Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

Reality of doing research

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

Things don’t always work. I know I've mentioned this before, but it’s the truth!

This time last year, I was in the middle of trying to get a Western blot to work. A Western blot is a technique with which you can pick out a specific protein in a mixture of proteins, and as it involves various reagents and steps, some of which can be changed, there are quite a few things to tweak. I was changing this and that, trying it this way and that way, but nothing. When I finally got a signal, it was messy – lots of background “noise” – so I had to change the procedure bit by bit, and also change how I prepared my samples. Then the results were not showing any differences, so I then had to prepare samples from different time points. By changing things here and there, I got what I needed from the Western blots in the end. It was a rather tedious task, and took too long, but I made it through to the other side as it were!

Other experiments have been smoother, and others have been difficult like the Western. For example, initial polymerase chain reactions (PCRs) I did was generally fine, no huge problems, but when I started doing them again last autumn, I had contamination issues which proved to be tricky to solve. This was the case for real-time PCRs I did around that time too – took till Jan./Feb. till I got that sorted! So all in all this project was over two years of work, and I was so happy when I finished it all! – however, once you have a look at all the data and look at the story of the project, you’ll most likely have other experiments to do!

What I really want to say is, I think the hardest part of research is staying motivated; it's quite disheartening when you try everything you can think of, only to come out with nothing. It’s easy to lose motivation. So if you are currently in a similar situation, don’t be too disheartened – you’re not alone! I think that’s something important to keep in mind. It can feel like others are doing so much better than you, but please don’t compare yourself to others; probably the worst thing you can do if I'm honest! If you are concerned, talk to your supervisor - I'm sure it won’t be the first time they've encountered this.

How did I stay motivated? Well, I don’t think there is a “one-size-fits-all” approach here unfortunately! But I think the one thing that kept me going, particularly this time last year, is the fact that I wanted to find out the results. I wanted to know if what we thought was actually the case. However, this does not mean that I didn't have days when I was just distraught – I have cried a few times! I kept changing things in the experiments, and hoped that it worked. Essentially, I knew that I was not alone, and I knew that I had people I could talk to about this.

To people considering research/PhD; it is hard work, I won’t deny that. But at the same time it is rewarding, and I don’t regret going down this path at all, despite everything I've mentioned! It is also flexible, in that it doesn't matter when you work, which I like. And, you’ll be adding to existing knowledge, and possibly this could change things for the better – that is a big motivation for me, to think that one day the work I do may benefit people. Find what motivates you, and go for it!


 

Talking about exams

  

📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year, Ruth

So exams have finished which means my first year of university is over, let summer begin! I can’t believe I’m thinking about exams, let alone writing about them but I wanted to answer any questions that you may have about exam season at university.

I guess it all begins when you receive your exam timetable. Although you’ll know about your exams long before this (hopefully) this is when it suddenly seems real. The exam timetable informs you of the date, time and location of your exam enabling you to imagine it and panic! My course is predominantly coursework and therefore I didn’t even think about exams until the timetables were released.  I have only had one exam this summer but some of my flat mates have had five so the intensity of your exam period is totally dependent on your course.

I found this exam season incredibly different to A-levels in that you aren’t required to attend lessons or be around peers/teachers and therefore revision at university requires a huge amount of discipline! Consequently, I’d recommend making a revision plan before you even try to begin. Once lectures are over the whole of the university has one week set aside for revision and then a three week exam period. There is of course the choice to stay at university and revise or head home. Some people find that they can work better at home in their familiar environment however personally I get distracted too much at home and can’t even concentrate for more than 10 minutes (lesson learnt for next year!) Plus, there are so many places to revise at university which can help prevent insanity because I’ve found that variety is good.  Many people revise in their rooms or flats, others head to the library, some settle in the eateries and cafes and if the weather is nice you’ll see lots of students outside.

So the dreaded day has arrived and you’re about to sit your first exam either feeling prepared or a little under prepared. One thing that has taken a bit of getting used to are the 4:30pm exams, here at the University of Bath exams can either be at 9:30am, 1pm or 4:30pm. I don’t know about you but by 4:30 I’m done with the day and ready to curl up in bed with a hot chocolate and a film! Honestly, they’re the worst but at least for those who feel underprepared it does provide an extra bit of precious last -minute revision time. The exams are normally held in the main sports hall (Founders Hall) but when that is full other students sit their exams in lecture theatres or seminar rooms. Days pass and the same routine occurs: you wake up, you revise, you sit an exam, you sleep but eventually you walk out of your final exam and your summer starts then!

