Summer is over but a new chapter of my life is beginning, I have just started my second-year reading History and Politics at Queen Mary. As I am no longer new to the university, finding my way around campus and adjusting to my new timetable is easier. The campus at Queen Mary includes the teaching buildings and accommodation on one site. Below is an outline of how I spent my first Wednesday in second year – an example of a day in my life:
8:00 am: My alarm goes off, but it’s bit early for me, so, with time on my side, I stay in bed a little longer.
9:00 am: Finally, having mustered up the energy, I wake up and get ready to go.
10 am: To shake the cobwebs away and prepare myself for the day ahead, I did a quick session in the gym. Queen Mary has its own gym, the Qmotion sport and Fitness Centre, and I used this last year when living in university accommodation (halls). However, now that I have moved into private accommodation, a rented flat a short distance from campus, my new, local gym is more practical to get to, but has equally good facilities and customer service.
Image 1: Me on the roof of my flat, just before heading to the gym.
Midday: After walking to campus, I arrive at my History lecture. A lecture is a talk by an academic on a given subject, where students are expected to take notes. Class sizes are a lot larger than in secondary school, with potentially over 100 students attending. Today’s focus was early German history, from its formation to World War 2. I’ll spare you the specific details today, but (spoiler alert) it didn’t end well.
1pm: Straight after this I went to a free taster session for Fencing, one of Queen Mary’s 60 sports teams, having signed up at the Welcome Fair. During the 2-day event the full range of Queen Mary’s 200 plus societies are showcased and students can sign up to the societies they are interested in. It was a quick and fun introduction to Fencing’s basic techniques aimed at novices, like myself, of any academic year, who wanted to try out a new sport before fully committing to it (I have since signed up for the full year).
2.30 pm: I then went to Queen Mary’s Mild End Library, where I printed off, read and made notes on my lecture readings. As part of my degree I am expected to read around my subject independently to supplement the lecture so that I can participate in in-depth discussion, in much smaller groups, during the seminar tomorrow.
5.45 pm: Finally, time for dinner! I usually make my own meals, as it is cheaper and healthier than ready meals or take aways, today I had Chicken in a satay sauce and noodles (image 2).
7 pm: Over the course of my first year, I made many new friends for life; some were people who I lived with and others I made through my course. A few of them have become my new flatmates for this year. With my work finished for today I could enjoy some downtime with them. It wasn’t all relaxing though, as our game of Mario Kart Wii got very intense (image 3), although I’m pleased to say that I eventually won the race. Afterwards, we went out socialising.
11.30 pm: Exhausted, we returned home and swiftly went to bed (image 4).
Lectures, seminars, tutorials… lost in the University jargon? I remember thinking to myself “a lecture is something that my mum gives me when I’ve done something wrong. I don’t like the sound of some mad University professor shouting at me in an attempt to make me learn.” It is now safe to say that I had completely no idea of what to expect from teaching at University; films such as Legally Blonde gave me a completely misconceived preconception of what it is actually like to be taught at University.
From my experiences as a Student Ambassador, it seems that I was not alone in my confusion over the teaching terms, and many prospective applicants have questions over the teaching process. In fact, one of the greatest transitions when moving from Sixth Form or College to University is the way in which you are taught. Whilst you are expected to devote a considerable amount of time to independent study throughout a University degree, you are also taught in ‘lectures, seminars and tutorials’: here are what the terms actually mean.
For many of you, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about University is lectures. Essentially, a lecture involves a professor speaking about a particular topic in a large hall. There are often between 50 and 250 students in a lecture; meaning that lectures take the form of a talk about a subject, rather than an interactive discussion or question and answer session. Lectures are designed to give you an overview of a subject, and typically last around 50 minutes. You are then expected to undertake further reading. Most lecturers are specialists in the subjects and at the forefront of their fields, which allows you to find out about the latest research and the academic’s own perspective on the matter.
During lectures, the lecturer generally uses handouts, PowerPoint slides or a whiteboard to help guide you through what they are saying. My advice would be to make notes from these materials, and build up your notes in accordance with what they are saying. Most students choose to make notes on their laptops during lectures, as lectures are usually delivered at a fast pace. However, to get the most out of lectures, you are best to adopt to your lecturer’s style and don’t worry if you miss a few things as further reading will fill in the gaps. The important thing is to turn up on time, gain an introductory understanding of the topic and make notes for future reference.
