How I settled into University life

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by Salma, BSc(Hons) Architecture

I’ll never forget my first trip to get groceries. I had just arrived in Bristol and as I was heading to Lidl, I may or may not have walked into random strangers’ backyards trying to get there. It was also my first-time using Google Maps and my, what an invention!

People who don’t see the need to use maps and rely solely on signs scare me.

Luckily as I got to know my flatmates, we started going grocery shopping together. Soon, what seemed like an hour-long walk felt like nothing. It started out with a simple text in our group chat that went something like, “I’m going grocery shopping tomorrow, would any of you like to join me?” It’s very normal for the first few weeks, or sometimes even the first couple of months to be awkward, but these little walks to Asda or Lidl really helped me get to know my housemates better.

Cooking with flatmates

In my first year at UWE I lived in Wallscourt with fellow international students and one thing I learnt from living with people from different cultures is that offering to try your food is the best way to make a friend. You also get to try theirs the next time, so it is a win. Living in a multicultural house also gave me the opportunity to celebrate things like Eid, Diwali, and Chinese new year’s. These were also opportunities to cook together, share a meal and educate one another about our cultures. It is a gradual process.

During the lockdown last December, I decided to stay in university accommodation so I spent the Christmas holidays mostly in my room and with my flatmates. We would hold movie nights and bond over some popcorn and crisps. One of my favourite recipes to make for my flatmates was these quick and easy cinnamon rolls .

Eating well

Before coming to university, the closest I got to ‘cooking’ was ramen noodles. But now I’ve learned some recipes from my flatmates, I’ve come to really enjoy cooking!

There’s something about having your own stuff, which has it’s own place in the kitchen that also makes cooking much more appealing. And when you’re in charge of your own food, it’s much easier to make healthier changes to your diet that you’ve always dreamt of. I switched to brown bread, gradually reduced my sugar intake and switched to plant-based milk cutting down my dairy intake. This did wonders for my skin and if my skin is happy, I’m happy!

Joining a society

During my first year, I joined the BAME society and the Built Environment society. I wanted to join societies that catered to both my social identity and my academic side. Joining these societies helped me get used to university life, as I met students from other years who’d had more experience and could give me advice. Although covid restrictions limited my interaction with other people, joining a society and meeting my course mates during the campus workshops, allowed me to make those all important connections and build my own community.

Mindfulness and meditation

During the lockdown last December, I decided to stay in university accommodation so I spent the Christmas holidays mostly in my room and with my flatmates. We would hold movie nights and bond over some popcorn and crisps.

Day to day though, I like to keep a routine and it’s important for me that I start my day by dedicating an hour or two to myself. I normally start by having toast with coffee/tea and then read a portion of a book and then watch some vlogs and cooking videos on YouTube. I also try to reserve 20 minutes before going to bed to meditate and I’m an avid believer of spiritual healing through prayer.

It’s important to remember that there will always be days when everything gets overwhelming and it’s not easy to stay focused no matter what you do. On such days, I just let myself feel the feelings and remember that it’s ok to have a good cry if needed.

For more advice on how to settle in and start your year well visit the Feel Good webpage!

How Starting Block helped me prepare for the year ahead

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By Megan, BA(Hons) Media Culture and Communications

Going into a new year at university can be a nerve-wracking time for anyone and there are lots of ways you can prepare. As a student going into a year of online learning for the first time last year, I was very apprehensive about the new way of learning and all the new challenges I would face learning from home.

Fortunately, we had a Starting Block.

Starting Block is a great opportunity to set yourself up for the year ahead and make sure you’re prepared with the skills you will need for university life. Last year, because of Covid-19, all learning was done online. This took a bit of getting used to as it was a new concept for a lot of people, and while it sounded fun at first, it came with its own set of challenges.

Before starting block I felt nervous about the year ahead as well as new obstacles like wifi connections, audio issues and all the new aspects of learning we had never had to consider before. Thankfully starting block was a great opportunity to test all of this out, so when it came to the first week of term I felt fully prepared and comfortable. 

I learned a lot from Starting Block. As I mentioned, I had a lot to figure out with audio issues and connections at the start, starting block gave me the opportunity, time and support to make sure my wifi was strong enough or that I had a good desk to work from, small things that could have hindered me had I not had the opportunity to sort them out. It also helped me get used to seeing and interacting with lecturers and my peers online instead of in person.  

Another aspect that really helped me was a group talk our lecturer gave where she discussed mental health and working from home. We were given really good advice on how to separate university life and home life, for example having separate space to work, even if this is just a desk in your room instead of working on your laptop from bed (as appealing as that sounds), so we have spaces to switch off.

We were also told to take regular breaks outside, so we could rest our eyes from looking at screens all day. Having this advice not only helped feel more prepared for what the year would be like, but it also made me feel like everyone was in the same position and it made starting the academic year easier to cope with knowing everyone was doing something new for the first time.

The advice we were given from lectures during Starting Block not only helped me prepare my working set-up but also helped me prepare mentally for the new challenges learning from home comes with. It made me feel much more comfortable with how online learning was going to be and I gained incredible benefits from it like advice from lecturers, as well as talking to other students so it is a great way to feel prepared at the start of a new year.

And whilst this year will look different to last year, I have no doubt that the advice and skills learnt during Starting Block will help me prepare just as well for whatever the year ahead will bring.

Visit our Starting Block webpage for more information.

Study skills support

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by Library Services

We’re here to help you to gain the study skills you need at university and beyond. A great place to start is our preparing for study webpage which is is full of advice and online tutorials designed to get you ready for academic study.

Here’s just a few of the ways you can get support from the library.

Online workbooks

You can use our online workbooks on reading and making notes, referencing and academic and critical writing.

Workshops

Library staff run study skills workshops, covering key skills such as referencing, using your reading and critical writing skills.

Talk to us

Just visit any of our Libraries and talk to us – or ask a question through our 24/7 online chat service (which you can access from the Library website).

When you get feedback from your first assignment, we can help you to understand and benefit from this and target the improvements you want to make before your next submission.

English language support

Sign up to our workshops on our Communication Skills for International Students programme. Each Faculty has specialist study support staff who provide help ranging from writing to mathematics and programming.

Discover more of our workshops, support and online tutorials on our study skills webpage.