Relaxing in the sun with exams behind me!

Relaxing in the sun with exams behind me!

I have had the best time celebrating the end of my exams in Bath, there is so much to do and it is even better when the weather is nice. My favourite thing has been to grab a drink and sit by the lake if it is sunny. I’ve also enjoyed using the free time to explore Bath as a city, playing crazy golf in Victoria Park and taking a picnic to the royal crescent. Once the exam period is over the University holds a summer ball which includes a variety of music acts, a fair and street performers, as well as much more! It is a great way to celebrate the end of the year with your whole flat.

One final tip: if you’re lucky enough to finish exams early don’t celebrate too obviously in front of those you know who still have exams – it doesn’t go down too well!

 

An insight into Maths & Physics at Bath

  

📥  Eman, Faculty of Science

Maths & Physics at Bath is probably one of the smallest courses at the university, with around 35 students. When applying to university, I had trouble choosing a course as I didn’t particularly want to narrow my studies down to one specific field. Having had such a strong interest across many subjects at A-level, I didn’t want to have to settle for just one subject, hence why the Maths and Physics course grabbed my attention.

One of the things I particularly liked when researching the course was how there is more maths than physics involved. We study 3 modules of maths alongside 2 modules of physics. The straight maths course and the physics course each study 5 modules too but what I found was that my course has the best (well, in my opinion anyway) modules from each of those courses, which was a bonus. I don’t think I would change any of the modules I’ve studied so far for others.

In the first semester, the maths modules we studied were Analysis, Methods & Applications and Algebra, with the physics modules being Properties of Matter and Quantum Mechanics. In semester two, the maths modules stay the same but the physics modules change to Electricity & Magnetism and Waves, Vibrations & Optics instead.

Problem sheets galore!

Problem sheets galore!

What I didn’t expect when starting this course was how different the maths would be. With this I don’t mean the level of difficulty but how it was so different to the maths I was used to at school. After a while I thought I would never be able to grasp this style of maths, but it was also easy to forget that everyone else on my course was also experiencing this new style for the first time too. For me it took a while to get the hang of it all but once I did, I realised just like everything we’ve ever studied at school, it just takes practice to get used to.

The fact that the two physics modules I study each semester are topics I find extremely interesting, it made being able to understand university level physics much easier than I expected. Going into this course I expected there to be a massive jump from A-level physics, just as you would with any course really. The exam style questions were much easier to grasp compared to the maths exam questions, but the topics we study go into much more detail than what I had studied before.

Just to add to the already full on course but where would I be without their help?

Just to add to the already full on course but where would I be without their help?

Early on in the first semester is when you start to understand how much work you need to do for your degree. During that time I felt that it was really easy for me to fall behind on work at the end of the week and have a lot more to do over the weekend. Every course requires you to do some amount of work every day, but for me I found I needed to do more than I thought. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing though. I’m studying a course I really like and it was effortless to get into the routine of doing a fair amount of work each day.

I do think that as a whole, the Maths and Physics course is what I expected it to be. Like most people, there may have been doubts before starting university about whether I had chosen the right course for me, but I can definitely say I’ve made the right choice.

 

Staying organised at University!

  

📥  Charlotte (Sociology), Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year

Now, I don’t want to sound preachy, but staying organised at University is super important for staying on the ball, getting the most out of your degree and keeping on top of your work. I know, accuse me of sounding like your teachers but it’s true! Juggling your time, keeping up with your reading lists and question sheets at the University of Bath can be a daunting task, but providing you stay organised, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.

Thus far, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt whilst at University is about balance. Balance is a word that is thrown around a lot; whether about our food and lifestyle choices, school work or emotional balance; it’s really key when you’re a student. It’s important to balance having a happy and thriving social life, smashing your assignments and having some ‘time for you’! Some may even keep up a part-time job too so keeping organised and in control can really give you a leg up!

My first tip for staying organized at University is to get to-do-listing! Once you start, it’s hard to stop and whenever I lose or am without my weekly to-do list I feel a little scatty and lost. One of the best ways to keep tabs on what you need to get done is to jot down a list every Sunday evening for the week ahead.

Hopefully your to-do lists aren't as shoddy as this one (although, planning a day of 'nothing' can be very cathartic).

Hopefully your to-do lists aren't as shoddy as this one (although, planning a day of 'nothing' can be very cathartic).

You might want to split it into sections such as ‘Miscellaneous’, ‘Cleaning/Room’, ‘Assessments Due’, ‘Reading to Do’, ‘Events’ and go from there or you can bung everything together to get the ball rolling. Adding a tick box to each task just adds to the feeling of accomplishment when you blitz through your to-do list and get it all sussed and complete.

