Student Voice

Below are some selected student voice articles, providing advice and top tips about important issues at university, written by current and former University of Leeds students.  If you’d be keen to write an article for our website, drop us an email at theplusprogramme@leeds.ac.uk

Academic

'Tis the season to be Jolly!   

It is also the season to be revising, if like me, you have got January assessments coming up. I find that the Christmas holiday is a great time to unwind as a student and reflect on how semester one has gone. Here are some of my top tips on how to have a productive Christmas break. 

  • Set out regular time to make your revision notes and flash cards so that they will be ready in time for exam season. You will have lots of time over Christmas, so in-between eating lots of mince pies and watching Shrek on replay, you can make sure that you are using your time effectively to also revise  for your exams. If you have an essay deadline in Semester 2, then you can make an effort to write a bit each day so that it will be more manageable for you.    
  • Sleep is very precious to us as students but unfortunately we don’t get enough of it. During the Christmas holiday, you will have time to catch up on the sleep but don’t overdo it. It is a good idea to sleep and wake up at set times each day so that you will be able to be productive during each day and so that your sleeping pattern won’t suffer during Semester 2
  • Update your CV and LinkedIn profile. Doing this during the Christmas season is very useful because it will mean that you will be ready for various opportunities that may come your way during the next semester. You can also reflect on the activities that you have taken part in during the previous months and add this to your personal development time line on Leeds For Life, so that you will have a whole bank of experiences that you can utilise when the opportunity arises.
  • If you are struggling to concentrate and get work done at home then visit your local library which could be better for studying 
  • Prepare for the semester ahead by organising yourself. Perhaps it would be time to whip out that snazzy 2018 planner and just plan what events you will be going to in the next semester, how you would like to budget your money or even when you hope to do your extra reading. 
  • Meeting up with old friends, baking treats with family members or volunteering at an elderly home can be a great way to make the most of your Christmas and take a break from the books. If you are sticking around for Christmas and looking for things to do, have a look at  the Global Community Christmas activity.   There's lots on!

Priscilla Ehikioya, UG  Dent Surg & Oral Sci

Top Tips for managing your workload 

Here are some top tips on managing your workload in the least stressful way (yes, it is possible!)

Buy yourself a diary and stay organised. If a paper diary isn’t appealing, make use of the diary and reminder apps on your phone or your computer to keep track of events, dates and deadlines.  You could event try and project management tool such as Trello.

Utilise your Module Handbooks For every module you will be provided with a Handbook which contains all the details about the Module. This provides you with the assessment deadlines - get them in that diary! Prioritise your deadlines effectively by focussing on the nearest deadlines first and then the rest.  And be sure to book academic supervision with your module leader in plenty of time before deadlines to ensure you get the support you need in order to meet your personal targets. Note: exam dates are often released later during the semester so keep an eye on your exam timetables on Minerva

Set yourself daily, weekly and monthly targets This is a really good way to manage workload and make some study arrangements in line with your deadlines. If you have a 2,500-word essay to complete and the deadline is this time next month, your monthly target could be to submit the assignment, a weekly target could be to have written 625 of those words and a daily target could be smaller steps such as research and assignment planning, or, 90 words a day.

Study wisely and take breaks It’s essential to know when your studying is productive and be kind to yourself by taking breaks. If you find yourself scrolling through social media with a blank word document in front of you, learn to recognise this as counterproductive and switch off your phone. Taking regular short breaks will keep your concentration levels at a peak, e.g. a quick 5-minute break for every 20-30 minutes of procrastination-free studying. Using a timer can to help keep you focussed outside of break-times. 

Struggling with procrastination? Try the Pomodoro technique! So simple, yet effective. https://www.focusboosterapp.com/the-pomodoro-technique

UG student, Social Work

Take note – making sure your lecture notes are the best they can be 

The type of notes taken in lectures will vary between courses but note taking in general is a key part of any degree and will likely make up lots of your time at university. Here’s my top tips for note-taking during your degree. 

Prepare

•Glance over lecture material the night/day before; this makes it easier to jump straight in, especially to a 9am lecture. 

