Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Four Steps to a Great Student Christmas

Around the end of November student loans begin to dwindle but fear not, you can still have a great Christmas in your student halls even on a tight budget!

Nothing will get you in the Christmas mood more than blasting out Mariah Carey while decorating the Christmas tree but you have to be smart about where you buy your decorations from.  There are so many buy/sell apps out there that this shouldn’t be a problem. Have a look in your local area for people trying to get rid of their Christmas trees, packs of baubles, tinsel etc. You’d be surprised at how much you’ll find. Charity shops are also another great place to try for second-hand decorations. On the other hand, you could get together and make some fancy paper chains to decorate your flat with!

Secret Santa
Secret Santa is a good way to make sure everyone gets a present but you don’t break the bank in the process. Make sure you set a budget for your presents and think about the type of presents you’d like. Under £5 is great for joke presents! You could also try re-gifting items or giving hand-made presents this year!

Christmas dinner is the climax of the holiday festivities and a cute way to end the semester as a flat. If you happen to have a budding Gordon Ramsey as a flatmate you could have a homemade Christmas dinner. You can get all the food you need delivered from Tesco, Asda, Iceland etc at a pretty decent price! My house of six spent less than £5 each on ours this year! Cooking together is also a really lovely way to spend time together.

Check out facebook for the upcoming Christmas events in your area. There are often Carol services, light switch-on’s, markets and more that you can attend for free. They’re a great way to spend time together outside of the flat just make sure you wrap up!  

Being a student doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the holiday festivities!
Merry Christmas!

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, 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

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Four homemade Christmas present ideas

Whether you’ve already blown your budget or want to eschew consumerism this festive season, you can still spread holiday cheer with a sweet and simple handmade gift.

For the plant lover
For even the most botanically inept, terrariums are easy to make, and look fabulous under the Christmas tree. To start, you’ll need a clear glass container – such as a goldfish bowl, pickle jar, a vase with a broad base, or a large mason jar. Give the container a good clean, and add about 5cm of stones at the bottom (for drainage), a layer of activated charcoal (to prevent fungi), and a layer of potting soil. Using your fingers, dig a well to put the plant in. Try to get miniature plants in different colours, shapes and textures – succulents are great because they need very little water. For the finishing touch, add moss or decorative pebbles.

For the fashionista
Here’s an easy way to put your personal stamp on a gift that will keep on giving. Turn a plain tote bag into a stylish work of art, by using a potato and acrylic paint to create a punchy pattern. If you have access to a sewing machine, you might like to create your own tote out of cotton, linen, or canvas, and some leather for the handles. Or you could buy a blank tote for less than £2 – online, or from an art and craft shop. Cut a potato into a shape of your choosing, dip it into the acrylic paint, wipe off the excess, and get stamping. You might even like to fill the bag with a few of their favourite treats – homemade, of course.

For the phone addict
Got a friend who’s always losing their phone or tablet in the depths of their bag? Surprise them this festive season with a homemade sleeve to keep their device safe and sound. You don’t have to be a sewing whizz to create one – chances are, everything you need is already in your home. You can use any kind of material – leather, cotton, linen, even an old woollen jumper – and any colour thread. Simply measure the fabric to size using the device you’re creating it for, secure the edges with sewing pins, and use a machine or needle and thread to sew the edges together. Turn inside out to hide the seams, and voila!

For the beauty fiend

A good moisturising lip balm is a godsend for frosty winter days – and incredibly simple to create at home. To make 12 or so 15g balms, you’ll need eight tablespoons of coconut oil, three tablespoons of beeswax, one and a half tablespoons of raw honey, and about two dozen drops of an essential oil of your choosing. You’ll also need a dozen little tins with lids to store the balm in – you can get these from art and craft or hardware stores. Place everything except the oil in a double boiler, and heat gently until melted. Add the oil and place the pan in a large bowl of cold water, stirring quickly until the mixture thickens. Pour into the tins, cover with the lids, and let cool for about 12 hours. You can even decorate the outside of the tins with acrylic paint for a personalised touch.