I like to add a reward for myself at the bottom of my lists; for example, coffee and a cake at the weekend at my favourite coffee shop or going to the cinema in town, a trip to Bristol or even just buying something that’s tickled my fancy in the shops. This is fab motivation, and I guarantee everything will be scratched off in no time! You’ll be feeling pretty smug and efficient also.

In prime position on my desk in Halls, this is where I jot down everything I need to do for the week. (I usually spill coffee on it by Wednesday!).

In prime position on my desk in Halls, this is where I jot down everything I need to do for the week. (I usually spill coffee on it by Wednesday!).

Another handy way to keep everything in order is to print out your timetable at the beginning of every week. At University, timetables can be subject to change every single week due to seminar locations, differing lengths of lectures and different events going on or even the addition of a ‘reading week’ to swot up before assignments. Pinning your timetable on your wall means that you only need a quick glance before you head out every day, and an overview of what’s going on throughout the week means you can plan around it. Highlighting where you need to be and when helps make this crystal clear.

Routine can be a handy thing at University. As dull as this may sound, getting things done in a certain way or on a certain day every week can help you out hugely. For example, maybe you could set Friday as your day to review the weeks' work and the day where you indulge in a movie as a treat for staying on top of everything. You might want to allocate an afternoon for errands and cleaning such as getting that blasted pile of laundry done, wiping down the shower or meeting your group for a forthcoming group assessment. A routine day to pop to the supermarket every week can be beneficial, and your family will be singing your praises if you make it a regular thing to contact them- this gives you and them something to look forward to and a catch-up with your nearest and dearest is always refreshing!

Having an organised work space when you’re doing work for lectures, seminars or language classes can be really helpful. Getting rid of that mountain of used teabags, the dried up pens scattered everywhere and the thousands of post-it notes can be a good way to clean up your desk and make it a good place to work. Sometimes having a cluttered area around you can make you feel a little rattled, so making sure that your desk and room is organised can help you feel less frazzled and more productive.

Another way to keep all your work organized is to buy an ‘in-tray’ for your desk or a shelf somewhere in your room. In here, you can keep all those pesky sheets that usually go missing and know that everything is in order if you need it: receipts, society membership confirmation, postcards from home, essay titles, revision notes, shopping lists and tickets for club nights can all be easily shoved in here and having them in one place means that you never have to experience that panic of losing an important document again.

Finally, a diary is a great investment when coming to University. When I got to the University I decided to snap up a diary and jotted down all forthcoming important dates such as when group presentations were, when I was booked to travel home, when the university Ski Trip was, when important talks and conferences were being held and when I had shifts at my part-time place of work.

Having a diary means that you don’t ever have that day-before panic when you remember that you’re due to meet your personal tutor, or there’s a great market on in town which you don’t want to miss. You can also remember the birthdays and anniversaries of people at home, and they’ll love that you’re not totally deserting them when you can send them a nice message on special days.

Keep organised! Although boring, it is a super way to keep on your toes and it’ll certainly pay off. I promise!

Charlotte.

 

Surviving the exam period at Bath!

  

📥  Charlotte (Sociology), Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year

Examinations. That dreaded, dreaded time of the year when students have to swap clubbing for revising, laughing for sobbing and their mojitos for coffee. Exam-season is never fun for anyone, but what’s different about university exams in contrast to exams in college or at Sixth Form is that at University, you’ve essentially opted for many of the modules you’re being examined in, and you’re studying a subject that is paving the path to your future.

Additionally, the University of Bath offers many subjects that are broadly assessed by coursework and independent study as opposed to formal examinations, which is handy for some and saves some of the typical exam stress.

Revision is tough, exams are draining but once they're over you'll be feeling proud of yourself and your accomplishments.

Revision is tough, exams are draining but once they're over you'll be feeling proud of yourself and your accomplishments.

The first way to survive examination time, and to keep your head above water (which is totally feasible at Bath; there’s tonnes of academic and pastoral support/help available. Peer mentors and peer tutors are delighted to lend a hand at all times!) is to keep organized. Making yourself a revision timetable or to-do lists can be really helpful for arranging what needs to be learnt, tested and re-capped and this allows you to feel in control and not scatty or flustered when it comes to revising for your exams. Organisation of your work area or desk is good shout too; clear surroundings = a clear mind.

Another way to keep on top of your game when it comes to exam time is to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. Instead of powering your brain with energy drinks, strawberry laces and endless cookies (yes, we’ve all got textbooks full of crumbs!) try and incorporate some fresh and wholesome foods into your diet as they’re great for brain power and general sprightly well-being. Oily fish is superb for memory, green tea is ace for concentration and a wealth of fruit and vegetables can be great for helping you to feel ‘on the ball’ and healthy (try popping to the shops in the evening when the prices of fresh produce are slashed!).

Drink lots of water, and try and stay active. Take frequent strolls around campus or where you live and still engage in sporty societies as this is great for release from intense studying. Socialising too is superb during mind-frazzling periods.

Another pointer to being top-dog during exams is to keep up a reward system, great for motivating you to get your metaphorical revision hat on and to supercharge your productivity. For example, why not allow yourself a coffee out or cinema trip after 10 hours of revision or a small ASOS splurge when you’ve revised and tested yourself on a whole module? Having something to look forward to, and a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is always helpful for zipping through all those case studies or equations.

When you’re revising for exams, make sure that you change up your revision styles a tad when they become dull or mundane. We all learn in different ways (to assess how your brain gathers and retains information take a simple ‘learning styles quiz’, easily found on Google) so will naturally revise in different manners. Some may opt for mind-maps, others may vouch for flashcards and some stick with Team Post-It-Notes-EVERYWHERE.

Making sure you prepare for your examinations in a variety of ways means that revision is less likely to become uninspiring and helps surge your creativity when putting pen to paper.

Another way to tackle feelings of stress or mental exhaustion when it comes to revising for exams is to take some time out and to focus on relaxation. Although there’s pressure to be constantly scribbling away, recalling facts and reciting key definitions; sometimes you’ll find that you can be more fruitful in your revision with frequent rest and breaks.

Using an app to meditate can be a great idea, as can doing a 20 minute yoga routine from YouTube or even just stopping fully to reflect, relax and recuperate at common points during the day. It’s also super important to ensure that you snatch at least 8 hours of sleep a night, and experts suggest that you should usually stop revision 2 to 3 hours before you snooze so all those key dates and statistics aren’t playing on your mind when it’s time to unwind.

Good Luck, there’s no doubt that using these tips you’ll smash your examinations!

Charlotte.

P.S Did you know that the Examinations Office at the University of Bath organises over 1000 exams for around 9000 students annually, which translates to over 70,000 candidate places in 60 different exam venues?! You have to hand it to them - they're good.

 

Adventures in the Netherlands

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📥  Faculty of Science, Postgraduate

I struggled for breath as my body was in free fall. Some people apparently hate this feeling when a plane descends. I loved it. It almost felt like the thrill of a roller coaster, and I was a kid again wishing it would take yet another dive. This plane was about to land in the Netherlands. For my CDT placement, I was going to do research there for six weeks with my project partner, Emma.

It was a quiet January night when we arrived in Nijmegen, a city near the Netherlands–Germany border. Our supervisor, Alix, welcomed us and showed the way to our apartment. She had a calm and thoughtful demeanour, just as I remembered over Skype when she briefed us on the project.

Emma and I were going to test a thermometer for use at temperatures below –200 °C. Weird things happen when stuff is this cold, one example being superfluidity [1]. Traditional thermometers measure expansion and contraction of mercury in a glass tube, whereas digital thermometers measure changes in electrical resistance across metals like platinum. Both types, classed as secondary thermometers, can be a problem for researchers: at low temperatures, they lose calibration. That’s why for our project, we were to test a primary thermometer which doesn’t need calibration. The catch? It takes over ten minutes for a single temperature measurement. This involves software plotting a conductance–voltage curve whose full width at half maximum is directly proportional to temperature via known constants. Despite long measurement times, primary thermometers are worthwhile for researchers needing reliable results in low-temperature physics.

When we reached our apartment, the lab where we’d be working was close enough to be seen out the window. How convenient. It took only a few minutes to walk there, but it felt like going through a freezer. The sharp difference in temperature between well-heated buildings and outside made even Alix grumble.

image1

[View from the 7th floor of our guesthouse apartment in Nijmegen, Netherlands. We worked in the High-Field Magnet Laboratory (HFML) seen on the right with curved architecture.]

The lab itself was the High-Field Magnet Laboratory (HFML) where magnetic fields up to 37.5 Tesla can be reached; for comparison, a fridge magnet has a strength of 0.005 Tesla. Magnetic fields are often used in low-temperature experiments to reveal more information about samples like a magnifying glass. The downside is that magnetic fields affect thermometers so they need to be monitored and accounted for when calculating temperature. It turns out that unlike other primary thermometers, the specific type we were to test—a Coulomb blockade thermometer—was expected to be independent of magnetic fields. Confirming this would be useful for researchers in the HFML.

