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!

 

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!

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.

Freshers’ Week and Term One: What NOT To Worry About

Written by Emma MA Creativity: Innovation and Business Strategy student

The days leading up to your first week of university can be emotional. I remember feeling a bizarre mixture of excitement and anxiety. My mum grew tearful over nearly everything I did, and I was permanently torn over how much I should take with me. I’m now a postgraduate student at the University of Exeter and I’ve moved five times since moving into halls nearly four academic years ago. I found that adapting to change became easier with that first step of attending Freshers’ week. To remedy those Freshers’ fears, I’ve compiled this list of things NOT to worry about as a new undergraduate.

1. Halls: Moving out of my family home and into halls was the biggest hurdle I encountered during Freshers’ week and for a long time after. I had expected to meet my best friends for life in my new accommodation. I didn’t. I hadn’t expected to miss my family a lot. I did. If you’ve never lived away from home then this is probably the trickiest bit for you, but it is by no means something that needs worrying about. Yes, sometimes I felt a little lonely, but I truly believe that those first few months of university made me into the independent individual I am today. I stuck it out, I met life-altering personalities, I spent time getting to know the people in my block and the people in my lectures and seminars. I made a lot of amazing acquaintances, a few amazing friends, and three amazing best friends. By my second year of university I was itching to return and found over the summer break that I missed being on campus where everyone knew my name. So, don’t worry about moving or feeling alienated by your home away from home because you really will be settled down in no time without even realising it. I promise.

2. Making a good first impression: Social anxiety has been a close companion of mine for a few years now. Some days I find myself over-analysing the tiniest of things. These feelings especially acted up during Freshers’ week. I wanted my lecturers to like me, I wanted my new hall mates to like me and I wanted my course mates to like me. However, what you’ll soon come to realise is that every Fresher feels the same way. Make that effort to introduce yourself to everyone but don’t panic about being the most memorable person in the room. The friends I made in the flat below during my first few weeks of university I never kept in contact with after my second term. Not because I didn’t want to but simply because I settled with different company in the end. You might not find your more permanent social group right away, and that’s okay.

3. Getting top grades: Congratulations! You made it to the University of Exeter and you absolutely smashed your A-Levels. Now it’s time to dial it up a notch. I was immensely disheartened by my first few essay grades. How could I go from being top of the class at college to scrapping a 2:1 with a 60? University level study is hard. I adored the overwhelming intake of information in my lectures. I lived for the buzz in the room during an impassioned seminar debate. I also found myself permanently exhausted. The good news is that your first year doesn’t count towards your final grade. Spend the year finding a comfortable balance between all the new components in your life and before you know it, you’ll be floating back up to First Class territory.

4. Picking the best societies: I joined only one society in my first year: Creative Writing Society. I attended two workshops and never went again. The society was inspiring and immensely fun but I was too preoccupied with adjusting to my new environment to devote myself to it. By my second year of university I was involved in two societies: Archery (which I went into never having tried the sport before) and Xpression FM (of which I became the Arts and Literature Senior Correspondent for the News Team). In my case, I found that I was more able to give my absolute attention to societies and society socials by my second year when I’d found my footing. Here’s the secret: Freshers’ fair isn’t just for Freshers! It’s for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in university life at any point of their degree. I’ve attended the Freshers’ Fair every year I’ve spent at university and not just for all the freebies but for the electricity right at my fingertips. Go to the fair, enjoy the free snacks, pens, and pizza vouchers and don’t feel pressured to sign up to a single thing.

5. Time management: This one is a fine art that is perfected throughout one’s life. I remember feeling incredibly overwhelmed during my first year of university. Information came at me from all angles through several different channels that I wasn’t yet accustomed to using. I was being invited to society socials, to nights out clubbing with course mates, to dinners in my accommodation block, to parties in a friend’s friend’s halls, to additional lectures, to non-compulsory workshops, to poetry slams and art exhibitions, all alongside completing suffocating masses of reading in time for my seminars. I found time management easier when I purchased my first academic diary. I used to schedule everything in my day from waking up and writing emails to relaxing with a bottle of wine in the evening. I can’t remember at what point I stopped consulting it religiously, but it must have been the point in which I’d found a sense of routine. I still buy myself an academic diary every year and I still find myself writing in it every day (even when I’m searching for things to keep myself occupied with during the summer break). My top tip would be to invest in an academic diary yourself. Use it as a crutch until you no longer entirely depend on it. It’ll be the best tenner you’ve spent that year and you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

