in Topshop, Urban Outfitters, River Island or H&M for example is lessened with the brandishing of 10% off discount with the card. Additionally, being a student at the University of Bath offers some advantages such as free entry into the Roman Baths (A good’un to do with your family who have to pay around £14 each – what a saving!) and subsidised journeys on buses and to Bristol. You can also nab online discounts from Apple, Penguin or Waterstones for example by getting a ‘Unidays’ account using your student email address, saving you lots of money too.

Don’t buy new textbooks, they are megabucks! Because academic textbooks and peer-reviewed journals cost a bomb, it can be very practical to purchase your required readings from Amazon second hand, or from older students who advertise their old books on Facebook and alike.

Good luck!

Charlotte

 

Christmas in Bath: exams, food and friends

  

📥  First year, Rob (Physics)

It seems so recently that this whole thing started. A few months ago I was an unsure fresher, and now I’m well and truly swimming at the deep end! Christmas has come around so fast and with it so have coursework deadlines, imminent exams and a couple of fun things too.

In about a month I’ll be sitting my semester one exams. Now my coursework is done, my teaching is ending and I’m preparing to dive into revision. This week is my last of the year. I’ve sorted all of my train tickets, so I haven’t got an excuse not to come back! I’m oddly nervous for the exams- I think it’s because it’s so different to A-levels.

The entire learning process at university is a lot more self-driven and as such I am the main indicator of my progress. Although I have gotten used to being the driving force behind my development I’m aware that these exams are the first true test of my abilities as a physics undergraduate. Luckily I’ve made a group of friends to study with, which should help the material make sense. One piece of advice is to make friends on your course- having not only practical help but moral support from my peers has really helped to push me this semester.

Despite the imminence of exams I’ve had some time to focus on other things. Bath offers the perfect antidote to exam blues; it’s world famous Christmas markets! The stalls are situated right by the Abbey, and stretch all through the town. Wandering around the mulled wine vendors, gift shops and food stalls feels like stepping back in time, especially after dark. The town is heaving with buskers playing Christmas songs and with so many coffee-shops and bars to choose from there’s no real time limit on a day out in Bath at Christmas. It was also a great chance for some friends from home- Jess and Stu- to come and visit me here in Bath.

jess

It was great to see Jess! Here she is checking out the Christmas tree by the Abbey…

stu

…and here’s Stu getting a little too excited about a castle near campus.

I had a few more days working hard before I had another visitor. My girlfriend, Becky, has been here this weekend, visiting from Southampton! She was also captivated by the markets and we spent all of Saturday night exploring them.

becky

Becky bought her Mum some handmade baubles and a hand knitted wool hat from Scotland…

burrito

…which was tiring enough to stop for a (not-very-christmassy) burrito from Mission Burrito. Definitely recommend stopping by.

The next day we woke up late. It was the day of our flat’s Christmas dinner which was excessive to say the least! We were all stuffed afterwards and collapsed in the dining room watching Home Alone. It really felt like a little family in our cute corner of Eastwood.

meal

Right before we ate…we all looked a little bigger afterwards

It was really nice seeing our whole flat together. In the past few months we’ve grown really close and it’s hard to believe I hadn’t a clue who these people were in September. And on the last weekend of the semester there was a suitably beautiful sunset to mark an end to a great start to my degree.

sun

Maybe the last sun I’ll see for a while…here’s to revision starting properly!

So as the excitement of the new beginnings have died away the important stuff is on the horizon. Revision will be a long and daunting process but one which I will try to get the most out of. I was given some advice this week from somebody in their third year - always remember why you chose the course and focus on that. They said that as hard as it may be to always bear in mind that the reason that I’m here is because it’s what I want to do! And I couldn’t agree more. As I go in to the hardest part of my degree so far I plan to keep in mind that I’m here to learn about the world and how it works. And I think that’s exactly what I’ll do!

 

Looking after yourself at university

  

📥  First year, Laura (Psychology)

I recently spotted this meme on social media:

Hmmm

This got me thinking about mental health and the way we think about it as a society. I’m not sure you can compare having the same mental health problem as someone to simply ‘thinking the same way you do’. Whilst I’m sure the post was meant light-heartedly, mental health problems affect a large proportion of the population on a day to day basis, and they’re no laughing matter.

