Tag Archives: students

Mental Health and Wellbeing at University

A student studyingThis month’s guest blogpost is provided by Amy Hirst, a writer for The Student Housing Company:

University is a very exciting time for most students but it can also be challenging in many ways, especially as an international student. Adapting to a new country and way of life can be tough if you’re a long way from home.

The Student Housing Company’s recent survey into student mental health found that 96% of students have experienced stress at some point at university, that 56% feel stressed constantly, and that 71% have suffered from some form of mental illness. It is important to overcome stress, so that your life as a student isn’t taken over by mental health problems.

Feeling Homesick

Homesickness is completely natural and very common amongst students. If you’re feeling homesick, make sure that you develop a strong friendship network at university, so that you feel more at home. There are hundreds of societies and groups you will be able to join during freshers’ week. Sign up for your favourite ones – you’re bound to make lots of friends this way!

Get chatting to your neighbours in your accommodation complex too. You’ll meet lots of friendly people this way, and just remember that everyone else wants to make new friends too. Don’t forget your family and friends back home either. Even if you’re just skyping or calling them, it will make you feel a lot better about being away from home.

Exams and Revision

Getting used to a new university can be very challenging. To stay on top of your studies and avoid stress, download your lecture timetable as soon as possible. This way, you will be able to plan your studies and your life around your lectures. It is also a good idea to download your exam timetable as soon as you can, so that you will be able to plan ahead, revise for your exams, and fit in plenty of breaks too.

Saving Money

Budgeting and getting your finances in order can be stressful at university, but there are plenty of ways to save money as a student. Here are some top tips:

  • Cook sensibly. By avoiding takeaways and buying ingredients for healthy recipes, you will feel better for eating healthy food and you will save a lot of money too.
  • Take advantage of student offers. There are plenty of offers available to students, like discounted student bars, offers on public transport, and money off in certain shops.
  • Use the library. This might seem obvious, but there are plenty of electronic and physical books available at your university library, so it’s unlikely that you will need to buy many books to complete your studies. Just try to reserve them in advance.

Finding the Help You Need

Today, there is less stigma attached to mental health issues in the UK, so do not be ashamed of getting help if you need it. Sometimes, just talking about your problems with a friend will make you feel better. But if you need further support, most universities have staff on hand to assist you – whether that’s counsellors or wider support staff. To find out more about The Student Housing Company’s latest research into mental health problems, read their mental health infographic.

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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How can I connect to the Internet in the UK?

Students using mobile broadband

This month’s guest blog post describes the different internet connection options available to students in the UK, and is provided by Broadband Genie:

Broadband is an essential utility for today’s students, but finding a broadband service that’s affordable and flexible enough to suit student life can be a challenge. So what do you need to know, and what are your options?

Broadband contracts and student living

A common problem faced by students is that the majority of broadband packages require you to sign a lengthy contract of 12, 18 or 24 months. This is problematic if you’re only living in a place for a short period of time or aren’t certain about your immediate future. Ending a contract early incurs a cancellation fee and that’s an additional expense that most students would prefer to avoid.

One alternative is a short-term contract. While not commonplace, there are several ISPs (Internet Service Providers) – such as NOWTV, TenTel and DST – that offer broadband on 1-month, 3-month and 6-month agreements. This provides more flexibility as you can cancel at short notice without facing extra charges.

However, there are some disadvantages. These short-term packages tend to be more expensive than the long-term deals, both in terms of the running costs and the upfront fees. You will most likely need to pay a setup charge (often included for other packages) and may have to pay for the Wi-Fi router too. There’s far less choice as well, with just a handful of ISPs offering short-term deals.

Another option is a student broadband deal. These are packages offered by a few ISPs (notably Sky, Virgin Media and BT) which are explicitly aimed at student users. The key difference with these deals is they come on a 9-month contract to fit with term times. They are only available at certain times of the year, but are worth considering if you see them as they can be good value and may help to avoid a cancellation charge.

If you do have to go with a regular 12, 18 or 24 month contract, make sure you’re aware of the ISP’s cancellation policy and what it might cost to end it early before signing up.

Which type of broadband is best for students?

There are various types of broadband available around the UK. What are the differences, and which is best for your student home?

ADSL

ADSL broadband using the BT telephone network is the most widespread and cheapest fixed-line service. It’s available to the vast majority of premises and can be available for under £20 per month.

ADSL has a maximum download speed of 17Mb and an upload speed of just 1Mb, which is significantly worse than the alternatives. It’s sufficient for one person or a small group of budget-conscious users, but sharing ADSL in a busy student home can be tedious as it can quickly slow to a crawl.

Pros:  • Cheap   • Available to almost every home   • Wide choice of ISPs
Cons:  • Slow by modern standards   • Needs a phone line

BT fibre

Fibre optic broadband from the BT network is a vast improvement on ADSL. Download speeds reach 38Mb, 52Mb or 76Mb, and upload up to 20Mb is available. That makes it more suitable for handling multiple users.

It is, however, slightly more expensive, and is not as widely available. Just over 80% of properties do now have access to these services. While the service does run on the BT Openreach network, it is available from a wide range of ISPs just like ADSL, so there is plenty of choice when it comes to finding a package at the right price.

Pros:  • Fast   • Good choice of ISPs and deals
Cons:  • Availability is still limited compared to ADSL   • Needs a phone line

Virgin Media

Virgin Media operates its own fibre optic network and has the fastest speed of any nationwide ISP, with a maximum download rate up to 200Mb. That’s very helpful if you have lots of housemates and are concerned about performance.

Pros:  • Very fast   • Doesn’t need a phone line
Cons:  • Must be in a Virgin network area   • Virgin is the only ISP

Fibre To The Home (FTTH)

Some lucky students may have access to next generation ‘FTTH’ services. This is a full-fibre connection which can deliver incredible speeds of up to 1Gb, and does not require a phone line. This is only currently available in a few areas, but it’s something that will likely become more widespread in the not-too-distant future.

Pros:  • Incredibly fast   • No phone line required   • Surprisingly affordable
Cons:  • Very limited availability

Mobile broadband

Getting your broadband from a mobile network is an alternative to fixed-line services because it is very flexible in comparison. Contract lengths are less critical as the connection is not for a specific location – if you move home the broadband comes with you and there are no fees to worry about. There is also the choice of long-term contracts, rolling monthly contracts, SIM-only deals and pay-as-you-go.

Provided you can get 4G, mobile broadband performance is now very good. Speeds can outclass ADSL and even approach entry-level fibre optic home broadband. The connection is less impressive on 3G, but still capable of handling most of what the average user will need.

The biggest drawback is the limited data cap. No provider currently offers unlimited mobile broadband, so you’ll need to be very careful about usage to avoid extra charges or service limitations.

Pros:  • Flexible and portable   • Variety of contracts   • 4G speed can be excellent
Cons:  • Performance relies on a strong signal (You can check coverage using the Ofcom app)   • Low data usage limits

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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Christmas markets in the UK

This month’s guest blog post introduces some of the UK’s Christmas markets, and is provided by Gemma Burns:

Christmas markets are traditionally thought to be a European construct, however in recent years their popularity has grown considerably in the UK, and now almost all major cities will have some form of Christmas market during December, no matter how big or small. Popular with the whole family, and visitors of all ages, many students choose to visit their local Christmas market with their friends during November and December.

If you want to get in the festive spirit and soak up some Christmas atmosphere then there is no better place to do this than at a Christmas market. Here is a list of three of the UK’s largest and most popular.

Bath Christmas Market, Bath

Every year the centre of the historical city of Bath is transformed into a winter wonderland, with over 170 Christmas market chalets lining the streets of the city. These chalets sell a range of food, drink and craft options aimed to appeal to as wide a range of visitors as possible. The city of Bath is breathtakingly beautiful and provides an iconic back drop to this famous Christmas market, which winds its way around the famous Roman baths and Bath Abbey.

What makes this Christmas market particularly inspiring is the wide range of other festive attractions that the city hosts in conjunction with its market. The market is lit up by an animated Christmas light display, and when you get tired of eating and shopping you can visit/try out the ice rink and glow-in-the-dark crazy golf course at nearby Royal Victoria Park: ideal for burning off the calories in all of those extra mince pies! With carol singers providing music and a Christmas pantomime playing at the local Theatre Royal, every aspect of a visit to Bath in December will ooze with festive joy.

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London

One of the most famous UK Christmas markets is the Winter Wonderland market in Hyde Park, London. Offering over 200 Bavarian-style stalls lit by fairy lights, a circus, funfair, large wooden beer hall and various other attractions, there really is something for everyone when you choose to visit this iconic location. As the largest Christmas market and specialist event in the UK, the Winter Wonderland can get very crowded, but with so much to see and do, there’s always something to appeal to everyone.

It is worth noting that Christmas markets in the UK can be expensive, particularly when compared to their native European counterparts, and this is especially true of the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Debt is a normal part of university life for the vast majority of students studying in the UK, so some students avoid places such as these in order to save money. We don’t recommend that you or your friends/fellow students visit our Christmas markets in order to do all of your Christmas shopping. However they are well worth exploring if you wish to eat some traditional European foods, enjoy a drink or two, and soak up the festive atmosphere.

Frankfurt Christmas Market, Victoria Square, Birmingham

The Frankfurt Christmas Market is held in Birmingham from the beginning of December every year, and it is the largest traditional German Christmas market in the UK, having been held in the city for 15 years. This market offers visitors the chance to enjoy a huge array of German and Austrian foods and drinks, including mulled wine, steins of beer, meats, sweets, and pastries. Visitors can also visit the Birmingham Christmas craft market, which is a part of the overall Christmas market experience, to browse and purchase an incredibly wide range of arts and handicrafts, all produced and offered for sale by local artists. Birmingham is an incredibly diverse and multicultural city, providing a wonderful snap shot into the ways in which individuals from a wide range of different cultures live and work together in the UK: if you are thinking of travelling in the country in order to enjoy a Christmas market then this is one of the best markets to pick.

If you are living in the UK this winter and looking for something to help get you into the Christmas spirit then there really is no better activity than wrapping up warm and heading to your local Christmas market. Why not go around a meal time, so that you can enjoy sampling the local festive cuisine as part of your explorations?

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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Different ways of being taught on your course

Ways of being taughtThis month’s blog post considers some of the different ways you can expect to be taught during your studies in the UK.

Traditional ways of being taught on a university course in the UK include through a mixture of lectures, seminars, tutorials and possibly workshops, depending on your discipline area. Some of these may be unfamiliar to international students, especially if they have been taught in a different way in their home countries. Even a teaching method such as a ‘lecture’ may be delivered differently in different academic cultures, so it is important to know what you should expect as a student coming to study in the UK. For a basic introduction to these four ways of teaching have a look at Ways of being taught on your course first.

Lectures generally last between 30 to 50 minutes and traditionally involve students in listening and note-taking. The lecturer may use visual aids (usually presentation slides) whilst speaking. These, along with a recording of the lecture, may or may not be available afterwards for you to refer to. It is useful to take notes, even if they are available, to add to your understanding. You may find that some of your lectures in the UK are quite interactive. There will usually be an opportunity for one or two questions from the audience at the end but some lecturers also use other polling devices to engage students in the topic – these allow the student audience to participate more actively, by thinking and voting on issues or predicting the outcomes of research mentioned during the lecture itself.

Some lecturers might even ask you to watch a pre-recorded lecture and then use a seminar for discussion of the key points or extension activities to deepen your understanding. Seminars are a typical way of teaching found in most UK universities. Usually groups of up to 20 students discuss an academic paper, a presentation or a topic with their tutor. It is expected that students speak as well as the tutor, and it is an opportunity to develop your critical thinking skills as well as to explore different opinions or perspectives on a topic. Small group tutorials may also serve some of these functions.

A tutorial in many universities involves a one-to-one meeting with your tutor. The meeting might typically focus on your academic progress, feedback for an assignment or negotiation of an assignment or dissertation topic if you are a postgraduate student.
In science and applied science, lab sessions and workshops often take the place of seminars and these may involve following a practical set of instructions or carrying out an experiment.

Lastly, blended learning practices can now be found embedded across UK universities. Although much of your course will probably take place in a face-to-face context, you may also find that part of it is delivered or undertaken online. You will be expected to use a range of technologies, not only to support your independent learning but also possibly to receive some of your teaching. Technology is likely to have an impact at all levels of your study, from contacting your tutor (by email) to even doing part of a taught module online with other students.

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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Studying in the UK: Guidance for Indian Students

Indian students

This month’s guest blog post offers guidance to Indian students applying to study in the UK and is provided by Sophia Harris from Stunited:

Indian students who are planning to pursue studies in higher education in the UK often face a dilemma in terms of choosing the right course to suit their educational background and meeting entry requirements for the UK. Typical courses that attract Indian students include science, engineering, art and design, law, finance and business management, and help in choosing the most suitable course can be found on the British Council India Education website. The UCAS website also helps with the process of finding courses that match your profile. Most universities provide details of specific courses on their official websites, and students can also request a prospectus from them. Some local British Council offices may also be able to provide a copy of a prospectus, as well as more general information about studying in the UK.

Prospective students should try to estimate the cost of studying and living in the UK before they come. They should take into account accommodation costs (e.g. halls of residence) as well as fees for the course that they intend to study. In order to get a comprehensive idea regarding accommodation facilities, choice of course, availability of scholarships etc, students can register to use the Stunited (Students United) website. Some universities offer a guarantee of housing to international students for at least one year of study, while a few of them extend this to the full period of studies. Students must identify whether or not they qualify for such guaranteed housing from the university.

When planning to study in the UK, students must ensure they have sufficient money to pay for course fees and living costs. For the necessary financial planning, students can visit the UKCISA website to find out more about course fees, living costs and financial support. The International Student Calculator is also a useful site for this.

Students should gather enough information about the specific institution or university where they are planning to study. It is essential to know whether a student visa, i.e. UK immigration permission, will be granted for study. Before making an application for this visa it is important to check whether the chosen university is listed in the Register of Tier 4 Sponsors. Any application to an unlisted institution will be refused. Students are advised to check the university website for its policy on refund of deposits and fees in case of an immigration application being refused; the university course not running or the university losing its Tier 4 Sponsor status.

Students should note that they must not make any payment until they are clear regarding the university’s policy on refunds, and complaints handling. If a student is interested in an undergraduate degree course at a UK university, it is advisable to apply through the central admission system known as Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). This website provides the necessary information for international students who wish to apply online.

If an Indian student wishes to travel to Europe whilst studying in the UK, he/she will have to apply to the Schengen Visa Scheme before travelling. This provides a permit to travel in countries belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or between countries with the use of only one visa.

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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