Five ways to save money while socialising this Christmas

Don't let your bank balance stop you enjoying the festivities!
Whether you’ve already lost your cash to the sales, or you’re stashing away savings, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get into the festive spirit. Here are five ways to have a cheap (and charitable) Christmas.
1. Deck the halls
If you’re the type of person who unashamedly owns Mariah Carey’s 'Greatest hits' and knows all the words to The First Noel, why not put your rare talent to good use and lead your friends in a bout of Christmas carolling? You could offer to sing at your local community centre or town square (and raise money in the process), or invite friends around for a singalong at home.
The great thing about Christmas songs is that you don’t need Mariah’s range to make them sound half-decent, and if you’re really, really terrible, people may even pay you to be quiet. Your chosen charity will thank you, even if no one else will.
2. Burn off the pud
Not even the big day yet and wondering where you put all the pudding? Why not do something selfless to warm the cockles this year, and organise your nearest and dearest to play football in aid of your chosen festive charitable cause? You can show off your sports prowess, and put the money raised towards housing and feeding the homeless on Christmas Day. For those less inclined to get dirty, you can get bone-tinglingly clean and jump in the pool at lidos across the country at the Crisis Midwinter Swim, and get cold for a good cause.
3. Lights, camera, action
Festive films have it all – the predictable romantic stories, conclusions that wrap up every issue in a neat little bow, tearful scenes and, of course, more clichés than you can throw a stick at. But this year, instead of turning to old favourites like Home Alone and Elf, why not organise a Christmas movie marathon that features a cult classic from every decade? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Forties: Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life
Fifties: Scrooge
Sixties: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Seventies: The House Without a Christmas Tree
Eighties: Gremlins, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Nineties: A Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Frost
4. Light ‘em up
Sometimes Christmas feels pretty mercenary, what with all the gifts that need to be bought. Luckily, there are some time-rich folks out there with more than presents on their minds, and every year they deck the city’s halls with thousands of twinkly lights. So take a break from debating whether mum really wants a toaster, and take a lights tour of your city!
5. Say cheers
Think photos with Santa are just for little kids? Revisit the idea of the cheesy holiday snap with your gang, but this year challenge your mates to an ugliest Christmas jumper contest in the process. There's nothing more gut-wrenchingly hilarious than seeing your friends decked out in their cheeriest of duds, and you'll have a great series of snaps to look back on when you all embark on your adventures in the New Year.

Christmas Dinner on a budget

Christmas dinner doesn't need to cost the earth – here's how to do it on a budget.

Christmas dinner from your childhood might be a little beyond your means, but as long as you have access to a kitchen, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t make your own budget version. It’s also a brilliant opportunity to show off your cooking skills to your friends.
First off, forget the turkey. They’re generally the most expensive part of any Christmas dinner, but probably not all that helpful for you. They’re massive and overpriced around Christmas. Supermarkets sell turkeys around £4.50 per kilo. Compare that to chicken – around £2.20 per kilo – and you can see where you can save money.
Next up, the veggies. Don’t be tempted to buy frozen roast potatoes: it’s cheaper and much nicer if you buy them loose, and do them yourself. Brussels sprouts are the great polariser, but fry them up with some pancetta, and voila! Awesome sprouts for everyone. Gravy, stuffing, and sauces don’t cost too much if you buy them ready made, and dessert is easy – there’s nothing nicer than your traditional Christmas pud. Sparkling fruit juice is a great complementary drink too.