Posts like this normalise seeing people with mental health problems as the stereotype of 'crazy' people in straight jackets, which puts people off of getting help. Suicide is the number one killer of men under 45, and 1 in 4 people experience mental health problems every year (mind.org.uk). NUS recently carried out a study into mental health at university, and found that 78% of students reported experiencing a mental health problem in the past year. This can be anything from depression, anxiety, stress or an eating disorder. I’m going to focus on what to do if you experience a mental health problem at the University of Bath.

Whilst feeding yourself lemsips to cope with freshers' flu is not particularly fun, it's much easier to neglect your mental health. The medical services on campus are pretty impressive; we’ve got our own GP surgery and dental surgery just a short, scenic walk from the centre of the parade. Student services are right in the middle of campus, near my beloved Fresh convenience store, and can help with pretty much anything; whether you’re struggling with your workload, feeling lonely or a bit depressed.

You can go to 4 W to a drop in and have a chat about what service would be best for you (find out more here on the Student Services webpages). If you think you’d benefit from speaking to a counsellor you can arrange this online. This is all free of charge and will fit around your timetable so that your studies don’t get interrupted.

Another service that the university offers is Nightline. It’s advertised all over campus, with leaflets in each kitchen. It’s a service which you can call for help and advice between 8pm and 8am every night. Whatever your problem, if you just need someone to talk to or some help or advice, there is always someone at the end of the phone who can help you. If you need something more urgent there’s 24/7 security in the library, too. They’re very helpful and have even taken me and a flatmate to A&E after she cut her chin open (don’t do the worm after drinking), and we have resident tutors who we can call, too.

Whilst all these services are amazing, sometimes it can just be a chat with your flatmates that helps the most. With mental health problems being so widespread they’re likely to have experienced something similar or know someone who has. If you’re panicking about a deadline or feeling too anxious to eat, let them know, and you can talk about it. But with so much help available there is no point keeping your worries and problems to yourself. You wouldn’t put off getting help if you’d hurt your leg or were having chest pains, so why would you ignore it when your brain needs help?!

Laura x

 

Engineering placement - getting into the swing of things!

  

📥  Joseph

I am now four months into my placement (you can read all about the start of my placement here) and I am in the thick of it. I am slowly becoming more confident around my colleagues and my level of responsibility is also rising. Outside of my working day I am keeping incredibly busy and the weeks, months, and seasons are flying by faster than ever. In this blog post I will run you through my working week to try to give you an idea of what makes my placement year such a storming success.

Whilst at Bath I developed an affinity for the sport of rowing. Indeed, despite the fact that I am working 8 till 5 Monday to Friday, and am often away from home at weekends, I am still able to satisfy my desire to train on the go and even get into a crew boat from time to time. Hoorah!

Training in picturesque Devon

Training in picturesque Devon

My average working week starts at 0700 on Monday morning. After my weekly fill up at the petrol station and short commute into Plymouth I am at my desk and ready to go by 0745, as is the norm throughout the week. My working week, as a member of the engineering services team at Pipex px is always varied with a mixture of computer work- manipulating 3D models, line beam analyses, stress calculation and production of engineering drawings; as well as a variety of meetings, discussions and paperwork- much as you would expect from a busy engineering house I suppose. It goes without saying that I thoroughly enjoy my time at work and there is ample opportunity to challenge myself on a day to day basis.

What I have found to be most liberating whilst on placement is that once the office doors close and lights go off, I am free to make the most of my time outside of work, in the beautiful south-west. Moreover, my placement salary means that I am now able to afford many of the things that I could not justify on my student budget. This new-found freedom and liberation from looming university deadlines has inevitably resulted in my ‘working week’ becoming a rollercoaster of activity. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings I can be found at my local rowing club training with the senior men’s team. This is a great opportunity for me to socialise with other people of my own age, away from the office environment. On Thursday evenings, I go to a local French class. At this class I have met new people and have found that it acts as a respite from my maths-heavy engineering job – a perfect way to mix up the week.

On Fridays, having finished work slightly earlier at 1600, I am almost always seated on a train to another part of the county (or in some cases, world) before 1800. I am very proud to say that I have not yet had a weekend with nothing to do. Instead I have always managed to plan an exciting activity for the weekend ahead (all in my lunch break of course). On my enhanced placement student budget I have travelled to Brussels, Geneva, London, Cheltenham, the Isle of Wight and of course, even Bath – all during my precious two-day weekends! On top of this I have been able to afford an intensive powerboat course at a Plymouth Marina – something I would never have dreamed of being able to afford before my placement year – a real treat!