•Use an IPad, laptop or tablet to make notes directly on to the PowerPoint slides during lectures. This will save money on printing, won’t waste paper and lessens the chance of you losing your lecture notes.

During the lecture

•Be clear in your notes which slides you are referring to

•Be short and sweet; in bullet point form and using key words

After the lecture

•Keeping up with editing and writing of lecture notes is really important. Top up lecture slides with diagrams, notes from the lecture and extra reading from textbooks or journals – be sure to reference these so they’re easy to track down later.

•It might be helpful to re-listen to the lecture on lecture capture soon after while the information is still relatively fresh in your mind and more notes. 

Exams

•Having written notes on all of your lectures throughout the year is time consuming but makes it much easier when it comes to revising for exams.  There’s nothing worse than coming to revise and realising your notes are useless or non-existent! 

Niamh Hall, 2017 Graduate

Social Life 

Royal Rumble: Social Life Vs Paid Work Vs Academic Studies 

Starting university is exciting, but it’s likely you may be worried about ‘fitting everything in’, from studying new subjects, finding part-time work, making new friends and socialising. Here are my top tips to making the most out of your time at uni:

•Freshers week is a great opportunity to make friends; everyone is new so don’t worry about approaching people and saying hi. If you’re living in accommodation, organise a ‘meet and greet’, if not, introduce yourself to other students in your seminars and outside lectures. Eventually you will get to know everyone around you!

•For Clubs and Societies the union is the place to be; with over three-hundred societies so you’re bound to find something you enjoy. Picking up a ‘Give it a Go’ booklet and see what’s out there. Societies run sessions, which are either free or very cheap, and there’s no expectation of you to join. 

• Joblink at the union advertises jobs suited to students, and you can access this either online through the union website or in person. Plus, for CVs, cover letters, and job applications you can access the careers centre; the staff are amazingly helpful and give great feedback. 

Volunteering looks great on a CV, and it’s really easy to fit in and find somewhere you’d like to volunteer with. Every autumn there’s a volunteering fair with loads of great opportunities - from helping in a shop to engaging with the public. 

But how do I fit this in with my academic studies? 

This does depend on your course - it can be more difficult if you have a lot of contact hours, but not impossible! Establish a routine so you don’t fall behind with your assignments - work out how many hours you need to spend studying and schedule this in for when you study best during the day (or night!).  

Be selective! You can’t do everything so choose things you’re most interested in. Also try not to overload yourself; it can be quite stressful if you try and fit too much in, especially around exam period! 

Most importantly though, enjoy your time at Leeds try to push yourself out of your comfort zone a little!

Liv Powell, Int History & Politics

Societies and clubs  

One of the best pieces of advice I could give any student is to join some societies at some point during your time at university. There is literally something for everyone and it’s a perfect way to make new friends and productively fill your spare time. I had gotten really into jazz music during college so when I saw that there was a non-auditioned music performance society devoted to Jazz and Blues I signed up straight away. Because everyone there shared the same passion for jazz as I did, I made friends the first week and there was no pressure to be a confident performer straight away because you have the freedom to choose to perform or just listen. 

Through the weekly rehearsals, drinks in Old Bar, and various socials at gigs and themed club nights, both my performance and social confidence grew drastically as well as my organisational skills and ability to work within a team. Towards the end of the year, I decided I wanted to contribute even more to the society that had made my first year at uni so much fun. The time was coming for a new committee to be chosen for the following year and it was the perfect opportunity to take on some more responsibility and develop more skills alongside my studies.

I asked current committee members about their roles in the society; what their responsibilities were, what skills made them good for the role, and how much they’ve enjoyed it. I decided to run for the role of Secretary because I already had good organisational and communication skills that would come in useful for organising gigs and promoting events over social media. I planned a short speech for the Annual General Meeting, including how much the society meant to me, the skills I already had relating to the role and some of the ideas I had for next year. Although there was no competition because no one else ran for the same role, it was still useful to prepare for the speech beforehand to demonstrate that I would do a good job as Secretary nonetheless. So far, I have really enjoyed working with my fellow committee members planning for the upcoming year and I cannot wait to meet the new students joining us!

Nancy Eves, Music and Music Psychology

A Social life without alcohol – it can be done! 

When I first started University one of my main concerns was what my social life would be like because I don’t drink alcohol. The image I had in my head of university was one of all night parties and everyone drinking, and as a result I was concerned about having no social life and not fitting in. However I’m happy to say that I was wrong, despite what you see online or on the television not every student goes out drinking every night. The university, the societies and even my university residences organised loads of alcohol-free social events, so I’m here to reassure you that to have a good social life, you don’t need to drink booze. 

The university societies are important features of any university student’s social life, even for one who prefers to stay sober. The University of Leeds has over 300 societies to choose from and this is the centre of my social life and that of many other students. Most hold ‘Give it a Go’ events where you can go and try out a new society before joining and the weekly socials are a great way to meet people with similar interests to you. I’ve done sessions such as a Harry Potter sorting ceremony and movie nights, bowling and cinema trips. 

My accommodation also held no-drinking social events, including board game evenings and movie and pizza nights, which were the highlight of my time in my accommodation. These events were a great way to get to know other people and I’m pleased to say this is how met some of my closest friends. The University itself holds non-drinking events like the food crawl, which was such a fun way to meet new people without a drop of alcohol. Despite my initial fears I have had a great first year and have an amazing social life. 

If you’re also a tea-totaller like me you can still have an amazing time at university. There are so many new things you can try without drinking and so many ways to make new friends. There really is a lot more to the social side of University than drinking!

Katie Gillespie, Ancient History & History

Finance 

Nifty and thrifty – how to save money @uni 

Attending University and living away from home can be a financial challenge, especially for those who have never experienced independent living before.

There are a couple of top tips I’d recommend to save yourself some money:

•Purchase a yearly student bus pass

•Get a student railcard – save a 1/3 on rail travel!

Rent a bike from the uni.  It’s mega cheap, they do free maintenance and you’ll stay fit!

•Walk! – You’ll find places you never knew existed

•Use supermarket own brands - more cost effective and taste equally as good as the branded products. 

•Keep an eye out for those takeaway student deals that come through the post for days when you and your housemates don’t want to cook – but don’t do this too often else it gets pricey (and it’s not very healthy)!

•Bring a packed lunch to campus - this saves a lot of money and will save you queuing in Tesco for half your lunch break.  

Faissal Ratyal, 2017 Graduate 

Eat Cheap, Rave, Repeat 

One aspect of university often not given enough thought is the pretty important issue of buying food and cooking for yourself. Regardless of your cooking experience at home, cooking healthy, tasty and varied dishes on a budget can take some practice.

Where you shop and what you shop for depends on your budget. For example, a Sainsbury’s Local or Tesco Express will be far more expensive than larger stores like Morrison’s, Aldi, or the market. So for a start, avoid doing a large shop in these smaller more costly stores and instead just grab smaller bits from these stores when you need them. Stock up occasionally on the essentials such as pasta, potatoes, tinned soups, sauces and ingredients and then you can shop for fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, milk etc. on a weekly basis. When you do a big shop from a larger store, sharing a taxi home between friends works out cheap and will save your arms! Use up what you have before you do another shop and remember you can always freeze leftovers to save on time and waste.

Cooking can be a little bit of trial and error but keep at it! Start with pasta or rice and pre-made sauces, which makes a relatively cheap and easy meal. Try to use fresh vegetables and have a varied diet so you can keep an eye on your health, and cook spare vegetables that need using up with stock and spices for an easy soup. Be careful with meat (always ensure chicken in particular is cooked through) and remember it’s never worth the risk to eat meat that is questionable. Once you’ve got the basics down, you can use apps such as Yummly or websites like BBC food to try and be adventurous, as pasta can get boring! Whether you eat to live or live to eat, shopping and cooking at university is an important skill and can be really fun. 

Sam Greet, International Relations