Choosing a University

If you’re applying to university this year, you’re probably at the stage of visiting lots of universities and looking towards choosing your firm and insurance choices. This is a pretty big decision to make so I decided to write about some of the things you might want to consider and tips for making the decision.

  1. Course

This might seem like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget about the academic side of university life when you’re visiting new cities and being swept up in campus tours which tell you all about the social life, sports facilities and societies available at a university. Remember that you’re coming to university to get a degree and you need to be comfortable with the course you’re signing up to – you’ll be paying £9000 after all!

Things to think about:

  • Entrance requirements – think carefully and honestly about whether the required grades for the course are achievable. It’s worth having an insurance choice with slightly lower grades as a backup if things don’t go to plan on results day.
  • Is it covering topics you’re interested in or seem useful? Bear in mind that the content of courses will likely vary quite a bit in different universities. If your interests are quite wide-ranging it might be worth considering a joint honours course – for example, I applied for straight History at 3 universities, but also applied for History and Religious Studies at one and History with Ancient History at another. So do some research about what different universities offer!
  • How good is the course? This can seem like a bit of a stupid question, because in one sense it’s difficult to know until you experience it, but its definitely worth looking at league tables to see how the universities ranks overall and for particular subjects. However, remember numbers can’t tell you everything, and if you can you should try and talk to students on an open day or applicant day to see what they think. At UEA, look out for the student ambassadors wearing blue tops.
  1. Location, location, location

Where a university is and what kind of university structure it is (campus, city etc) is certainly something to take into account. The best way to experience this is to go to the university, so if you can get along to an applicant or open day I would highly recommend it.

Things to think about:

  • Do you like the area? You need to feel comfortable in the location where you’ll be living for at least the next three years. This is perhaps more important if your chosen university has buildings and accommodation spread out across a city, but it’s also relevant for campus universities, because you’ll want to venture out at some point! It’s also worth looking into the accommodation after first year if your uni requires you to move out of university halls. Is there good quality student housing in a suitable location?
  • Campus vs city – there are different structures of university which you will want to take into account, do you prefer a campus style university with all the facilities and buildings in one place, or would you prefer a university in a city? This Telegraph article provides an interesting look at some of the pros and cons of both city and campus living: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/student-life/10919646/University-applications-campus-vs-city.html
  1. Facilities

Universities all have a huge range of facilities available, from accommodation to sports and academic buildings to cafes and bars. Think about what your priorities are and take into account the practical implications of the facilities.

Things to think about:

  • Accommodation: this is very important, as you will have to live in the accommodation for at least a year. Think about the quality of the accommodation and its location. Also work out whether you would prefer to be catered or self-catered and whether you’re looking for en-suite accommodation or if you’re happy to share a bathroom.
  • Practical facilities: what does the university have in the way of facilities like a medical centre, laundrette and shops? These seem boring now, but they’ll be very important to your student life!
  • What are you interested in? For example, if you’re sporty, check out the sports facilities offered. UEA has the biggest indoor sports centre in Britain, complete with an Olympic size swimming pool, so definitely check that out if you love sport! You might also be interested in media, music or art to name a few. This is where it might be useful to have a look at the range of societies the university offers.

Picking a university is a big decision, and obviously a very personal choice. Although I can’t possibly cover all the aspects you might want to consider when making your choices, I hope this post might have been helpful in some way! Below I’ve listed some links to information about UEA that might be helpful if you’re considering it as your future university:

Easter

10 weeks into the second semester can only mean one thing – Easter break! Easter break is 4 weeks long, giving plenty of time to relax with family and eat plenty of chocolate, although inevitably some work will have to be done thanks to impending deadlines and exam season…

This term I decided to stay at university for an extra week in order to try and get some work done before going home. A few of my friends were also staying for the first week of break, so we planned a few fun activities to help us through the long library sessions ahead. Being at uni without the pressures of lectures or seminars actually turned out to be really great, and meant that I could plan my own time more easily. Like the dedicated student I am, I dragged myself out of bed for a few 9am starts in the library, fuelled by copious amounts of biscuits and the lovely views of campus and the lake you get from the top floor.

Aside from work, most of my activities this week seem to have revolved around food, which I have no regrets about! Knowing you’re going home at the end of the week means you don’t really want to do much food shopping, because you’re aiming for an empty fridge before you leave. This was a great excuse to indulge all different kinds of meals, including pizza from the Student Union bar, fish and chips, a Campus Kitchen lunch and of course a classic visit to the bakery that appears in Union House on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Having no lectures meant that I had a lot more time on my hands this week which meant it was a perfect opportunity for more adventurous cooking. It’s a total myth that being at university means you can’t cook well or bake, but sometimes it can be hard to find the time, so this week was a great chance to make proper use of the kitchen! On Monday we had a pancake evening, where I tried bacon and syrup pancakes for the first time (highly recommend), along with the more traditional lemon and sugar combination and Nutella and strawberry pancakes. Then Tuesday afternoon was a chance to bake triple chocolate brownies, which then sustained me through the next morning of library work. Finally, Wednesday brought a more seasonal baking afternoon, making Easter nest cornflake cakes – so easy, but so tasty!

Staying at uni for an extra week turned out to be a great decision – I’ve had so much fun hanging out with friends, baking, and eating my body weight in chocolate/pizza/pancakes, but I’ve also got plenty of work done which will hopefully lead to a more relaxing Easter break. Now I’m off home for three weeks – it’s going to be strange not being at university but I’m also looking forward to seeing my family and not having to worry about things like cooking for myself all the time!