Even better still, the placement team in Bath are just as supportive now as they were when I was applying for placements. I have now submitted, and received feedback on, my interim placement report – a report describing the kind of things I have been up to whilst on placement. This report not only allows for my placement supervisor to keep an eye on my projects whilst away from Bath, but also acts as a fantastic record of what exactly I have done during my whirlwind time at work! In fact, my placement supervisor, the Dean of Mechanical Engineering no less, Professor Gary Hawley, has even been to visit me at work. This was great opportunity to show the University where I am working and what I have been up to. We discussed the future, my progress and where I can look to gain even more experience in the immediate future. This visit was much more insightful than I ever expected and I am really glad that the University Placement Office makes such things obligatory.

All the while I am taking log of all of the skills that I am developing whilst on placement in my personal development record (PDR). The Bath PDR is based on the specification as required by professional bodies such as the IMechE and hence, in filling out my log, I am actually taking my first steps towards professional affiliation after I graduate – a streak of ingenuity from the Bath Placement Office yet again!

Well there we go, a whistle stop tour of my ‘normal’ week on placement at Pipex px in Plymouth. When I applied for the IMEE course at Bath I was not planning to enrol on the placement year. In the first few months of my first year I was persuaded to sign up for the placement scheme. If I have not already made it absolutely clear – how glad I am that I did make that change! As always, I will keep you posted.

 

Lessons from my first semester

  

📥  First year, Laura (Psychology)

As Christmas draws ever closer, so does the end of semester one. It’s crazy that we’ve now done a big chunk of first year, but also crazy to think that I only moved into my accommodation 9 weeks ago today. So much has happened; our ‘pull’, ‘chunder’ and quote charts on the wall have becoming increasingly full and it’s strange how much has happened in less than 3 months. Looking back, here are things that I’ve learned, and which I think are very useful insights for prospective students.

1: Start working long before your deadline

Okay, this is the same instruction you’ve been receiving since your GCSE days. I’m actually good at this, which my friends often hate. I am that person who starts the work the day it’s set. I even had the embarrassment twice this term of being the first to submit assignments, and even worse attempting to submit something before the submission page had even been made. It’s not that I work particularly well, I just like to get it done. I like to do stuff when it’s fresh in my mind, and after seeing my friends attempting all nighters and stress crying the day before a deadline throughout sixth form (and to a lesser extent this term) I just haven’t wanted the stress! Try and do a little bit of work for each deadline once a day or every few days, and it’s much less stressful the night before when you can relax without feeling guilty.

Evidently early in the semester when raspberries and fresh fruit still fitted my budget

Evidently early in the semester when raspberries and fresh fruit still fitted my budget

2: Frozen food is your friend

I was very worried about cooking at uni and thought that I’d get bored and start eating pot noodles for every meal. Whilst there are a few lurking in the flat kitchen everyone has been cooking pretty inventive (and sometimes weird) meals, and I just want to stress that frozen food is your friend. Frozen peas?! Peng. Add them to anything and it’s basically a meal. Before uni I had no idea you could buy frozen sliced peppers (perfect for fajitas) or frozen chopped onions (perfect for basically everything). It makes cooking a meal from scratch sooo much easier- I can whip up a veggie Bolognese or some fajitas in a matter of minutes without the hassle of a chopping board or the rush to use vegetables before they go mouldy (honestly the stress is real). And ice cream is also frozen and an excellent food so overall 10/10 would recommend (though I’m using way too many freezer shelves so maybe don’t go to the extreme like me).

3: Move as much as you can

Being on campus has made my view of walking very warped. I went to visit a friend in London a few weeks into term and was shocked at the prospect of a half hour walk, before realising that’s a distance I walk regularly back home. It’s crazy, because on campus everything’s within about 7 minutes of you. I describe going to big Fresh as a ‘bit of a trek’, when in reality I can’t image having a shop that close to me at home. So I try to move as much as I can to compensate. I’ll admit I’m doing less exercise than I do at home, and combined with less walking and more comfort eating this could quickly get out of hand. So my flatmates and I regularly go for night walks around campus (the stars are beautiful!) and also utilise the free Zumba classes and free Olympic sized swimming pool. At the weekends I like to do a 5k morning run around the lake. The campus is so pretty that it doesn’t feel like a chore, and all of the endorphins are great!

