I feel as though I spent majority of my time this month on trains. For reading week this month, I got to visit my best friend at her University in Nottingham, family in Coventry and London and friends in Selly Oak. I’ve always said one of the best things about Aston is it’s location: being so close to Birmingham’s train stations means we’re connected to hundreds of locations. As well as this, the Aston University App has a Live Train Time feature which came in handy on more than one occasion this month:
A few travelling tips I’ve found useful over this month:
1) Get a railcard; you save bundles.
2) If you’re picky about your toiletries like I am, travel-size bottles are your best friends. You save a lot of room carrying these instead of original larger containers. The Body Shop is one of many places that sell them.
3) Don’t forget, salads are included in the Meal Deal (This isn’t something specific to travelling I just thought I’d remind you all).
Sometimes, no matter how much fun you’re having with new people at University, you want to be around familiar faces; I’m lucky to have so many close by:
2015 is welcomed by looming deadlines for assignments and placement applications and heaps of exam revision yet to be done! It’s no secret January is a stressful month for Aston Students but I’ve devised a list of things that ought to help with coping with all this stress – helpful not just for coping with university work but A-level exams too. (Apologies in advance for the length of this post)
1) Stay on top of things. If you do a subject based heavily on independent reading, lecturers will compose a module handbook full of recommended weekly reading lists at the start of the year for you to refer to throughout the module – do the reading alongside lecture notes for the week it is assigned! By doing this you avoid a build up of work, making exam period a lot less stressful. Also, module content – especially in the social sciences – tends to overlap and understanding the concepts in one module can help with the content of the other. For example, from all the reading I did for my ‘International Relations Theories and Issues’ essay I was able to use some of the information to help for my ‘Security Studies in a changing world’ module.
2) Find your revision space. It can be really difficult to get into revision after all the excitement of the Christmas period but I’ve found designating an area to nothing other than revision helps you get into a focused mindset. Whether it be a separate area all together such as the library or study rooms in the main building or a section of your desk space in your room, keep this area for revision purposes only. By doing this, you’re able to get into a revision zone and limit distractions. I’ve found that the University library is a particularly useful space, with areas separated by noise level – whether you work well in complete silence or with a certain type of noise level, there is somewhere in the library that is suitable for you.*
3) Eat well. In order for your brain to work well, you need to eat well. Living off of take out and meal deals simply because you can’t be bothered to cook is no way to live – it seems convenient at first but after a while, you get frustrated with the limited amount of choices available. As well as this, costs add up and it’s not the most economic way to feed yourself. I recommend making meals in bulk at once that can be reheated easily – like pastas, fajitas, stir-frys and all that jazz. However, if you’re not the best cook, there are a range of reasonably priced cafés in the Main Building serving a variety of hot meals – much tastier and much more filling than a meal deal.
Well, this post is super long so I’m going to finish up by sharing a sign I found rather disturbing in the uni library:
*Library noise levels by floor:
Ground – Nosiest; also the only floor you can eat on
The best part about Christmas in Birmingham is most definitely the German Christmas Market. Starting from the Bullring and running all the way to the Birmingham library, the market is full of craft stalls, food and fun activities sure to get you into the Christmas spirit – the perfect way to have some family fun if you’re being picked up at the end of term. The market is probably your only chance to try an Ostrich burger and ride a Ferris wheel in the center of town with a breathtaking view of the city.
After spending almost three months at home, most students are itching to get back into the routine of university. As well as getting back to balancing reading with lectures, most second year students at Aston are also starting to think about their industrial placement year.
One of the main reasons I chose to study at Aston is due to its consistently above average graduate employment rate, which is mainly attributed to the university’s well established placement scheme. Although the placement year is something to look forward to, the thought of having to get stuck into application processes,interviews and assessment centers can be daunting to say the least. Fortunately, here at Aston we get more than enough support throughout the process, right from constructing the first draft of your CV to preparing for your first day. We’re given an hours talk once a week regarding placements with the content varying from where to look for a placement to constructing applications. As well as the support provided motivating us to find placements, hearing from final year students about their experiences makes the process a lot more exciting rather than daunting.
Another great thing about second year is getting to choose modules – you can start narrowing the focus of your degree to your main areas of interest. I found my first year modules – in comparison – to be more general and introductory than my modules this year. Although the work load is a lot heavier this year, my interest in these areas makes the reading a lot easier to get through and lectures more attractive to attend. Overall, although second year seems a lot scarier than first year, I’m looking forward to all the challenges I will face as a second year student.
‘Take one step toward God, he takes a thousand toward you.’
