Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

First year exams

  

📥  Laura (Psychology)

Exams are weird. Personally I hate revising, feel stressed for weeks before and in the exam room, but pretty much always do better in them that other assessments. But after taking a gap year I found myself facing my first exam in over a year and a half, and it was really strange.

Years at Uni are divided into two semesters instead of three terms like a school year. Semester one runs from September to December, and then after the Christmas break you have your semester one exams, then an inter-semester break (one week) before starting semester two. The same thing happens with semester two; it runs from February until the Easter break and then you have exams after that.

Caffeine is a necessity when revising.

Caffeine is a necessity when revising.

The number of exams you have varies by subject. In psychology we were lucky enough to only have one January exam, but other subjects had a lot more (my friend doing chemistry had 8?!). But we had a lot more assessments throughout semester one, so I guess it kind of evens out because she didn't have to have any late night essay/lab report freak outs.

My school were very good at preparing us for exams; we had revision checklists, did practice exam questions for weeks before and had extra revision classes. But Uni is very different and are very much in control of your work. So while we could see previous year's exam questions much of the course content had changed, and we had our lecture notes and core reading to revise from. I found it all very daunting; I'm a creature of habit and I found myself craving the familiarity of exams at school. But this was great practice for the next few years at uni, and it was useful to get back into the habit of revising. Hand writing was also very odd; for the last 18 months I've scarcely written more than customer's food orders at work, and after 2 hours my hand was aching!

My flat mate decorated his entire room with revision.

My flat mate decorated his entire room with revision.

A very useful resource during exams was an exam forum on our online learning space, Moodle. This meant that as well as emailing lecturers with questions, we were all able to post public questions on the forum so that we could all get questions to common concerns. Our whole psychology course also has a Facebook group chat (there are about 160 of us in it) and while it freaked me out a bit to see how much everyone else was revising it was really useful. I'm not sure anyone actually enjoys exams (if you do then I'm impressed and jealous) but it was almost worth it just for the feeling of relief afterwards! And with only one exam I had 2 weeks off to nap and watch as much Netflix as I wanted before facing semester 2!

Laura x

 

Publishing

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

Publishing scientific papers is key for career progression, and it’s not until you start thinking about what should go into a paper that you realise how much work goes into one – for example, it’s taken me most of my PhD to get the research done to even start writing the paper. Then it was time for the manuscript to go to our collaborators, and I’m now (still) doing more experiments. And really, that’s only half of the story; once it’s ready, then it may or may not be sent out to reviewers, who might say more experiments need to be done!

The main factor in getting your research ready for publishing is getting the experiments done, and, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, they don’t always work the first time you try it. This then takes time to try to trouble shoot, which means that another month, two months, go by. It’s scary really, how time flies sometimes! You may also be asked to do experiment(s) for other people’s research – I’ve had the opportunity to do this, and it’s nice to know that I’ve been part of different research projects. I enjoy learning about what other research goes on, and it has been great that I’ve been able to be part of projects outside my own.

Once the manuscript is ready to be published, it gets sent to journals – now, I don’t really know too much about journals and their impact factors (rankings, basically), I can’t say much about this – where it either gets sent out to reviewers, or rejected. The reviewers then make suggestions for improvement, or rejects it. Now, this could mean more experiments, and that again could take a month or too! So all in all, you can see how quickly time flies in this process. Next time you find yourself reading a research paper, bear in mind that it probably represents years of work, possibly by a big group of people.

 

Healthier eating as a student

  

📥  First year, Mia (Business Administration)

It can be difficult to get into good habits when you live on your own, without your parents moaning at you to not eat the entire family sized bar of chocolate that mum bought yesterday, or to stop binge eating crisps instead of fruit, and to not order your third Domino’s of the week. And the worst sin of them all: ready meals. However, I truly believe that having a healthy diet leads to a healthier mind, more energy, more motivation and a better mood. I’ve written this post to give some tips on how to eat healthy and delicious meals on a student budget, and have included some of my favourite quick and easy recipes.