It's harder to find the motivation when it's -1° outside

It's harder to find the motivation when it's -1° outside

4: Uni isn’t for everyone

There’s a statistic that says something like 5% of first year students drop outof university, and on my corridor of about 25 we’ve had 2 people leave. I was really surprised, although they both had their own reasons. Having a gap year definitely helped me to know I was ready to come to university, but I had also been considering it for a very long time. It’s a big step, a change to your home environment, but everyone’s in the same boat as you which makes it much less scary. If you’re having doubts try and think what’s causing them. I was very apprehensive because I didn’t think I’d make friends, now 9 weeks in I can’t imagine my life without them. The workload may seem daunting, but I swear I’m doing less than I did at A Level... which is probably very, very wrong.

5: Get involved with as much as you can

Just do everything. I really haven’t followed my own advice here; I stopped going to one society I joined and never found the room where the meetings for the other was. Which is sad. But I do this in different ways. You might join 10 clubs, start learning a new language and start a new sport. And that’s so great, and the perfect time to do it. But I get involved with everything my flat do, always try and attend any group activity we plan or arrange one myself. I go to Zumba classes which I never would at home, and I chat to people in the lift which I would always have previously avoided. Uni is a great opportunity to start over.

Ddecorating the flat ready for christmas

Ddecorating the flat ready for christmas

6: Do your washing up

Honestly. I cannot stress this enough. Be a good flatmate. Be tidy, be thoughtful. Don’t be too loud if you know people are trying to sleep, and please, just do your washing up. It’s so grim seeing piles of dirty dishes in your kitchen where you need to cook, and you’re all in it together. If you want to be gross you can even put your dirty plates in your cupboard (honestly way too many people do this) but just wash up after you cook. It’s really not that difficult. Please!

This photo hides a lot but I think you get the impression

This photo hides a lot but I think you get the impression

7: Start planning who you want to live with

It’s crazy how early you have to start picking, but in reality when you’ve lived with people 24/7 for a couple of months you know them soooo well it’s actually not too daunting to commit to living with them. You might find that you want to live with your flat mates, some people from your course, or even a combination of the two. But start planning early. We’re looking for a house for 6 (fingers crossed we’ve got one now) and they go so quickly; to start with every time we arranged a viewing we would get a call to say it had been rented before we even had a chance to look which is annoying. But be persistent, and the earlier you start looking the more choice you will have.

8: Budget

I try and avoid looking at my account balance as much as possible because it’s just too depressing. To start with I did a lot of retail therapy and ended up having to send a lot of it back because I just didn’t have the funds. Now I avoid even looking on the clothes shop websites (this was particularly difficult on Black Friday).

The first semester is expensive (see my previous blog post on life on a student budget) and Christmas has not helped, but I’ve had to start holding back… I mean, I definitely bought smoked salmon and avocado last week, but let’s overlook that. My original budget was £50 a week and I thought I’d spend way under, but that just hasn’t happened. I need to stop buying so much food and sooo many coffees really! But after my £25 on food each week (when I say my freezer is well stocked I mean I could feed the entire block for several weeks using its content alone), one night out ish (£5 club entry+£2.50 return bus fare+ an embarrassing amount on drinks and drunk food), multiple coffees, Christmas presents and then just random things like laundry, it’s not looking good. I have started to refrain a bit, and I’ll extend this in the second semester. If you can refrain from buying rounds, and try to come up with a feasible amount to spend each week, it makes life much easier.

Normal student breakfast, right...?

Normal student breakfast, right...?

9: Chat to people on your course

This is another case of not really taking my own advice, but after making good friends in my flat I kind of didn’t bother chatting to people on my course. It wasn’t until I went to lecture without the other two girls doing psychology on my floor that I realised I didn’t really know anyone else on my course. Luckily group work has helped this and I’ve met some lovely people through that, but it wasn’t until our first course social that I properly initiated interaction. And everyone is great! I felt a bit stupid not bothering sooner, but I now have friends in both my flat and on my course which is nice. We have a group chat for the whole of the psychology course which is also great when everyone’s panicking over a deadline. Safety in numbers right?

