Tips to Enjoy the First Week of University

Written by Lauren MA International Film Business student

Arriving in a completely new city and starting a new life can be pretty scary, especially if you arrive alone. As an international postgraduate student who travelled all across the world to Exeter, I would like to share my experience of my first week of University. Hopefully, it will help you relieve the anxiety of moving into university.

A little thing about me, my name is Lauren. Originally from Canton, China, I spent my past few years studying Filmmaking in Beijing before coming to the UK. I’m approaching the end of my MA in International Film Business, a programme that is run by the University of Exeter and London Film School. Even though I only spent my first term in Exeter, it was still my first time being a postgraduate student in a new country. Typically, the first week for a new student will be fresher’s week without any official classes. It’s a great time to get familiar with the city and university as well as connect with new people. The following blog content will feature the things I prepared for in advance and how I spent my fresher’s week as a new postgraduate student.

  • Before departure: check all your documents

University will be sending out welcome emails in August including some important information about schedules, arrival information and fresher’s week. Try to read through these emails carefully and take notes then arrange your schedule accordingly. It will be a good practice for English as a second language students to get used to reading and studying in an English environment in advance. For non-EU students, most of us need to present our documents at registration and do a police registration during the fresher’s week, which requires lots of important documents. Make a checklist of them and try to prepare several copies, especially your passport, to save time and trouble. Although there’re lots of copy machine on campus, the first week might be extremely busy as everyone needs to make photocopies but are struggling to learn how to use the machines!

  • Arrive during day time

If you live in private accommodation, it will make things so much easier if you pick the right time to arrive, ideally before the groceries stores close. Not a lot of shops are open ’til late in Exeter, so spare the time if you need to grab necessities or food on your first day of arrival.

View from my window, taken on my first day in Exeter

  • Step out and walk around

Seize your excitement of being in a new city and explore around! To be honest I didn’t walk around university and the city much after I settled in. So, do this when you’re still fresh to the new environment. I arrived on Saturday and went out on the second day of arrival. Fresher’s week did not officially start back then so I was able to explore the quiet campus. The weather was nice in September. I still remember I fell in love with the beautiful scenery as soon as I stepped on to the Streatham campus.

Streatham Campus in September

Exeter is not a very big city and most of the places are accessible by foot. My private accommodation is approximately 35 minutes’ walk to the Forum, the centre of Streatham campus. But I still prefer to walk every day instead of taking a bus. The nice view along my way makes me feel relaxed and walking is a good exercise to help me stay active during some busy days.

My daily walk to school

The second day of arrival, I went to collect my Exeter student card and BRP. Then I walked down from campus to the city centre. The majority of Exeter’s shops and restaurants are spread out along the high street area. Compared to other cities, I will say that Exeter has a pretty tiny city centre area. But it is still able to fulfil your basic needs of life as it has the most common shops and brands. My favourite thing to do in the city centre is to walk around the Princesshay shopping centre and take a rest on the green near Exeter Cathedral or enjoy an amazing hot chocolate drink from Chococo. The M&S Foodhall in the city centre is a popular place among Chinese students. It has lots of high-quality ready meals that can fill your stomach when you don’t have enough equipment or ingredient to cook during the first week.

Walk to the city centre

  • Attend freshers’ week activities

For our programme, we have a two-day induction session during freshers’ week. The induction session was helpful and included much useful information such as where the classes take place, school facilities, course structure, assignments, language support and so on. I was very excited to meet my classmates. We spent lots of time together during the session and became familiar with each other. Frankly, I am not an extremely sociable person, especially when speaking out of my mother tongue, meeting new people gives me anxiety. But all my classmates were very nice and patient and willing to get to know each other despite my language barrier at the time.

