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.)

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!

My most prominent memory of my first open day at Aberystwyth was the fact that I wanted to be anywhere except the actual open day. It was my first visit to a university and I was not prepared for the year ahead of me (emotionally, that is); leaving home, leaving my friends and school etc etc but worse than this was the prospect of having to pack up my belongings- of which there are a lot of- and fit them into a box that I would then move to another box in which I would live and work for a whole year. The open day wasn’t as exciting for me as it was nerve wrecking- I had to pick the right box!

My second memory of the open day was that I didn’t want to leave my hotel. Ironically before visiting the university I was not a fan of the seaside, but my stay at the Glen Gower hotel on the front soothed my worries. Our view was amazing and the food was great but clouding this was the fact that I would soon be closer to this hotel than I would be my parents, and as adult as you feel entering college or sixth form the fear of change and longing for home never really leaves you.

It was a pain trying to get into the university- we had never driven up Penglais Hill and the road was heaving with parents and student alike trying to enter the turning for Aberystwyth University and not accidentally turning into the National Library or Pantycelyn. It was our fault (or my fault) for leaving it too late in the day to attend introductory lectures and tour the campus, so my first tip for anyone attending their first open day would be that the early bird gets the worm! The earlier you are the better seats you get, the longer you have to explore the university and talk to the current students.

When we eventually nabbed one of the students in yellow t shirts to give us directions my parents and I arrived at A12 in the Hugh Owen Building for the introductory English Literature lecture with Mike Smith. My second tip would be to not compare yourself to other students!  I learnt this this hard way in that lecture; a boy in front of me was explaining to his mother that he had basically read every book on the modules and had met most of the lecturers that day. It was very difficult focusing on the lecture when all I could think was how I would be completely unprepared academically for university and that everyone else would outshine me (the truth of the matter is that in a lecture hall filled with hundreds of students, no one can stand out. University is the most independent and individually focused place that you could find yourself- no one is comparing you to anyone else, so there’s no point in you comparing yourself to strangers. Everyone is in the same boat.)  At the same time a boy behind me had to leave halfway through the lecture because, as I believe he tried whispering to his mother ‘I can’t even stick this lecture, how can I stick three years of this’. Although honest (and a tiny bit rude) the boys departure made me reconsider my position in that room amongst all of the other prospective students. I had managed to find one of the only courses in Britain that tailored to my every need. I may not have been previously acquainted with the books prior to starting the course, but to me the whole point of further education was to introduce me to subjects that I hadn’t yet explored. It also offered a joint honours programme that combined English Literature and Film Studies, which I was desperate to pursue.  In that sense I was very lucky. Unlike the boy who left the lecture hall early, I would advise you to attend and sit through as many introductory lectures as you can because they may present you with opportunities that you hadn’t come across in the prospectus or on the university website. It also gives you a glimpse of how you will be taught over the next three years. Luckily for me I could listen to Mike Smith’s lectures all day, particularly his ones on Shakespeare. He is a very good lecturer!

When we left the lecture hall my parents insisted that we visit the university accommodation. Aberystwyth University allows students to take you around the accommodation so that you can listen to the opinions of people who had actually lived there. I can’t remember the reason why we didn’t attend any of these tours but in a way I am grateful that I hadn’t. I was eventually placed in Pantycelyn Halls of Residence, which is primarily the Welsh Speakers Halls of Residence.  A friend of mine had been on the tour and had expressed his dislike for Pantycelyn when we discussed the possibility of my living there. Although if I’m honest none of my friends had any real liking towards Aberystwyth, which made me question whether it was the place for me or if I should aim for the universities at the top of the league tables. This brings me on to my third tip: go with your gut! I cannot imagine what my life would have been like had I buckled under the pressure of other peoples opinions and attended a different university.  I can’t imagine not knowing any of the friends I had made in Pantycelyn, I can’t imagine not having worked in Siop y Pethe or catching a glimpse of the coast walking to my lectures.  Looking back, the best thing I did on my open day was to forgot to attend the accommodation tour. If I had I probably would have declined my offer to live in Pantycelyn  and chosen accommodation that  looked a bit fancier or was the most popular among students.  I have another blog planned where I discuss Pantycelyn but for now all I will say is that I was placed in a perfectly situated box.

My fourth tip would be… DON’T PANIC! All of the decisions you’ve made in the months leading up to the start of the academic year aren’t necessarily permanent. If you are uncomfortable in your accommodation there is always the option to move residency; if you aren’t enjoying your course there is a period of time where you can discuss the option of changing modules or courses; if you really dislike the university and it turned out to be nothing like you thought it would be on the open day then you can always try again next year. But my fifth and final piece of advise is that you give it a chance. On my open day I was walking around with the opinions of other people weighing me down and even when I was making the long drive with my family on the day I moved here, I still had those voiced in my head telling me that I was unprepared and that my accommodation would be terrible and I promised myself that if I wasn’t 100% happy in the first two weeks of living in Aberystwyth I would drop out and try again next year. Two years later I am embarking on my third and final year at what everyone else told me would be the worst choice I had made, when actually it was the best place for me to be. All I had to do was filter all of the voices in my head until it was just mine left, because it is your opinion that matters at the end of the day.

So if anyone is reading this and planning to visit any open days just remember to be as selfish as you possibly can, because you are the one who will have to walk the university halls and streets of this new town and if your gut is telling you that the place is alright and the course is interesting, don’t let anyone else spoil what could be the best decision you’ve ever made.