I didn't bother finding other friends when I had all of these

I didn't bother finding other friends when I had all of these

10: Don’t go home too much

To start with the temptation is real. I missed roast dinners, beach walks and baths sooo much during the first few weeks. And a few of my flatmates did go home for the weekend really early on, but I just wouldn’t recommend it. The first few weeks are pretty poignant; you’re still getting to know each other and I just think these initial nights out and socialising are crucial. It helps you work out who you’ll probably be friends with and is just a great opportunity to make memories with people. You can’t laugh as hard at a story of a night out if you weren’t there to see it. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t go home at all; I went home after 4 weeks in an attempt to recover from freshers’ flu and it worked. But I could see how it could definitely make people homesick, and if you’re feeling a bit like that I think it’s best to stick it out. Chat to your flatmates, join a new club, get involved with stuff. You’re not missing anything at home, not really, and with uni being around 30 weeks a year you’ll still be back there a lot!

So  those are my top ten tips! I’ve honestly loved my first semester despite my initial fear that I’d hate it, and I can’t wait to come back after Christmas and to live in a house with my friends next year! So if you’re feeling a little apprehensive don’t worry, and hopefully these tips will help!

Laura x

 

Adventures in Germany

  , ,

📥  Faculty of Science, Postgraduate

My research involves using an atomic force microscope (AFM) to see into the tiny world of atoms and molecules. I was lucky, then, to find out that there's a week-long summer school focussed on AFM that comes around every three years, and my first year as a PhD student happened to coincide with one of these summer school years. Since Bath Uni would pay for my travel expenses through my postgraduate budget, I'd be silly not to go.

plane-dewan-c-2

This year, the school was based in Osnabrück, Germany. Visiting Germany brought back memories from when I visited the Netherlands. Specifically, there's the issue of jaywalking. In the UK, when we see no vehicles approaching either way on a road, our tendency is to walk across. In contrast, people in places like the Netherlands and Germany only go when they see the green light. For the first few days in Germany, my rebellious British habit stayed with me. However, seeing the locals wait while I crossed the road made me feel guilty. That guilt eventually broke my habit. I felt awkward at first standing in front of a deserted road waiting for the light, but I was embracing the feeling that this was probably as close to being German as I'd get.

garden-dewan-c

Our meeting point for the summer school was at a botanical garden owned by the University of Osnabrück. It’s a beautiful sight, but temperatures soard to a high of 33 °C during my time there. The heat, combined with 90-minute long lectures (my concentration limit is barely an hour), meant that my mind turned to mush. I was keen at first, sitting in the front row, but was gradually forced to retreat to the back row in case I needed to close my eyes without many noticing. It was a good move.

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Overall, I had an enjoyable time. I met experts in the field as well as other PhD students who, like me, are basically the kids of the academic community. This was the first time I saw how much enthusiasm an academic community can have for its subject. Their enthusiasm turned question sessions at the end of lectures into rich discussions and debates. I would have enjoyed it more if I didn't feel like I was melting.

So, where to next? Well, I hear there’s a winter school in France early next year... For now, I’m back to my rebellious British habit of jaywalking.

 

Living in Woodland Court

  

📥  First year, Mia (Business Administration)

Aside from applying for uni itself, applying for accommodation is the most stressful experience of uni preparation- at least it was for me! I live in Woodland Court, and thought it would be good to offer a little personal insight into my accommodation block.

First of all, the rooms in Woodland Court rooms are larger than your average room in a halls of residence.

My bedroom

My bedroom

The bedrooms are ensuite, with a sink, a toilet and a shower (which you can use all at the same time). The shower has a shower curtain so it’s more like a wet room but the water drains quickly so you don’t end up flooding the whole room. There’s also one glass shelf to place various toiletries, and a large mirror.

Bathroom

Bathroom

On the bathroom door, there is a full-length mirror and to the side of this you have an open storage unit of four shelves and a hanging rail. There is also plenty of space above the storage unit and under your bed. I recommend investing in some large boxes for these areas if you have a lot of belongings as it makes everything a lot tidier. Next to the storage unit is a corner desk with loads of space and a shelf above it. There are also three drawers underneath the desk. The walls have 8 plug sockets, two aerial cables and an ethernet plug. Then on the opposite wall, you have a small double bed with three shelves next to it and a large pin board covering one wall. The room also comes with two bins and an armchair.

My very useful (and personalised) pinboard

My very useful (and personalised) pinboard

In our block, all walls are white apart from the desk wall which is bright green, and the armchair and provided bedding is blue. I used all my own bedding just because it makes your room a bit homelier, but if you do decide to use the university provided ones you can get them exchanged every Wednesday. We get our bedroom and bathroom cleaned every six weeks but I would recommend bringing your own cleaning products if you’re a bit of a neat freak like me, as everything gets very dusty very quickly for some reason. I thought my room was a bit cold for the first week or two until I realised that my radiator wasn’t actually turned on…

My flat consists of 15 students and so we get a slightly larger kitchen to share. There’s not a lot of space in the kitchen but we get one cupboard, one fridge shelf and one freezer shelf each which just about fits my things in. There’s also an extra shelving rack that you can put a box of all your utensils on. There are two sinks, two hobs, an oven, a grill, two microwaves, a toaster and a kettle. We also have a TV, an ironing board and an iron. There is also a table and plenty of chairs to use, although it can be a bit of a squeeze at dinner time.

Communal space in our kitchen

Communal space in our kitchen

We’re on the east side of campus, pretty much as far east as you can get. Marlborough, Solsbury and Quads are our neighbours. The Parade is about a 5 minute walk, and the management building at the farthest end of the Parade (which runs through the centre of campus) is only about a ten minute walk away so everything is still pretty close. The bus stops and STV are both within 5 minutes walking distance. We have a launderette and post room in our building, and the parcel office is 5-10 minutes away.

Walking home to Woodland Court

Walking home to Woodland Court

We had a few issues with kitchen appliances breaking in our first couple of weeks, however these were sorted very quickly by our Woodland Court housekeeping team who are really helpful if you have any accommodation issues at all.

Cost-wise Woodland Court is one of the pricier options at £158 per week (2016/17 cost). I wanted an en-suite and a double room and I saved a lot of money in my gap year so I felt I was justified to spend a little more. The next alternative is the Quads which is new but rooms are smaller and you must get compulsory catering credit. Personally, I didn’t go for this option as I like cooking for myself, but it’s totally up to personal preference.

The most crucial thing about applying for accommodation is to apply the minute applications are open if you want to have the best possible change of getting your first choice. Woodland Court tends to be one of the most popular options so get in early to hopefully avoid disappointment!

 

Campus: coffee shop and study space tour

  

📥  First year, Laura (Psychology)

As a keen participant of café culture, I’ve been eager to try out the coffee shops on campus since arriving. My budget has not. But with deadlines looming I’ve been getting very bored of sitting in my room on my bed doing work, and as my coffee abilities could be compared to a toddler’s I felt something needed to be done. So, with an eager flatmate in tow (thank you Lara), I embarked on a coffee shop tour of campus.

First stop: Starbucks

I’m not a massive fan of the chain; it’s pretty expensive compared to its rivals and there was that whole avoiding taxes thing. But hey, I’m willing to forget that for a decent hot chocolate. And even better; I can get to Starbucks from my bed without going outside. What’s not to love on a cold, rainy day?!

A nice seasonal cup and I even have a word document open (which looks suspiciously blank...)

A nice seasonal cup and I even have a word document open (which looks suspiciously blank...)

Based in the SU, Starbucks is busy and vibrant. We went at about 1.30pm and there were loads of people meeting for lunch, studying with friends or utilising the pool tables. This doesn’t sound like the ideal work environment, I know, but the background noise gave it a nice buzz. We found some bar stall like seats, conveniently located by a plug, and got to work.

The drinks are much cheaper than the usual stores as we’re on campus which is nice for my purse, and I had a soya hot chocolate which was good. Would definately recommend. However; as it is so popular if you get distracted easily I’d recommend headphones if you want to study. However it’s so busy that there’s a nice atmosphere and it’s just a fun chilled-out place. As it’s located in the on-campus club it’s also entertaining to think/cringe at the thought of stupid things you’ve done on nights out where you’re now sitting studying.

Good: Prices, location, background noise
Bad: Can be difficult to get a seat

The Edge Café

The very next day we set off again. I was very excited to go to The Edge Café; I’m a big fan of independent cafes and from walking past a couple of times it looked really cute. We sat down at a big wooden table and started our work. I ordered myself a caramel latte without looking at the price list; its was 65p to add syrup to a coffee which seemed a bit extortionate to me, but hey, it was good. They have a huge cake and sandwich selection which all looked delicious, and it seems like a nice, relaxed place to work.