Food blogs can be an absolute knight in shining armour when it comes to healthy eating. Depending on your diet, allergies and tastes, there is a food blog out there for everyone. Some of my favourites are:

  • Deliciously Ella is great for veggie lovers. My personal favourite recipe of hers, is her Summer Vegetable Risotto. I don’t use the fancy pastes or every vegetable. But it’s a perfect super easy meal, that’s great to use leftover veg in and keep for lunch the next day.
  • The Almond Eater is another great blog for clean eating inspiration. I am obsessed with the Tomato and Garlic Pasta, its so so tasty! She also has yummy pancake recipes for a weekend breakfast treat.
  • I also love Lexi’s Clean Kitchen () and Clean Eating Alice on Instagram.

I personally love cooking and don’t mind spending a little bit longer making dinner when I know it’s going to taste amazing. I feel like if you put some herbs and spices on even the blandest of food you can make a delicious meal. And it’s so simple. Even putting a chicken breast with basil and lemon in the oven for 30 minutes, is going to be so much better for you than any ready meal in plastic shoved in a microwave. You can pretty much go by the rule that if it takes under 10 minutes to cook, it’s not going to be good for you.

In terms of cost, you could consider cutting down on meat (particularly red meat), only buy in season fruit ad veg, do not fear reduced items (they’re still going to be fresher than ready meals) and plan your weekly meals. This means you’ll stick to your shopping list, won’t waste food you bought on a whim and you can keep a track on your food budget better.

This by no means is any sort of diet plan for weight loss or gain. But by avoiding food we all know are full of salt and fat and fake flavours, you can make tasty meals like this cheaply and easily. And I promise, you’ll feel so much better for it.

Here are some of the dishes I have recently made:

Lemon Chicken and Pomegranate Salad

Lemon Chicken and Pomegranate Salad

My favourite- Summer Vegetable Risotto

My favourite- Summer Vegetable Risotto

Pepper, Tomato, Feta and Pesto Pizza

Pepper, Tomato, Feta and Pesto Pizza

Tomato and Garlic Pasta cooking away

Tomato and Garlic Pasta cooking away

 

Why I chose Business Administration at Bath

  

📥  First year, Mia (Business Administration)

When I was first applying for uni, I always knew I wanted to do business because it was the most relevant degree to what I wanted a career in. However, there are a broad range of business degrees that you can do. Most commonly people choose Business Management. Business Studies is also popular. But not many people hear of Business Administration. On this blog post I will outline the reasons why I chose the BBA programme over management and why I chose Bath in particular.

From GCSE onwards I only ever thought about going to the University of Sussex.  They had a great business management course that I was almost guaranteed to get into with my ABB predicted grades and it was a 30 minute drive from my house, meaning that I could save money by living at home. At this point my mum persuaded me the day before I applied to give myself a couple more options. So I went through the uni rankings for business and chose a few in the top 20 that weren’t too far from home. I ended up applying for Sussex, Surrey, Southampton and Bath (twice). I applied for Business Management for all of these choices with the exception of Bath where I also added Business Administration on a whim.

The East entrance to the University

The East entrance to the University

Within a couple of weeks I was fortunate enough to receive offers from all of my choices. I think this was mainly because I applied very early and I had a strong personal statement and reference. After this, I was invited to applicant days. I attended all of them apart from Southampton. Having already visited open days at Sussex and Surrey and loving them both, I was unsure of also going to applicant days, but I am so glad I did. They made my decision 100 times easier!

