This one is mostly for the Freshers who will be joining us in September! I present to you the Aber Bucket List: Things you must do before your first year is over. (Or rather things you might like to do. No pressure!)

  • Go on a night out in a onesie: There is nothing quite like dancing to heavy techno whilst dressed like a toddler.
  • Stay up all night and watch the sun coming up from the top of Consti. The world is amazing and you will feel like the only person left in it for a few brief moments.
  • Go star gazing at the Castle Ruins. Pick a clear night and you will see everything.
  • Order £300 worth of Pizza from Dominos and only pay thirty quid for it. Be cunning with your Freshers’ vouchers.
  • Have a Death Star in The Cambrian: Words cannot describe this drink. It will ruin you.
  • Go to an Open Mic night at Rummers. Some seriously good local musicians for free! (And have a go yourself if you feel so inclined.)
  • Jump in the sea with your clothes on. (Everyone does it. Just maybe not in January or during a storm? Stay safe guys.)
  • Attempt to eat: The Hulk Burger from Lord Beechings and The Big Breakfast from the Station Cafe. (Not on the same day!) You’re young, you have your whole lives ahead of you to burn off the calories.
  • Spend all night in Yokos, Pier and The Angel and toddle home as it is getting light.
  • Go to the War Memorial and pay your respects. Some of the guys on there were the same age as you and were students at the University. They gave their today for your tomorrow.
  • Pull an all nighter in Rosser Lounge (especially if you are doing Interpol!)
  • University is the only time after your fifth birthday where it is acceptable to go out dressed as your favourite superhero in the day time. DO NOT waste this opportunity.
  • Walk to Borth by the coast path.
  • Take a train to Dovey Junction. (For no other reason than you can!)
  • Take the Funicular Railway up Consti, stand in the front, you will feel like a Bond Villain.
  • Have an Ice Cream Milkshake from Sophie’s. (They make almost everything better.)
  • Chocolate & Churros from Ultracomida (’nuff said.)
  • Have a bonfire on the Beach. (Attempt to make a sandcastle as well.)

I’m sure many of you are currently waiting on the results of A-Levels and other examinations. I’m also quite sure many of you will be feeling apprehensive about this. I’m sure that apprehension is not being helped by the well meaning, but utterly unhelpful mantra of parents/ teachers/ friends/ family, which as I recall goes something like: “Once you get your results you will be able to go to University and have a good and decent life of purpose and academic pursuits. And stuff.”  I’m sure you are also having the dreams. The “failed everything” dreams. Possibly the “naked and failed everything” dreams.

Well, in the words of Douglas Adams “DON’T PANIC” Let your parents etc. do that. There is nothing you can do about it now and I will let you into a little secret: If you fail your exams, you will not be put to death. You can retake them. It requires a bit of character to pick yourself up and go back a step and no one will think any less of you for it.

The main worry for most people is that if their grades are not as predicted then they won’t be able to go to University. WRONG! That’s what clearing is all about. If your grades don’t come in as you want, ring your University of choice and explain what has happened. Don’t make excuses. Don’t get your mum to call them, do it yourself. Ask what options you have. You may be surprised.

I am sincerely hoping that none of you will be in that situation.

Now a question that isn’t often asked or discussed is “What if my grades are better than predicted.” If you suddenly find yourself holding four A grades when you were expecting a B and three Cs the same applies. Take a deep breath and call those people. It may well be that you can now do the course you didn’t think you’d got the grades for.

Twenty-Ish years ago I was waiting for my results. It wasn’t as critical for me because I had unconditional offers. But I was still nervous. There was still that “what if?” question. Well one thing I’ve learned, and not from exam results, is that “what if?” gets you nowhere. What If? Keeps you awake at night and gives you nothing in return. “What Next?” however, is full of possibility. No matter what grades you get on results day, ask yourself “what next?” If you do that you will keep moving forward and that’s a real result.

Good luck to you all. You are all brilliant!

Yep, we were that cool!

Last week was all about the Graduations. Both Aberystwyth and Keele have proudly sent another cohort of Sons and Daughters out into the world. The ceremonies are steeped in traditions going back centuries. Your name will be called and you go up and shake the Chancellor or Vice Chancellor’s hand. For certain degrees you get doffed on the head with a Mortarboard. There will be speeches. The degree congregation will be dismissed and once you leave the doors of the Great Hall at Aber or the Chapel at Keele you will have made the transition from student to graduate and joined the ranks of all the alumni before you and all those to come.

So back to the speeches. Someone important usually stands up and gives a speech. (The mentioning of Sunscreen is optional.) So. If I was ever important enough to be standing in front of the degree congregation at either of my Universities what would my speech be?

“Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of (insert date here) congratulations. You made it. You survived all the exams, essays, drunken parties, early morning fire alarms and suspiciously cheap fried chicken we could throw at you. Today you leave the University and go out into the world. A world that is now yours to make. A world that is huge and infinite and will make this place look very tiny in a short number of years. There are so many possibilities in your future that it would be impossible to advise you about them all. And so I will give you three simple pieces of advice on your graduation day. Take them with you, wherever you go, on whichever path you choose to take.

1) Remember yourself now. And never forget who you are on this day. There may come a time when you have to make difficult choices, and you only need to ask yourself “Could I look myself in the eye on my graduation day, and explain what I am about to do without feeling I had let the person that I used to be down?” If the answer is yes, then the choice is the right one.

2) Look around you. You are surrounded by people from all over the world. From all kinds of backgrounds. All colours. All ages. All faiths. All sexualities. All these divisions are gone. They are insignificant in the face of the what you have, all of you, achieved.  Never forget when you stood side by side with your fellow graduates, all wearing the hood of the university, all other differences swallowed whole by something much bigger.

3) It is never too late to make a difference. To yourself. To others. To the world. The slightest thing can make the biggest difference. A small pebble thrown in a pool has far reaching ripples. If you get to a point where you think you are too old, that you have run out of ideas or you have outlived your usefulness, I refer you to point one. If you ever think that about anyone else I refer you to point two.

All of you, go and live amazing lives. Be brilliant. Be bright and shiny. Keep your eyes on the stars and your head held high. Today you take your place in immortality. Your name is now woven into the story of your university and you now write the next chapter.  We all become stories in the end, make sure yours is a good one.”

(I’d probably mention something about the Leopards as well, because whilst this is a serious university and graduation is a serious thing, I’m not!)

We have an Open Day coming up on the second of July. Hopefully any of you who drop by will find me on the Social Media desk. If you are very lucky, you might even find a leopard! Open days are a great chance to see the University and the Town and to ask questions. They are also a great opportunity to confirm that the place you are visiting is the right one for you.

So, how do you make the most of your open day visit?  Remember one crucial thing above all else and you won’t go far wrong. Think of an Open Day as a job interview. But you are not the one being interviewed. The University is. The University is applying for the job of educating you, providing you with the means to study, providing you with a place to live, and providing you with things to keep you happy and entertained.

Make a list of things you want to find out. Don’t just ask about stuff like courses and the library and modules and the questions you think the tutors and people in the departments want to hear.  If you really want to know what the beds are like in the halls of residence or which is the best place to get a kebab in town or whether there is a Doctor Who Society, ask. (Although try to think logically about who to ask particular questions).  In most instances the student guides that are helping out on the day (at Aber we wear the yellow and purple t-shirts of shame) are a good place to start.

Make sure you wear comfortable shoes as there is a lot of walking involved, and particularly at Aber, bring a waterproof coat. Also make sure you take time out during the day to have a coffee(or whatever takes your fancy) and chill out. If you can do it, I strongly recommend staying overnight to try out the nightlife and eateries in the town (remember to bring proof of age ID if you want to drink alcohol). University is about the whole package and not just one factor.

After you have visited, if you have any follow up questions, there are dedicated teams of people who can answer them for you. If you feel you need another visit before making a final choice, don’t be afraid about coming back and having another look around. I personally attended two visit days (a normal one and a postgrad specific one) to make absolutely sure Aber was the right choice for me.

Above all else remember: The Open Day commits you to nothing. Just come and enjoy the day and see what we have to offer. The most important thing to bring with you is an open mind.

It hardly seems possible that an entire academic year is done and dusted. This morning I packed the last of my life into boxes and moved out of my Halls of Residence. I closed the door on the room I have called home for the past few months, the final slam of the door and the key in the lock signalling the end of that chapter of my life.

One little room in Trefloyne. I wonder how many people have stood at that locked door like I did today, reluctant to pull the key from the lock one last time. I wonder who will unlock the door and move in next year. I wish them well and hope they look after my room. Our room. The room of all of those of us who have gone before. We are part of its history now. Whoever they are, are going to be part of its future.

I have one more mark left to receive and then I say goodbye to the taught part of my course. Hopefully this mark will be good enough to get me the distinction I need going  forward with my dissertation.

This week has been a series of extreme highs and crashing lows which is to be expected at this time of year. The truth of it is that although we talk about essays and exams and all the other stresses of the university year, the biggest stress of all is the goodbyes at the end of it.

I have written here before that Aberystwyth is a place made by the people here. Next year some of those people will be gone and Aber will be very different. The new people that arrive have some big shoes to fill and some grand reputations to live up to.  And they only have a year to do it before everything changes again. Before once more the doors will be locked and the goodbyes spoken.

I really hate goodbyes.

Goodbye Room

What to bring blog number two. Time to move into your study bedroom! Again this is a list of basics to get you through the first few weeks. As before, once you work out what everyone else has and what you really need you can add to this.

So here we go…

Duvet:  (or whatever bedding you prefer.) A synthetic one is probably a better idea than a feather or down quilt as it is easier to wash if you need to (“accidents” do happen!)

Pillows:  Again synthetic ones are probably the best idea.

Duvet Cover/ Pillowcase/ Sheet: Three sets is a good idea. One on the bed. One in the wash and one as a spare just in case.  (Check with accommodation in September and they will confirm what size bed you have in your room). Don’t worry about what’s on your covers- I have Doctor Who, Star Trek and Basil Brush. I am not ashamed of this. (Although maybe I should be.)

Blanket:  I have a fleece blanket which is great for extra warmth, but also good for when it gets too hot for the duvet. It is also quite nice for middle of the night fire alarms and when you are poorly.

Sleeping Bag:  Always a good idea for visitors. Also as emergency bedding (see above for “accidents”) And the occasional trip away.

Towels:  A couple of big bath sheets and  two hand towels is probably enough. Get coloured ones rather than white and then they can be washed with your regular laundry. (Don’t use fabric conditioner on towels though.) It is also handy to have a Gym/ Beach/ Swimming towel and if you have long hair, a turban towel!

Laundry Bag: Something strong, durable and waterproof. (If all else fails the Blue Ikea Bags work well.) This is for transporting dirty clothes to the laundry but also to keep dirty clothes from making your room smell of unwashed sock.  And leading on…. Sock Bags: These mesh bags are your friends. They can be obtained from pound shops and places like Wilkinsons. The idea is you place your socks and underwear in them, zip them up and wash the whole thing. This prevents your socks from being eaten by the washing machines and your dirty pants falling onto the floor in front of the person you really fancy. (This will happen if you do not use sock bags. I have suffered so you don’t have to.) They are also good if you have anything delicate you want to protect in the wash (for example if you have things with sequins or lace on them.)

Washing Powder/ Fabric Softener: This is down to personal preference but it is cheaper to buy a large box of whatever powder is on offer and use a Tupperware tub to transport what you need to the laundrette. Fabric softener is again down to personal preference but the same applies- get a big bottle and decant what you need into a smaller bottle (a panda-pop bottle works well).

Extension Lead: Buy a new one and keep the receipt (and bring the receipt with you.) I have four plug sockets in my room but this number varies from hall to hall. And plug sockets are rarely where you actually want them to be! Consider getting a lead with Surge Protect if you are going to plug in your computer.

White Tack: For putting up posters etc. The University does not approve of Blu-Tac as it leaves blue marks on the walls!  Also Drawing Pins for pinning things to your notice board. (DO NOT use drawing pins on your walls or ceiling.)

Headphones: For listening to late night music so you don’t disturb your flatmates. During exam times the University asks you to keep noise to a minimum so a pair of comfy on-the ear headphones rather than the in-the-ear type are a good idea.

MUSIC: This is again entirely down to personal preference. You can simply bring speakers for your computer and load all your music onto that or bring an MP3/ I-Pod Doc.  I personally have a small stereo which has a CD player and DAB radio but also has an MP3 doc and USB port built in. This was mostly because I have a lot of obscure music on CD and couldn’t be bothered to download it all. On the subject of downloading, it is well worth investing in an external hard drive for your computer to store music and films on. Should anything happen to your computer  at least the stuff on the hard drive is safe.  If you bring DVDs/ CDs with you it is worth considering buying a large CD wallet to keep them all in so you can leave the cases at home and take up less space in your room.

Posters/ Postcards/ Photos: Really whatever you like to put up and make your room yours. There is usually a poster sale at the start of term so you can pick up some good things there as well. The University Arts Centre sells posters, postcards and prints as do several shops in town.

Games: Twister, Kerplunk, Jenga and Poker/ Cards are particular favourites as these can be played by lots of people in various stages of sobriety. However remember that it is University not a 1950s Youth Hostel. (TOP TIP: Most of the charity shops in Aber sell second hand games very cheaply and you can just re-donate them once you get bored with them.)

TV:  If you really don’t want to watch films on your computer. However:

TV Licence:  If you only intend to watch DVDs and Films/ Programmes via Netflix (or similar)or use your TV set just for playing games you DO NOT need a TV Licence.

If you intend to watch BBC Television programmes / Channels as they are being broadcast (and not on Catch-up) you require a licence. (This includes watching them on a computer)

Check on the TV Licence website for full details of how the licence works. There are a lot of rumours and misinformation regarding TV licences and most of these are detailed on the website.

Repair Kit:  I cannot emphasise the need for duct tape enough. Get a roll. It is your friend. There is almost nothing it can’t make better.  Also bring a small tube of Superglue. A couple of screwdrivers. Safety pins and a sewing kit.

Well, here we go. The last week of term has just finished and everyone is packing and leaving. My block is becoming increasingly silent as more and more people go home. And I am taking a break from applying for Graduate Internships to write this. My room is partly packed up and ready to move  into summer accommodation.

This week I have had the first meeting with my dissertation tutor, who fortunately, really likes my idea (I have to write a Screenplay, rather than a Thesis) the first draft of this is due in at the end of June. So time to crack on with that. It is a tense wait now for the final gradings for the taught part of my course. Best thing is to keep busy.

On Thursday I have another interview which I am truly hoping is not going to be as disastrous as the last one. If this one goes well it could set the ball rolling for the future. And that is what I’m looking for now. I think when you come to University, whether it is for a year, three years or even just a term, when you leave you are not the same person as you were when you arrived. It was a leap of faith on the part of myself and the University that got me here. And I am hoping that by a similar leap of faith I will move forward to greater things.

The year I have spent at Aber has gone very quickly, but has allowed me to pause at the same time. It has allowed me to reflect upon where I was, where I want to go and how I will get there. This year has shown me what I am good at, it has surprised me. I have found myself excelling at things I never thought I could do. In the midst of the busiest, biggest, most colourful party I’ve been to in a long time, I have been able to find peace and focus. It has blown away all doubts that this was the correct choice. I have made new friends, found new interests and opened up new horizons for myself. Whatever happens, it was worth leaping into the unknown.

If you are reading this, and are in any doubt whether you should go to University, or return to University, my advice is: Take a chance. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself what you are afraid of losing. And then have faith in yourself. You are amazing. And you can do this. I know this. Because I did it.

Okay folks- this is the first in a series of blogs for all those lovely people starting Aber  this September.  One of the big things that a lot of people seem to be worried about is what to bring, so here is my recommended list. We’ll start off with stuff for the kitchen:

This is a list of basics with which you can cook most meals.  Consider getting stuff from charity shops rather than buying new. There are some great charity shops in Aber as well. Don’t bring anything you aren’t prepared to sacrifice to the Kitchen Goblins.

Once you have established what everyone else in your flat has and what you want to cook for the rest of the year you can add to this list. This is simply to get you started.

Crockery: This means plates, cereal bowls etc.  I would recommend 2 each of Large Plates, Small  Plates, and Cereal Bowls. DON’T bring anything expensive or part of your parents’ heirloom dinner service.  You could also add a couple of pasta bowls (the shallow dishes) as they are quite useful.

Cutlery: Again 2 each of Knives, Forks, Large Spoons and then loads of teaspoons. Teaspoons disappear into some parallel universe never to be seen again.

Mugs and Glasses:  Mugs are more useful. Whilst it is nice to have the correct glassware for wine, scotch, sherry etc. bear in mind that you can drink everything out of a mug. Four mugs is a good number. If you feel the need, an insulated mug for taking hot drinks to lectures is also good to have. (You will probably get a few mugs foisted upon you over Freshers’ week as well.) If you just want something to drink squash or fruit juice from, consider getting plastic beakers as they have a greater life expectancy.

Cooking Utensils:

A large Saucepan and a smaller saucepan both with lids. (Stainless steel is better than non-stick mainly because when someone “forgets” to wash up or manages to weld soup to your pan you can use steel wool to clean it.)

Frying Pan. (If you get a non-stick one you will need to use plastic or wooden utensils with it.)

Baking Tray/ Pizza Tray. (Pizza tray is great for doing oven chips and garlic bread as well as pizza. A baking tray with deeper sides is more useful than a baking sheet.)

Ovenproof Dish with lid (great for casseroles, crumbles, roasting things. A ceramic one can also be micro-waved.)

Colander. (Small holes work better for draining rice!)

Measuring Jug. (Glass or plastic.)

Microwaveable bowl (glass is better as it won’t stain orange if you cook beans in it)  / Mixing bowl.

Cheese Grater.

Sharp Knives. ( A small one for veg, a large one for meat, cake etc. A serrated bread knife is also useful.)