Visit to the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum during induction

Outside of programme induction, the university also arranged a series of fresher activities, such as the freshers’ fair. I went to the freshers’ fair with my new classmates. We had some free food, enjoyed the university fair atmosphere and went to check out some societies. Going to freshers’ week activities is a good chance to connect with your new friends and you can feel the excitement of freshers in the air. As we only studied in Exeter for a term, we were not able to get that much involved with the Exeter student community. But we still managed to make some friends through the activities arranged by the postgraduate society throughout the term.

Fresher’s fair food truck

  • Go for a short trip to the beach

We had a local student in our  class who suggested that we should go to the beach and enjoy the last bit of sunshine before summer ended. He told us there’s a nice beach in Exmouth, which is only 30 min away by train from Exeter. When the induction ended, a few people from my class were interested in this idea so we went on a tiny field trip together the day after. From my perspective, the best way to bond with friends is go on a trip together. We talked a lot, sat on the beach, played Frisbee, walked around the town and had fish and chips in the park. We shortly became close friends after that and did lots of group projects together throughout the terms.

Exmouth beach

The first week of university is all about getting ready for your future study. I was quite worried before coming to the UK regarding the foreign city, fitting in an English environment, making friends, etc. But it turned out to be an interesting week. Just be nice to people, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself, and go explore as much as you can. At the end of my first week, I felt I had enough knowledge of my surrounding environment and felt comfortable and ready to start my study. Hope you have as much as fun during your first week as I did and happily survive the transition period.

How the university has supported me through lockdown

Written by BA Art History & Visual Culture and History student Niamh 

For many of us now, Covid-19 and the lockdown are two words/ phrases that have become part of a our daily vocabulary and life. However, when the quick and abrupt lockdown was enforced back in mid March I was as a final year undergraduate student in the midst of my studies; writing essays, meeting my supervisor to talk about the all important third year dissertation and was reflecting on the last few months I would have in Exeter.

This was all quickly swept away from me and after lockdown was imposed I felt lost in a void of not knowing what to do or where to go. I returned to my family home leaving my life in Exeter and suddenly realising my time as a final year student was coming to an end. I had lots of university work still due in the easter holidays as well exams in May. I had to from somewhere find motivation to continue. As a third year I did not expect my last term and the exam period to be sat at home away from my independent life, my student house and my university friends. It was for myself, in the first few weeks hard to adjust and in all honesty not a pleasant experience. I felt I had no purpose, no motivation to continue my studies as graduation was now cancelled and no hope for seeing Exeter and my friends again. I know reflecting back on this early experience I may have been overthinking and added a touch of the dramatics. However, the feelings of helplessness I experienced were quickly subdued by the university and its support.

Tutors and academics from the onset of the pandemic adapted quickly to remotely support me through my remaining studies. I was able to arrange phone calls with my dissertation supervisor and attend Microsoft teams meetings with other tutors to address issues I may have been having with adapting to studying at home and writing my essays. Those who I spoke to were encouraging, understanding and inspiring as they reassured me that everything would be ok and that my studies plus grades would not be affected by these circumstances.

Another way the university supported me was through the consistent and great effort from the Student Guild and the university to implement a no detriment policy. This in effect gave all students a safety net towards work they would submit during the pandemic whilst at home. The fears of performing badly and being unable to study in a new environment were made a little easier by knowing that the university understood what current students were going through. On social media and through email, the university listened to the plethora of opinions, worries and suggestions that students offered which really felt like we were being listened to and that we were all in this together. Taking these sentiments, I was able to complete my studies e.g. my coursework, exams and dissertation as I knew that the university understood my circumstances as well as the new arisen difficulties.

Similarly, the Career Zone continued online with webinars and online appointments which really helped me after I had finished my studies. The quickening fear of now finishing my studies and having to think about my next steps after university were immediate during the lockdown as I felt the pandemic had thrown my future pathways into doubt. Pre-covid, after exam celebrations were planned and the career thoughts and journey were meant to be put on hold as I would have celebrated and enjoyed the summer months travelling, working part time and enjoying a well rested break. However, sadly I knew that this would not be able to happen, the career worries set in and this is where I turned to the career zone. The support online for helping find graduate jobs, internships and also advertising webinars to help you apply e.g. I took part in one last week on what assessment centres are like were all readily available and free to access for students. This career support has made me feel less stressed and worried about what the future might hold after my time as an Exeter student sadly comes to an end.

In addition to the worries of my future, I was before Covid attending wellbeing appointments through the university’s wellbeing services. This was this year a new thing for me and I was just adjusting to seeking help with my mental health when the pandemic began. I suddenly thought how was I going to receive the help I was having before and may now need during the lockdown? The university made it clear that their wellbeing services were still accessible and that appointments would now be by phone. This was increasingly positive news and really helped me to know that I would be able to access the support I would need away from Exeter. Similarly, the Doctors surgery on campus was able to offer me telephone appointments too.

Overall, the university’s support for me during these difficult times has been welcoming and reassuring. I have been able to seek help from relevant services and have been supported through my final year studies by my tutors and other academics and university staff. The university has been great at moving its facilities online which I have been able to access. My fears and worries are still there however the university has been able to help me understand that this isn’t goodbye to Exeter University once and for all. I will at some point in 2021 have my awaited graduation and I will always be an Exeter University student at heart.

Budgeting while at university

Written by BA Art History & Visual Culture and History student Niamh

The cost of university for many students can be a worrying subject. For instance, I was quite apprehensive about spending money in my first few weeks at university as I was totally new to the subject. Gone were the days where I would be able to walk into the kitchen and find a whole host of foods from the weekly family shop. I now had to this myself but how much would I able to spend? When managing your finances, it’s vital to be honest about what you spend and how you spend it. I had not realised the cost of having a takeaway coffee 2-3 times a week. Many students can underestimate their expenditure by as much as 50%! This however doesn’t have to cause alarm.

The first step I took was to look at how much money I would receive from student finance. I knew my tuition fee would go straight to the university and my maintenance loan would be deposited into my student bank account. I had never before had to pay rent at home and it was at first quite daunting having money in my account I knew I had to spend wisely. After calculating how much money I would have to be put towards my student accommodation rent, I then had money left over for food shopping and leisure activities.

I had before coming to university saved some money in my savings account in case my budgeting skills were a bit rusty. I also knew I would like to find a part-time job at university which would ease my financial worries and give me more breathing space to over spend if needed or in case an emergency arose.

The next step I took was to evaluate how much I would typically eat in a week or two weeks, did I need to buy three packets of pasta or would I be able to use one or two? Calculating your own budget on the amount of food you will consume is easier said than done! My top tip would be to write down the maximum amount of money you would be willing to spend on your food shop. If your food budget covers more than your shop cost then that means more money for something else e.g. leisure activities. Sharing with flatmates or housemates with key condiments such as salt, pepper even toiletries cut my weekly budget towards essentials down.

After completing my food shop I then knew how much I could spend on the week ahead. Its best to remember that some sports, societies and subscriptions you may sign up to in Fresher’s week require fees or regular payments. This was something else I had to contend with when writing down my budget. I knew I had to keep some money aside to pay for cricket equipment, sessions and club stash. Money set aside for socialising was an important part of my budget as I knew I would have to spend money on catching up with friends and clubbing on Friday nights. Although budgeting may seem somewhat restricting on what you can or cannot spend your money on, for me it helped me organise my week and allowed me to continue my studies without starting to worry about my new financial situation.

Below are a few tips that could help ease your financial worries whilst university budgeting!

For other costs – take your weekly budget out as cash from a free ATM at the start of each week. This way you can keep a better track of what you are spending and be able to see physically, the change and notes you have for the rest of the week. This made me think twice about wanting to break into a £20 note for a £2 chocolate bar!

I applied for my first credit card at university however I kept it separate and only required it in case of emergencies. Ensure you pay it off each month rather than getting charged. This was similar to my student overdraft which I tried not to dip into, although it was interest free I knew eventually I would have to pay it off. It is not free money!

