Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

Preparing for Uni as an Access student

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📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Millie

I’m writing this from my new bedroom at the University of Bath, awaiting the start of Freshers’ Week and Induction Week tomorrow! My route to this point was a bit different to the majority of students, as I am a mature student, and so studied an Access to HE course to meet the entry requirements of the BSc Psychology course here at Bath. This is a 1 year course, equivalent to A levels, and you can take them in lots of different subjects – mine was Health and Social Care, and consisted of units in human biology, psychology, sociology, maths, social history, study skills/IT, and an individual research project.

I knew from very early on that Bath was one of the universities and courses that I liked the look of the best, but also that the entry requirements were fairly high, and so I’d have to work hard to get my place here! Access results are a little different to most courses – all credits can be graded at pass, merit, and distinction, and my offer for Bath was to get 39 credits at distinction, and to get 6 level 3 Maths credits. Unlike A levels, you don’t have a results day when you find out what grades you have – you are given your results as you go through the course. The advantage of this is that you know if you are likely to meet your offer before you have actually finished the course, so there is less uncertainty, and you know which university you are likely to go to relatively early. However, doing the equivalent of A levels in 1 year is a lot of work, and there’s lots of skills, such as referencing, that aren’t expected at A level but are required to pass an Access course.

When I knew I had definitely done well enough on my course to meet my offer for Bath I was a combination of excited and nervous. Obviously everyone has nerves about moving away from friends and family, but this can be even more difficult as a mature student, as you worry about being a lot older than the average student and not fitting in because of that. I was also really worried that everyone else, with their strings of A*s and As at A level would be much cleverer than me, and that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the work. I was excited too though – both the department and the university have such good reputations, and I thought the course content looked really interesting, and there is so much you can get involved in as well as your course.

There is a lot to do in practical terms when preparing for university. Applying as early as possible for your student loan and grant is a good idea, as it ensures you will get paid as close to the beginning of the semester as possible. You are also able to apply for Disabled Students Allowance at this point, which is for any students with a disability or learning difficulties. You don’t get given any money directly, but they will supply equipment that may help you, and pay for support if you need it. I am eligible for DSA, so have received various things to help with my studies whilst I am here at university. There are also various scholarships and bursaries you can apply for through the university, and I will be getting a University of Bath bursary during my time here. I also applied for the Lloyds Scholar programme, which is open to students from lower income families who are studying at Bath, or one of their other partner universities. This involves being given a bursary each year, as well as a mentor, various skills training sessions, and the opportunity to do paid summer internships at Lloyds Banking Group. In return you are expected to do 100 hours a year volunteering work. This was something I was really keen to do anyway, and I thought the Lloyds Scholar programme looked like a great opportunity, so I applied and was lucky enough to get a place. Applying for accommodation as early as possible is also a good idea, as it gives you a higher chance of getting into one of your first choices.

The last month or so before moving here involved going out and buying lots of things I would need (or thought I would need!) for university. I’ve bought several things to make my room feel homely, plus all the usual equipment such as stationery, kitchen equipment, towels, and bedding, plus of course the odd psychology book! Then of course comes packing, the most boring part of preparing for university, but also the point where it starts to feel real, and where the nerves kick in, or did for me!

I was really lucky, as the university ran a 3 day workshop immediately before the start of the first semester for students who had taken an Access to HE course. This was a really great opportunity to meet some other mature students, some of whom are living on campus like me, and some who live locally and so are commuting. I will write about the workshop in more depth in my next post.

I have now moved into Westwood, where I will be living for the next year. All my housemates seem really lovely, and I have made my room as cosy and homely as possible, and am really looking forward to getting stuck in to university life!


Receiving my A-level results and Preparing for University


📥  Alex, Faculty of Science

The weeks leading up to August 14th were the most nerve-wracking of my life. It doesn’t seem to matter how much you prepare for your exams, or how well you understand the systems of clearing and adjustment, thinking about results day will still result in an overwhelming feeling of nausea. And trust me, you will think about it. No matter how many times you ban it from conversation or distract yourself, every single person you’ve ever met (and probably the distant family members that you haven’t!) will ask you how you thought your exams went and where you’re planning to go. If you’re lucky and manage to avoid these conversations, the creeping sense of doubt will still make its way into your mind. When you’re trying to sleep, you’ll suddenly feel like you’re drowning in your own panic.

I convinced myself that I wasn’t going to University. I didn’t prepare anything, I checked clearing places, and thought about back-up plans. I stand by my decision, because if there is even the smallest bit of doubt in your mind that you might not make it, it’s better to expect the worst. Hopefully then, if your dreams are crushed, the blow might feel just that tiny bit more bearable.

Don’t panic when you wake up on the Thursday morning and find that your heart is already jumping up into your throat - it’s a normal reaction! Once I’d come to terms with my mini heart-attack, I drove to school in silence, and opened UCAS Track in the car park. Relief washed over me, my status had changed to ‘unconditional firm’. At this point, with twenty minutes until the school opened, I found my friends and shared the excitement. I was very lucky in that each and every one of my friends made it into their firm or insurance choices, and so there was plenty of excitement and laughter to go around!