Tutorials take the form of smaller group meetings which give you the opportunity to discuss a topic in depth. At Queen Mary, each tutorial generally has around 10 people, lasts for 50 minutes and is scheduled once a week for each module that you are studying. Tutorials are led by an academic member of staff, who will set a reading schedule and questions for each tutorial. Tutorials give you the opportunity to ask questions and share your own ideas, and are therefore a vital part of each course programme.
Before each tutorial, do your reading! You’ve probably heard the saying “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”; this is unfortunately true when it comes to tutorials. There is nothing worse than sitting there clueless, unable to participate in the discussion and benefit from what other students are saying. Most tutorial leaders also set questions in advance which you should also attempt prior to each tutorial. Whilst you may struggle to answer them, a tutorial is designed to challenge you so don’t panic. During your tutorial, you will be given the chance to discuss answers and ask any questions you may have from the work. Tutorials may also be skills based, and give you important tips on how to approach questions as well as vital exam advice to really boost your learning.
A University seminar is somewhat between a lecture and a tutorial. Seminars are generally taught for more specialist modules and can last anywhere between 50 minutes and a few hours. They are usually led by a specialist in the field, but in a smaller format than in a lecture. In a seminar, you can therefore expect to be taught by an academic, but there is also a degree of opportunity to interact and ask questions. Prior to each seminar, you are often given reading and questions which will form the basic outline of the seminar. The seminar leader will then talk you through the subject in a similar format to a lecture and will often ask additional questions regarding interesting or controversial points.
A seminar is designed to help you develop your independent learning skills, as some seminars do not follow a lecture schedule as you are expected to undertake your own reading on the topic beforehand. During the seminar, you can then explore the material in greater detail than a lecture would allow for as the format allows for a greater degree of interaction and personal opinion. As a consequence, seminars are generally tailored towards an individual group; whilst the academic has a topic and an outline for the session, they often revolve around points which members of the group wish to explore further. My advice would be to prepare, participate and probe into the subject after the seminar to really make the most out of University learning.
Fundamentally, lectures, tutorials and seminars are there to help guide your learning throughout your University experience. Although lectures, tutorial and seminars are broadly similar across most universities, my explanations are based upon my experiences of studying law here at Queen Mary. Whilst other Universities may differ slightly in size, structure and delivery, the purpose and format remains largely similar to Queen Mary.
With results day only one month away and the honeymoon period of lazy summer days coming to an end, the countdown to the big day is on. From my experiences, A-Level results day really was one of the most nerve wracking events of my life, as it marked the end of 14 years of hard studying and determined the next chapter in my life. Whilst it is normal to experience feelings of anxiety and confusion regarding the results day process, my top tips to prepare for A-Level results day will hopefully ease those nerves and ensure that you’re prepared for all contingencies.
Firstly, make sure that all your personal details on UCAS are up to date. Whether your fortunes bring good news or bad news on the big day, it is vital that you actually receive the news! Ensure that you login to UCAS in advance, update your contact details if needed and have your track sign in details ready for the day.
Check how your exam results are obtained by your chosen universities. Normally, UCAS sends your results directly to your chosen university, who will then either accept or reject your place. However, this isn’t always the case so make sure to check if there are any steps you must take to secure your place at University.
Compose a list of important phone numbers and contact details. Specifically, I would advise writing down the phone number to the admissions departments for your top-choice university, insurance choice university and the UCAS clearing hotline.
Plan for what you expect in advance. Whilst things could go either way on the big day, start preparing for university life even before you get your results. For example, make arrangements including student finance and opening a student bank account way in advance, as these details can be easily changed wherever you end up.
Finally, don’t forget to organise the small details to stop the last-minute panic. How will you get to your school? What time does your school open? Is your mobile phone fully charged? Organising as much as you can before you actually receive the envelope will give you the greatest chance of success, whatever your results.
Clear your schedule
One of the most important things on results day is ensuring that you are actually free. It may sound ridiculous, but keep the entire day free to allow you to celebrate all those years of hard study or have the optimal chance to make the most out of your situation. Check with your school or college what time they open for you to collect your results and attempt to get there for that time. Also, remember that UCAS Track opens at 8am on the big day, and try to log in as soon as possible to check whether you have got into your first choice university or need to make alternative plans.
Unfortunately, things don’t always go to plan. If you haven’t achieved the results you were hoping for, there are many opportunities to get a place at university through Clearing. Clearing is a match-making service, whereby UCAS matches students who do not have a university offer with university courses which still have vacancies. Clearing is officially open from July to September each year, and some universities list their vacancies in advance of results day. However, it’s important to remember that the majority of vacancies are posted on results day itself. For an official guide to Clearing, check out the UCAS Clearing guide at: https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/apply-and-track/results/no-offers-learn-how-clearing-works
If you haven’t met your grades, the first thing you should do is call up your chosen university anyway as they may still accept you or offer you an alternative course. Failing this, begin searching through UCAS Clearing to find a suitable match. Once you have discovered courses you are interested in which have places available, contact the admissions department directly to apply. I would advise talking to universities directly and researching them fully to ensure that you make the right choice. Here at Queen Mary, we will be operating a Unibuddy Clearing service. The Unibuddy Clearing service will provide an instant chatbox with our team of Ambassadors to guide you through any questions you may have about Queen Mary and hopefully bring some joy if you have received bad news.
Whilst many people prepare for the worst with regards to results day, it is also advisable to prepare for the best as there is a possibility that you could do better than expected. Perhaps, you haven’t applied to your dream university because you didn’t think your grades were good enough. Perhaps you’re now having doubts about your first choice after having received your results as they are better than expected. Essentially, Adjustment is the opposite of Clearing. It enables you to hold your offer with your first choice university whilst applying to other available options which match the grades you have achieved. For an official guide to the Adjustment process, check out the UCAS Adjustment page at: https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/apply-and-track/results/ucas-adjustment-%E2%80%93-if-you%E2%80%99ve-done-better-expected
If you do choose to use the Adjustment process, remember that you have only 5 days to find an alternative place and make a formal agreement with your latest choice and that this decision is confirmed through UCAS. Unfortunately, there is no official listings for Adjustment vacancies, so you must call universities directly to explain your situation and apply for a place. Also note that Adjustment simply gives high achieving students the opportunities to open more doors; applying to a ‘better’ university does not necessarily mean that the university will be better for you as an individual.
Finally remember that all the hard work is done. The grades that you have achieved are no longer within your control so worrying about them is simply wasted energy. Despite my words of wisdom, I remember pacing backwards and forwards in my bedroom the night before results day, counting down the minutes until I knew my fate; causing myself unnecessary stress for no reason whatsoever. Instead, I would now recommend following the advice of one of my favourite professors and watching the abundancy of cat videos on Youtube or contemplating the Seven Wonders of the World to alleviate the anxiety.
As I excitedly wait for my exam results, I thought this would be a great opportunity to tell you all about the year-long industrial placement I managed to secure starting from this summer. One of my current main interests is to do with the industry of digital health. This industry encompasses many different sectors which includes wearable devices connected to mobile apps, digitized patient health records, virtual reality and many more! Imagine being able to have a device which measures your heart rate while being connected to your mobile phone. This is an example of one thing I could be expected to do during my internship.
Image 1: An example of a wearable device and mobile app to measure heart rate by a company called Under Armour (this is not the exact same wearable device I will be using during my internship).
What did I do to secure my internship?
Securing my internship involved being very proactive – this is a must have characteristic for everyone! Through sending speculative emails for internship opportunities, I was accepted by the company based on my skills set and previous experience on my CV. I was then asked to attend an interview which I did and was able to complete successfully. This brings me to my next point which is to always be prepared. Without previous preparation of tailoring my CV to the companies I was applying to, as well as anticipating possible interview questions I may be asked, I may not have been able to secure this internship in the first place. QMUL was very helpful during the process of my preparations, where in particular, the departmental specific industrial manager for my course helped improve my CV, as well as gave me advice on how to prepare for interviews. For example, one useful tip for tailoring a CV I used was checking the company website for current roles and reading job descriptions. In this way, I was able to ensure the skills and experience I outlined on my CV were aligned with what the company was looking for. In regards to interviews, one main tip was to understand the power of pausing for thought when asked a question during an interview – I used to think pausing to think about how to answer a question was a bad thing as it may show a lack of knowledge to the interviewer.
I cannot wait for my internship to begin this summer, where I will finally get to apply the current knowledge I have gained during my studies. In addition, the fact that I will be helping to improve the lives of people through the work I will be carrying out during my internship makes it even more motivating!
Exams are finally done and there goes my first year! It is crazy to think that being in a three-year course would eat up a lot of time but now I’m done with one-third of the way as we speak. In the grand scheme, life passes by in the blink of an eye. I would honestly say this year has been one of the greatest years in my life. It started from coming here alone without anyone that I know, a shy Indonesian kid that tried to make his very first friend. I went through thick and thin with my closest friends that eventually found me, and helped me with the struggles that I face, may it be my studies or even my relationship problems! I’ve got to learn that there are good people out there that become your good friends and that you can depend on them regardless of many circumstances.
I even joined clubs here that promoted my physical well-being, simultaneously allowing me to experience further university life and what it feels to be like to be in an international environment. I managed to even experience working part-time in a foreign country, and performed several gigs around London with my band. However, we should all keep in mind that this would not be able to be achieved if all we do is stay in our comfort zone. Reach out of your comfort zone – be tired, be ambitious, be stressed, and in the long-run, you will realise that you have become a stronger version of yourself, and that everything done was worth it. Now that my first year is over, I can’t wait to see what lies ahead in my second year!
On the 19th of May, at exactly 12:00 my final exam was over, marking the end of the academic year. As much as I am looking forward to summer and being a relatively stress-free human for a few months; I am feeling particularly reflective. As well as experiencing all the typical student scenarios; coffee induced late nights in the library, intoxicated Wednesday evenings at the student’s union and subsequently rocking up to your Thursday 9am lecture half still in your pyjamas at 9:10; the most rewarding and exciting moments of the year, are a collation of completely unexpected, spontaneous and terrifying scenarios. Here are a few of my favourite:
The Time my Grandmother Came to London and Got Very Mad at Theresa May
I had an unexpected phone call off my mum one Wednesday morning, explaining that my Nan and her two friends would be travelling to London to take part in a protest. I was instructed to go and ensure that she “didn’t get herself into any trouble.” Assuming this was a slight exaggeration on my mum’s behalf, I arrived at Parliament Square with intentions of a relatively calm afternoon with my Nan. However, when I emerged from Westminster Tube Station, all I could see was thousands of women draped in purple sashes labelled “WASPI”, yelling, singing and waving their fists towards the Houses of Parliament. A few hours later I found myself in the heart of that crowd, with my Nan, learning about their struggle and chanting along with them. After living in London for two years, my first genuine experience at a protest was completely accidental but a completely irreplaceable adventure.
The Time I Got Lost at 4am We were somewhere in central London, it was 4am, I was exhausted, my friend had just lost her Oyster card, our phones were on low battery, and we weren’t entirely sure of where to get our next bus from. We decided to walk down the road towards the street map, and stopped to check the name of the street we were on. Tired, lost and so very ready to be at home in bed, we both looked up at the street name. Turn Again Lane. London was surely mocking us. We looked at each other, both perplexed but desperate enough to be willing to take advice from a street sign, without any exchange of words, we turned around and began walking in the opposite direction. As if it were a miracle, within 30 seconds we could see our bus stop and within a few minutes we were on our bus, driving through the city centre. It became clear that being lost in central London isn’t actually something to be hugely concerned about; I mean, I wouldn’t suggest looking to inanimate objects for advice; however, the number of maps, night busses, and people in the similar situations as you almost ensure that there is a way for you to arrive home safely.
The Time I spent 76 Minutes Stuck in a Lift Living on the 5th floor meant that, occasionally, I had to overcome my slightly irrational fear of lifts. One morning I was supposed to be travelling to South Wales for a family party and I was running extremely late. I hopped into the lift with my shoes still untied and clothes falling out of my not very well packed bag. I was so preoccupied with composing myself that I failed to recognise that the lift was not moving. It wasn’t until the lights turned off that it dawned on me; I was stuck. None of the buttons were working. Everyone I phoned was busy. After being stuck for 15 minutes, I had to call the fire brigade. They arrived swiftly but were at a loss when considering possible ways to get me out. When it got to the half hour mark, I had stressed, cried, gotten frustrated with myself for being lazy and not taking the stairs, called my mum, and finally, accepted the fact that I was probably going to spend the majority of my day completely alone in a glorified box. One of the firemen stayed outside the lift the entire time, and we discussed a variety of topics from my increasing levels of hunger to the British weather; until finally, after 76 minutes, I was released.
From my first experience calling 999 to accidentally protesting the rising age of pensions with my 60-year-old grandmother, this year has been a series of peculiar events; but I honestly don’t think I would change a thing. Soon I’ll begin organising my Summer; even though knowing my luck, none of it will go to plan. I look forward to the slightly terrifying, unsuspected chaos that will almost definitely unfold over the next few months.
When the revision period starts, this is an opportunity for me to test my knowledge on everything I have learnt, and identify any gaps in my current understanding. In the past I may have dreaded the revision period due to the natural stresses that exams can cause, but now I am more relaxed which mainly comes down to giving myself regular breaks when revising and rewarding myself daily for hard work. A typical revision day for me involves treating my day as if I am going to university. I start revising around 9am until 6pm, taking regular breaks when needed. I first start with the most difficult module, as I feel mentally fresh at the start of the day, and continue with other modules later. In general, I find studying 2 modules a day to be optimum for myself although other people may find this to be different.
Image 1: This is an example of one of many study areas at QMUL which I use to study.
Once I have finished revising for the day, I always make sure to reward myself. Psychologically, this makes me feel much better about revising because I always know I will have time for myself if I work hard. Therefore, I am more likely to be focused entirely on revision when studying, and completely switch off from studying mode when having fun. Another reason why I always reward myself is that this gives my mind a chance to relax. I like to think of my mind as a funnel which I fill with information, but there is only so much information I can absorb and process. In this case, feeling overwhelmed would be equivalent to the funnel overflowing, while having time to relax would be the funnel emptying so that next time I am ready to absorb new information. If I could share my top 3 tips when it comes to revising I would say the following: 1) Always try to make your study notes easily accessible 2) Always try to keep your study area tidy – Think “Clear desk, clear mind” 3) As long as you tried your best there is nothing more you can do when it comes to revising.
Image 2: Don’t forget to relax!
Revision is meant to challenge you and ensure you are well prepared for an exam. It is also completely normal to feel stressed at times. Why not try rewarding yourself more next time? You may even be surprised to find you actually study better and more efficiently as well. Evidence has actually shown that having time for yourself especially when revising, could increase your ability to retain information!
Advice on how to get the most out of your revision, from information on visual aids to what foods you should be eating, is available everywhere. As someone who is prone to stress, I often feel overwhelmed with everything that I am told I “should” be doing whilst revising.After years of trial and error, I have found a few things that really work for me:
1.Mathematics can be intense and overwhelming so I find it incredibly useful to take a few hours to remind myself why I’m doing the degree.If I’m finding a module particularly wearing I’ll find an article, book or video loosely based on the subject to spark my interest again.For example, after reading through my probability notes for a few hours yesterday and very almost losing the will to live, I decided to watch a video by Vsauce about the maths behind shuffling a deck of cards (which, by the way, is mind blowing).
2.Finding a suitable place to revise was actually a bit issue for me.At home I get too easily distracted but I can’t deal with the silence in the library.Coffee shops were my saviour.When I’m struggling to revise, I walk to a local coffee shop, order myself a drink and set out all my revision on a little table.I enjoy working within a lightly bustling area; I can concentrate well but also when I need a break I can get some fresh air and take a stroll.Obviously, the big upside to working in a café is the possibility of a constant supply of caffeine which is extremely alluring.
3.One major issue I used to have whilst studying for exams was confidence.I would always compare my work and results to my friends’ and subsequently be far too hard on myself.During exam season, I find it useful to remember that people work at different paces and revise in diverse ways.It is for this reason I tend to steer clear of ‘group revision’ as I know I am more comfortable going through things at my own speed.
4.Finally, I find it most useful to be ridiculously organised during exam season.Revision timetables are my strength, however I must remind myself to be realistic.If I had followed the first timetable I had made for myself this year I’d be clocking a solid ten hours of revision a day, and subsequently, probably would have died after about a week.Setting myself unattainable goals is a bad habit; I am never going to be doing ten hours a day and that is completely fine.I find it important to set myself reachable goals at the end of each week and if I was unable to finish everything one week I go back and assess what the issues are.
There is roughly twenty-two days, one hour and 35 minutes until my first exam.I am soon to be completely submerged in scrap notes, past papers and post-it notes. My hands are decorated with black ink smudges.I am simultaneously completely exhausted and also experiencing a caffeine-induced spark of motivation.My brain seems to be completely incapable of completing any tasks that aren’t maths related; for instance, after making a cup of tea, I proceeded to put the milk in the cupboard, tea bags in the fridge and spoon in the bin.
Revision sucks. There is no point in sugar coating it. However now that I have found my own little preferences, it sucks just a little bit less.