Monday, 21 May 2018

How to get your rental deposit back

University is probably the first time you’ll move out from your parents and be left to fend for yourself. Not only will you have to decide who you want to live with but you’ll also have to sort out all the paperwork and take on the financial responsibilities that come with renting a place of your own. It’s important you understand everything you need to do to make sure your tenancy goes smoothly and you keep on top of all your monthly bills. Here is how to make sure you get your tenancy deposit back.

Keep your deposit safe:

To secure rented accommodation you and your housemates will have to hand over a deposit for the property which could be up to two months rent. By law the money needs to be held in a Tenancy Deposit Plan, so it’s important you check which scheme your letting agent or landlord uses. Make sure you get confirmation your money has gone into a scheme within 30 days of them receiving it. If anything goes wrong the company who hold your deposit may be able to help you get it back - they can work as a mediator if you have a dispute with your landlord or letting agent when it’s time to move out.

Complete a detailed inventory:

Before you move in to your rented accomodation make sure you go around the property with your landlord or letting agent with an inventory. If you aren’t provided with one make your own - simply write a list of any damage or wear and tear you find and list all the items in the property. Take photos and video and send these to the letting agent or landlord so they can keep these on file. Pay particular attention to the state of the carpets, oven and expensive items and ask if they’ve been professionally cleaned before you move in. When it’s time to move out you can refer to the inventory and photos as a guide for any items that need cleaning or replacing.

Keep on top of your cleaning:

As soon as you move in draw up a cleaning rota with your housemates to help you all keep on top of your household chores. Regularly cleaning will mean you’ll have less work to do when you have inspections. If you allow mould and mildew to set in you could face costly cleaning bills when it's time to move out - a few minutes cleaning often is better than hours and hours after months of not doing any.

Check your contract:

Before you sign your tenancy agreement make sure you know exactly what is expected of you before you move out.
Some contracts will state you need to get the house professionally cleaned including the oven and carpets and provide receipts to prove you’ve done so. This may mean moving out proves costly, however if you know it’s coming you can budget for it upfront. Don’t allow your landlord or letting agent to choose who will do the professional cleaning because they may use the most expensive. Be sure to get a few quotes before agreeing to anything to make sure you’re not getting ripped off.

It’s a good idea to get someone else to look over your contact for you too, like a parent, guardian or someone at your students union - they may spot things you hadn’t noticed. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with your landlord or letting agent if there is anything in your contract you think is unfair or you want to change.

Keep on your landlords good side:

Keep your property in a good condition and report anything that gets broken straight away. This could help build a good relationship with your landlord and help make it easier to get things fixed when you need it. You may also be asked for a reference for the next property you rent and being a good tenant will help to ensure you secure your next tenancy.

Communication is key - be respectful of the property you live in and treat it like it’s your own. Good communication, respect and honesty will all go towards getting your full deposit back at the end of your tenancy.

Keep on top of your bills:

Paying your bills on time is really important, so make sure you set up a budget at the beginning of term and agree with everyone sharing your house exactly how much they need to contribute.

Before you move out at the end of term, make sure all your bills have been paid in full and you tell the utility companies that you’re moving out. Take pictures of the electricity and water meters before you leave so you can prove how much you used.
Be sure to pay your rent on time too, if you don’t you’ll likely get stung with late payment fees.

Getting a handle on your personal finances at University is key. If you miss electricity payments or run up bad debts with your mobile phone company it could take months, if not years to improve your credit rating which may impact your ability to secure credit in the future like a mortgage so make your finances a priority.

Don’t be afraid to disagree:

When it’s time to move out you may get charged for certain things like not removing rubbish, dents in the wall and not cleaning properly. If you disagree with charges make sure you dispute them, especially if the items you are being charged for were already in that state when you moved in. Speak to your landlord or estate agent and explain why you think the charges are unfair - they will have ten days to get back to you and if they don’t you could start legal proceedings.

Getting your deposit back:

When the time comes to move out, your landlord has ten days to return your deposit to you. If you are disputing deductions from your deposit, it will continue to be held in the tenancy deposit scheme until the issues are sorted.

Make sure you thoroughly clean your house, get rid of any rubbish and fix or replace anything you’ve broken. If you’ve put up pictures and made holes in the walls fill them in and if you’ve moved furniture around put it back where you found it.

Basically you need to try your best to leave the property in the same or better state than you found it in. Reasonable wear and tear is allowed and this is where you can run into a grey area, which is why if you’ve got a good relationship with your landlord or letting agent they are more likely to be lenient with you.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The spark that showed me I'd made a difference - Ryan Watson

Teaching is not something to go into light heartily, despite the fact I sort of fell into it. I found myself completely mesmerised by the way primary education works today; being only 22 years old I assumed things wouldn't be that different from when I was at school.

However, the passion and excitement that is weaved into the curriculum is a wonderful thing to witness but also to be a part of. For me, each class I've worked with (for a considerable amount of time that is) I have loved each and every child because there has been a moment or a spark that has showed me how I've made a difference to that child's life.

It is those kinds of moments that make it all the worthwhile, and these moments are what will keep you going when it gets tough. Throughout the course there will be highs and lows and there have been many times where I've almost crumbled under the pressure. In spite of all of this, I have come so much further than I ever thought I could and have felt a huge sense of accomplishment when the hard work is recognised.

As long as you have passion and determination to reflect and to do better, you will get through teacher training and achieve everything you wanted and more. It is the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but I wouldn't change any of it for the world.


Tip Top Tips Whilst Living Away from Home

It is so so important to look after yourself, both mentally and physically whilst you’re living away from home. It may be your first time fleeing the nest or actually, you’re a fully-fledged independent being – either way, we can often slip into bad habits even in the best of times.

1. Sleep well! Sleep is probably the most crucial thing you need in life and especially whilst you’re studying. If you don’t get enough sleep it can impact your concentration, mood and health. If you’re anything like me and Sleeping Beauty, try opting for a quieter flat - you wouldn’t want to be in a flat full of raucous students stumbling in at 5am and knocking over lots of pots and pans whilst trying to cook something remotely edible after a night out. 

2. Eat well - and I don’t mean lots. Eat your greens kids - they’re full of vitamins and nutrients your body needs in order to function. And no, I’m not trying to be your mother (even though she is right) However, every now and then there is nothing wrong with the odd bit of chocolate or cake!

3. Drink…in moderation. There is this whole University culture that is supposedly expected of students to go out and drink several nights a week. That is not the case. 1) It is expensive. 2) Your liver will hate you. 3) So will your friends if you are continuously throwing up and getting them kicked out of a club. Drinking in moderation is okay, don’t get sucked into this unrealistic lifestyle of a student and don’t forget you always have a choice!

4. Don’t forget the exercise! Even if it’s just a brisk walk to lectures, a quick jog on a Saturday morning or a bike ride, exercise is really important and impacts greatly on your mood. Maybe get off the bus a stop earlier or invest in a bike instead of getting an Uber to your placements - it could do you the world of good.

5. Please clean up after yourselves – and do some washing. Nobody likes a slob – especially a smelly one at that. Okay I know, washing machines in halls are expensive, but you can always ask your flat mates if you can throw in some undies when they are doing a big load themselves. I’m sure they won’t mind. Also, please don’t leave your pots and pans lying in the sink for days on end – yes, you may have needed to soak them, but after a few days it just becomes a nuisance, and somebody else’s problem. Do not become the hated member in the flat.

6. Speak up. If you’re struggling, please talk to someone. Even if it’s a friend from back home, parents, a tutor, a lecturer you confide in - please talk. Being away from home can be great, but it can also be isolating - particularly in the first semester where everything still seems so new. Students are expected to be resilient from Day 1, and it’s not always easy. 

7. Use your lecturers! Most academics are more approachable than you think. Ask them questions, use them to help with essays, show an interest in what they are doing - they are there for a reason. Establish a trusting relationship with them and these adult-intellects can be a great help in very different ways! Many of these lecturers will have had their own sons and daughters go through University and have been in that position themselves so will have some empathy with the struggles students face.

8. Budget in advance. So - we all love the day Student Finance drops, but that doesn’t mean we should spend it all in one go. That money is there to last you until the next instalment; don’t blow it. Plan your meals, only buy what is necessary and don’t buy that iMac that is begging to be taken away from the store. Be realistic about your needs and how much you need to live off a week and you’ll be fine. If not, there are always part-time jobs available, sometimes on campus. And if not, I suppose there may be the bank of parents to fall back on.