Holding your results envelope can often mean a feeling of power. Finally you’ve got what you’ve been waiting to see for six weeks, and you know that you can look at it whenever you want to. Suddenly, you don’t want to be holding that envelope anymore. At least, you don’t want to be holding it while stood in the middle of a room of teachers. Those teachers, in my case, had been telling me for months that I couldn’t achieve, that I couldn’t get the grades I so badly wanted and needed. Of course, tearing it open proved them all wrong. I had surpassed everyone’s expectations, and every emotion that had been whizzing through my brain in my A Level years was suddenly released.

Heading home (after a night of celebration of course!) meant preparation. There has been a lot of things to get ready. My top tip for getting ready is to write lists, and lots of them! Watching my friends has taught me that preparation usually goes one of two ways. There are organisational freaks like me, who print documents, write lists, make advance plans, and pack slowly to ensure that nothing is forgotten. On the other hand, there are people like my best friend who do everything the night before, leave their iPod lying around and nearly take someone else’s ID to Scotland with them.

I’ve had to buy food supplies, cooking equipment, cleaning products, toiletries, a fresher’s wristband, fancy dress, books, bedding and stationary. There have also been clothes to pack, accommodation to accept, agreements to sign, preparation work from my department, bank accounts, vaccines, and goodbyes to say. See why I recommend the lists yet? I learnt that it’s important not to do anything on a whim, and consider each and every option carefully before committing.

You are about to spend the next three of four years penniless, and working as much as I can has meant that I’ve got some savings for Fresher’s, which I think is a very sensible idea. Getting your parents to buy you some basic food and toiletry supplies can also help to make the first few months easier whilst you get used to budgeting.

Of all the things that I’ve had to do, saying goodbye has been the hardest. Although I am yet to say goodbye to most of my friendship group, my best friend left last Friday. It’s when you start saying goodbye that everything begins to feel very nerve-wracking again. After a month of excitement, the reality hits that you and your friends will be moving away from home to opposite ends of the country, and in some cases, the world. After eighteen years of the security of my family, my school, and my community, I’ve suddenly got to face the world on my own. Whilst I like to think I’m independent and will cope just fine, as the eldest child, I don’t really know what to expect. Not only do I have the obvious goodbyes to say, I’m also leaving my local Guiding units, and stopping my flute lessons. Hobbies which have been my sense of stability since a young child are being taken away, or moved with me.

It’s all new, it’s all learning, and I’m sure it will all be awesome. It’s important to remember that when I move, everyone will be in the same position. Everybody in first year is nervous, and desperate to make friends. We’re all going to have a fabulous time!


Receiving my Matura and preparing for University


📥  International student, Mirella, School of Management

In my home country, Austria, you take the Matura instead of the A-levels. The exams are a combination of oral and written examination and you already know, after your last oral exam, what grades you have gotten at all the other exams. The fact that these grades would decide about my future path of life made me more nervous than the exams themselves. So in the end, I was so nervous about my exam results that the only thing I could do was laugh. So I just tried to laugh my nervousness away, but it did not help. Fortunately, the long hours of studying paid off and I received the best grades possible in Austria. Unfortunately, I knew that I still had to take the IELTS test, an English test from the British Council, in order to be accepted to the University of Bath.

Looking back at this time, I can just advise all the other potential international students that you should definitely take the IELTS test or any other English qualification tests well in advance just in order that you get a chance of retaking it, because I did it at the last moment and it really stressed me out. But finally, I was formally accepted at the University of Bath. This was at the beginning of July.

The last three months just flew by and right now I am sitting at the airport waiting for my flight to Birmingham because before I will drive to the University of Bath, I will spend some days with the family I spent half a year with when I was sixteen and on student exchange in the UK. Back then, I was even more scared than I am right now, because I was so young and my English wasn’t so good and I did not know anything about the town or family I would live with. In the end, I had a great time in Walsall near Birmingham and I knew that I would love to study in the UK, because I just loved the British mentality and now it all came true. I am really going back to the UK to study.

The last three days before my departure were horrible for me. I had to start packing and I had to say goodbye to my family and my friends and my hometown. Actually I did not really start packing until my last day in Vienna because just the thought about packing my whole life into two suitcases made me sad.  On the one hand I was and still am really excited about starting university in Bath but on the other hand I am really scared and sad. I can’t believe that I am trading my comfortable life in Vienna for an unknown future in Bath, but I believe that you should try to step out of your own comfort zone in order to experience something incredible and that is what I am hoping for. I hope that the University of Bath will allow me to experience something incredible.

Photo of Mirella at farewell meal

That’s me while my friends are singing “Happy Birthday”

I thought that the last time I would see my friends would be a tearful event but it wasn’t at all. We went to a pizzeria and one of my friends baked a cake for me. When I asked the waiter if it was okay to cut the cake at the restaurant he must have misunderstood me because he put a sparkler on the cake. So my friends started to sing “Happy Birthday” for me on my farewell party. After the singing I knew that I don’t have to see my friends every week in order to stay close, but I know that their life will continue even without me, but after all we live in the 21st century and I will be able to Skype or WhatsApp with them as often as I want to just to stay up-to-date with their life’s and in the mean time I can just stalk them on Facebook.

I have to go to the gate now but on my next blog post I will hopefully tell you some things about my first week at University, but right now here are the questions which are bothering me right now and which I hope to answer the next time:

  • Are my flatmates nice?
  • Is my room big enough?
  • Is it hard to share a bathroom or a kitchen with 5 or more people?
  • Are the any other Austrian or German students at the university?

And probably the most important one: Is Fresher’s week as much fun as I think it will be?