On my visit there was nice background music which was good to study to. My only issues were the lack of plugs (a common theme at Uni to be honest) which was a bit annoying as my friend’s laptop was running low. The big table was very useful though for spreading all my work out, and there was even a nice little plant on the table. We also sat by the door which was a bad choice as there was an annoying draught. Sorry to sound about 80, but actually when discussing it with other flatmates, they’d noticed it too.

We went at around 4.30 and it was busy but nothing like Starbucks. Perhaps I wasn’t in the mood to work anyway, but I couldn’t concentrate very well because it was quiet enough that I could listen to other people’s conversations and get distracted. Definitely bring headphones. Other than that, very nice. Feels very much like you’ve left campus as it seemed to have a lot of visitors/lecturers in there having a drink which was nice.

Good: Attention to detail of decorations, food, ambience
Bad: Lack of plugs, a bit cold near the door

The Limetree

For this trip I abandoned Lara. My current deadlines involve a couple of group projects and little motivation, so my group and I arranged to meet in the Limetree in an attempt to make our work slightly more enjoyable. It’s definitely a lot nicer than meeting in one of our kitchens (wouldn’t be surprised to find a bit of old food stuck to my laptop if I risked putting it on a student halls’ kitchen table). Anyway, back to The Limetree.

I felt a bit silly taking photos of The Limetree in front of my group, but I assure you it's great!

I felt a bit silly taking photos of The Limetree in front of my group, but I assure you it's great!

limetree

Right by the bus stop, The Limetree is a big restaurant with loads of different cuisines. Whilst I’d ideally go to one of the booths to sit, the restaurant’s popularity means that I’ve had to settle for a table every time I’ve visited. Even so, I would definately recommend it. It’s bright, the tables are big and spacious and the music is good. I forgot to assess the plug situation which may have impacted on my opinion had my laptop had less battery. On Mondays to Thursdays from 8-8.30 you can take your own food container and fill it up for £2.50; our flat regularly attempt to fill the biggest containers possible in an attempt to feed ourselves for the week. I’m yet to sample the drinks but I’ve heard good things about the flat whites, which are cheaper than The Edge but don’t come with the complimentary cookie, and the bar there serves a local Bath ale, described as ‘the best beer I’ve had since I got here’.

I’m not sure what it is about it exactly, but I’m a big fan of the Limetree.

Good: Cheap food, good music, big tables
Bad: Potential lack of plugs, food is distracting

4West

After a few days without a café trip, Lara and I headed out to 4West. The weather has been awful for the last few days and after running across The Parade under her umbrella I rushed to the till to get a drink. They have a particularly impressive selection; seasonal special drinks, offering to add mocha shots to drinks etc., and I settled for a soya vanilla chai latte; one of my favourite drinks which none of our other cafes have offered. It was £2.25 so a similar price to our other visits, and as you can see had a nice Christmas cup. It wasn’t very hot though, but after working in hospitality I refuse to be the kind of person who returns a coffee to get it reheated. So, I bravely drank it anyway.

4West is very popular which has put me off visiting in the past. But it’s busy for a reason; it’s really good. We managed to grab the last table (I felt very guilty as some girl wandered around aimlessly clutching a tray of food- oops) and started our work. At this current moment my laptop is on 16%, so the plug situation here will need to be assessed. It’s not looking promising, which is a shame. Apart from that it was ticking a lot of boxes. We’ve gone for a standard table but there are loads of low ones with comfy sofas. They also offer a wide range of food with loads of options for different diets which I’m always a fan of. Service is quick and they’ve even got some Christmas lights and a tree. No background music but a similar buzz to Starbucks so you don’t need it (unless you’re sat near interesting people and can’t help listening to their conversation, then headphones would be a good idea).

Good: Menu, chair selection, Christmas deocrations
Bad: Cold drink, lack of plugs

That brings our coffee shop tour to an end. Campus does have a number of other food outlets; the Fountain Canteen and Parade Bar especially should not be ignored. However; my budget isn’t really coping with these almost daily trips which I tell myself are essential. Nowhere on campus was even near bad, and I’d recommend a visit to all for somewhere different to study. They certainly beat the silent floor of the library in my opinion, where I attempted to open a packet of dried mango and felt like I was risking being killed by the people on the computers near me. As much as I’ve enjoyed these study spaces however, bed comes with the clear advantage that you can stay in your pyjamas. Which, as term goes on, is increasingly tempting…

Laura x