Remember when attending university, to keep track of your finances. A little notebook could be helpful to jot down outgoings and money coming into your account such as your student loan, part time work or money sent from family members or guardians. Don’t let your money worries detract you from your studies and enjoyment of university life! There are many activities, opportunities and events which are free to attend put on either by the university, student union or by your friends. I have had great fun in creating activities and trying to find the cheapest alternatives to buying things, thus saving money. Its part of the university experience!

 

How do I prepare for starting university? Five top tips!

Written by Hannah BA English with Study Abroad

Preparing to start university is simultaneously an incredibly exciting and nerve-wracking time. As a student heading towards my final year in Exeter, I want to give you my five tried and tested top tips for preparing for starting university.

  1. The Practicals: Finance and Accommodation

Let’s get the boring (but highly important) aspects of finance and accommodation covered first, as having this sorted will help you have a stress-free transition to university life. Make sure you have applied for your accommodation and student finance before the respective deadlines.

Look into opening a student bank account – shop around between options as most student bank accounts come with a variety of perks that vary between providers. A 16-25-year-old railcard will also come in handy if you will be travelling to and from university by train during the year. Financially, it’s also handy to learn how to budget and manage your own money. Planning on a weekly basis can be a great way to keep on top of your spending without getting overwhelmed.

  1. Get connected on social media

Following the university on social media is a great way to keep up to date and familiarise yourself with your campus. You can also find pages and group chats set up for incoming students, which can be a great way to find students studying your subject or heading to the same accommodation as you.

Most societies and sports clubs will also have social media presences, particularly on Facebook and Instagram, so have a look into the ones you might be interested in to see what they will be getting up to at the start of the year. Remember to keep an open mind too as there will be plenty more societies and clubs that you come across once you arrive. It can be particularly useful to join the society for your academic subject so you can meet other students in a social setting or get advice from older years.

  1. Read around your subject

It’s also a good idea to dedicate some time to preparing for your studies before you arrive in Exeter. Find out if there are reading lists that your department recommend familiarising yourself with before your course starts. Don’t panic about covering everything but remember that, even if it feels like a chore over your summer, it will be so helpful to get ahead on reading in the long run as it will free up time for socialising and making friends in your first few weeks.

If your subject doesn’t have prescribed reading lists, read around your subject more generally! Hopefully you chose your subject because you find it interesting so find examples of your subject in action in the wider world. Doing some more ‘academic’ reading will really help ease you back into the student frame of mind after a long pause to studies.

Don’t panic about buying every single book possible – remember that the library will be available to you on campus, as well as Blackwell’s which sells textbooks second-hand at discounted prices.

  1. Learn to cook

Starting at university is likely your first time living away from home. With this newfound freedom and independence also comes the challenge of having to feed yourself every day (if you are in self-catered accommodation). Before you arrive at uni, try to have a few basic meals under your belt. Beans on toast is great but gets boring quickly. Meals that can be bulk made and frozen, such as chilli or Bolognese, are ideal. While you are still at home, have a practice at meal planning for a week, which will also help you practice budgeting.

It’s also worth knowing that you don’t need to bring every piece of kitchen equipment under the sun. Start with the basics and, once you’ve arrived and met your flatmates, figure out what extra equipment might be useful to buy as a house. No house needs 8 cheese graters…

  1. Get excited!

The run up to starting university can be a nerve-wracking time as there are so many unknowns involved. Above all, embrace the uncertainty and focus on how exciting it is to have several years of new opportunities ahead of you. It is so important to remember that everyone around you is in the same boat and (even if they don’t admit it) everyone experiences nerves when they start at university. Before you know it, you’ll have settled into university life and forgotten all about the initial nerves. If you take anything from this blog, please let it be a reminder to not panic!

I hope this has helped give you an idea about how to prepare for starting university.

Good luck and (hopefully) see you in September!

Going to a Virtual Open Day

Written by Annie MA Mechanical Engineering 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing which universities you want to apply for at the moment may be daunting for some. Without being able to visit the cities and get a feel for the place you might find it difficult to picture yourself living there. HOWEVER… many universities are adapting to offer online open days!

You may be hesitant to attend as you feel it won’t be the same experience and you won’t be able to get the information that you need. BUT… fear not I am going to explain all the resources you have available on an online open day and what you can get out of it!

  1. Campus tour– it might seem a bizarre concept but campus tours are available for all university of Exeter campuses. If you are wanting to get a feel for the campus this is a great way to get to see it, lead by one of the universities student ambassadors.
  2. Subject booths– Each subject available has a subject booth that can be accessed through the main auditorium. At the stand there are a number of resources that are available to read and print, as well as students and staff members online to answer any questions you might have. It’s a great way to interact with students already on your course and get to know their experience.
  3. Admissions- At the admissions stand there are a number of resources available for students who may require help with the admissions process. There are a number of useful links, as well as staff members available to answer your questions.
  4. Accommodation– A great way of getting to see the accommodation as well as understand current student experiences is to visit the accommodation stand. There you are able to access video about the different types of accommodation available as well as listen to students talking about their personal experiences. Moreover, there are staff on hand to answer questions you might have about accommodation.
  5. Student Life– The student life stand is a great way of getting to know what its like to be a student studying at the university of Exeter. There are a variety of videos and documents on sports, life and opportunities available whilst studying at the university.
  6. International Admission– As well as an admissions stand, there is a more specific international admissions stand. The process for international student is often very different and so specific content has been created for those looking to study internationally. It also covers funding available as well as the support that is provided.
  7. Networking– If you are interested in speaking to other prospective students as well as academics, students and staff, the networking booth is a great way to get involved in conversation. There are a number of live threads you are able to add to!
  8. Support services– There are a number of support available whilst studying at the university, an overview of these can be found at the support services stand. There are also people online to answer any questions you might have.
  9. Auditorium– The auditorium stand has a number of videos available, from subject talks to student life. All presentations that are great to see. These presentations would otherwise be available at a normal open day and are a great way of finding out information about your course and the university.

How to book an online open day? Here are some useful links in signing up for an online open day. They show the dates available and how to register. Postgraduate http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/opendays/ Undergraduate http://www.exeter.ac.uk/undergraduate/visit/

Exeter’s online open days are a great way to find out more information about the university and your course. There are a number of student and staff members across the stands providing a great way to interact and to get to know their experiences. The platform also allows you to download resources that you might find useful in gaining a deeper insight. Overall I would thoroughly recommend attending!

Tips for Navigating the Start of a Thesis/Dissertation

Written by Asma PHD English student

All Readings Matter

At the initial stages when you are doing a literature review, it can be significantly difficult to be reading and not really knowing what to do with all the books and articles you are going through. I had this same experience at the start of my PhD, and every time I found myself following threads of information to other books and articles that did not even seem relevant at the time. What I find now, however, is that everything I read contributed to my understanding of my thesis as a whole.

Note Taking and Keeping Track of References

I think it is really important to keep track of all the resources you check, as it gets difficult to remember everything you read after a couple of years into your PhD. I mostly just use a Word document and copy/paste all titles in there, so it is easy to get back to it later. I have highlighted relevant sections and added notes into the articles I read in PDF form, and that was super helpful when I started drafting my chapters. I have also used a Word document to write down whatever ideas sounded relevant to my chapter from the books I read, and whenever a similar idea emerged in another book/article, I would go back to that section on the Word document and write it under the previous one. This way of taking notes allowed me to have threads of similar ideas and different topics that a chapter could include. Some of these do not necessarily end up in the final draft of the chapter, but I later move them to another Word document of ‘leftover’ ideas that could work better in the next chapter.

Chapter Outlines and Starting Drafts

When writing the actual literature review, I tended to write prose rather than put things into bullet points whenever I could. I had chunks of prose and paragraphs from the note-taking stage that I used as starting points for my chapter drafting. Based on the threads of ideas that emerged in the literature I reviewed, I put initial chapter plans that would guide my drafting. It was never possible to stick to those outlines as they are, but they gave me a sense of direction when I started writing up. I added sections and titles and got rid of others when they did not work. In addition to this, I kept reminding myself that the resources I use for one chapter might not be used ever again in my thesis, so I did the works cited section for each chapter at the stage of drafting. This was honestly one of the best things I did throughout my writing up. When I finished drafting a chapter, I was not worried about remembering all the articles/books I referred to or having to spend a long time going through the chapters and writing down my references.

All Writing and Notes Matter

All in all, it is worth mentioning that I just wrote down ideas no matter how silly or irrelevant they sounded at first. Some of those later proved to be the start of a good comparison, for example, with another author’s ideas. They could provide ground for criticism as well, or they could just be there to encourage you as you see the page has some writing on it and it just helps you go on writing down more relevant stuff.

Preparation for uni life as an international student

Written by Feilin Lu MA Translation student

Another academic year is on its way, and I’d like to give some personal advice, from the perspective of a Chinese international student, on how to prepare to start university after you receive an offer from your dream university.

Booking the accommodation

It’s no doubt one of the most important things before you come to a new country to find a good place to live. And it’s a critical decision to make because generally speaking, you need to sign the contract for at least one year and pay for the deposit and part of the rent in advance, which means if you are not satisfied with the accommodation you booked, it would be quite problematic to change to another one. There are various choices for students coming to Exeter, including apartments both on campus or out of campus as well as private houses. In general, the conditions (services, facilities and indoor environment) of apartments would be better than that of private houses while the latter normally cost relatively less money. So it’s important to think about what you want most before you make the decision. Our university ensures the accommodation of first year student and you can find more details here: www.exeter.ac.uk/accommodation. A reminder, book your accommodation as early as you can so that there will be more choices for you, and the fees may be cheaper. Also, be careful if you want to book accommodation from a private landlord.

Tuberculosis Testing

According to the regulation off the UK government, one coming from some countries needs to have a tuberculosis test if s/he wants to stay in the UK for over 6 months, and China is among these countries. You need to have the test at tuberculosis testing clinics approved by Home Office (full list: www.gov.uk/government/publications/tuberculosis-test-for-a-uk-visa-clinics-in-china/approved-tuberculosis-testing-clinics-in-china) and the test should be finished before applying for visas. And here is some information you may want to know about taking the test, www.gov.uk/government/publications/tuberculosis-test-for-a-uk-visa-clinics-in-china/tuberculosis-testing-in-china.

Visa application

Another important thing to do. The type of visa we need to apply for is Tier 4 (General) student visa. You must provide the confirmation of acceptance for studies, the so-called CAS offered by your university as well as the tuberculosis test results when applying for the visa. Besides, you need to prove that you have enough money to support your life and education in the UK. That means you need to have enough money (tuition plus living costs for 9 months in the UK) in your account for at least 28 days. The bank statements are not necessary when you apply for the visa but you need to provide it if you get a spot check. It’s hard to say how long it will take to get the result, so my advice is to apply for it as soon as you get your CAS and after you have your money in your account for enough days.

Packing

Now you have everything done before you leave and the last step is to do the packing. Studying abroad could be exiting and fearful for students who have never been so far away from home. One may have no clue for what to take and not. Here are my advice:

◆ A rice cooker. There are fewer choices for it and the functions are simple here in the UK. So it’s better to take a small and good one from home.

◆ A laptop or/and a tablet. These electric devices are necessary because you are studying here not just traveling. A kindle is also a good choice.

◆ Skincare and beauty products. Although you can buy lots of European products with a better price here in the UK, for ones who are used to Asian brands such as Korean and Japanese ones, you’d better to take your daily stuff with you. It’s not so easy and cheap to buy them here.

◆ Clothes and shoes. I don’t think you need to take too many clothes and shoes with you cause you will always want to buy new ones. But for girls who are small (such as me!), it’s not easy to buy these in small sizes. It’s a sad story.

◆ Medicines. Medicines British people take are quite different from what we take in China. It’s not only expensive but also difficult to buy Chinese medicines here, especially traditional Chinese medicines. So take some commonly used medicines with you when you come here.

Here are some important things you need to do before coming here. And most importantly, prepare yourself to a new life in a whole new place and enjoy it!

My Freshers’ Week as a postgraduate

Written by MA Translation student Daina 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I progressed to my MA straight from my undergraduate degree, I took to the opportunity to be a Welcome Team volunteer during Freshers’ Week. I hadn’t done this during my undergraduate degree so I thought that I would take part this academic year. This is a team of students that help new students orientate themselves during Arrivals Weekend and Freshers’ Week. I helped new first-year students move into on-campus accommodation, answered questions and was a friendly presence on campus for everyone. If you are progressing from an undergraduate degree, I would really recommend taking part: you get to know a new group of people and the volunteering slots are flexible so you can still have fun during Freshers’ Week whilst volunteering.

Aside from volunteering, during Freshers’ Week I also had academic induction as I was starting a new course. This is a chance to meet your lecturers and coursemates before the start of term, which I found very useful, so I would recommend going to this. It’s also a good chance to ask any questions in person. You may have to do work in preparation for the first week, so make sure you make time for this! Personally, I found it a bit difficult to get back into studying after finishing my final exams, so Freshers’ Week is a good time to prepare yourself for the academic year ahead.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Freshers’ Week isn’t fun! If you are new to the University, it’s a good time to orientate yourself around campus and the town so that you can find where you need to be easily. I would encourage you to try out different society taster sessions, there are more than 200 societies catering for all interests including media, music and recreational sport. As a postgraduate you can join Postgraduate Society, the only one at the university exclusively for master’s and PhD students. During Freshers’ Week it holds a Welcome Dinner for new postgraduates, so be sure to get your ticket!

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what Freshers’ Week as a postgraduate is like. Have fun!

How to study productively and efficiently at home

Written by Isla BA English student

Hi, my name is Isla and I am currently studying for my BA English degree at Exeter University. With the current pandemic and studies disrupted, tackling that pile of coursework you’d rather avoid, combined with health concerns and a distracting home environment is daunting. It’s easy to say ‘I just study better in the library’ but there are methods and tools out there to help you create the best study space you can at home.

Managing my studies around a busy timetable (I am part of three society committees, a subject representative and have a job alongside my studies) has encouraged me to find any resources I can to help with working at home productively and efficiently. I’m going to share with you some of the tools and study methods I use to keep up with work and still have time for Netflix and a social life (well more of a Zoom/Facetime life now).

My 3 most important general tips are:        

  1. These tips will only be as effective as you are in implementing them… yes that means no repeated adventures to the fridge or YouTube rabbit holes mid essay…though we have all done it.
  2. Have fair expectations of yourself – do not set unrealistic targets and then punish yourself for not meeting them, but also avoid making excuses for unnecessary lazy days.
  3. Learn from your study mistakes – it is ok to make changes and find what works for you.

Creating the right environment and headspace

  • Try to get up and go to bed at a similar time every day. I know you’ve heard it before but stick at it – a new routine takes a week to feel natural.
  • Change out of your pyjamas. Comfy clothes I fully support, but no-one works well in the pyjamas that they would rather take a nap in.
  • Don’t go straight from sleep to study. Give yourself some time to make breakfast, read or watch a little bit of a show you like, go for a walk or do some stretches. It is important to remember you would normally have a commute to university campus or school between waking up and studying, so give yourself some time to wake up properly and be in the right mindset.
  • Choose a dedicated study space that is NOT your bed and stick to it. Working in bed has been proven to affect your sleep patterns negatively.
  • Use your phone for break times only and turn off your social media notifications on your computer. Apps such as flora can be helpful to prevent you from constantly checking your phone.
  • Designate and inform people of your ‘study hours’. Friends will be less likely to call and distract you, and you’ll be more aware of leaving your study session to message people.
  • Keep up to date but try not to let news sources impact your state of mind negatively. The Togetherness Campaign by RMY is a great source of accurate news updates but put in quick to read Facebook posts.
  • Either Study properly or Relax properly. Giving yourself time to wind down is important and it is better to study well for 6 hours and then relax for 3, than do 9 hours of inefficient and stressful work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organisational advice

  • Write down clear weekly goals and then divide these by day. This makes tracking goals and progress a lot simpler so you can adjust your workload if your plans change, while still finishing on time.
  • Organise your ‘to do’s by deadline and importance. Complete tasks in the order of due date NOT based on what feels easier. We tend to avoid work we’re stressed about, and productive procrastination is still procrastination.
  • Use tools such as Trello and Todoist to track your tasks. A simple paper and pen to do list always works well too – I highlight mine with the top three urgent tasks to begin with.
  • Keep your workspace TIDY. You don’t want to keep ‘cleaning your room’ or ‘organising your desk’ instead of getting your work done.
  • Your lecturers/teachers are there to help – If you think you’re going to need help with an essay, ask sooner rather than later and lay out all your questions clearly in an email.

Study Tips

  • Active studying – ask yourself questions on every topic before and after you study. (What do I already know? How does this information fit into the rest of my module/course? How could I plan an essay on this topic?)
  • Always review and make note of difficult areas at the end of a study session – write reminders for areas you need to further research or recap.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Lack of sleep affects your body the same way alcohol does, and no-one works well hungover.
  • Don’t skip eating proper meals, being hungry and constantly snacking are both unhealthy and distracting.
  • Set timers for an hour every time you start a new task/topic and mark how long it took you to complete or how much was completed within 1 hour’s work. This helps with future time management and study planning as you understand your pace and workload better.

I hope some of these tips will help you but remember that different study methods work for different people and the current pandemic has thrown everyone a little off course. Don’t be too harsh on yourself, give yourself the best opportunity to do well by balancing work and relaxation time. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

Tips for the First Term

Written by Malavika Murthy

It still seems hard to believe that I have already completed a term in college. With a masters degree, I seem to always be on my feet trying to finish one reading list after the other. Before I could even feel settled, I had to start writing assignments, finding a work placement and acclimating to the weather. Here are the few things that really helped in sailing through the term:

1. Having a supportive group of friends:
I was fortunate enough to make some lovely friends from the day I landed at Heathrow Airport. As time passed, we became a strong bunch from different areas of study and nationalities who are always there for each other when the going got tough for any of us. We are a group of 6 who decided to meet whenever possible and cook authentic meals from our county, this little outing once a month got me away from the monotonous routine of study and college.

2. Volunteering:
Studying heritage management here, I decided to take up volunteering at one of the heritage sites in Falmouth. The experience has been very enriching, to say the least. Volunteering at the Pendennis Castle, I have the opportunity to meet new people every week, I have gained a few insights into the history of Cornwall from the locals and been lucky enough to hear Cornish Carlos during Christmas celebration.

3. Reach out to your professors:
The teaching system in India is very different from here, there is always a wall between the students and the teachers and never an open communication. My professors have so far been so approachable and friendly, anytime I feel overwhelmed with any of my assignments I have emailed them or arranged for office hours and they have responded immediately and helped as much as possible to solve my problems.

4. Have fun:
Take time out from your studies and go out with your friends, flatmates or just by yourself. There is so much to explore around you besides the campus. Getting some fresh air has always helped me clear my mind and stay more focused on my studies. There are many societies and events that you can participate in. I attended two excursions organised by Reslife one to the Seal Sanctuary and another to the Eden Project, both have been an amazing experience.