This recipe assumes four people are attending. If there are more or less, simply divide all the ingredients by four, then multiply by the amount of people you need.
Approx. cost: £20 (£5 per person)
Main dish:
1 x whole chicken (approx. 1.5kg): £3.50
1kg potatoes, loose: 60p
300g carrots, loose: 20p
300g parsnips, loose: 50p
300g sprouts: £2
250g pancetta: £2
1x packet gravy mix: £1
190g stuffing mix: £1.20
1 x jar cranberry sauce: £1.00
1 x packet bread sauce mix: £1.00
Bits from the cupboard:
Olive oil
Christmas pudding: £3
2 x bottles sparkling fruit juice: £4

Pre-heat the oven to 240°C/gas mark 9. Rub the chicken with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place in a roasting tray and cover with aluminium foil, with the shiny side facing down. Cook for one hour and 20 minutes. Baste by spooning the oil over the top around every 20 minutes to keep it moist. When there are 30 minutes left, take the foil off to brown the top.
Wait until the chicken has 45 mins left, then you cook the veggies, so everything will be ready at the same time. While the chicken is cooking, peel the potatoes, carrots and parsnips, chop them, and place them in a pan with just enough water to cover them. Heat on the hob until the water boils, then drain and ‘fluff’ them by stirring vigorously with a fork – this will make the edges crispy. Cover the bottom of a baking tray with a layer of oil, and heat this in the oven with the turkey. When it’s hot, add the veggies and cook for 15 mins, then turn them over and cook for another 20-30 mins until everything’s golden brown.
Start the sprouts when the chicken and veggies have about 15 minutes to go. Chop the sprouts, and heat a frying pan containing a coating of oil until it’s hot, then add the pancetta and brown it. Add the sprouts with a little water and fry for five minutes, stirring continuously, until they soften.
Just follow the packet instructions for everything else, and remember to factor in the time they’ll take, so everything is ready at the same time.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Tips for international students studying in London

Rachel Yohe is an American student studying Marketing Communications and Spanish in New York. As part of her degree, she did an internship in London. Here are Rachel’s top tips for international students coming to the capital.   

“Start budgeting ahead of time. Sort out what you’re willing to spend on rent, groceries, and living expenses before you get to London. If you have friends coming with you, decide on roommates and work with their budgets as well.

If you want to do a work placement or internship, you may also have to spend a bit of money for a work visa. London is an expensive place to live, so check out what areas are cheapest and closest to your classes. 

Here is an alternative tube map that shows weekly rent by tube station. There are usually deals for short-term students throughout the city, so keep an eye out as they will usually be half the amount you’d normally be spending.

My roommates and I managed to find a four-person flat for around £190 a week in Kensington, which is still significantly cheaper than my on-campus university accommodation in the United States. 

This is a great opportunity to take advantage of some of the cheap travel options offered throughout Europe. If you plan on traveling, create a separate fund to cover flights, hostels, and food. During the year leading up to London, I started putting all my spare change in a jar. It added up to $700 (around £525) at the end of the term, so a little goes a long way!

Brush up on cultural differences before you travel. Don’t embarrass yourself like I did. In addition, don’t let the folks at immigration checkpoints intimidate you, just answer questions directly and honestly and you won’t have any issues.

Be aware of your new surroundings. Adjusting to a new city in a new country can be difficult, particularly when they have different rules of the road. There are different cultural norms as well, so don’t be thrown off when someone goes for a kiss on each cheek when they greet you. Crossing the street will be a challenge, especially when you first arrived and are jetlagged beyond belief!

Look for student deals and discounts ahead of time. If you are a student studying at a university in the UK or on a placement, you can get a special type of Oyster card that gets you 1/3 off all journeys. You’re eligible if you’re a student over the age of 18, and can get one by applying here.

In addition to the student Oyster, some restaurant chains throughout London and Europe have discounts for students and people under the age of 25.”

Monday, 20 November 2017

The delights of budgeting

When I received my student loan in October, I felt on top of the world. All that lovely money, just sitting in my bank account, waiting to be spent! Imagine the shoes, dresses, books, music, biscuits, I could buy! I was rich and it was delightful!

Fast forward a month, and my illusions of endless spending sprees are sadly well and truly shattered. The first time I went food shopping I was astounded by how quickly even the most basic items started to add up to a fair amount of money. And with money for going out, endless books, memberships to societies, the (occasional) hot-dog on the way to a lecture, my student loan was fast diminishing before my very eyes.

I realised I needed a strategy for managing my money. Before uni, I hadn’t really thought about budgeting, but now that I’m here, I realise it is pretty essential. So here are my top tips:

1. Don’t overbuy. Perhaps this seems obvious, but you are only going to be cooking for one person: yourself! So don’t buy a family amount. From experience, I found that the way I wasted the most money was by not being able to eat the food I’d bought, as there was far too much of it, and it was off by the time I wanted to use it. 

2. Charity shops and second-hand book stores are good. Doing an English degree, I obviously need a lot of books, but this can be expensive when you buy them all new. My solution? Buy the books I need second-hand. Charity shops normally have a good selection of classics and if you are really lucky, you can get an annotated version! Saving money, giving to charity, getting annotations, what’s not to love?

3. But libraries are better. Sometimes you may desperately need your own copy of a textbook/key novel, and obviously buying is the only solution. But if you are only going to be looking at something for a week, why not just borrow it from the library?

4. Look for bargains. When I’m looking at what pasta etc. I want to buy, I think about the weight given for the price. The ideal is to get the most for your money, but be careful not to overbuy!! And always give supermarket-own brands a go. They’re often cheaper but taste the same. 

5. Always, I repeat, ALWAYS ask for a student discount. I mean, what do you have to lose? 

Of course, there are other ways to save money and if you can get a job whilst doing your degree, that can be a good way to help your finances out. The main thing, though, is that with careful planning, you can still have money for the fun stuff, whilst not spending a fortune on the essentials!

Enia x

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The importance of completing your own personal statement

Writing your personal statement is one of the most important things you’ll do when applying to university – it should be personal, engaging, and most importantly, written by you.
It’s extremely important to write your personal statement yourself. This might sound obvious, but you shouldn’t rely on websites or other people to write one for you.

Remember, your personal statement is all about you, so you should use it to showcase your personality, experience, achievements, and future ambitions. Universities want to get to know you, and why you’d be an asset to the course – they don’t want to read something that’s written by someone else.

While it’s good to get inspiration from previous personal statements, make sure you don’t just copy and paste someone else’s work. We put all personal statements through our Similarity Detection Service to test for similarities or plagiarism.

During an interview or audition, universities might want to discuss certain aspects of your personal statement, so you don’t want to be caught off-guard or end up being stuck for an answer. Imagine you’re having an interview about an English literature course, and the interviewer asks why you like gothic fiction – if someone writes your personal statement for you, you’ll have no idea what they’re talking about! This could ruin your chances of getting a place on the course, so make sure you know your personal statement inside and out.

If you’re stuck or have no idea how to start your personal statement, we have a huge number of resources available – you can use our personal statement tool and personal statement worksheet to start jotting down some ideas, or you can watch our personal statement video for top tips and advice.

While there’s lots of helpful advice and information on our website, you can also ask your teachers, parents, and friends for help if you’re stuck on what to write. Tell them why you’re passionate about studying a specific course, as it’ll help you to write down your thoughts and ideas, and create a brilliant personal statement that you’re proud of. 

Monday, 13 November 2017

Budgeting on a student loan

It’s always a nice sight to see your bank account full of money. Money that you’ve never had before, and more than three digits long. Student loans are designed to help you get through your year at university. With help from your student loan, you’re expe
cted to be able to pay your accommodation rent, your bills, and buy your every day essentials.

Truth be told, however, that sometimes a student loan may not be enough, and so a part time job comes in handy. Saying this, a student loan can last you as long as you budget properly.

Going out is fun, but not all the time.
A part of university life is being able to take part in freshers. Loads of places host student nights and special events to help you get to know people and learn the local area. Costs for drinks are usually a bit cheaper, and entry is either free or priced at a concessions rate. This is great at first, but going out every weekend, or even during the week, is a quick way to burn through the money you’ve been paid. I don’t want to be a spoilsport on this topic, because I love going out, but unfortunately, they can be costly! Try finding clubs that offer two for one deals. Find out the clubs that have free entry. Some clubs only start charging after 10pm or 11pm. Little hacks like this will help in saving essential pounds.

The food shop.
Turns out, when you have to buy your own food, it becomes quite pricey. Gone are the days when Mum and Dad bought you branded products. To save money on your food shop, try looking elsewhere than what’s on your doorstep. Most supermarkets offer delivery, so you’re able to shop at a market that have the cheapest offers. Try buying market own brands: they’re a lot cheaper and taste near enough the same. Try and cut down on eating out at restaurants often.

The canteen.
Whilst the canteen on campuses offer the best-looking meals, it’s a shame the prices aren’t quite cheap enough. Occasionally, why not treat yourself to a full course meal? After all, we have to eat properly. But why not look at making your own meal back at home and bringing that in, instead? You’ll save a whole lot more, and if you get a group of you together it’ll be good fun. Eating every day in the canteen will soon drain that loan.

Takeaways are super convenient, and they’re everywhere. You can barely walk down a street these days without seeing an outlet offering easy food. They can be cheap, but getting a takeaway every other night is not only bad for your health, it’s bad for your bank balance, too. With the savings you’ve made on your food shop, whip yourself up a meal just as good!

Student Discounts.
Take advantage of your student discounts! Download the apps StudentBeans and UNiDAYS and see what they have on offer. Their discounts range from 10% to sometimes 30%, and those discounts are on clothing retailers, supermarkets and beauty products. Honestly, it’s a great money saver!

Find yourself a part time job.
If you are coming to the end of your student loan, and realising that it doesn’t last forever, then you may be worried that you’re not going to be able to live for the next few months, until your next loan comes in. Don’t worry about it! There are plenty of part time jobs out there that would work perfectly along your studies. You could even be in charge of your hours, too, so you won’t miss out on socialising as a student. Many uni’s offer a careers fayre, where you can meet employers and find part time jobs. Try asking your local bar if they need help, or maybe even see if your university campus needs help.

Sacrificing the non-essentials.
True, we always need to have fun in life. We need those things that keep us going, to take a break from the stresses of study. But sometimes, overindulging drains your bank balance, and you need to cut back. If there are any subscriptions you had before uni that you find you’re not using anymore, then try and cancel them. There’s nothing worse than a direct debit leaving your account with a hefty sum of money that you could use for something else. It may be a hassle to get the problem rectified, but once it’s done, you’ll be glad!

Use the library.
Instead of buying books upon books that you may not even need to read, try and visit the library and rent out a book from the campus. You’d be surprised at the selection, and that is what the library is there for.

Of course, it’s up to you how you spend your money. After all, it’s paid to you. But if you do budget and work out what works for you, then you’ll be glad when it comes to the week before our next installment, and you find you’ve still got a comfortable sum left over! 

Friday, 10 November 2017

Getting ready for Christmas on a student budget

Christmas can feel quite stressful as a student and when you’re a bit strapped for cash it’s easy to panic and get into expensive debt. Here are some top tips on how to spend less this Christmas.

Create a budget
Look at your bank balance then decide how much you can realistically spend on Christmas without breaking the bank. Ideally, you’ll have saved a little bit over the previous months, but if this hasn’t happened remember to be realistic. It’s the thought that counts not the cost of the present and people will understand you’re having to cut back this year – students aren’t known for having loads of money.

Make a list
Write down who you need to buy for and try to keep it as concise as possible. Rather than buying individual presents for everyone consider buying something for a couple together. If you’ve got a large group of friends suggest everyone does secret Santa rather than having the pressure of buying for so many people. Once you have your list and budget, assign an amount to each person and try to stick to it.

Make your own
If you want to make the most of the long Christmas holidays, get creative. Use sites like Pinterest to get home-made Christmas present ideas. Not only will this save you money but it’s also a really thoughtful way to let someone know you care about them.

Set a limit
If you can, try to get everyone you normally buy for to agree a spending limit of £5 or £10. Ultimately, it’s the thought that counts and finding meaningful presents for as little as a fiver can be really fun – it will save you a lot of cash too.

Bail on brands
If you’re buying for children, they’re very unlikely to be brand snobs. You don’t need to splash out on the best-known make, get a cheaper alternative they will find just as fun.
This can be the same for adults too – especially for smaller presents, bargain shops can do just as good a shop as a posh one.

Pay smart
The last thing you should do is get yourself into debt over Christmas. You’re in a really expensive stage of your life, your friends and family are going to understand if you don’t spend quite as much as them on presents – and frankly they probably won’t want you to... Don't go into an unauthorised overdraft or use a high interest credit card unless you know you can afford to pay off the balance fully at the end of the month.

If you’re really struggling, look into a 0% purchases credit card which allows you to borrow interest free for a number of months. Just make sure you make a note of when the interest free period is and be absolutely sure you can pay off your balance before the interest kicks in. You can check if you’d be likely to be accepted here.

Get money off
Black Friday is just around the corner and in the run up to Christmas you’ll find a lot of retailers offer big discounts so keep your eyes peeled. You might not be able to do all your shopping on one day but you’ll get it for cheaper. When shopping online always do a quick google to see if any online retailers are offering any discount codes and signing up to newsletters will often mean you’ll get discounts sent to you too.

Look for seasonal work

Lots of retailers, pubs and restaurants are looking for extra staff in the run up to the busy festive period. Keep your eye out for a temp job which will help you cover the cost of Christmas. Don’t sign up to so many hours that you won’t get your revision done – but if you could spare a few evenings a week then this could be a great way to have a very Merry Christmas. 


Monday, 6 November 2017

Of Muses and Memes

I have submitted my first assignment. My desk is littered with a combination of notes, books and snack debris and it’s possible that new life forms have evolved under there. It feels as if I have been sitting here forever, waiting for my Muse to arrive (preferably Calliope the goddess of epic poetry given that it’s the subject of my essay). But it is done, oh yes.

For many students, this is a watershed moment. We are told from the first day that writing for an undergraduate course is different to writing for ‘A’ Levels. As a (very) mature student the last thing I wrote before starting University was a business report, and this first assignment has been looming large for the last 5 weeks. So, what do you need to know to survive your ‘first time’ and thereafter?

Number one: no matter how time consuming your new social life is, go to the library and find out how it works. Book yourself onto the seminars that they offer, such as note taking, referencing and essay writing. It’s not nerdy and you will thank me for this advice many times over. A university essay has particular requirements and you need to find that out much earlier than the 24 hours before your deadline. Plus, you can save yourself a lot of money on books by getting in there early.

Number two: read (yes, seriously) or at least have a passing knowledge of your course handbook. They tend to have course-specific guidance on writing and referencing essays. If it’s not there, ask someone where to find it. Again, this is best done ahead of the red-hot terror in the last few hours before that first essay is due.

Number three: Be on the group chat for your course. It will motivate you to start working (there’s nothing quite like Group anxiety and the questions asked by really keen people to get you going) and it will keep you sane once you have started. Yesterday I found myself crying with laughter at a time when I was bogged down in the detail of my essay and needed cheering up. The chat that did that? “I want to die and a hippo eat my carcass”. You had to be there (thanks, Kate).

Number four: Make your motto “Do it now”. As I sit here a group of my classmates have found themselves stranded at Euston Station because their trains have been cancelled. Imagine being there and having not finished: not started: not thought about the assignment that is due tomorrow. And no, a cancelled train does not count as mitigating circumstances. You want to be the person who submitted his essay a week ago, you really do.

Number 5: Go easy on the Memes. Focus on your essay, at least until the thing is done. After that, the world is yours. Until next time. 

10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started University

With 2 years of university currently under my belt I’ve had plenty of learning opportunities and times to reflect on my experience so far. As a fine art student at the University of Chichester my course is largely practical and spent in the studio but I still have to attend regular history of art lectures and seminars. I have learned a lot of new things since beginning my course, some of which seem incredibly strange, so I’m going to share some of my wisdom with all of you whether you’re still in the application process or are a couple of months into your first year.

1. Your student loan is not free money

Contrary to popular belief, the student loan that you receive is not just free money for you to squander. You’re really going to need every penny to get you through the year and even then it will be tight! Make sure to budget and save as much as you can while still being able to enjoy your time.

2. Look after your physical and mental health

Your health is super important so make sure that you take care of yourself as you don’t have someone there to remind you to eat properly and take time for yourself. Try to keep on top of things and learn how to deal with stress and anxiety and if you need any help do not be afraid to ask for it.

3. First year does count 

During first year there are always some students that won’t show up to classes with the mind-set that it doesn’t count towards your final degree. First year is incredibly important in giving you the tools to help you through until third year and helping you fall into a pattern of regular work so you can get the best out of your degree. Just because it doesn’t count doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

4. Don’t leave referencing to last 

Referencing is my absolute least favourite thing about Uni meaning I have often left it to last when I’ve written an essay, something I have regretted every single time. Take my advice and learn how to reference properly within the first month. There are loads of apps, books and tips out there to help you with that dreaded bibliography so use them!

5. The library is your best friend 

The LRC will probably be where you spend the most amount of time throughout the year so use it wisely. My Uni has a fantastic library with every single book on my reading list. Check this out before spending unnecessary amounts of money on books for your course. Also learn how to use the library systems, such as finding online journals, because these will come in handy!

6. You don’t need to live up to the student stereotype

Some students, including myself, love nothing more than making a to-do list, getting stuff done and rewarding themselves with a good film and cup of tea. Do not let the student stereotype pressure you into acting a certain way at Uni. There are so many different types of students that I’m sure you can find someone to have a movie and PJ’s night with.

7. Make connections 

Networking is so important as a student. It can impact job opportunities once you have graduated and it can help massively in getting a great final grade! When opportunities to meet important professional people arise try not to miss them because you never know when that connection might come in handy. Always remember to introduce yourself and make a positive, lasting impression.

8. Freshers’ flu is not a myth 

I laughed in the face of the people who told me about Freshers’ Flu. Surely me, with the immune system of steel, wouldn’t be taken down by a cold? I was wrong, and have continued to be wrong every September since. Freshers’ Flu is real, you will get it and so will every person around you including your tutors. Be prepared!

9. You don’t need to join every society 

Universities often have a Freshers event where you get so bombarded with societies and clubs that you often end up joining three sports teams, a film society, a games society and everything in between. Don’t feel under pressure to join societies you have no interest in. All you’ll end up doing is stressing yourself out by having no free time. Really think about your interests and what you’d like to try and don’t be afraid to give it a go!

10. Enjoy every moment 

I have a very firm belief that time speeds up when you’re at Uni so make sure to enjoy every second of it. Get things done on time so you can have fun instead of pulling all nighters to finish assignments. University is such a roller-coaster but it’s filled with so many opportunities, new friends and new experiences for you to enjoy!

Seeing my family

Unbelievably, I’ve been at uni for just over a month! The time feels like it has flown by (I can’t really imagine life before it) but, at the same time, everything still feels new and a tad intimidating.

My family have just visited for the first time since I’ve been here. It was so nice to see them again and any worries that they would have moved on without me were quashed as soon as I saw them. We settled into our old rhythm straight away.

Yet, I had been quite nervous to see them and I think this is because I was afraid of how I’d. As a friend put it, seeing your old life and your new life merge can be weird. But it wasn’t only that. I was also apprehensive about how I’d feel if I saw them: would it make me feel very homesick?