Everyone in the HFML was friendly and supportive. Ineke helped us settle in and was a joy to be around, and Olga went out of her busy way to help us when needed. We couldn’t be more grateful. Someone I admired, Inge, whistled and strolled around the lab as if she had springs in her steps. She’s a confident person, able to fully express herself with infectiously enthusiastic body language. Another researcher, Laurens, noticed Emma’s lip ring.

“Do you have piercings in other parts of your body?”
Emma let out a big smile and confirmed his curiosity.
“That’s all I needed to know."

Cycling is the norm in the Netherlands, so we borrowed bikes to explore Nijmegen. The trouble was that I hadn’t ridden a bike for over a decade. It had been many years for Emma, too. Unsurprisingly, we had a rough start when riding again. Emma fell and scraped her knee. If she felt embarrassed, that soon disappeared with what happened to me in the hours ahead.

image2

[Bikes parked outside Nijmegen train station. There are more levels below ground, and this is a typical sight in the Netherlands.]

While crossing the road, I almost got run over by cars. It was my fault, though. I was so focused on trying to ride in a straight line that I forgot traffic goes in the opposite direction here. And yes, I should have looked both ways, but learning to ride a bike again in foreign land threw me off big time. Along not-so-straight lines, we continued onwards to the city centre. “We came all this way to another country and the first store we go into is Primark?” I saw the irony that Emma was referring to, but we needed towels and knew Primark would sell them. After exploring the city centre, we returned to our bikes parked beside an overflowing bike rack. I managed to topple over an entire row. The bikes fell like dominoes. Paralysed to react, I could only watch, but onlookers generously helped me pick them up afterwards. At least on our ride back to the apartment, I finally saw someone looking shaky with eyes down on her front wheel.

"Emma, look, someone else is learning to ride too!"
"Aye, but she's half our age.”

Back in the HFML, reaching low temperatures for our thermometer involved putting it in a cryostat. This was a freezer cooled by liquid nitrogen and liquid helium. We glued the thermometer onto a 2 m long metal rod—a probe—to be placed inside the cryostat, and then soldered wiring to connect the thermometer to a computer where measurements can be read. Emma and I did our best to get it all working, but we would later find that this wasn’t enough.

image3

[Cylindrical cryostat supported by a triangular structure and attached to a liquid helium vessel. Cables connected the thermometer to a computer where temperature measurements can be read.]

On one weekend, we crossed the border to the German city of Düsseldorf. It was like little Japan, so we went to Okinii, an all-we-can-eat Japanese restaurant. Emma showed me how to use chopsticks, but I could have downed more food if I had practice beforehand. We also had drinks at a restaurant 170 m high in the Rhine Tower. Seeing Düsseldorf from up there was most memorable, even if Emma hadn’t shattered her glass by accidentally pushing it off the table. When evening settled, we stopped by a street drummer called Oded Kafri [2]. As an introvert, I find it difficult to connect with others, yet here was a person who used music and theatrics to connect with and entertain the crowd. I was inspired.

image4

[Rhine Tower (Rheinturm) is the tallest building in Düsseldorf, Germany. It’s 240.5 m high with an observation deck and restaurant at 170 m.]

"All hopes and dreams have been shattered", Emma wrote in her lab book. Dramatic, but it's how we felt when seeing a dozen wires had snapped from disconnecting our stubborn probe. It wasn't the first nor last time that snapping wires stopped our progress. Experimental physics was showing us no mercy. Eventually, with practice and patience, snapping wires no longer troubled us. However, the software didn't plot conductance–voltage curves correctly but instead gave scattered data points. This lasted for weeks. Having ruled out experimental errors, we could only conclude that there was something broken inside the thermometer. Alix’s plan was to contact the manufacturer for assistance and possibly get a replacement, but we wouldn’t be around to see the conclusion. Our time in the Netherlands had come to an end. Hopefully, Alix doesn’t have as much trouble when working on the thermometer herself.

It seems that progress can make the difference between a frustrating project and a fulfilling one. Although our project was the former, Alix was sympathetic and reassured us that these things happen. Sometimes, things are beyond our control. We may not have achieved much research-wise, but that doesn't mean the CDT placement wasn’t worthwhile. Far from it.


[1] More about superfluidity and our CDT in my previous blog here.
[2] Feel free to search for Oded Kafri on YouTube!

