Paige Eades

UK Lifestyle Blog

University Year 1 Experience

University Year 1 Experience University Halls Brick Building

As part of my relaunch I decided I would like to write more university and education based content as part of my 'lifestyle' niche. A lot of my readership are of university age, or similar age to me (all you 53.45% 18-24 year olds - I see you) so hopefully some content like this would be of interest to some of you and perhaps help a few out. I know university isn't for everyone, and there are plenty of routes out there - many of my friends do different courses, careers and jobs; deciding what you want to do with your future is completely personal. 

University round up posts are such a great way to take a moment and reflect on the past year; how much you have learnt, grown and developed in a year can be incredible. As I want to include some personal touches and notes to this little space of the internet; let's document this little section here! (if I keep telling myself people will be interested in this, perhaps they will eh?) I've written a couple of university posts for other blogs and ebooks recently; I will link them here once they are published if you fancied a read. 

But I digress. For a bit of personal context (you can also view more about me here, if you were interested) - I won a scholarship to study BA Business Management with a local company and started my university course late September 2019. For reasons including privacy and to be able to express my own views freely I won't openly mention my actual university but I will state that I  attend a smaller branch of a bigger university which means that some of my experiences won't be the same as others who went/go to massive universities. When I graduate however, the certificate will list the main university instead of the smaller one - so I will have credits the same as those attending the big one (oh lord, she rambling now)

university year 1 experience sunset building architecture

I live at home whilst attending and studying, which works best for me - I’m fortunate enough that my parents don’t mind me (I hope) so it works out cheaper, and I can still see my family and boyfriend as often as I want. I wasn’t originally going to choose the university path - I wasn’t sure what course I could do, or whether I would qualify for any courses and whether more education systems was going to make me thrive, or completely decimate.

In the end; off to university it was. Actually, I'm rather glad about it as I didn’t have any other options lined up (wouldn't recommend); and it would have meant that I would have just gone full time at my weekend job which wouldn't have been ideal for me. With that in mind; off I went to university - bag and laptop in hand, ready to start the next chapter. 

Freshers Week

We’ll start with the all famous Freshers Week - something that is hyped up to the extreme by all students and associates and to be honest; it was a let down for me. We got given/sent quite a lot of promotion for enrolment and starting university, so I went in expecting almost a Pitch Perfect freshers fair and list of events; and boy was I READY to sign myself up for so many different activities, societies and make tons of new friends (I knew nobody). 

Unfortunately my dreams came crashing down pretty quickly - I got a free gym/swim membership for the local fitness centre and there were just a couple of societies to potentially join; but unfortunately they weren't ones that I could really relate/feel part of, so didn't. I should mention that there were opportunities and forms to create a society, but being a first year; I couldn't make my own, really.

The freshers week activities that were put on were okay - they were mostly academic style lectures and completing enrolment which gave you opportunity to meet others from your course, which was nice. I managed to get to know quite a few people and exchanged numbers which was great - it saved me from having to do it later on in the year! 

The socialising activities were alright - most of the focus was placed on students who were living in accommodation; which was understandable. I attended a Quiz Night but despite it being a freshers event - there was only a couple freshers there, the rest were older years. All in all; I'd give Freshers week a 4/10. I wish there was more compulsory opportunities for socialising with events that students actually wanted to go to such as pub quiz (in an actual bar/pub), sports days and an introduction to night life (I'm not a party girl, but it would have been nice to see!)

Lectures

I loved lectures this year; the class sizes are rather small but I like that - it gives opportunity for almost one on one tutoring. In fact; all assignments this year I have achieved a 1st and I know that is down to being comfortable in a smaller class; it gives you opportunity to be able to ask questions, get to know the tutors comfortably enough that you can email them for advice, and to be able to concentrate and listen effectively. In my view; what the university lacks in terms of social activities etc gets made up for in results given. 

The lectures are the same content that is used in the bigger/main university; and the same lecturers come over to teach - so we get exactly the same teaching, just with more one-to-one tutoring. As the class sizes are smaller; lecturers tend to combine lectures (which for those who don't know, are lessons where the lecturer talks at you and you make notes) and seminars (these are group work sessions, and where you can apply the theory from lectures to more practical situations) which means that content is fresh, and personally helped me gain better understanding. I think this is what gave me those higher grades - I learn best being practical and applying knowledge. The contact time (amount of time spent with a lecturer) is also reasonable, without being excessive. 

There is an app that all students have to download; it contains your lecture timetable and the sign in option. Attendance is monitored via the app; and you have to sign in within the first 30 minutes of the lecture else sort it out with the lecturer in question as they can amend the attendance score afterwards. I found the attendance monitoring a good motivator to get me to lectures - as your attendance percentage drops if you don't go. The app also offers helpful reminders of when to leave to go to lectures, your module scoring etc which is useful to have. 

University Year 1 Experience

Accommodation 

I personally don't live in the accommodation; but have been inside the university block. It's a new-build block; so is super nice and modern inside with spacious rooms and en suites to house all the students staying. The shared facilities also look great - spacious kitchens and living areas are a must for university when you want friends round etc, and they look great.  I speak on the accommodation; as I know many students do stay in university accommodation whilst studying and with the current COVID-19 climate, there have been some horror stories floating across social media. 

As I don't live there personally, I am speaking through friends when I say that the landlord/ruling is also fair - during Coronavirus apparently the students who didn't return home were regularly checked on (for wellbeing) and supported, as well as those who chose to move away being updated as to the security of their belongings and when they could come and collect. The rent is affordable too - the block is located in central town so the rates they charge are great for students studying. 

COVID-19

I haven't actually been to physical lectures since early March - the university was struck with floods as a result of Storm Dennis and then COVID-19 happened, but the support that has been given and the way students have been navigated has, in my experience, been great. Each week we have an email from the Vice Chancellor explaining what the university is doing to support students, and the plans the university has for the future and opening all sites again which is great to hear. 

All students were automatically progressed to the next year; which I thought was fantastic support from the university to students during a global pandemic, however tutors were still readily available via video call meetings or email if you still wanted to complete set assignments for experience. Lecturers continued holding group video call meetings each week to stay in contact with students and check their wellbeing; which I thought was great as many students have felt abandoned by their place of study. 

Overall and next year

I had a rough start to university; it was one of the loneliest times I can remember. I must admit I was in a bad mental state - to be honest, I absolutely hated it and felt that I had made the biggest mistake of my life. Everyday I felt anxious and completely helpless as I had no friends close by and with me everyday (like I was used to in sixth form) but that changed as the year progressed and I grew more comfortable in my new surroundings. Now I feel happy at university, having made friends and connections and can't actually wait to get stuck into next year (hopefully anyway, Corona has a nasty habit of getting in the way)

What I am grateful for is the support system that my personal academic tutor gave me; she knew that I was struggling and made sure that I was okay by offering support, which meant a lot. A major learning point to me is that university is completely what you make of it - you shape your experiences and opportunities and have to seize them once given. Nothing is spoon-fed to you - if you want to enjoy yourself, you have to actively strive to achieve success. 

Next year I would love to get more involved with the universities student union; and perhaps get more focus on social aspects to the representation of the SU. I want to get myself more out there and make more friends; perhaps see if some more societies can be made and utilise the fitness centre and free classes more.

That sums up my first year of university - here's to next year! Does this help anyone out; have you got any university experiences to share?

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