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.

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.

Dear Reader,

First of all, I am terribly sorry I am posting this blog so late, it has been an exceptionally long day! Alright, now that apologies are out of the way, lets get to the real deal. As you may be aware, I have been spending my time this past few weeks working at the National Assembly for Wales as a research intern. As I have said before, it has been and continues to be an amazing experience. The internship provided me with a unique, “behind the scenes” insight into everyday politics at the Assembly which is fascinating on its own believe me. However, while I truly enjoyed researching the topic of education in Wales and the PISA 2012 results, the real treat was seeing my work bear fruit in the end. Today the Assembly Member – whose Support Staff I have been working with for the past three and a half weeks – used my research while talking on live television today! I must admit, it was a pretty awesome feeling! Right now I am spending my remaining days finishing up another research project I have been working on more recently. As my internship is going to come to an end on Friday, I will have to pick up the pace and finish drafting up a report before my time expires. I really don’t want to leave a half-done project behind.

Nonetheless, concentrating on work gets harder and harder as the weekend approaches. My flight leaves on Saturday for Budapest so the promises of music festivals, road trips with friends and meeting my family keep popping up in my mind, making it increasingly hard to think about anything else other than summer. I have already made plans with friends and I am truly looking forward to fulfilling my promise of finally spending more time with them. I also want to do some more work during the summer, however, that is yet to be confirmed. Naturally I will let you know as soon as something comes up! Until then, I think I will just go and enjoy the remaining time I have in Cardiff and at the Assembly before I fly home to Hungary. Take care and have a great summer! I know I will.

Until next time,

A

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

So this has been one of the busiest weeks of the year for a few reasons

1) It was my friend’s 20th birthday and she has basically had a week long celebration, including tea parties, nights out, lots of presents and SO MUCH PLANNING but it’s all been worth it…especially when we first caught as glimpse of the party food.

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2) Before coming back to Aberystwyth my father took me on our yearly pilgrimage to the Hay Festival in Hay on Wye where my father could spend the afternoon browsing through antique shops and I could spend my afternoon knee deep in second hand books. I’ve basically found all of the books I need for my course next year within the past few weeks, and now it’s time to get reading them!

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If you haven’t been to Hay already and you have any interest at all in books or crafts or anything vintage, I urge you to make the trip! There is no cost to get into the festival itself, and costs only a few pounds for parking. They have some incredible speakers there- I arrived the day after Stephen Fry had left, but I’m determined to see him next year- fingers crossed he’ll turn up!

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One of the attractions this year also included a replica of Dylan Thomas’ writing shack, which was pretty amazing- the attention to detail was phenomenal.

get-attachment-4.aspxAnd lastly, the third reason why I’ve been so busy this week (and also why my blog is a few days late!) is because the girls and I are slowly moving out of The Mill and into our new Harbour House- which is very exciting! We feel very privileged to live in such a beautiful place for three years, and cannot wait to wake up to this view every morning.

get-attachment-11.aspxI must apologise for how short this blog is this week, but after finishing the move to the Harbour House I will have accumulated enough material to focus next weeks blog on what every university student dreads- MOVING DAY!

Until next time,

Shannon