Second Year Mouse Project

  

📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph, Second year

Semester 2 for the Department of Engineering at the University of Bath was always going to be busy, but I never expected it to be quite as varied and exciting as it has turned out to be!

At the start of this semester all of the Electrical engineers and all of the integrated IMEE engineers were given a basic ‘mouse’ chassis and told ‘go’! The challenge for us was made very simple- in groups specified by the department, we were to design and build a mouse to follow an electronic track by any means possible. Although the end result may sound fairly mundane, the circuitry required was fairly complex and, as always, having a developed understanding of the underlying theory really helped.

The nature of the task meant that, as a group, we were going to need to spend hundreds of hours in the labs as well as a long time discussing the theory that underpinned our whole design. I really enjoy the group work that is carried out within the department at Bath because, more often than not, you are able to work with people you haven’t ever worked with before and learn about things that you may never have considered if working alone.

Our (unfinished) mouse!

Spending hours and hours soldering and testing circuits in the laboratory spaces may be frustrating from time to time but there is no better feeling than when your circuit works well and reliably, week in, week out. Moreover, the work ethic required has imposed an impressive nine-to-five approach to the degree course. I’ve never seen so many people working so hard all at once. Not only is this really good practice for the real world and placement year, but it means that everybody can work really efficiently in the day, with fewer lectures breaking up proceedings. Likewise, given my busy schedule with the rowing captaincy, as well as all of the other academic work that I am immersed in this semester, the nine-to-five schedule works very well indeed.

Although the mouse project is one of the most exciting things that the IMEEs are doing this year, there is always lots of breadth to the IMEE course. Yet again I have really enjoyed a modelling assignment that we were given. For this assignment we all had to model the heat transfer through a tile on a space shuttle. Although this was daunting at first, with lots of theory work required, the fact that the situation could be related to a real world example meant that it was very interesting indeed. In fact, it was very easy to get distracted by all of the background reading and forget completely about the programming at hand.

The race track with a completed mouse in situ

The race track with a completed mouse in situ

On the whole, as we come into the final few weeks of the year, let alone the semester, everything is speeding up and everyone is feeling extremely busy. There is a fantastic energy about campus as everyone makes sure that things get finished ahead of revision week. For me personally, although nervous about the mouse challenge race day in the final week, I have worked hard to get all of my other reports done so that I can really enjoy my time at Bath in the last few weeks and focus solely upon my beloved mouse!

As you may well know, my life at Bath is made up of two fundamental chunks; my time within the engineering department and my time at the boathouse. Although I am forever busy with my course, being such a big part of rowing this year has helped me unwind at the weekends and gives another purpose for my time at university. Not only is my course ramping up as the end of term approaches but so too is rowing with regatta season just kicking off. All in all, this means I have to endure lots of early mornings and a regular 4.50AM alarm clock. Although miserable at times, early mornings on the river (especially in the sunshine) are often a great way to refresh and energise before a day in the labs on campus. I just hope the sun keeps shining and the rain stays away!

 

Why I accepted my Bath offer

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📥  Eman, Faculty of Science, First year

Making that final choice in your mind about where you’re going to be studying/living for the next 3/4 years is probably the most significant decision you will have to make during your school years. You’ve been in school for almost your whole life, progressing into each year as if it was routine and most likely attending schools that were convenient in terms of where you live or which were influenced by your parents. Choosing a university differs in that it is seen as the beginning of what you intend to do for the rest of your life.

So far this all sounds very serious but accepting the offer from the university you want to go to is actually a very exciting feeling. It makes you start to think about what university life will be like and also gets you motivated to perform well in your exams in order to get the results you need.

When I was researching universities, Bath was not one that I had thought about as much as others so I was quite surprised when it stood out to me. The main thing that attracted me to Maths and Physics at Bath was the course itself. I had looked a lot into what my course was like at different universities and the specific modules on the Bath course were exactly what I wanted to do. I felt that I couldn’t fault the course and this surprised me as I managed to find something wrong with all the other courses that I had looked at.

This played a huge part on my final decision to accept my offer from Bath. I knew that I would be at university for at least 4 years, and I didn’t want to have to spend even a day not enjoying my course. When you already know which exact course you want to study at university, it’s easy to focus on other aspects when making your choice, thinking that your course is pretty much the same at most universities. However looking in detail at which modules you’ll be studying every year of your degree is a must because for me, I found that my dislike for some made me stop considering certain universities.

As well as the course being a major factor for me, I wanted to make sure I made the right choice in terms of “university life”, looking at aspects such as the campus, facilities, what else the university has to offer aside from an education and just generally whether I’ll feel at home there.

