Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Driving home for Christmas

So, although I can’t quite believe this, I’ve finished my first term at uni and am now back at home! (And currently enjoying the snow!!!)

The last eight weeks were probably the most exciting, most tiring, most incredible eight weeks I’ve experienced in a long time, and I guess I was quite reluctant to leave that all behind, despite wanting to see my family too.

And now that I’ve been back at home for about a week, I think I’m slowly adjusting to home life once again. Before term ended, I was worried that my family would have completely changed and moved on without me; I suppose I thought that, as I had changed so much, my family would have too. But actually, aside from a couple of minor things, I was amazed at how samey everything and everyone was. My sisters still sang the same little songs; my dad still told the same jokes; my mum still had the same caring smile. And the familiarity was really nice.

Something I’ve particularly enjoyed about being at home is my mum’s cooking. As the term went on, the dark circles got darker and the cooking more dubious (I may have indulged in a few ready meals 😉) and by the end, I’d completely forgotten what a vegetable was or why I should eat it. Getting reacquainted with my greens and having food cooked for me in an oven has been a true delight.

Although it was a really fun first term, it was also incredibly intense. The work load was constant and leisure time was quite rare. So I freely admit to thoroughly enjoying catching up my sleep and my boxsets. But, of course, the best thing is not having to worry about essay deadlines or feeling guilty for taking a break. I intend to fully enjoy the rest and relaxation that being at home brings!

However, I still do miss the excitement of uni life, whether it was going out or having a fun Shakespeare reading as a group. There is always something to do, or someone to chat to, and I guess I miss the feeling of something always happening. And it definitely feels weird without my new friends; I have got used to seeing them pretty much every day! But luckily, these days there are so many ways to stay in touch that in some ways it feels like I’m still there!

Obviously getting used to being at home is a little tricky, particularly now that I’ve got used to doing everything for myself. But so far I’m rather enjoying being taken care of by my family and I think it’s definitely nice to be back!

Enia x

Friday, 8 December 2017

Different path, same destination

It’s an exciting time as you consider your future, but don’t forget to consider all your options. Higher and degree apprenticeships are a different pathway to following the traditional route of going to university as a full-time student. They offer all the benefits of higher education, as well as the competitive advantage of gaining valuable work experience while completing your degree. You will not only be learning, but earning a salary, from day one. Your tuition fees are paid for by your employer and the government, so you will not be expected to pay any tuition fees or apply for a student loan.

Universities work in partnership with employers to develop and deliver these apprenticeships, which combine university study and on-the-job training. This unique blend of work and university life gives apprentices not only the skills to succeed in their job, but also cultural and social experiences which will serve them well in their career.

Many prestigious and recognisable brands offer a range of vacancies across a broad cross-section of industries, in areas like engineering, aerospace, cyber security, nuclear science, business management, data analysis, HR, finance, and media. These opportunities are available across England, including areas such as Newcastle, Salford, Derby, Birmingham, Bristol, Plymouth, London, and Bournemouth.

Higher apprenticeships cover all levels, from Level 4 through to Level 7, including a variety of job roles in different sectors. Levels 4 to 7 are equivalent to a foundation degree and above. A degree apprenticeship is at Levels 6 and 7, and includes a full bachelor’s (Level 6) or master’s (Level 7) degree, or equivalent professional qualification.

Securing a higher or degree apprenticeship is a competitive process. Some jobs will have a lot of applicants, so it is important to stand out from the crowd. You may have to attend an assessment centre as part of the selection process. You will be working full-time, and fitting in the equivalent of a full-time degree alongside it, so you’ll need to be committed. It might take a bit longer than studying full-time – for example, four years instead of three – but you’ll achieve the same degree.

The number of available apprenticeship roles at higher and degree level continues to grow. Seeing the many opportunities now available is a very exciting prospect. More and more apprentices will be achieving the high level skills our economy needs to compete, while employers benefit from employees with both the practical skills and degree-level knowledge required for their chosen professions.

Sue Husband, Director of the National Apprenticeship Service

Visit UCAS’ career finder service, or GOV.UK, to view over 3,000 vacancies from more than 40 employers, starting in 2018. You can apply for many of these apprenticeships at the same time as applying for a place at university.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Is it the right course for you?

Ten weeks in and the cracks are beginning to show. One person has dropped out and gone home, and
there are others who aren’t enjoying the academic side of things. It’s hard to admit that you are on the wrong course when you have committed so much to it; money, friendships and yes, a little bit of pride. Now is the time that some people are reflecting on their decisions and wondering if they are, in fact, on the right course.

The good news is that with some insight and groundwork, you can give yourself the best chance of landing in a University and course that are right for you. There are no guarantees, but answering the following questions will give you a better chance of being in the right place at the right time.

First and foremost, are you ready for University? In general, we grow up a lot from the ages of 18 to 21 and there is published evidence that students who take a gap year may do better than those who go straight to University, particularly where A level results are less good. If you have any doubts about it, resist the temptation to rush straight in to University life on the wave of everyone else’s expectations. A gap year gives you the chance to have new experiences and you can think over your options before heading back into full time education. Everyone I know who has done this says that it was worthwhile.

If you are confident that you are ready, the next question is what you should study. Ask yourself: What do I enjoy learning? This may not be the same as the subject you get the best results for in exams. If you have always wanted to be a Vet, Midwife, Lawyer or Doctor that’s great, but for most of us the choice of course is less obvious. Whilst statistics for future career prospects are relevant, you are more likely to graduate with a decent degree if your subject fascinates you.

Next on the list is where you should go to study; a question that is more important than you might think. Whatever your choice of subject, there will be variation in how it is provided by Universities, usually based on the research interests of the faculty. You will find information on University web sites but nothing beats going to Open Days. This not only gives you a feel for how your subject will be taught, it introduces you to the unique characteristics of each University such as size, location, social life and facilities. Whatever you think that you are looking for, experiencing it for a day will tell you whether it is the right fit for you.

If you feel ready for that next step in your education, know what you want to study and have fallen in love with a University (or three), the rest is up to you. Good luck!

Choosing the Right Course

University course choices can be overwhelming. As humans, we have more than one interest, and when going to university we hope to get a good degree in a subject that will get us a good job in the future. It’s so easy to feel lost when looking through courses you’re interested in. Because there are so many courses now, many universities offer degrees in the same subjects, but tweaked and changed ever so slightly to fit with different modules.

It may be difficult to find the perfect course. It might not even exist. When you start a university course, you may already have some familiarity with the subject. Yet the point of university is to enhance what you already know, and teach what you don’t know. So, when looking at university courses, a law module might turn you off because you’ve never studied it before, or you’ve never even been interested in that module before. It’s very possible, too, that you may end up in lectures that aren’t that interesting to you, but believe me, you’ll find them useful eventually. What you have to remember is many modules on a course are there for a reason.

The good thing about university, as well, is many courses allow you to choose your own modules. You can shape your education around what you think you may be interested in. But don’t panic if those chosen modules don’t turn out how you thought they would! Lecturers are university tutors will be willing to help you if you feel like you need to change subjects.

Remember that when choosing a course, you shouldn’t choose one just because your friends are. It’s great to be with your friends at the same university, and it’s even better if you share that same interest. But you’ll regret it further down the line if you’ve chosen a subject that you’re not all that interested in.

If you know you’re good at a subject, and you know you find that subject intellectually stimulation, then you should pursue that route. It’s worth remembering that many people starting university aren’t quite sure what they would like to do career wise in the future, but they know what they’re interested in and what they might want to do. And many courses are not a waste of time. You will build on brand new skills, learn brand new information, and hopefully graduate with a good level that you can use for any job role.

Now, with admissions open for 2018 entry, it is easy to feel lost or overwhelmed. We’re only one person, and we can’t do it all. So, what we need to do is properly consider courses. Take a look at other courses at universities in your area, or if you want to move away, further afield. Many courses are similar, yet they sometimes offer different modules and different opportunities, which should all be considered when applying. The great thing about university is you can apply for five courses, and at five different universities if you so wish.

Don’t panic. That is the main thing to remember. If you apply to a course and change your mind, admissions are there to help you. If you start a course and realise halfway through that maybe you should have done something differently, tell someone as soon as possible. You might find it very straightforward and easy to change your course at the beginning of term.

The important thing is you enjoy your course. The course is what you are at university for. Some days will be stressful, and lets face it, some lectures will be boring. But when you study what you enjoy, you’ll stay motivated. And it’ll all be worth it when you graduate! 

Friday, 1 December 2017

What to pack for a semester abroad


Ever since I got back from Erasmus in Madrid in June I haven't stopped thinking (or talking) about it. From reminiscing with international friends to working as an Erasmus ambassador at my university, I haven't been able to stop! Recently my friend and I went to Germany for the weekend to visit our friend from Munich, and in a few weeks another friend from Valencia will be coming to see what Sheffield has to offer (hint: hills and sub-zero temperatures).

But all this Erasmus-talk has got me remembering how much of an amazing experience it was and how I long to go back and chill in that Spanish sun again, drinking sangria with friends or wandering around discovering new things wherever you go. So, for all you semester abroad goers heading off in January, here is a list of all the things you should take with you, to take that added stress away from what will be the most incredible experience...

1. Suitcase- First of all make sure you've got a decent heavy duty (but also light) case- this lil gem will be your lifesaver when trekking through the underground trying to find your way around.
2. Clothes- think about temperatures! Do some research about how the weather will change throughout your stay and pack accordingly. Remember you'll end up buying clothes when you're there anyway. (I remembered my fluffy dressing gown but forgot socks...)
3. Electronics- laptop, camera, iPad, GoPro, speakers...you name it, you'll probably want to take it- and remember the chargers! Also remember plug adapters and I found my extension lead super helpful!
4. Kitchen items- check with your landlord, but most study abroad accommodation
 will come with enough pots and pans for you to share out with your housemates. If not, you can always buy them when you get there to save that valuable suitcase space.
5. Bedroom items- your room will probably be pretty bare (apart from a bed, desk and a lamp) so make sure you take plenty of photos, fairy lights, wall-hangings posters to make yourself feel at home. Most places will provide duvets and bed sheets.
6. For the hot/cold weather- sunglasses, sun cream, a hat/gloves, a scarf, woolly hat, plenty of layers!
7. Documents- passport (may seem obvious but my friend forgot hers as she travelled just with ID), Uni documentation, purse/wallet, bank details, European health card (you'll need a specific study abroad one)
8. Cosmetics- make up, perfume/aftershave, shower gel, toothbrush, retainers, nail clippers, (you can buy heavy things like hair products once you get there)
9. Stationary- pencil case, pens, a folder (for all that work you'll be doing...) I also write a diary which will be amazing to read back in the future!
10.  Random bits- coat hangers, books/magazines, blue tac, flip flops, rucksack 

Getting this all in to a 22kg case may seem like an impossible task but effective packing will get you through! Also, I always asked my visitors to bring a few bits for me (including pyjamas and tea bags!). Don't stress too much, most of the things you will take are replaceable elsewhere...just don't make my mistake and buy so many clothes that on your return your suitcase is 7kg over the limit!! And remember, no matter how much pre-Erasmus stress you may suffer from, you’ll have the most amazing time when you finally make it there.

Hope you enjoyed this post,

Anna x