9. Lastly, have fun! You made it to University - you’re here with a great bunch of people who are willing to be your friends. Smile, put yourself out there and try new things. There are plenty of opportunities out there - ranging from societies, joining the newspaper or even internships. Don't just sit in your room chatting to virtual friends or watching YouTube videos of cats. Get out and actually talk to people! These three years (or more) will fly by, make the most of it. 

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Enjoy your teacher training placements - Emma Beckett

Are you a real teacher?

I suppose I could not really answer this question until the end of the course, but now I can confidently say, “Yes I am”.

Placement one was a whirlwind experience. You flit between university and school, week after week, however my key tip: remain organised, file everything, and take each day as it comes.

Observe, observe, observe!

During your induction period, make sure you observe the classes you will be teaching as much as possible. It is useful to observe them in other subjects to. How is that pupil with autism taught in other subjects? How do other members of staff challenge Ella who is a high potential student?

Use your PPAs, study periods and frees wisely

Make sure all your university activities are completed by the first two weeks of placement one, two and three. You do not want to be doing these while planning lessons and marking assessments. You should also have an allocated working space which you are entitled to whether it is a laptop or teacher training room.

Be confident and own your experience

It is common for you not to feel comfortable in the classroom until placement two. After Christmas, you will hear many teacher trainees say, “Everything has just fallen into place!” Even if you’re not confident, act confident. Students can smell weakness! You have conquered placement one and you deserve to be on this amazing journey. Remember why you got into teaching in the first place, for the enthusiasm of your subject which you love as well as seeing students progress through secondary school. 

Things to have handy at all times

§  School planner or your own diary (note everything! From planning Year 9 assessments in your PPA period 4, to having your hair done after school on 10 May. It all helps with your reflective journals).
§  Anti-bacterial hand gel (during placement three I discovered this beauty. I have not hand a cold since!).
§  Merits (students love merits. Make sure you are giving out at least three a lesson. Praise is a great classroom tool).
§  Stationery (you have five whiteboard markers? How sweet. Buy more! Post it notes, biros, rulers, staples…and count them in and out of the room).

Enjoy this time!

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Second Year Snapshots

This time last year, I was just finishing up my final lot of First Year assignments and it felt like the biggest weight off my shoulders. Now that we are a whole 365 days ahead of that, I’m just a few days away from closing up my Second Year of being a student at York St. John as an undergraduate. And whilst I know that it will be the biggest relief to have everything wrapped up for the summer, there is something melancholic about leaving such a wonderful, productive year behind - especially as it has flown by so quickly! Because of this, I thought I would go through a few mile stones I’ve particularly enjoyed this year so that you can get a better idea of what student life is like studying literature, studying as an international student, and as a chance for me to reflect on everything I’ve achieved. This is only a fraction of it all, but I hope that it helps and that you enjoy reading.

Moving To Amsterdam
Making the decision to become an international student for a semester was perhaps the best decision I have ever made. Whilst I love my university here in the UK, there is something about studying in another country that really puts you out of your comfort zone and yet provides you with a wider perspective of the world as a result. Moving to the Netherlands was a big step for me as someone who gets quite homesick, but I soon found myself making friends from all across the globe, embracing the fast paced nature of their higher education systems, and even picking up some Dutch! Being able to learn so much about Dutch history and to study several different topics at once really enriched my way of thinking to the extent that when I got back to England in the New Year, I had the advantage of automatically looking at things in a completely new light to what I did before. It’s definitely prepared me for the huge workload of my Second Semester and provided me with the necessary motivation and academic practice to enter my final year with confidence.
I didn’t expect that I would adapt so quickly to the extent that when I left I would even become homesick for Amsterdam, yet I find myself looking out for the rush of bicycles and missing the fresh food stalls where I would get my weekly groceries. As soon as I can, I know I’ll be heading back for a visit and planning a museum crawl. At the moment, I’m still in touch with several of my teachers from a class I was in about the history of biography entitled ‘The Personal Is Political’. We are working at the moment on publishing some poems that myself and my fellow students produced on our own biographies in an academic journal and I’m even getting the opportunity to write a short introduction for it. Looking back over the work we produced, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with pride for our work and for the fact that I was a part of something so special. Like I say, adapting was a quick process in the end but it wasn’t always an easy one. Having this knowledge of a new culture through my own experiences is something I will never forget and will use throughout everything I do for the rest of my life. For those of you who are thinking of applying to an exchange programme or studying abroad, I can highly recommend! 

Work Experience At Manchester Central Library
For my Literature At Work module in Semester Two, I had to find a small internship to gain some experience in a literature based field I was interested in gaining further knowledge on. So, of course, I couldn’t pass up the chance to work in one of my favourite places. Manchester Central Library is extremely special in its’ collection of archival material (including a second folio of Shakespeare and original Bronte content), music library, and literary resources. Because I am interested in not only writing and academic English but also a wider range of different fields, this was the perfect place to put into practice a schedule working on multiple different skill sets - think portfolio career 101. My average day incorporated the expected desk work, filing, and cataloguing, but also meant I got the chance to plan out sessions with the public, deliver Rhyme Time hours with children learning to read, and to work in conservation, repairing 1906 General Election posters. My favourite day was when I got to produce some blog content for the library and to do a mini take over of their social media. I learnt so much about branding and outreach, whilst actually getting to put it into action by communicating what events and activities were taking place with the wider community.
Libraries are extremely important places to our world. They offer the opportunity to read everything and anything for free and, whilst I have studied abroad now, to experience the whole world without having to move from a comfy couch. This was the place in which I first took to reading and to books, so it felt incredibly important to me to have this occasion to give back and to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes. I know that come summer time, I’ll be heading back to volunteer here and in many other of the museums across Manchester because the arts are far too often seen as self sustaining, which is an urban myth-conception. The reality is that, when we care for these places we build communities, and it is through those communities that any form of art or inspiration for potential creativity can come to exist. It is this that we need to continue encouraging now more than ever and because of this, when I returned to York for the beginning of term the first I thing I did was sign up to help out with the literature festival. In essence, being a volunteer made me want to volunteer even more!

Reading 100 Books
Every year I do my 100 book challenge and this year, my self competitiveness has thankfully taken a secondary nature to my interest in the content I’ve been reading. Whilst this has meant slowing things down a little, it’s also meant I have been getting a lot more out of the content I’ve been perusing, especially the classics. I’ve also been lucky enough to gain several opportunities to begin editing and reading proof copies this year, which has been extremely exciting. A highlight would probably be getting to read an advanced proof copy of Andy Weir’s Artemis (I was a huge fan of The Martian beforehand making it doubly exhilarating that this was my first proof). Some of my other favourite reads outside of this have been incorporated by book clubs I’ve followed, such as The Banging Book Club and Our Shared Shelf, both of which promote gender equality through further individual education. Plus, this past academic year (along with the rest of 2018) marks the release of many fantastic new reads and some of them I will be fortunate enough to engage with after meeting the authors themselves! Living in two worlds (to quote Rory Gilmore) one of books and one of reality, could not be a more valuable thing. The only problem with spending so much of my time thinking and existing in fictional worlds is that I will not ever be able to read them all - but that doesn’t mean I won’t give it my best shot!

After reading all of those books and learning so much in class, my biggest desire is often to encounter places in person. I haven’t done as much travelling as I would have liked over the past academic year but I am determined to make up for that over the next. For my twenty-first birthday I visited my beloved Paris and went to Shakespeare and Co. and Disneyland which made for a mixture of cultured wandering and 90’s throwbacks which was amazing. And of course, I moved to the Netherlands for 6 months which somehow doesn’t feel like it counts because of how much like my home it became! And over the summer I’ll be heading to the U.S.A for the first time which is extremely exciting because American Studies is my secondary subject and something I am eager to pursue at Masters level. There will be many more opportunities I hope to see the world, and from each of them I know I will learn at least one new thing. At the moment I am setting myself the goal of working hard and saving up so that I can travel more thoroughly in the summer after graduation and see as much of the globe as possible. Currently, I most want to see Russia, China, and Japan and would really like to attend a language based summer course in each of these places. We’ll see if I can make that a reality but for now, I will keep dreaming and locating new points on the map to add to my bucket list. My advice to students considering undergraduate degrees is to travel alongside your studies! Whether that be in the form of study abroad or planning a few trips during the holidays, you’ll learn so much by putting your knowledge into use and gaining real life experience.

Being Voted Chair Of Feminist Society
I’ve ran in two sets of elections this year and both were so much fun! Where you’d expect to find competition, instead at York St. John I found myself meeting new people and making friends opposed to getting too stressed. Whilst I didn’t merit chair of school (my lovely friend Jenny was voted into this position and I couldn’t be more pleased for her) I have been fortunate enough to earn the place of Chair of Feminist Society 2018/19! I’ve been a part of Feminist Society ever since I began at university and it’s come to be a place of friendship and development for me. It’s a great space for building upon confidence overall whilst discussing a really important set of topics and planning different events to raise awareness about the importance of securing gender equality. In the past year, we have fundraised for Coppafeel and SmallsForAll, as well as promoting the RedBox campaign to end Period Poverty throughout the UK and collaborated with the Healthy Relationships project, to lead consent workshops designed to prevent domestic abuse in student relationships. It’s so rewarding to be a part of and I can’t wait to lead further progress, with one of my main aims being to keep up the great work we have accomplished so far and to make our own feminist book club. There’s so much to be creative with in making what is often a heavy subject more accessible, and I can’t wait to see what we achieve.

Expanding My Freelance Writing Career
I first started blogging with UCAS back in 2014 and it was from this time onwards that I became more and more aware of just how much I love writing. Consequently, Freelance Writing as part of my future portfolio career is something I am focusing in on at the moment by gaining further experience and practice with a wider range of audiences. Since last summer and over the past year I have worked with various different student writing projects in and out of university, the result being that I have been able to greatly improve my current ability. I still have a long way to go and am far from perfect, but I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities I have been lucky enough to be part of so far. A particular area I have worked on is allergy writing as, living approximately 76% of my life with severe Anaphylaxis, I feel there is far from enough coverage for young people about how to deal with it. This has meant working on everything from a pamphlet for an NHS conference to a full length student feature with the Guardian of which I remain extremely proud because editing it took me a long time! I’ve also focused upon raising awareness about mental health with The Student Pocket Guide and Student Minds, recorded my travel adventures with TopUniversities and continued education based content with Milkround, Campus Society and my own university. Each piece has had its own challenges and required a lot of research, but the more I do the more I find myself able to enter into a particular mode of thinking and to get work done much more quickly than I did before to a higher standard. It has been eye opening to realise that I am much more capable than I previously realised if I put my mind to something, practice and ask for help when I need it. I can’t wait to do even more writing this summer and to see what topics there are to work with next.
Deciding On My Dissertation Topic
It’s incredibly scary (despite all of the many positives) to be heading into my final year of University come the Autumn time and to realise how quickly these past few years have gone by. Most intimidating of all has been deciding upon my dissertation topic and last four modules, though this is all starting to come together now. Currently I’m thinking a mixture of comments on Chekhov, Virginia Woolf, Angela Carter and Sylvia Plath but that might be too much, so we’ll see what I can round it up to in my final tutorial of the year. Of all the snapshots I’ve mentioned, going into this next academic year I think this is the picture I will remember most when I look back. It’s one of those defining milestones I never thought I would reach and feels oddly surreal to find myself considering now that I am here. The more I learn, the more I gain in experience, the more I realise that we do not realise anything has changed (even our level of expertise) until we look back and see the progress. It’s a real adventure to go on in every sense of the word; there are obstacles to overcome, muddy woodland to trudge through, sunny days and storms, just in a metaphorical form with more paperwork and less woodland. Second year has been defined by similar such epiphanies, all of them guiding the direction of my choices and decisions in ways that I might not have considered before. There are still many to go and thankfully, a whole year of academic shenanigans still to go. I can’t wait to see what snapshots I will have waiting for me this time next year.

If you would like to hear more from me, you can follow my writing here on UCAS as well as over on my Twitter page, @emordnilap97. Thanks for reading!