University is a place where a lot of us experience new things and the impact these things have on our perspective is only really evident when we go back home away from all of these new people and places and to be honest, it’s easy to feel a little lost. This summer, I felt like I was lacking a bit of guidance and turned to the one thing that I knew would always be there for me: God. I’ve never been majorly religious, nor have I understood everything Sikhism was about but I thought becoming a Volunteer at Sikh Camp was a good place to start. Being a class assistant, I learnt so much about Sikhism from the various speakers and activities the kids took part in. Not only was I given the opportunity to broaden my perspective, learn more about Sikhism, and make friends with some amazing people, but I feel more in touch with God than I have ever before, and I love it. When you go through hardship it’s easy to look for happiness in all the wrong places only to be feeling let down and empty by the people that you thought would never do wrong by you. Religion holds me in a way that people and objects can only temporarily. Being a Volunteer at Sikh Camp this year was the most enlightening experience: I can’t wait for next year.
Every summer students are plagued with the idea of results not going the way they planned and I feel like if I was to pass on one piece of advice from my experiences it would be: don’t panic, everything will be okay. It’s no secret that I’m a firm believer in the saying ‘Everything happens for a reason’. and I know, I know when things don’t go to plan the last thing you want to hear is something along the lines of ‘It wasn’t meant to be’ but I think whether you believe in the idea of God having a plan for you or the idea of the forces of the Universe working in mysterious ways, it all leads to the same conclusion: whatever happens, happens because it’s best for you. Ending up studying something different or studying in a different place that you hoped happens because that place will teach you something God or the Universe thinks you need to learn and feels this change is the best way for you to do so. When one door closes, another opens, but don’t make the mistake of wasting too much time staring at that closed door that you fail to see what’s right in front of you waiting for your attention.
Summer is a great chance to travel around the country visiting the friends you have made at University and explore some of the highlights of the cities in which they reside. When the Leicester girls came to London, we most certainly did not fall short of sites to show them; one of the best being London’s Ice Bar. Kept at –5°C all year round, the Ice Bar London is the UK’s only permanent bar made of ice. Not only is the bar itself and glasses made of ice, the tables, chairs and even walls are too. In order to keep warm in their 45 minute slot, guests are given thermal capes complete with a hood and a pair of gloves. The Ice Bar is most definitely something I would recommend to those seeking a unique experience.
My first year at Aston University has officially come to an end and what a year it’s been. Not only did I learn more about my chosen subject areas of Politics, International Relations and Spanish but I also learnt a lot about myself from the host of challenges I faced from familiarising myself with a new city to learning how not to burn down the Lakeside residencies as I attempted to ‘cook’.
The place: Moving to Birmingham
As a Londoner, I love being in a fast-moving, cosmopolitan environment and wanted a similar ethos in the city in which I chose to attend University; located in the heart of Birmingham’s city center, Aston fit the criteria perfectly. Being the second largest city in England, Birmingham has a lot to offer – from the Sea life aquarium to live music at the O2, there really is something for everyone. Aston’s campus is situated just off of James Watt Queensway putting most of Birmingham’s attractions on Aston students’ doorsteps – a short walk from both the Bullring shopping center and Broad Street – where most of Birmingham’s night life events take place. As well as being in close proximity to Birmingham’s biggest attractions, the three main train stations: Moor Street, New Street and Snow Hill are no more than a twenty minute walk from campus, connecting the University to hundreds of towns and cities all over the country – making getting home on the weekends convenient with a train journey to London being just under 90 minutes.
The people: The Lakeside family
The friends you make at University are seminal in shaping your University experience. From course friends to flat mates chances are almost everyone you meet is going to be new. It’s exciting meeting people from all over the country studying courses you may not have even heard of but the thought of having to work or even live with this group of people can be daunting but it’s important to remember everyone is in the same boat – they’re just as nervous as you are. Freshers’ week is a great opportunity to get to know your flatmates as you explore your surroundings as well as make friends through attending social events, fairs and meetings organised by various societies.
Being such a small University, Aston automatically creates a friendly environment with people on your course becoming familiar faces as quickly as the second week of lectures. Aston fosters a community spirit rooting namely from the small size of the University, with course friends often living in the same complexes as you and as a result sharing mutual friends. This was most definitely the case for me with my close group of friends living two floors below me in the first year with one who even studied the same course.
The course: Adjusting
The adjustment from studying in a close-knit classroom environment to reading a degree was definitely the biggest challenge I faced in my first year. Before even starting your course people around you will scare you with how little help you get with your studies in University and as I learnt at Aston – this is far from true. Help is available to anyone who seeks it; whether it be from your lecturers, personal tutor or course friends, everyone is willing to help. Balancing a work load based heavily on independent reading with a social life can be tough at first but eventually, you get the hang of things.
Aston University: An impressive location with amazing people. All in all, my first year of University is a year I will never forget – here’s some of the highlights: