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!

The last essay I will possibly ever have to write is completed and sitting on my desk waiting to be delivered to my department in the morning. This essay has taken its merry time in appearing. If they gave marks for procrastination this would get a first. Procrastinating is something that I am very good at. Give me something I’m supposed to be doing because it really has to be completed by a certain time and I will suddenly find thirty other more interesting things to be doing. In order to give you an insight into this noble and ancient art of doing all the work at the last possible moment whilst weeping, I have produced the following:

1) Many things are bright and shiny. You will find that the closer your deadline, the brighter and shinier and more fascinating base objects become. Like some alchemy of the universe, the nearer to zero hour you get even the most mundane of objects will become sparkly and exciting. Right up until there is only just enough time left to complete the given task, at which point everything reverts to an appropriate shade of brown.

2) During the period of procrastination the weather will be curiously disgusting. Until you can no longer viably go out. At which point there will be a heatwave. This phenomena happens irrelevant to geographical location and season.

3) Other people (flatmates, friends, parents) will keep a respectful and almost church like silence for the duration of your procrastination. Once you commence your actual panic fuelled work, these people will suddenly become crazed monsters ringing you every five minutes and having the mother of all parties right next door. It should also be noted that your tolerance to outside noise will reduce the closer the deadline is. Okay, so you are sitting in your room listening to Slipknot’s back catalogue, but how can you be expected to concentrate when someone in the kitchen is stirring their tea?

4) When essays are due you will suddenly develop a fascination for random things, like documentaries about oil rigs on BBC Alba or The Shipping Forecast. You will be unable to miss a single one of these.

5) Your room will need to be completely tidy before you are able to begin any work. The room may also need to be tidied at various points during the writing process (such as every fifth syllable) Iambic cleaning is not uncommon.

6) You will, whilst Googling some reference, discover a whole world of interesting things you were unaware of, such as penguins in hats or how to make lampshades from spoons. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal.

7) Tasks you previously hated, such as doing the laundry, unblocking the lavatory, babysitting your best friends hyperactive two year old etc. will suddenly become your favourite thing in the world.

8) At least two versions of the assignment you produce during the PP will be completely surreal, unreadable messes which you should delete/burn on the off chance that someone ever finds them and has you prosecuted under the public decency laws.

So there it is. If you bear these things in mind you should have a happy and safe period of procrastination.

This week, in addition to some monumental putting off of work, I have welcomed a new addition to the clan. His name is Darwin, and he is a Platypus. Darwin was bought as a gift for Lazarus leopard, by Sam (Lazarus’ human) who had visited Australia over the Easter holidays. It has taken us some time to convince the leopards that Darwin is a friend and not a snack.

This week was also May Ball where a lot of fun and possibly some beverages were had by all and some people managed to stay up all night to greet the sunrise the following day with a champagne toast. (That might have been me.)

Oppressed Platypus. This is what exams feel like.
Oppressed Platypus. This is what exams feel like.
Sion & Sam, just getting warmed up.
Sion & Sam, just getting warmed up.

It is Sunday once again. It is still the Easter Holidays. The weather in Snowdonia this weekend was mostly rain with a chance of rain so my intrepid expedition up Snowdon was called off. The leopard was disappointed. Just as well as I have a stinking head cold and this week has not been great.

First, the interview. Well still waiting for the result but I have a feeling the answer will be no. Sadly due to the unfortunate laws that govern such things, it was Wednesday that my alter-ego chose to make an appearance. And sadly no one really wants to employ him as he is an introverted, barely coherent idiot. Still I’m going on like normal Sion is any better. this is one of those times you chalk it all up to experience and move on. And at least I still have other options.

Anyway.

This week saw me get a massive reminder of how fleeting our time really is. Someone that I was an undergraduate with, who was full of life, full of love, full of the spirit of humanity that so many people are lacking, died. He was only 42. Married with 4 children. And now he is gone and the world is a very different place. His name was John and he was a brilliant bloke. I cannot count the number of drunken shenanigans we took part in together. The number of stories. The tall tales of the fireside that are all true. The crazy, crazy nights of youth. We all thought we would live forever. We were wrong.

We found out about John’s death on Thursday. The Keele alumni page had the news. The page is called “Forever Keele” and those words never rang truer than this last week. There is a point to all this so I ask you to stay with me for a while longer. By six o’clock on Thursday night I had spoken to seven people that I haven’t actually talked to since graduation. Of course we have all kept in touch by Facebook and by hearsay. But on Thursday, the phone started ringing. Friend requests from faces I used to know under different names popped up. People sharing stories and above all offering help. Wanting to know what they could do. The Catholic Chaplain from our class of Keele graduates weighed in with support, wanting to know how he could help. And that, my friends is it. It is another example of what “Students’ Union” means. I keep writing about this.  Because it is important. And you will never understand until something like this happens. And some people don’t get it, and never will. But for those who do it is a truly amazing thing.

There will be friends you make at University that you won’t speak to once you graduate. You will know them through updates on social media. You will know them through the first steps of their children and obligatory happy birthday messages you send. But. Something like this happens and all the years and all the water, snakebite and scotch washes under the bridge and you are once again standing together. And in that moment it is like no time has passed at all.

You will never have friends like the ones you make at Uni.

You will never get the opportunity to meet such a diverse body of people as you get to meet at Uni.

It is truly the best of times and the worst of times.

In my interview I was asked about my university career both past and present and for both I answered that the thing that made it was the brilliant people I was with. I consider myself blessed that both universities I have attended seem to have the same spirit.

Embrace every opportunity whilst you can. if you are in doubt, do it anyway, because really what is the worst that can happen?

I will now quote from another Keele friend who has summed it up : (credit Mark Holtz)

“I was lucky enough to go to university when simply getting a degree…any degree…was seen as a ticket to a secure job and financial well-being. Keele for me wasn’t an extension of school, but a new home, a new family, a new life. We had all the time in the world for extra-curricular activity, and for better or worse, we took advantage of it.

There were some students who cared so much about it, they paid back in through voluntary work. Not for an extra paragraph on their CV, not to climb the ladders of political power, but simply out of love. A few of those cared so much that even after graduating they kept on giving. Again. And again. And again. Elmo, you will be terribly, terribly missed, but for every student who got home safely (albeit at 90mph) at 3am because you worked an extra hour on your shift, and for every cellist who woke up in Prague wondering quite how they got there, I thank you. RIP.”

In Loving Memory of John “Elmo” Watson. Forever Keele.

Hello there!

First of all I have to say a big, big, big sorry for having missed a blog post last week. There were reasons – but it was still totally inexcusable and a result of my own failure at Planning Ahead.

I have however been doing a great many things!

Last week I visited one of my best friends from school and sixth form at her University in England. Inevitably I couldn’t help sort of comparing the Uni experience – having chosen one place, it’s always interesting to see what you might have ‘missed’ elsewhere. I’m happy to say though, as lovely as her Uni is, I was totally convinced that it would never have been for me. I missed the countryside, the simplicity, the friendly people, the views, and the bilingual signs. I was also frequently alarmed by shop assistants giving me carrier bags – I was constantly biting my tongue when I realised that in England it wouldn’t cost me 5p! It was great fun though, especially seeing a play that she had produced. Clearly it suits who she is – for me though, it’ll always be Aber!

While being based in a city might have its advantages, I don’t feel like I missed anything by coming to Aberystwyth- simply that I have had a different experience, and definitely one better suited to me. I would have been totally overwhelmed and lost in a place so big – Aber for me is just big enough to be exciting and with plenty to explore, but not too much.

Saturday was also very exciting, as my new computer arrived! Bought mostly with 21st birthday money, it is my investment in both end-of-uni workloads and post-Uni writing projects. It is so nice and shiny, it’s made working a much more attractive prospect to be honest!

This is now my desk in our little house – perfect little nest for a writer methinks!

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With the end of Uni in sight, I’ve been determined to take advantage of everything on offer before it’s too late, and I went to two voluntary sessions this week to that end. The first was about LinkedIn, the online networking site, a talk organised by the careers service. It was really useful, with plenty of practical tips about using LinkedIn to advertise yourself and get the jobs that you want.

The second session I went to was organised by my department of Creative Writing, with a working writer currently in residence at the Arts Centre here in Aberystwyth. There’s no other way to describe this than absolutely brilliant – I really loved everything he had to say and the way he listened to us (all undergrads in the session) and took us seriously as writers.

I really was sort of surprised at the thin numbers at both of these events though – especially considering how useful I found them, I would expect it to be a massively popular thing. Stuff put on like this to help students is so worth looking out for and taking part in – the opportunity only comes around once.

Otherwise I mostly have been working this week on my Writing Project, which is the creative writing name for a dissertation. The way that I work has always been in bursts, rather than a trickle. I’ve done a huge amount of planning for it, and finally I’m at the stage that I’m just writing and writing – I’m enjoying it enough though that I think I’ll probably quite miss it when it’s done!

First thing tomorrow morning I have my first driving lesson. Eeeek! Every time I think about it several thousand butterflies start swarming about in my stomach.

Let us go back some twenty something years so that I can introduce you to my nineteen year old self. You’ll recognise me, I’m the short, chubby one with the undercut/curtains, baggy jeans and Doc Martins. I’m probably wearing a “James” t-shirt.  If you ask me a question I probably won’t answer you. If you are lucky I will grunt and shrug my shoulders. My response rate does increase if you offer me marmite on toast.

Nineteen year old Sion has just been presented with a pile of choices from various Universities. (Including Aberystwyth, Keele, Oxford, Welsh College of Music & Drama and York.) Nineteen year old Sion doesn’t know what he wants to do next week, let alone what he wants to do when he leaves University. On one side my parents are shouting at me to go to Oxford and read medicine. Yes. Be a doctor. That’s what you want to be.  On the other side, my teachers, who are pleased I’m an Oxbridge candidate are also quite keen on the idea of me going to The Welsh equivalent of RADA. (At the time the School was really trying to push its Arts A-levels.) And in the middle of it all I didn’t really want to go to University. I’d only applied because of some strange, romantic vision of Brideshead Revisited that I had convinced myself was still playing out at universities up and down the country.

And then, as they so often do, a miracle happened. Well, I say a miracle. It was actually a very painful accident involving a patch of black ice, a mountain bike and several broken bones. I went splat. I ended up in hospital being put back together with bolts. The promising rugby career that may have had something to do with the offer from Oxford was over with.  (Twenty years ago, the surgery wasn’t quite as good as it is now.) I was going to have to spend some time getting better and University was just going to have to wait. I got to postpone my indecision.

It was my Grandmother who gave me the best advice: Go where you will be happy. Three years is a very long time to spend somewhere you don’t want to be.

Back to the future. Or the now. There are a lot of people preparing to make the same decision I had to make before most of them were born. The way you do it is different, it is all online now, but the advice is the same. Go where you will be happy.  That is the best advice I can possibly give. Don’t be persuaded by bright shiny buildings or a cleverly worded prospectus, or even the promise of wealth beyond your wildest dreams for accepting a place. Go to the place you feel you can live happily for three years.

And now, back to the week at Aber.  It has been a quiet week. I’ve done a lot of reading. Taken part in a Charity Fenceathon. Been to a few meetings. Had a hysterically funny seminar on Friday with one of our PhD students who was filling in for our tutor (he’s at a conference.)   I have shared in the joy of friends receiving news of scholarships and bursaries, and the aftermath of other friends not getting their postgraduate places. I have also slain the laundry monster. Then on Friday night I attended the Bar Stock Exchange in the Union (60p for a pint of Coke, bargain!)  And I have now begun to formulate my plan of attack for the future.

I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I hope it stays that way.

Strange things happen late at night...
Strange things happen late at night…

And here we are again! Welcome. This week has been very interesting in many ways and not all of them good.

Sunday’s birthday celebrations finished early on Monday morning with us helping a poor guy with a broken nose back to his house. (He’d taken a tumble after one too many pints and landed on his face!) And then we all returned to my flat for tea and cake.  Because nothing says welcome to being thirty nine like homemade chocolate cake at two in the morning.

On Tuesday it was time for Radio Seminar number two, during which it was time to render unto Caesar. Or at least time to show Lucy the script. The great news is, with radio you can do almost anything you like. And that includes talking leopards! Lucius is going to be starring in a radio play very shortly. I suspect this will make him unbearable. I am also laughing at the fact the guy who will be doing the sound effects (for leopards and everything  else) is called a “Spot-man”.

Tuesday was also Shrove Tuesday. I was invited to many pancake parties. Unfortunately I don’t really like pancakes.  However, I have made the decision to give up alcohol for Lent. So far this has been successful. I even, in a moment of utter sacrilege and symbolism, poured the remaining half glass of Cabinet down the sink as the chimes of midnight rang. If I get through ‘til Easter, I am donating the money I would have spent on alcohol to charity.

We have been in the grip of election fever here at Aberystwyth as a new Students’ Union committee was decided upon. Democracy in action is a beautiful thing. And history is made by those who show up. Whilst a record breaking 23% of students turned out to vote, I am personally a little disappointed. 77% is an awful lot of people not voting. It implies an underlying issue that really needs to be addressed.

 I wish the newly voted in committee the very best of luck in running the Union, and serving the student body. I hope they realise what they are taking on. And I hope they are prepared to have people like me asking questions of them and challenging them to do more. Above all I hope they understand what a Students’ Union should be about, and what it means to be entrusted with that responsibility.  It is such a powerful force for good, for change, for educating and comforting, for entertaining and for uniting and not something that is simply a nice thing to have on your CV. If you have stood up to be counted. Make everything you do count.

Meeting the Minister!
Meeting the Minister!

On Thursday, I attended a meeting with a Welsh Assembly Minister. He was in Aberystwyth to talk about the ongoing clean-up after the storms and to talk to the people involved. It seems that news of our efforts were mentioned in The Assembly. I still find the attention from this a little puzzling. Yes we did something good. But it was a very small thing in the face of a huge problem. I did raise this with the Minister. It would seem that from small acorns grow mighty oaks. From one small thing, some rather big questions and big ideas have grown. Not bad for a few people giving out tea and comfort.

Friday evening was my first “Lent-Night” out in Aber. Trust me, there is only so much pop you can drink! All I will say is thank The Lord for the selection of non-alcoholic  beers and ciders in Wetherspoons, and Thomas, the lovely barman in Salt, who took pity on me and made me an ‘n tonic (like Gin ‘n Tonic without the Gin!) I also realised that sober is possibly not the best state to deal with thirty people dressed as Mexicans  all singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Then there was the rugby. We don’t talk about the rugby.

This week sees me and Lucius in the recording studio, doing more essays and having the usual essay meltdown and hopefully passing our flat inspection. Watch this space!