My first applicant day was Bath in November. After a nice morning shopping with my mum we arrived at the School of Management after lunch and were given thorough information packs in little tote bags. We had talks with a course convener, past student and a placement officer. These talks were very engaging and interesting and every unique aspect of the course was explained to us. The BBA course is a little different from most regular courses in its placement programme, with two 6 month compulsory placements as opposed to a single year-long placement. This stuck out to me as it means that you can gain experience in different functions, different companies and even different industries which I think is so valuable. The strong relationships with large businesses that the department has enable it to offer the possibility of exclusive placements which was also very important to me as well as the fact the course has its very own placement officer, 100% dedicated to you.

The Vice Chancellors building on campus

The Vice Chancellors building on campus

Another selling point for me was the fact that during university time in years 2, 3 and 4, all modules are optional, with an extremely broad range of topics to choose from. Furthermore, in year 4 you are able to study abroad at one of the many partner universities that the course has ties with. The fourth year also involves a live action project where you work directly for an organisation. I thought this was amazing as you can actually make a difference to a company even though you haven’t even graduated yet!

So in the taxi on the way back down to the station from the uni, I told my mum “This is where I want to go”. I still forced myself to go to the other two applicant days, but I found the staff to be unenthusiastic compared to Bath and the courses simply did not appeal to me anymore.

From my experience I’ve found the main difference between Business Administration and Business Management to be that the latter seems to be more focused on entrepreneurship and running your own business as opposed to BBA which focuses on management skills within an existing business. For me the BBA course made a lot more sense in terms of my career prospects.

Waiting for our next lecture to start (very excited!)

Waiting for our next lecture to start (very excited!)

Overall, I am so glad that I chose this course. Although I’m finding the compulsory modules in this first year tough, and housing for next year is causing me stress, I’m very happy with my decision. Even though Bath is about a 4 hour train from home which is much further than I initially wanted to be, Bath is a beautiful city and the university campus is perfect in my eyes.

 

 

Coming home for Christmas... and revision

  , ,

📥  First year, Rob (Physics)

I’m writing this from the belly of the beast, the valley of the shadows, the edge of the observable universe. My first exam is a week today. I arrived back in Bath this Monday just gone and I’ve quickly settled back in. It felt like I was coming home, not leaving it! I was overjoyed to see my housemates again and we managed to squeeze a game of risk out of our respective revision schedules, however tight they may be.

The tension of war doesn’t wait for anybody, no matter how excited we were to see each other, or how close our exams are...

The tension of war doesn’t wait for anybody, no matter how excited we were to see each other, or how close our exams are...

Just before the Christmas break I went to the lake district with The Mountaineering Club. It was a special trip for me, as I’ve always wanted to go back, since I first visited as a child. I was under the impression that nostalgia had the best of me, and I’d be disappointed on return, but that really wasn’t the case. I think the views speak for themselves. Here are a few of my favourite photos from the weekend. It’s a destination that I’d recommend to anybody and everybody.

Frosty fields on a cold winters day

Frosty fields on a cold winters day

One of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen

One of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen

A moss covered stone roof, typical Lake District fare

A moss covered stone roof, typical Lake District fare

Could it get any better? The weather was like this all weekend

Could it get any better? The weather was like this all weekend

Waterfalls are everywhere in the Lakes

Waterfalls are everywhere in the Lakes

Video timelapse: Stunning. Shot on an iPhone - not too bad.

It was great to go home. I live just south of London so it wasn’t a quick journey by any means (six hours of coaches with an hour in-between, waiting at a rainy bus station!) but I arranged to link up with a friend from home for the second part of the journey. He’s at UCL studying anthropology. We chatted about our courses and who we live with, and traded stories of the first two months, of which we both had a huge number. It really brought home to me how much I’d become immersed in my life in Bath, and the nuances and personalities of the people I’d been living with seemed even more interesting. I really missed them. I arrived home late that night, and by the look of the smile on her face mum had missed me just as much! I quickly opened the fridge and realised what I’d really been missing for the last two months; excessive amounts of food.

I think it suits me, honestly

I think it suits me, honestly

It’s not quite Bath but sunrise is special anywhere, right?

It’s not quite Bath but sunrise is special anywhere, right?