When my research into universities first began in year 12 (back when I was curious so before I properly started to look into everything) I ended up really liking another university. I must have been on every part of their website, finding out everything I could about it, which only made me like it even more. There was a time when I was certain that that was where I wanted to go. However, when I expanded my research and went fully into depth, attended open days and spoke to different people, I realised that I became less fixated on that specific university and grew more and more interested in Bath. Attending the open day for Bath showed me that it was the one over every other university as it was the only university I felt at home at. Being on campus, I remember thinking how I could picture myself there for the next few years and it just felt right; something I didn’t experience at any other university.

Marlborough Court: home sweet home

Marlborough Court: home sweet home

When it came to accepting my offer, there was the whole “this is it” feeling for me. I knew that the university provided one of the best degrees in the country so it was really down to whether Bath was where I wanted to be. So many questions crossed my mind, all along the lines of whether this university was right for me. However, even though I thought about all these questions and hesitated before making my decision, I just knew that it was the right choice, especially because no other university felt right the way that Bath does.

For me, choosing a university was a really big deal, which is why I thought of pretty much everything that could potentially influence my decision. However, one thing I would say is that it’s easy to find things you really like about a certain university and because that might be the main thing you want from your university choice, you could overlook so many other aspects which you might not notice until you get there. I was fixated on one university but didn’t realise that I wouldn’t have liked so many small things about it if I hadn’t noticed those same things at Bath when I visited. Make sure you keep your options open so that when it comes to making that final decision, you won’t hesitate as you’ll know it’s just right.

 

Exploring the beautiful city of Bath!

  

📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year, Ruth

Being at university in Bath has the amazing advantage of living in one of the most beautiful parts of the country (an opinion shared by many). If you’re not already sold by the University of Bath, then the city should definitely do it! Being a first year student I haven’t spent a huge amount of time in the city, mainly because everything I could possibly want is on campus so I have no need to! However, when friends and family visit I love showing them around- so this blog will basically tell you how beautiful Bath is and the best things to do with your time in the city!

The various walks around Bath are the perfect thing to do when family visit and I have also enjoyed them with flat mates. Bath is known as a world heritage site for a reason, and many of the walks combine the stunning architecture of the city with the beautiful countryside and stunning views. Recently, when my family visited, we ‘walked to the view’ a route that starts and finishes right next to Bath Abbey. It was a perfect summer’s day and it was great to sit on the top of a hill looking over Bath in the sun – all we needed was a picnic! I have also completed the ‘Skyline Walk’ which is slightly longer, it took 6 hours for us but then again, we did get lost! It is, however, great to do with friends as it starts from the university and again has great views of the city. One thing my friend from home loved was a casual stroll along the canal whilst having a much needed catch up.

Enjoying the skyline walk with flat mates

Enjoying the skyline walk with flat mates

Another place to visit is the Roman Baths and I feel that this is a must as a Bath student. I took my grandparents here and they loved it. I was unsure (history is not my thing) but actually ended up really enjoying it! The attraction is right in the centre of the city and is therefore incredibly easy to get to. Also, note that as a student in Bath you get in free so definitely worth a visit!  Why not try out ‘The Roman Bath’s Kitchen’ afterwards for a spot of lunch? It is delicious!  Right next to the Baths is the iconic Abbey so make sure to show people around whilst you’re there, the inside of the Abbey is particularly impressive so pop in and have a look.

A trip round the Roman Baths

A trip round the Roman Baths

One other thing that is obligatory as a University of Bath student is a photo in front of the royal crescent. Any friends and family that visit will no doubt want to make a trip to the royal crescent – Bath is famous for it! Just don’t forget the photo! Right behind the Royal Crescent is the Royal Victoria Park which is a perfect place to visit. It has stunning gardens as well as crazy golf and tennis courts to keep everyone entertained!

I saved the best till last, shopping! In my opinion, there is nowhere better than Bath. It has the perfect balance of high street stores and exclusive boutiques. Being a student, window shopping is a regular occurrence, but I still love it! A family favourite is ‘Fudge Kitchen’ every time they visit Bath my family are eager to go and try out some delicious fudge. The well-known Pulteney Bridge also has an array of shops which makes it a great hit with visiting family- especially as it was used in the filming of a Les Miserable scene- there’s a fun fact to tell your visitors! After all of that shopping you will most definitely be feeling like some refreshments. My advice would be to visit ‘Sally Lunn’s’ which is Baths oldest house turned into an eatery, make sure to try out the famous ‘Bath Bun’ whilst you are there.

