Hello there!

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote a post because I have just been so incredibly busy so I’ll give you a bit of an update!

In the past month (since 4th July) I…

Passed my driving test

drivng test

Had my Hen do

hen do

(this is me in a toilet-paper wedding dress made by my hens!)

Graduated

graduated

Bought my first car

new car

Got married

got married

Went on my honeymoon

honeymoon

Applied for about a bajillion jobs…

And I’ve been invited for one interview!

 

It’s been a really crazy time for me with everything happening at once, but it has been absolutely wonderful. I’ve had some of the best moments of my life all crammed together and honestly I feel so incredibly lucky right now.

The end of University can be a bit alarming – when life has always been safely wrapped up in timetables and education it seems scary to step out into the big world! But this month has really shown me how exciting and amazing life still is, and how much better it might just get! Uni really has given me the confidence to do a lot more – and most of the great things that have happened to me recently are direct results of my going to Aberystwyth. Yes, even getting married!

I am a very, very happy Sarah right now. I hope you are all happy, and I wish you huge luck with results and whatever else comes your way!

I’ll be back in a week or so to tell you all about my interview.

Wednesday’s Open Day was a fantastic day for me – if you came up to Aber, I hope you had a great time seeing it all and got all the information you wanted.

I was so pleased that the sun stayed out for the open day, as Aber really looks its best in the sunshine. On both Open Days I came to it was cloudy and grey – when I went on campus tours, the guides told us ‘There is usually a great view from here, honestly!’ – all we got to see was fog!

Open days as a settled student also offer excellent people-watching opportunities. What really struck me quite frequently yesterday was how fast time goes – even when you are paying attention. It seems like both a lifetime ago and yet somehow only a little while since my parents brought me to Aber for open days. I don’t know how those feelings happen simultaneously, but time is a strange thing! Looking at the faces of nervous prospective students I was thinking – any of these could be wearing one of the fetching yellow t-shirts I’m in in a few years. The feeling of the campus brought to life for a day in the usually quiet summertime was a great forecast for your time at Uni – because it won’t always be that busy, but it will be that alive and exciting. Aberystwyth has a wonderful beating heart made up of the people that come here – it is such an exciting thing to be one of them.

To see some more of the Open Day, check out the @AberUni_UG twitter account – including some fab pictures!

The open days are a’coming! There’s been loads of great advice for you this week here on Aber Insiders and my number one tip is – take advantage of it!

When I was open-day-ing, I knew immediately that I wouldn’t be able to take it all in and be happy with what I’d seen in one day, so I came to two separate open days. In terms of talks and information, on the first I went to and sought out course-related things, and on the second I focused on practicalities like accommodation, finances, scholarships and so on. I’ve been around other open days since as a student who happened to be on campus, and with others I knew who were looking around. So, here are my top six tips for open days!

  1. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise! Once you’ve signed up to the open day, you’ll get a program of what’s going on where and when. Make time to look through it, and mark anything that sounds interesting or useful. Then see how many you think you can make it to and prioritise. If you’ve got others coming with you, you can delegate – for instance if there’s a really important course talk on at the same time as a general talk about bursaries, maybe you can go to the important one and the person accompanying you can collect information from the other. It can be daunting coming to a big new place though, so if you don’t want to split up there’s no worries. A lot of information can be picked up from the information fair. Either way, have a general idea of what you’re going to and where it is – check out the campus map so you know where everything’s happening!
  2. Don’t try to attend too many things because you’ll only overload yourself. Allow some things to be down to information fair browsing and booklets that you can read later on. And definitely make sure you have time to eat some lunch, as the day can be really exhausting.
  3. Must Do – the things I would recommend making sure you do are taking a campus tour, visiting your department, talking to current students, and taking a tour of some halls. Prioritise what things you most want to see though – there might be other things that matter more to you.
  4. Talk about the day with someone on your side Even if you don’t split up for anything, it’s helpful to swap notes with someone else at the end of the day, as a way of remembering and processing all that you’ve learned – and open days do throw a lot of information at you! While talking to everyone at the day itself is invaluable, their job is to be there for everyone – there’s no substitute for having somebody else who is exclusively thinking about how Aberystwyth will be a fit for you. The open day is the beginning of your decision – make sure you reflect on what you learn.
  5. Check out the scholarships table at the information fair. If you are thinking of taking the scholarship exam (and it is so worth doing!) then swing by the scholarships desk at the information fair. The people there are (like almost everyone in Aber) absolutely lovely, and can explain the whole thing for you. Also, if it’s like my open day, you’ll be able to pick up some past papers that give you a better feel for how the exam will be.
  6. Go into the town, even if it’s only briefly – because it’s beautiful, and few things can make you want to glue yourself down here more than the sight of the sea. While you’ll come here for the University you will be part of the town, so it’s good to soak some of it up.

DSCN0999

At the end of the day, your open day experience will be unique to you, just like your university experience will. Open days are a buffet table of information and opportunities. What’s really important for one person to know before coming will be at the bottom of someone else’s list – so have a good think about what’s important for you. Know your criteria, and come to see if Aberystwyth fits them – or changes them! Some people know exactly what they want when they start looking, others just have an idea – and it can change for anyone upon finding the right place to be. Look to that feeling in your gut that says, yep, I can belong here.

Aberystwyth’s next open day is Wednesday 2nd July – maybe I’ll see you there!

For more info check out the other blogs on Aber Insiders and the University’s guide to getting the most out of an Open Day.

A couple of weeks ago I talked about some of the places and services on campus that are important and handy to know about when you get to Uni. This time I’m going to talk about the things the Uni has online to give you a hand.

You’ll use your University logins for all of these sites. Your username will be a combination of three letters and two numbers – you01 – which also forms your email address – you01(at)aber.ac.uk. You’ll choose a password, which can be something of a challenge – for security purposes, it must be a random assortment of letters and numbers. My tactic has always been writing a sentence I’ll remember and using the initials – for example, Pass Words Must Be Memorable01 = PWMBM01 or whatever.

BlackBoard

AberLearn BlackBoard is sort of student-central. What’s on there for you will differ depending on your department, your course, your modules, and your tutors.

It’s important to check BlackBoard regularly as announcements do go up there from time to time. In essence it is a resource for course materials. Each module you take will have a folder where your tutors can upload content for you – things like reading lists, lecture slides, seminar handouts and sources. It depends a lot on what you’re studying and who teaches you – but nevertheless, it’s an important resource! Information about essay deadlines and guidelines are usually all on BlackBoard. My course (English and Creative Writing) required me to hand in two versions of every assignment – hard copies and an electronic copy, which is submitted via SafeAssign on BlackBoard. There will probably be talks at the beginning of your first year about using BlackBoard to its full advantage. The best way to figure out how useful BlackBoard can be is to have a good poke around during Fresher’s Week – before the work kicks in and you need it, spend half an hour figuring it out.

Primo

Basically – the library catalogue. You can search books in any specific library or all of the Uni libraries, and if you pick ‘Aber+’ it’ll include online sources – peer reviewed journals and magazine articles. When you find a book you want to get out you get a reference code of letters and numbers which you use to find the book on the library shelves. It’s a system that most people aren’t totally used to when they get to Uni, but easy enough to figure out. Generally if you’re looking for something on a particular topic you’ll find a lot of the books have similar codes, which give you a general area to search in.

When you log in to Primo you get better search results, and you can look at your account. This lists what books you’ve taken out, and allows you to renew loans or pay fines. Primo also shows whether copies of a book are available or not to take out – if all the copies are gone and you need the book, you can recall a copy. If a book you need is on a different campus, you can request that it be available at a chosen location for you to pick up.

Student Record

This is where you find things like your timetable and academic record. This is where your results are listed when they come out, you can check and edit your personal information (phone numbers and addresses) and enter reasons for unexplained absences. Tasks will pop up on your Student Record – for example in first year you’ll fill out an inventory, where you list any electrical items you’ve brought into halls. When it comes time, this is where your graduation information is listed.

Webmail

Fairly self-explanatory – your university email account. It uses Office 365, so it’s a web-based version of Outlook, making it pretty easy to get to grips with. If you have a smartphone it’s worth setting up your Uni emails to go straight to it – you’ll be a lot more likely to check it that way. In any case, always check your email at least once a day – preferably more. There’s no good reading about an important course meeting an hour after it starts! Make sure you have a list of all the important email addresses – your personal tutor, and tutors for each module you’re taking. In the event of stormy weather – which does crop up in Aberystwyth! – emergency information will come via your email.

Facebook etc.

Social media is a brilliant thing for students right now – as well as keeping you in touch with friends and family, it’s a great lifeline to the Uni as well. Uni accounts and pages are on Facebook (Entry 2014/Entry 2015) and Twitter and are well worth following. Search Facebook for groups you can join – for your course, societies, etc. There are groups for things like housing where people advertise available places – it’s worth having a peek through the pages connected to the University to see what will be useful for you.
If you set up a study group with friends Facebook groups or group messages can be a great way to keep things together. If your seminars involve sharing work and you think it’d be useful, ask tutors about the possibility of setting up a Facebook group for the seminar where you can all discuss your work and share things. There are loads of possibilities for how useful you can make social media throughout your time at Uni!

So, that’s a brief run-through of the online things you’ll use during your time at Uni. I hope you’re all well and I’ll be back next week!

Hello there lovely reader!

I come to you today in a break from revising driving theory in preparation for my theory test tomorrow!

Today I’m going to talk about some of the facilities and services available to students on and off-campus here in Aberystwyth, and why they’re really handy to know about. Knowing they’re there is the key to being able to use them if the need arises. So without further ado-

The Student’s Union

union

Somewhere you will probably visit quite often – for lunch, stationery, a drink. A lot goes on in the union. There’s a shop, a bakery, a bar – pool tables and toilets and a small computer room.

This is where you’ll go if you want to buy a bus pass for the year, a place with loads of volunteering opportunities, a place to study in a more relaxed environment than the library, or to relax on a break from studying. The union can also offer you advice: from housing and finances to sexual health, to paying taxes and how National Insurance works. You can find academic support and personal support; the Union are able to direct you to counselling services if ever you need them. If you’re looking for backup against an unpleasant landlord, advice about choosing accommodation, or even help on applying for special circumstances, your Union can offer advice and support.

The Careers Service

aber careers

The Careers service is housed inside the Union building, next to the Union shop. They can offer advice and help on what to do when you graduate – from building your CV, identifying what area you want to go into, help with choosing further study or graduate opportunities. Well worth popping in, especially in your second and third years. If you’re thinking of a year in employment, or work experience placement, the careers service really know what they’re talking about and can help you get there. They hold employer events throughout the year, as well as workshop sessions to help you build skills in certain areas – like improving your interview skills for example.

Student Wellness Centre

studentwellnesscentre

Now situated on Penglais Hill, attached to Padarn Doctor’s Surgery, the Wellness Centre offers students appointments with nurses and access to counselling. I can vouch for how lovely and helpful all of the staff are, having attended for counselling myself at the end of last year. You can be referred by your doctor for counselling or phone up and ask. They also provide advice on a lot of other topics covering personal wellbeing.

The Library

hugh owen

Ahh, the library. One of my favourite places. Full of books that you probably can’t afford to buy, and may not have access to again after Uni. Hugh Owen library has three levels.

On Level D you are allowed food and drink, and there are a limited number of computers to use, as well as desks to work at. The short-term loans collection and a small amount of fiction books are here too. The main reception desk is here, where you can get IT help and books advice; if you recall a book to pick up, this is where it will be held for you. There are machines to return books, to buy printing credit and to repay library fines. There is also the media and sales hatch, where you can buy things like Ethernet cables and when the time comes get your dissertation bound.

The next level up, Level E, has a dedicated computer room, and only allows drinks inside containers. Level E is designed for quiet group study. There’s also lots of desks on this level, as well as the science books. The group study area of Level E also has Folios, the Celtic Collection, Official Publications and the Statistics Collection.

The top level, Level F, is silent study only, and has plenty of computers. On this level only bottled water is allowed. There are computers in the general area, and also the Tom Lloyd study suite, which is a ‘no Facebook’ zone. Again, there’s plenty of work space to take your laptop or just your books, and there’s a choice of comfy chairs with coffee tables or hard chairs at desks. You can also book use of private study rooms on Level F, which comes really in handy when working on a group project.

This level houses the majority of books in Hugh Owen, which is quite a long list:

  • General Works
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Religion
  • Auxiliary Sciences of History
  • History: Europe, Asia, Africa
  • History: America
  • Geography
  • Anthropology
  • Recreation
  • Social Sciences
  • Economics
  • Commerce
  • Political Science
  • Education
  • Music
  • Fine Arts
  • Linguistics
  • Media
  • Communication
  • Classics
  • European Languages
  • Other Languages & Literatures
  • Drama & Performing Arts
  • General Literature
  • Poetry
  • French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese Literatures
  • English Literature
  • American Literature
  • German, Dutch, Scandinavian Literatures
  • Juvenile Literature
  • Military Science
  • Naval Science
  • Bibliography
  • Library Science

There are also materials on effective study, past exam papers, atlases, dictionaries, journals, diplomatic documents and a ‘quick reference’ collection. If a book is stamped ‘Reference Only’, it means you can’t check it out of the library – you can just read it inside.

All levels have printers, and dedicated computers to check Primo (the library catalogue) and to find your library pin – which is a number you use together with your Aber card when you take a book out. You can take out up to 16 books at one time.

The More Books Campaign

more books

This is one really worth knowing about. If there’s a book relevant to your course that the library don’t have, so long as it costs under £50 you can request that the library get it via an online order form – and they will. If the book you request costs more than £50, or there are other copies in the library already, the request gets passed to Academic Services Librarians who decide whether to approve it. If a book you request comes in, it’ll be held for you for three days where you choose so that you get first use of it. This scheme is a really great thing for a library to do, so use it. If there’s a book on your reading list that’s not in the library don’t just moan – order it!

I hope there’s a few helpful nuggets of info in there about Aberystwyth University campus. If anyone has any questions, let me know in the comments!

Hello there!

First of all, apologies for my random absence from the blogosphere last week. I’ve been having a series of bugs and colds one after another. This week I have another one, and this morning I suddenly lost my voice, but fortunately technology means I can still talk!

My time is composed pretty exclusively at the moment of two things – wedding planning (2 months to go!) and driving lessons. I have my driving theory test a week tomorrow, so I’m living in that book and CD-ROM a little bit right now! Since I don’t have much student-y stuff to narrate for you, I thought I’d start a series of posts with advice about student life, starting with everyone’s favourite – budgets!

munnies

If you’re receiving student loan like I did, I had a system that while it didn’t always work exactly to plan, at least it meant I had a plan.

You’ll receive a loan timetable that tells you when Student Finance will pay you your loan and how much it will be each time. To create yourself a budget term by term, first write out a list of expenses you know you’ll have to pay – things like rent or subscription services, like a phone contract – things that go straight out of your bank. Subtract those from the amount of your first payment. Now count how many weeks there are between Payment 1 and Payment 2, and divide the amount of money you’ll have by how many weeks there are to stretch it across. Boom. You now have a budget per week to stick to. Repeat for each period between payments.

You can use that info however you like, but if you have a number in mind it’s a lot easier to stick within your means.

If you tend to spend impulsively when you have a card on you, perhaps try taking out a set amount of cash at the beginning of the week and promising yourself not to withdraw more until next week, and not to fall back on spending by card. You could even hide your card in your room if you really want to discipline yourself, though I generally preferred not to in case of emergencies.

A personal trick for avoiding unnecessary luxury spending is that I don’t buy something first time I see it – if I go away and remember it, and can think up more than 3 reasons it’d be useful, I might go back and get it. A more fool-proof trick of course it just not to go into shops unless you’re looking for something specific, but I’ve never been very good at resisting a browse!

In terms of keeping costs down generally, look out for student discounts – nus extra is the usual student card stores ask for, and Unidays often have great offers on. While this is fun for shopping trips, the thing to remember (especially when you’re coming to the end of Uni life…) is to keep an eye out for things that will be useful after Uni which you can get cheaper while still a student.

In the very beginning of course it’s important where you choose to set up your student bank account – often banks will offer freebies with the account that can end up being worth a lot. When I got mine I got free nus extra membership for three years, which while it only saved £11 on the card each year, it saved a lot of other money on other stuff.

munnies2

At the very basics, always check through your bank statements to see what you’re spending where. If I know I haven’t been very good at budgeting, I’ll go through my statement with a highlighter and mark things that I know I could’ve done without – which means next time round, I’m less likely to do it again.

As with anything, it’s all a learning process, and very few people get it right straight away.

There is loads of advice available online for student budgeting and there’s help on campus too. The union can help with money advice and if it all goes wrong, the Financial Contingency Fund is there to get people back on their feet.

Earlier this week I had a conversation with my family via WhatsApp about my week (entirely devoted to Writing-Project-Polishing), in which I indicated I was buried under work and my mother told me to remember to come up for air occasionally. I responded – air and tea.

It’s almost over. So. So. So. Strange.

But I am very deep in work. So for this week I have a quick list of my Top Studying Tips for you. I hope they’re in some way helpful!

  1. Build your concentration – if you have trouble, work for ten minutes, then take a ten minute break. Work for twenty minutes, take a ten minute break. Work for thirty minutes, take a ten minute break. And so on. You’ll build your attention span up nicely and have a clearer mind.
  2. Keep boundaries – meaning that your work stays in your work time, but more importantly your chilling out stays in breaks. If you’re starting to find yourself scrolling though tumblr/twitter/reddit/facebook when you’re meant to be working, revisit one to build your attention span again. Also if you can, try to separate your work space and relaxing space, and if it’s going wrong move – if you associate your workplace with procrastinating, you’ll find concentrating harder. If you associate say your bed with working, you might have trouble shifting the stress when it’s time to get much-needed rest.
  3. Sleep – There’s nothing like it for brainpower. I don’t mean all the time, mind. Just get a good 8 hours a night, and start winding down at least an hour before bed so you’re ready. The sleepytime bedtime calculator can help you plan your bedtimes to help you get enough sleep and wake up easier based on natural sleep cycles. Try not to eat too close to bedtime as well, as an active digestive system isn’t conducive to snoozin’.
  4. Reward yourself – e.g. for every 100 words I write, I can have a chocolate button; for every question I get right when I test myself, I get an extra minute time off at the end of the day, if I finish this section in the next hour I get to watch my favourite TV program tonight etc. Figure out what motivates you and use it. Yes, chocolate is perfectly adequate motivation.
  5. Eliminate distractions – so put your phone on silent, turn off the notification noise for your emails, if you can while still studying effectively (sometimes hard these days) turn off your internet. Do not have the telly on, at all costs.
  6. Don’t oversnack –  which is really tempting when you sit still all day, but you will end up feeling bloaty. Healthy eating helps you feel positive (so long as you pick healthy stuff you like!) and boosts your brain power.
  7. Sometimes, time off is the answer – Occasionally in an essay, you will not be able to make sense of the words anymore because you’ve been reading them over for five hours and by now it doesn’t matter what it says, you will read what is supposed to be on the page. At this point I would recommend a break – whether that’s ten minutes playing a game, staring at the ceiling instead, or half an hour over a hot drink with an episode of FRIENDS. You’ll be clearer when you come back to it, but it takes willpower not to lose your motivation in the space between. If you’re worried about that, perhaps try doing some other, less important or easier work for a while, to clear your head.

The nature of my course, English Literature and Creative Writing, lends itself more to assessment by coursework than exams. This year, my last as an undergrad, I have had no exams at all. Which sounds like a great idea at the beginning of term – no exams! Whey-hey!

Throughout the year though, you realise that what it actually means is that rather than a burst of intense work studying for exams, it requires more sustained intense efforts over the year. Not to say that exam focused courses are any easier of course!

I sort of miss exams in a way. But what it means is that once I hand in my Writing Project (creative writing dissertation) – I will effectively have finished University. Which is very strange.

But right now, I have eight days until I hand my Writing Project in. This entails wearing my comfies, drinking a lot of tea and using up far too much paper and ink, as I print redraft after redraft to edit.

All good fun. All things I’m certain I’ll miss as soon as they’re over.

Hi there!

I had a lovely quiet time last weekend, relaxing on Saturday, spending a chilled out day with Fiancé on Easter Sunday and enjoying a spectacular roast dinner. I gave myself the whole weekend off working following essay-completion – but on Monday, it had to be back to working on my Writing Project!

I’ve discovered a trick to motivation through a whole day on the computer, at a desk or in the library: good food. I’ve been persuading myself to get up by planning exciting breakfasts – like a sesame seeded bagel with cream cheese and raspberries. Omnomnomnomnom. Little things, little things.

Yesterday, Wednesday 23rd April was an exciting day for me – as well as being Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday, it was World Book Night. I was an official giver, and went along the seafront in town giving out my World Book Night editions of Adele Parks’ Whatever It Takes. I love World Book Night, and this is the second year I’ve taken part – you can find more info here on their website, and here on my own personal blog.

The books I gave out on 23rd April, World Book Night 2014
The books I gave out on 23rd April, World Book Night 2014

My driving lessons are going well too – I’ve had 6 lessons already, and I’ve got two hours more on Saturday. I’m relieved to have found I’m not just learning because I need to be able to drive – actually, I am enjoying driving, which makes it much easier to learn! I think putting off learning til 21 actually worked for me, as I’m much more interested now than I was at 17. Aber is a good place for mastering hill starts too! 😉

Hope you are all well and enjoying / have enjoyed your Easter breaks!

Reasons I love Aberystwyth. There are many. So many.

For starters, I will state the very obvious.

It looks

from the arts centre

 

like

by the lighthouse

this.

sunset on the beach

It is a beautiful place to live. Even when I’m working hard over an essay, this is the view outside my window:
view

But looking pretty is far from the most compelling reason I chose Aber as my home-from-home. There is a wonderful community surrounding the University, and lovely people in the town. The Arts Centre is a great community hub  where people connect and there’s always an interesting exhibit to peruse, a new film to see, exciting theatre to experience.

Be it glorious sunshine or battering storms, the weather is also something I love about living here – it’s a rural area on a powerful coast, and even when the weather brings devastation in its wake, the community here rises up and works together to stitch it back together.

For me, Aberystwyth is where I’ve learned to be independent, and is the place my wedding will be ‘themed’ around – since it’s where fiancé and I met!

20131230_201409I love spending evenings out, with a couple of drinks and watching friends play pool, and feeling a part of the town.

And as if I needed more reasons to love it here – occasionally, the TARDIS turns up, with K9 and a Dalek!
tardis and me tardis by the arts centre

aberystwyth rail poster