6. Freshers’ Flu: For some reason I lost the ability to hear out of my left ear entirely during my second and third week of university which really didn’t help my nervous fears surrounding my ability to keep on top of all my coursework. I went to the Student Health Centre with possibly the worst flu I’d ever experienced. I felt ran-down, lethargic, and bunged-up. The nurse recommended plenty of rest and explained to me that Freshers’ Flu wasn’t in fact a myth. I also developed a milder strain of the flu in my second year of university. Don’t panic, watch your lectures at home from your bed, eat well, and cut back on the partying (at least for a couple of nights). You’ll feel better once your body has built a resistance to your full and hectic lifestyle.

Despite my undergraduate years being some of the toughest of my life they were also the best years of my life to date. University is full of extreme emotions which make it a hell of a thrilling and unforgettable time. Just remember to keep your cool and everything will find its place. There really is nothing to worry about.

Musings of a Mature Student – Coping with the Holidays!

Written by Anne MA English Literary Studies/Film Studies Pathway student

These deadlines come around fast, don’t they? So, with the industrial action, I find I have more time at home, so being super-organised is more important than ever. The temptation to have a break (as no seminars for a few weeks) is strong, hey, why not ditch the coursework and carry on with the research report/essay/ or whatever needs handing in next?

Well, as tempting as it is, I found a lot more useful information in this week’s reading that will improve my writing no end. After all, good writing depends on good reading…

So, there are several ways to approach writing an essay; in fact, the LSE have some great tips on their website. 

My approach is to get as much done upfront as possible: as a mature student, I can’t pull all-nighters close to deadline, which seems to be a popular choice amongst some of the younger students, aided by heart-attack amounts of red bull and coffee! (Seriously, how do you do it?) ..

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead, I aim at around four hours a day steady writing, occasionally re-checking my research notes and making sure in-text citations have the correct page number. Then I just slog at it. I usually write my introduction at around 10-20% of the word count, then I write bullets points of what I hope to discover. This helps me stick to my point in the main body of the essay. It doesn’t matter about spelling and grammar at this stage – no point in correcting stuff which may well end up being deleted in the final draft! So, basically, I cobble it together then refine afterwards.  And referencing as I go. Also, remember to do that Turnitin check!

At least, in this way, I have something to submit early on, in case of a catastrophe, which happened to me at Xmas. I was bedridden four days up to deadline, so no, I didn’t write the stellar essay I hoped for, but I did have a finished essay to hand in, proof-read and formatted, checked and refined to a degree.

I have days that I’m sure you can all relate to…you know, where the sentence ‘the cat sat on the mat’ is the brain’s intellectual offering of the day and your head is full of clouds. You feel you cannot read ONE MORE thing and your eyes do that funny flicky from side-to-side thing. I either take a break and close my eyes for 10 mins, go and do something physical, or stop and set a later time in the day (that I have to stick to!) to carry on.

I used to ‘wait for inspiration’ in my undergrad days…that was great when I had 7 months to write 5000 words, (I kid you not), but I found it a shock to have to do the same in 3 weeks….so something had to change. I got far more disciplined, and when I wrote out my timetable for the Xmas break, it actually looked not only do-able but easily so.

Other things I do to stay organised:

Cooking: I plan a week’s worth of food, make out a menu, and spend a day making meals so that I don’t have to waste time wondering each day what I’m going to eat and then have to do needless shopping trips. As it’s a 40 min round trip walking to the shops where I live, this saves me A LOT of time.

Work: Yes, I have to work to support myself, so I make sure that my reading/writing schedule is lighter on those evenings, and make sure I get early starts on the days I’m not at work. It’s so easy to procrastinate at home and to get side-tracked. It’s not so bad for me as I have no dependants, but I still have to stay disciplined and not decide that hoovering the lounge is suddenly the most fascinating thing ever!

Delegate: I don’t like to ask anyone to do stuff for me, but since asking my sister (with whom I live) to take up the slack from some household/laundry/shopping chores, I find that I have more time. I have discovered that non-University family members can sometimes find it hard to believe that when you’re staring into space, you are actually working! I have also had to be firm about Do Not Disturb – it’s easy for someone to distract you and lose your train of thought. I shut my office door and have a sign on the handle. Family members can’t be expected to remember that you’re still working on the same thing two hours later!

Socialise: I make time to meet up with a friend, have a night out, and not spend the time worrying or feeling guilty, because I have scheduled it into my calendar. A good night out and having some fun does wonders for creativity!

It’s about pacing yourself, and realising that when you’re shattered/exhausted, you need to stop. Look after yourself, and your health. Be nice to yourself – you’ve come this far, you’re awesome! Sometimes you just need to remind yourself of just that. Get some sleep. Tomorrow is another day, and aren’t we lucky to see it?

The Postgraduate life: Managing study and managing your routine

Written by Emma Anderson MA Creativity student

When I made the choice to carry on with my studies by taking on a postgraduate degree, I was left contemplating how an MA schedule would affect by routine. I also questioned how it would fit in around my current job. Funding for an MA can be covered by a government loan, but maintenance loans were scraped for postgraduate students about a year ago. I decided to work part-time and study part-time to remedy this. This way I could ensure that I would have the time to do my MA justice. However, many of my friends have managed to work part-time and study an MA full-time under more stressful time restraints. Still, I was pleased with the choice I made to go part-time while studying an MA in Creativity. An MA offers so many routes for growth and expansion that are not part of the required reading list or contact hours. In this blog, I hope to explain what life is like for a part-time MA student so that others might better be able to decide what pace they want to work at during further study.

How long can I expect to be on campus?
I can be on campus anywhere between two and four days a week. This means that my part-time job needs to be flexible to suit my requirements. It also means I need to constantly be updating my employer with any schedule changes. One thing is always certain though: weekends are university free! So, I try and keep a minimum of half my weekdays for academia and weekends free for work shifts. I also find that sometimes I end up being on campus from eight thirty in the morning until six in the evening whilst sometimes I only have a short two-hour workshop. I often extend days like this (when I also won’t be going into work) by doing some core reading in the Queens café or organising a meeting with my project team for an hour or so. Trying to be conservative with time by keeping days on campus dedicated to academia can help balance the time divided between study and making money.

Which jobs work well with study?
I work part-time as a supervisor for a high street store whilst also finding time to write blogs as a Social Media Ambassador for the University of Exeter whenever I can. I have friends who work in hospitality, friends with jobs in bars, and friends with jobs in the cultural heritage sector who all manage to study an MA alongside their profession. The beauty of postgraduate study is the flexibility that comes with it. You are responsible for managing your time and making sure that you catch up with everyone that you work with. This means that every week can vary hugely, including the amount of time you put into each component of your life. Sometimes I find myself working on a module project for three full days straight. At other times I can take on some overtime at work and write an extra blog or two for spare cash. If your job can handle this kind of variation the choice to study part-time or full-time is totally yours.

How much of your time is spent on university timetabled activities?
One of my favourite things about studying an MA in Creativity: Innovation and Business Strategy is the time I can spend networking in social circles I would normally never be able to. I have had the privilege of conversing with experts in their field. Completing an MA is about taking on available opportunities and not just the compulsory content. In my case I enjoy participating in all available excursions and work placement opportunities. I spend additional time improving my CV and making new LinkedIn connections to improve my career prospects. Even taking the time to discuss business collaborations with a course mate over a drink at Wetherspoons is all part of preparing for my life beyond academia and beyond my course. Extra-curricular attendance needs to be embraced with a greater enthusiasm in further study. Considering this when deciding how to divide your time is hugely important to the level of success you strive for.

How much free time can I expect?
I thrive off a busy schedule which is why the opportunities that go alongside with studying at university suit me. However, I still find myself needing some time for TLC like anyone else. By managing my time and sticking to a schedule I usually manage to free up time in the evenings to spend with friends and family. There is always more work that could be done but studying at postgraduate level involves finding healthy ways to balance your time between doing some further reading and watching that new Netflix series everyone has been raving about. A measure of control, restraint, and organisation is vital for all students. This is taken up a notch with the flexibility of an MA. Studying part-time will always permit more freedom in terms of free time but you should still be finding yourself as busy as a full-time student if you are using that freedom wisely.

Do you ever feel left out of major projects as a part-time student?
My entire MA group are extremely supportive and work inclusively. We consistently aim to utilise each other’s diverse range of talents and skills. As a result, I have never felt excluded by my status as a part-timer. I have at times found myself excitedly anticipating a module I will be completing in the next academic year which my full-time course mates positively feedback on. If anything, I feel part-time study has given me the advantage of witnessing my course mates’ successes and progress which has aided in my gradual advancements. I also consider myself incredibly lucky in the fact that I will be a part of two academic cohorts of talented individuals with whom I can ideate and creative problem-solve. I have the capacity to bounce my business propositions off a wider variety of aspiring entrepreneurs which can only ever benefit my creative visions. I would imagine that completing a full-time course is much the same, but with a higher intensity work ethic and a greater need to rely on your current workmates.

Whatever your choice, time management is the key to adapting to your new lifestyle pace. Adopt as much as you possibly can into your new routine and relish all the potential that life at the University of Exeter has to offer its students.

 

The University of Exeter host landmark Lusitanist International Conference

Dr Ana Martins and Dr Susana Afonso lecture in Portuguese in the Modern Languages Department at the University of Exeter.

The Association of British and Irish Lusitanists (ABIL) met for the VI International Conference at the University of Exeter, on the 7-8 September. The event attracted attendees from across the UK, Ireland and overseas, including Brazil, North America and Mozambique to discuss cultural developments across the Portuguese-speaking world.

The conference also coincided with a series of celebrations, including the 10th anniversary of the Association of British and Irish Lusitanists (ABIL), and the 50th anniversary of the publication We Killed Mangy-Dog, written by acclaimed author and keynote-speaker Luís Bernardo Honwana.

IMG_2927_A_Martins

Dr Susana Afonso and Dr Ana Martins with guest of honor Luís Bernardo Honwana and the president of the Association, King John II Professor of Portuguese Phillip Rothwell

The international event also marked the first official UK visit for the acclaimed Mozambican writer, who penned the influential collection of short stories in 1964, We Killed Mangy-Dog and Other Stories. Mr Honwana’s achievements extend beyond his literary accomplishments, having worked as Director of the Mozambican President’s Office in the newly independent Mozambique in 1975. Mr Honwana later went on to serve on the Executive Board of UNESCO (1987 to 1991), Chairman of Unesco’s Intergovernmental Committee for the World Decade for Culture and Development, and Director of UNESCO’S office in South Africa.

Keynote speakers also included Professor David Treece, Camoens Professor of Portuguese from Kings College London, and Professor Anna Klobucka, Professor of Portuguese and Women’s and Gender Studies at UMass Dartmouth.

Dr Ana Martins, lecturer in Portuguese at the University of Exeter, and local organiser said: “The papers presented at the conference were of a very high standard. The plenary speakers in particular offered insights into topics as varied and timely as the politics and aesthetics of black music in Brazil, the linguistic future of Mozambique, and the politics of gender in Portuguese modernism, setting the tone for the ensuing general panel discussions. There were also three exciting thematic panels dedicated to ‘Translating Cultures,’ ‘Lusophone literatures and environmental criticism,’ and ‘In Memory of Professor Clive Willis,’ as well as a postgraduate session and a publisher’s talk. We would like to thank all our panellists for contributing to creating such a vibrant and scholarly debate throughout the conference.”

Null_A_MartinsFocussing on the theme “De/formations: Illegitimate Bodies, Texts and Tongues”, the international event offered postgraduate students and early career researchers the opportunity to share their latest research, and explore aspects of Lusophone culture from the medieval period to the present day.

Fellow organiser Dr Susana Afonso said: “The conference was particularly significant for Portuguese in the Department of Modern Languages, as Portuguese was one of the languages which was launched quite recently, in 2014. It was therefore an honour to have hosted such a fantastic event at Exeter.”

This was the first time the conference was be held at the University of Exeter, in partnership with ABIL, Instituto Camões in Portugal, The University of Exeter, and the Anglo-Portuguese Society.

For more information about the VI International Conference, please visit the VI International Conference of the Association of British and Irish Lusitanists webpage. To learn about the conference, please use the accompanying hashtag #abil2015 on Twitter, or visit the Facebook page.