Chopping Board. (Get a couple and learn how to avoid food poisoning.)

Wooden Spoon/ Wooden Spatula / Fish Slice/ Balloon Whisk/ Veg Peeler.

Tin Opener/ Corkscrew/ Bottle Opener (Guard all of these like your first born child)

Three or four Tupperware type boxes with lids in different sizes. (Seriously useful for storing leftovers in and for taking food out and about).

Roll of tinfoil. Roll of Sandwich Bags.

Tea Towels (Get a couple. They will die horribly and in terrible pain. There is no way around this.)

Washing Up Liquid / Sponge Scourers/ Stainless steel pan scrubber.

Bank Holiday weekend is here in Aber and I have my mate Richard visiting. Today (Sunday) we climbed Cadair Idris, which is a short drive up the road (About 40 minutes.) My knees no longer work and Richard is currently stretched out on the kitchen sofa with a glass of wine like Ophelia. In typical Bank Holiday style, the weather was atrocious and I am currently stuck with a large bag of seething, wet, sweaty kit that is going to need a trip to the laundrette to deal with. Accompanying us on this mountain mission was my friend Tommy. We may have got a bit lost in the mist that descended upon us. Fortunately we were well equipped with a map and compass and the skills to use them so we managed to get down safely. Cadair Idris is a mountain of legend. it is said that if you stay the night up on the mountain you will either go mad, become a genius or a poet. I decided not to risk it as I feel the only thing on offer today might have been a bad cold.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we are going up Consti to look at the Camera Obscura and possibly have ice cream.

Things are winding down for most people here at Aber, but for postgrads like myself the fun is only just starting. I have another nearly four months of my course left and a dissertation to do. I was notified of who my tutor will be and I have my first meeting on Tuesday. All that stands between me and my Masters is a two hour screenplay. In preparation for this summer of writing up I have now got somewhere to live and have applied for a few jobs. Fingers crossed but I am fairly confident and excited about the whole thing.

The week has otherwise been fairly quiet, with a string of farewells, some forever, some only until September. There has been some lovely weather and an ice cream hunt. (Not that ice cream is difficult to obtain in Aber, you understand, it’s just we were looking for something quite particular.)

There is now just two weeks of this term left to go. This time last year I was watching as the excitement grew for myself and my fellow students. We were all preparing to leave home and come to Aber for the first time. We had no idea what to expect. We all had ideas. We all had our doubts. We all came in spite of those. And now some of us are Poets, some are on their way to becoming geniuses and some, like me, are just mad old men with a blue box (well actually a Leopard). But we all climbed the mountain. And even with zero visibility, the view was worth every bit of the effort.

Not just a Timeleopard...
Not just a Timeleopard…
Me and the slinky ginger goat that is Tommy!
Me and the slinky ginger goat that is Tommy!
Genius/ Madman/ Poet unable to say anything that can be repeated here.
Genius/ Madman/ Poet unable to say anything that can be repeated here.

007

 

IT IS DONE! The final assignment was handed in on Thursday. And that’s it. The taught part of my Masters course is over with and I just have to write a Screenplay. (I say just, I’m trying to be all casual about it you understand.) In the next week or so we will be assigned tutors and the fun will commence  for the final project.

This week has been a bit of a mixed bag of feelings really. People finishing courses and exams and leaving. Some of them for the last time. People who have shared in the triumphs and tragedies of the past year and that I will never see again. It happens every time. University is made up of comings and goings and meetings and partings. The same as life really. You promise to keep in touch and you don’t and then you find yourself asking the inevitable “I wonder what happened to..?” question.

There have been constant farewells and the few for the road that go with it. At the moment campus resembles something that is a cross between a zombie apocalypse of people still in the thick of exams and a mardi gras of people in varying states of relief, sobriety and wakefulness who have done. The good thing about it is that no matter what time you finish, the party keeps rolling. You celebrate, commiserate and congratulate and never mind the clock.

The weather has been spectacular (specially arranged with the sky regulation “exam blue”) and so everyone has been on the beach. There have been a few sunburnt people on Facebook (Top tip:  Remember to bring sunblock with you.) And I am looking forward to a week of R & R whilst I wait for the results of my final assignments.

On Friday night we helped Laura, the outgoing VP Welfare of the Students’ Union, celebrate her official last day as a sabbatical officer. Laura is moving to Warwick University to take charge of their student campaigns team. She will be sorely missed here at Aber.  Friday night was a great night in many ways and I received some news that might have made next year a whole lot more interesting for me. All I can say at this moment is : Watch this space!