On the 23rd I went to the city with Becky. We soaked in the Christmas atmosphere that seems to ooze out of the bones of London at this time of year, hurrying around and stopping from time to time to warm up with food or coffee. Maintaining a long-distance relationship is testing, especially at University, but a day like that makes it feel so worth it!

Covent Garden…I loved it as a kid, and still love it now

Covent Garden…I loved it as a kid, and still love it now

I spent Christmas day with my family, and I even managed to do a couple of hours of revision. I spent the next few days revising, and the next few nights at the pub. I went out for a couple of meals, which was appreciated as a rare treat. I went to an Italian with Becky and an upmarket sort of place with Mum. Just in case you’re hungry…

Fish in spicy tomato sauce

Fish in spicy tomato sauce

Eton Mess done properly!

Eton Mess done properly!

Pizza, potatoes and Becky…three of my favourite things

Pizza, potatoes and Becky…three of my favourite things

…sorry if you were.

And almost as quickly as it came, it went…I spent new year’s eve at a friends and then it really started. I entered the dragon’s lair- revision. Intense revision.

The last goodbye to a year without exams

The last goodbye to a year without exams

Coffee is something that I don’t think anybody should deny themselves, not at any time of year. But now , the evils of examined physics on the horizon, coffee becomes something far greater than a choice. It becomes the very blood in my veins, the breath in my lungs. I wouldn’t want it any other way. It has been this way since the beginning of time. A constant in a chaotic universe. I share my house with somebody who feels the same, and as such we’ve developed what resembles a cult around the substance. We both have different apparatus and have made a fine art out of coffee brewing, balancing taste and caffeine content with precision. We meet as often as our addictions allow to refresh and rebrew.

Revision has been difficult for me to approach, as I haven’t taken an exam since 2014. I took two gap years to pursue travel and other non-academic interests (something I’d recommend to anybody who’s considering the option!), and I’m somewhat out of practice. It’s surprising how fast things like this seem to come back to you though, and I have managed to gain traction since the start of the year.

To illustrate what it’s like to prepare for university exams I’ve decided to include a F.A.Q in this post, to clear up some common confusions.

Q. I’ve heard that first year doesn’t matter, so why should I bother?

A. This is a common misconception, since the first year of a course doesn’t contribute to the overall degree classification. But what does it do? A good first year grade puts you at the top of the pecking order for employers considering you for a placement year, increasing your chances of securing a placement that interests you and pays well. It’s also important to be considered for year abroad options. Also, the first year of a degree provides knowledge that underpins the rest of the course. Without a strong understanding of the material taught in first year, the remaining years of a degree will be very difficult to grasp.

Q. Are there any key differences between A-Level and University exams?

Firstly, university exams are written by your lecturer for each module. The key difference here is that every exam will have a different style, based on the examination philosophy of the specific lecturer. Secondly, full worked solutions aren’t available for past papers! This came as a shock to me as that was my primary method of learning at A-level. Though it has indeed complicated my working process it has solid ideas underpinning it. It encourages students to gain full and deep understanding of the topics studied, instead of just remembering and regurgitating words onto an exam paper. You’ll thank the university in the end, trust me! Deeply understood knowledge is much more valuable.

Q. Generally has it been easier or harder?

A. So it’s a difficult question. The material itself is a lot more detailed and as such a lot harder. But then now I’m studying just physics, instead of three subjects at A-level. I chose physics because I’m passionate about it and also I find it, not easy, but manageable. The nature of studying one subject in detail is that a lot of modules cross over, and as such the knowledge is more general than specific. A lot of concepts from my Vibrations, Waves and Optics unit, for example, are relevant in both Mechanics and Electrical Circuits. This merging of subject areas creates an easier dynamic than rushing between History, Chemistry and Physics, for example.

Here goes nothing! Only five exams until I have enough time to breathe again!

 

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

  ,

📥  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