Hope you all have a fantastic Easter!!

Exploring Norwich

On Saturday, some friends and I took the opportunity to do a little sightseeing in Norwich. UEA is a campus university, but it has great links to Norwich, with the 25 and 26 buses regularly running between the uni and the city centre (£3 for a return). Despite being so close to the city, I realised that so far I’ve only really gone into town when I had something to do, like shopping or a meal out. Norwich is such a nice city, so it seemed fitting to have a touristy day, and explore the older areas of Norwich, rather than hanging around a shopping centre like Chapelfield or the main high street.

We managed to pick the rainiest day for our little sightseeing trip, but the lanes and river still managed to look nice! We headed towards Elm Hill, which is a picturesque cobbled street with Tudor buildings and plenty of small independent shops and cute tea rooms. From there we walked along the river to Cow Tower, a historic artillery tower (not a tower of cows unfortunately) which provided some shelter from the English weather.

After our rainy river walk, we decided it was definitely time to take shelter in a tea room, so wandered back to Elm Hill towards the Tea House, which serves homemade cakes and snacks along with a choice of over 35 types of tea! We all opted for cream tea, which includes a scone and a pot of tea. I love little tea shops, and Norwich is full of hidden gems like the Tea House.

tea house

When we’d finished our delicious afternoon tea and warmed up a little, we visited Norwich Cathedral. It was so peaceful and beautiful and also brought back Christmassy memories, as the last time I was there was for a Christmas Carol service hosted by the UEA Christian Union. Unfortunately there weren’t any mince pies or mulled wine available this time, but it was nice to look around the building in more detail when it was pretty empty, and wandering through the cloisters makes you feel like you’re at Hogwarts.

I really love the city of Norwich – it’s big enough to have everything you need and feel busy and modern and yet is small enough not to be overwhelming and has some amazing history and beautiful areas. I definitely enjoy living on a campus and being surrounded by students, but it’s great to have such an easy link to a city. If you’re coming to visit the university on an open day or applicant day, try and pop into the city for a little explore, even if it’s just an excuse for tea and a slice of cake in an adorable tea room!

My First Term at UEA

It’s halfway through the second semester of uni and it seems like a good time to reflect on the first term here at UEA. It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago I was frantically trying to pack everything I would need and worrying about if I would be able to cook for myself, and here I am, halfway through my first year, feeling like I’ve been a university student for all of my life.

Before I left home for university in September I was pretty scared – would I make friends? Would I be able to cope with the work on my course (history)? Could I survive looking after my own finances, washing and cooking?? The good news is, I’ve successfully survived the first term – I’ve made some great friends, I managed to submit my essays on time, I didn’t have to go into my overdraft and I didn’t starve. Not bad. So I thought I’d share some of my initials worries with you, and the reality of them at university.

  1. Making Friends

One of the hardest things about leaving home was leaving all my friends behind. It can be easy to feel a bit overwhelmed by not knowing anyone at university, but it’s important to remember that literally every fresher is in the same boat. This means it’s really easy to make friends, especially in the first few weeks, as everyone is really friendly and inclusive. Fresher’s week is one of the rare times in life where you can approach random people to say hi without it being a bit weird. If you’re living in halls, your flat is a ready-made set of possible friends, and then you’ll meet loads of people through your course or through any societies you join. My advice would be get involved in things you love, then you’re likely to meet people with similar interests. Don’t worry if you don’t immediately find a brilliant group of best friends – it can take a while for friendships to emerge and settle, so in the meantime, enjoy the chance to meet such a diversity of new people.

  1. Independence

Another scary aspect of university is the independence it gives you. This is great because it means freedom, but it also means organising everything for yourself. For a lot of people, university will be the first time they haven’t lived with their parents, and it can be a bit of a culture shock. But I quickly realised that all this wasn’t as scary as I expected. The joy of a campus university like UEA also means there’s facilities like laundrettes, a bank, shop, bar and medical centre just a quick walk away from where you’re living to make your life a lot easier. In terms of food, there are plenty of supermarkets nearby, and cooking doesn’t have to mean a 3 course meal! To make things easier, I had planned what meals I could cook and what ingredients they would require before going to uni, so food shopping became a lot simpler. I would also suggest buying easy to cook frozen food for the first week, because there’s so much going on you won’t want to have to worry about cooking!

  1. Work

Although you might not want to accept it, you’re not paying £9000 a year just make friends and go out – there has to be some work involved! But hopefully you’ve picked a course that you will enjoy and are interested in, and this means that work doesn’t have to be all bad! I have really enjoyed studying history at university so far, the breadth of knowledge that we’ve covered in the first term has been amazing, and it’s exciting to have lectures and seminars with leading historical researchers. However, no matter how much you enjoy your subject, you will have to work hard at whatever you study. UEA has great support available throughout your studies, such as your academic advisor, department staff or the Dean of Students. I’ve found the staff at UEA are always more than happy to help with any questions or academic struggles you have, so there’s no reason to be worried about coping with your course.

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Going to university is a big step, and it’s natural to feel anxious. It’s important to
remember that everyone else is in the same situation, and probably has the same worries as you. In reality, university is not at all as intimidating or scary as you may think it sounds and your first term will be filled with exciting and unique opportunities.
My best piece of advice would be to throw yourself into student life and make the most of what UEA has to offer, but perhaps most importantly – enjoy yourself!!