Up to now, I’d been too busy with work and nights out to consciously think about the fact that I’ve been away from home longer than ever before. I’d been too wrapped up in this strange, magical bubble of sleep-deprived evenings and coffee-infused mornings to think about the fact that I hadn’t seen any of my family for a month.

But as the day of their visit drew closer, I found myself thinking about the people I used to see every day, family and friends; I found myself dreaming I was walking through my house; I found myself missing the many little things I used to do with my family on a daily basis.

So seeing them was, of course, wonderful, but it was also tinged with the knowledge that the visit couldn’t last forever. And, understandably, it was very hard to say goodbye. After such a fun day together, I wanted to go back with them, but remembering how much fun I’ve had here made me want to stay.

Speaking to some others whose families who have visited, I realised I wasn’t alone in feeling temporarily worse after they had left, something that reassured me. My tactic for dealing with my homesickness is simply going to be immersing myself in life here once again and reminding myself that the holidays aren’t too far away now! And, top tip: a biscuit or two can always make you feel a little better… I speak from experience!
Enia x

Friday, 3 November 2017

I always wanted to teach, but life happened – Tracey Brown

I had always known I wanted to teach, and it had always been in my mind to find a way to get into the classroom. But life happened and I found myself working in a bank for 18 years, dreading going into work. One day I decided to do something about it. At that stage I didn’t have a degree, so I started by going to evening classes to try and find a subject I was interested in. It wasn’t until I took an evening class in Biology that I even considered science. I took my HNC and then secured a place at university studying Biomedical Science. Having completed that, I was offered a funded Masters and eventually I did a PhD. 

All the while I was learning, I was still aware that the ultimate goal was to teach and during my PhD I secured a place on SCITT programme. Unfortunately my situation changed, and I realised that paying to train wasn’t an option. I came across Teach First and went along to the Milkround Presentation at the Newcastle University campus – and immediately decided to apply. Having my training funded and going into a school where I would really be needed definitely appealed to me. 

I had lots of support throughout my application process, right through until I finished my training. I remember having a particularly difficult period during the Summer Institute, whilst training in my local area. I had a complete panic, I had kids at home and I was away from them – I thought ‘I can’t do this!’ But there were lots of people to speak to, giving me gentle encouragement and advice and I just kept going. Taking it day by day, using the support systems in place and even just knowing that there were people who were there to help me through it was reassuring.

I’m now in my third year, I stayed on in the school I was placed in through Teach First and my job couldn’t be more different from working in that bank. I can say that 90% of the time I love my job, and in comparison I remember quite literally hating the idea of going in to my old job. I used to dread it. I love my job now, and yes I have a huge work load, but it’s so rewarding.

My highlight from the last three years was in my second year. I had a really low ability year 11 Additional Science class who were really struggling.  We were set to do a lesson on the heart, and instead of working through diagrams on a Power Point – I contacted a local butcher and organised for him to save me a batch of pigs’ hearts.  We dissected the hearts in class and every single person got involved somehow.  They were all engaged with the subject, and energised by it for the first time. They were the only class to experience working on a real heart – it was the talk of corridors. Another teacher even asked to use the spare hearts I had left over, his pupils were envious. 

I think that’s when I first learned a really valuable teaching lesson – not to rely on Power Points too much. It’s easy to go into minute details and over-plan. Good lessons need to be flexible, which is really hard to do when you first start teaching, but you need to be able to work with your pupils and accept you might need to adjust your plans to keep them engaged.

I think the advice I would give to anyone considering taking on the programme having come from another career would be - just do it! Take the chance, it’ll be the best thing you ever did. It’s always the things you didn’t do that you regret, and you won’t regret joining the Leadership Development Programme.

Tracey Brown is a former bank worker who now teaches Biology at a school in Dunston. This was originally posted by Teach First and is published with kind permission.

If you liked this…

Shane and Janie share their stories about why they chose a career in teaching: