Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Benefits of Joining Your University’s Outdoor Activity Clubs

Our latest guest blog post describes the benefits of joining your university’s outdoor activity clubs, and is provided by Maria Mangion from outdoor clothing and equipment specialist Trespass:

After you’ve successfully converted your dream of studying abroad in the UK to a tangible reality, it’s time to think of what’s next. While your studies will be enough to keep you on your toes with a new culture, systems of learning and knowledge to digest, you’ll soon settle into the gentle uphill curve of university life. And what better way to glide over the hurdles with flying colours than supplementing this intellectual journey with a parallel, physically active one?

As you integrate into the British tertiary education lifestyle, you’ll notice that extracurricular activities play an important role in the university establishment. Most universities have clubs or societies dedicated to outdoor activities. In spite of the gloomy weather testing our limitlessness all year round, we have a healthy outdoors culture reflected on campuses nationwide. Students, alumni and sometimes even staff form clusters of enthusiasts who organise events throughout the year, from outdoor expeditions and weekend getaways to social gatherings at the pub.

A little research will help you discover whether your institution currently has one of these clubs, or you can speak to student advisors if you’d like to dig deeper. Don’t let the calendar pages turn until you register; utilise your new university’s resources and inform yourself as early as possible as most clubs have introductory meetings towards the beginning of the academic year.

From the fun, ‘Munro-bagging’ spirit of the Dundee University Rucksack Club to the nurturing, socially eventful environment of the Sheffield Hallam University Climbing Club, there are plenty of benefits to joining such a club, and we’re going to delve into each.

Stay Fit and Active

The most obvious of these benefits – and the effects of which you’ll start feeling immediately – is staying fit and active throughout your studies. Physical activity not only elevates your fitness levels and keeps you energised, healthy and strong, it also boosts brain function and regulates your mood so you’re able to perform better in class – a win-win decision.

Climbing in the outdoors

The advantage here is that you don’t need to plan or schedule your workouts, or train alone. Motivation is included in the mix as you’re given dates and times to stick to on a regular basis, and being a part of the club will encourage you to participate more conscientiously than if you were to attempt to take up an outdoor activity by yourself.

In addition to the excellent short-term benefits, you’ll be whipping yourself into shape in a collectively supportive atmosphere and setting a great precedent for keeping fit throughout your adult life.

Gain Bonus Credit on your Degree

Joining a club can pay back dividends in terms of your final graduating certificate. Some institutions formally recognise involvement in their clubs or societies by adding bonus ‘points’ or ‘credits’ to your degree at the end of your studies, which feature on your transcript.

Even if your university does not maintain this practice, your commitment to outdoor activities will be regarded favourably by prospective employers. You’ll be delighted to include this extracurricular leap of action in your CV as proof of your achievements at university. Having that extra edge over the sea of post-graduation jobseekers will help you to stand out and ultimately be rewarded for not simply doing the bare minimum to get by, as most do. Think of it as an extra accomplishment badge for your future!

Socialise and Make New Friends

This new era can be daunting; with loads to learn and a big move to a foreign country to top it off, the first phase of university life might prove socially challenging. As a student, you’ll find that there is a focus on individual learning and development and solitary research, meaning socialising and making new friends can become a struggle – especially if you’re not a natural extrovert.

Sports is an endeavour that has brought people together since the dawn of history, and it’s easier to meet new people and bond over a common interest in the organised setting of a club. Spending a day climbing cliffs or trekking in the hills gives you ample time to get to know the club members organically. The exciting backdrops will be a stimulant to your interactions and are the perfect grounds for the forging of long friendships.

Get Outdoors and Explore the Area

A fabulous way to familiarise yourself with the area where your university is and explore the city or town’s environs is through a club. You’ll be diving into exploits featuring your immediate surroundings and learning about the place you’ll be calling home.

Most clubs organise activities within their location and peruse the land closest to campus, so you can embark on enjoyable outdoor adventures while absorbing everything about your new base. Being outdoors is healthy for mind, body and spirit, and is the most beneficial way of kicking study stress to the curb. The wonders of the wilderness are the cherry on the cake.

Exploring the outdoors

Learn New Skills

Of course, every outdoor activity is in itself a specialised sport, and especially if you’re a beginner, you’ll be acquiring many useful and interesting skills to serve you for a lifetime. Most clubs will have highly experienced members who can give you training and first-hand advice for free while you improve at your own pace.

Whether it’s mountaineering using crampons and ice axes or hiking across long distances with backpacks and walking boots on to tackle diverse terrain, you’ll be gaining unique transferable skills that can be adopted for a variety of applications.

Make Lifetime Memories

Finally, it’s important to remember that your time at university is a very special period in your life that will come to pass too quickly in most cases, so it’s wise to make the most out of it. The memories you will form through pursuing outdoor activities through a university club will stay with you for life, and with so many landscapes and challenges conquered, you’ll be a richer student and human being at the end.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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6 ways to improve your conversational English

Students practising spoken EnglishOur latest guest blog post describes several ways you can improve your conversational English, and is provided by Ruth Bushi from student money website Save the Student:

If the thought of talking to native UK speakers leaves you tongue-tied, don’t panic! Save the Student reveals the free resources that can boost your confidence as well as your ability.

1. Get involved

Taking part in local clubs and groups doesn’t just increase your language skills: it can also help you feel less isolated and more rooted in your new community. So, don’t just stick with what you know – get out there and mingle!

  • Volunteer for a local charity. It’s a great way to get cosy with your community, plus you’ll meet people who value your input. Visit charity shops to find vacancies, or take a look at do-it.org.uk for all kinds of other opportunities. Not sure what’s involved? This ultimate guide to volunteering explains it all!
  • Join a student society. It doesn’t matter if it’s about walking, reading, or playing a sport – just pick something you’re passionate about and you’ll already have something in common to talk about.

2. Swap your skills

A language swap – where you teach the language you know to someone who speaks the language you’re learning – is a neat way to practice English without the pressure. It can be as simple as having a conversation in each language for a few minutes, or taking turns to explain common vocabulary or trickier slang words.

Your university may be able to put you in contact with other students keen to swap, but you could also keep an eye on department noticeboards and course forums. If you’re not yet in the UK you can still take part in a language swap by email, or using free video messaging apps such as Facebook and Skype.

3. Don’t sweat over slang

Understanding slang (informal words and phrases) and accents can be the most challenging thing about learning a language. The good news is that, whether you want to learn Cockney or understand a Scottish accent, someone on YouTube can show you how!

Try searching for British slang, UK dialects or How to pronounce British words. You’ll also find tons of tutorials on how to master British accents: don’t be shy about repeating what you hear and having a go yourself (unless you’re out in public – that can get you some curious looks).

4. Catch-up with films and TV

Watching films in English is a great way to immerse yourself in the language (well, it’s a good excuse, anyway!)

Unfortunately, movies don’t really reflect real life or useful phrases: the Brits don’t spend that much time fighting aliens. We don’t all wear bonnets and live in mansions, either!

That said, some viewing can be a valuable for cultural insights, as well as for hearing real-life English. Try these on for size:

  • Anything by director Mike Leigh: not always the cheeriest of films, but great for hearing everyday speech and regional accents.
  • BBC Three or BBC II!, as it likes to call itself, is an online-only BBC TV channel with more diverse, regional content, plus a window into British humour. There’s also Channel 4, though note that access to programmes on either depends on where you are in the world.
  • Star Wars Episode IV: if someone’s talking to you about droids, it’s quite likely they’re referencing this film rather than a phone operating system!

5. Read regional news

You won’t run short of news on TV or online, although much of it can have you thinking nothing interesting happens outside London. Reading the regional news can give you some history and context about your new home, and means you’ll always have something to talk about with taxi drivers (note: they do most of the talking…)

  • Try www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk and follow the menu to navigate to your region in the UK.
  • You can find links to almost every regional and local UK newspaper on this Wikipedia page.
  • Don’t just read the news! If you want to see more fluid language in action, check out magazine content or look for student blogs: they’re perfect for picking up slang, jokes and hot topics.

6. Ask questions

If something has you stumped (i.e., utterly confused), don’t panic. Just make a note to ask about it later, whether it’s someone on your course, someone on Reddit or some guy in the supermarket. Most folk love explaining what makes their language, town or country quirky, brilliant or bizarre – so don’t hold back about asking for an explanation.

For language-specific queries, the forum over at Duolingo can be a mine of information (plus you can brush up your grammar skills in 20-odd languages while you’re there).

Getting by in a new language isn’t just about mastering grammar rules and perfect pronunciation. A lot of what you need to feel at home will happen naturally as you immerse yourself in local life. Be patient, stay curious, and it’ll happen!

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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