Pulteney Bridge

Pulteney Bridge

I hope this blog has helped you realise that you will never be bored in Bath, and made you excited to show your friends and family around in the future. One of my favourite things to do is show off this beautiful city that I now get to call home!

 

How to stay active at university, even if you hate sport

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📥  Charlotte (Sociology), Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year

As a student here at the University of Bath, I would say that the most heard statements are as follows: ‘Which sport do you do?’, ‘Who’s holding the pre-drinks?’ and ‘I should probably clean my room’. The former is a tricky one for me as I’m at one of the sportiest universities in the country, yet I think my 90 year old grandma is probably more agile and better suited to sport than me… no really.

I’ve never really experienced that ‘runners high’ they speak of, I’ve never fancied starting my morning with a ‘few lengths’ of the Olympic swimming pool here at the Sports Training Village and quite frankly, I only signed up to do cheerleading for the outfit. I’m a guilty of being a sportophobic! I’m sorry #TeamBath (yes, Instagram is riddled with this hashtag, everybody loves Team Bath!).

Even though I’m not the sportiest of sorts, I do think it’s really important to stay active and on your toes at university. Spending hours upon hours cooped up in your room studying isn’t great for prolonged periods of time, and if the only exercise you get is dancing at clubs; it’s probably time you got a little more exercise in. Here are some of my tips for staying healthy and active, even if you’re not fully immersed in every sport here at Bath.

Sadly, I can't say going to the gym is my favourite part of the day!

Sadly, I can't say going to the gym is my favourite part of the day!

My first pointer would be to walk-it-out. The campus at the University of Bath is small compared to many other campuses across the country, but to me and my little legs, it seems rather vast. At least every other day I try and take a stroll around the University site. The edge of campus is actually very woodland-y and provides lovely views while pacing around. There’s even a castle backing onto the golf club here, and that’s a special sight – the view from it, it is utterly stunning. There’s also an American Museum on the University site, as well as a cat and dog adoption centre so walking to one of these places is a great way to get in some exercise, with an engaging reward at the end.

Sham Castle, 4 minutes from central campus. A great location for a stroll and photo-snapping session.

Sham Castle, 4 minutes from central campus. A great location for a stroll and photo-snapping session.

If you like scenic places, or just like to have an Instagram feed packed with nature or a Snapchat story oozing with sunsets and nice rivers, there’s many National Trust sites around Bath, which are beautiful and walking the routes with friends is a great way to keep your ticker going. Starting at the university is an admittedly incredible ‘skyline’ walk around the edge of Bath, looking down onto the gorgeous city and only a mile from Bath Spa train station is another National Trust site called ‘Prior Park Landscape Garden’ which is glorious and has a beautiful bridge plonked in the middle called the Palladian Bridge – a real treasure and an equally good day outside.

Another way to stay active at University is by participating in amateur and recreational sports- clubs are readily available for people who have never done sports before and are welcoming to total beginners. Clubs with basic, beginner branches include Netball, Rugby, Lacrosse, Ultimate Frisbee and Cheerleading. There is also a terrific group called the 3:Thirty Club who arrange sessions based around getting active for those that aren’t particularly sporty: past sessions have included tag rugby, girls self-defence, yoga, improvers swimming and boxercise. Perfect for those that feel a little daunted by official clubs and want to get fit with like-minded people.

The ultimate way to get the most toned calves ever here at the University of Bath is staring you right in the face: Bathwick Hill! This is the rather steep, and slightly ominous hill up to the University. This does have a real gradient, and there should be prizes for those who make it up by foot without being out of breath, even the elite athletes studying here! Walking this hill takes around 20-30 minutes and is a brilliant way to sweat-it-out and get the blood pumping. The reward at the bottom is Bath’s stunning canal, and all the shops along with the historic sites (Bath isn’t a UNESCO World Heritage site for nothing!) in town so I suppose it does pay off!

Walking along the scenic Avon and Kennett Canal is a lovely way to keep fit.

Walking along the scenic Avon and Kennett Canal is a lovely way to keep fit.

There’s a litany of beginner to 5k running programmes here at the University, and the cycling club also offer frequent rides for people new to road biking.

Jumping for joy at how easy exercising can be in Bath, even if Lacrosse or Rugby aren't your calling.

Jumping for joy at how easy exercising can be in Bath, even if Lacrosse or Rugby aren't your calling.

There you have it – How to not be a couch potato at University, even if the ‘spinning’, ‘Zumba’ and ‘hockey’ buzzwords just don’t appeal to you!

Keep healthy!

Charlotte.