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

General University Life

10 Things I wish I knew in first year 

Dear First years,

1. It’s never too late to make friends- After the buzz of fresher’s week dies down, it may look as though everyone has made their friends. However, there will still be lots of opportunities to meet new people.

2. It’s never too late to join a society- Leeds has lots of societies to offer students. You may often hear older students say “I wish I had joined more societies”. This is because societies enrich the student experience. If you have a hobby, it is good to carry this on through university so that it can help you to relax from your studies. However, you can also join a brand new society and try something that you have never tried before.

3. Entertainment comes in different ways- Night outs seem to be a standard for student enjoyment. However, peaceful nights in are also enjoyable. There are lots of activities you could do such as having a board games night with your flatmates, cooking contests or a movie marathon. Not all halls provide a Television or T.V. lincense. The University of Leeds has “box of broadcast” where you can access over 2 million T.V and radio shows. It also makes a great learning resource for watching educational shows and documentaries.

4. Stress- People experience stress in different ways. It is important to recognise when you are stressed and practise good self-care. There are lots of events on campus to help you cope better such as meditation, martial arts and doggy de-stress (aka cuteness overload). You can also access the support and wellbeing services of the university.

5. First year counts for something- You have probably heard the phrase “first year doesn’t count”. Remember that you need to pass 1st year in order to make it to 2nd year and you need to do well in 1st year to get onto some study abroad programmes. It’s best to build a work ethic that can help you through exams and the rest of your course. As a fresher, you have the opportunity to discover how to write essays at university standards, how to go through your extra reading and how to manage your time effectively.

6. Cook your mealsè Cooking is a skill that will help you go far in life. Preparing different meals can add variety to your diet and be a great way to save money at university.

7. Fresher’s fluè Once upon a time, when you were younger, it was almost exciting to be ill because it meant that you had the day off from school. Not at university. Make sure that you take care of yourself if you ever take ill.

8. Savings, savings, savings- One of the best perks of being a student are the discounts. Make use of them. There are lots of apps available that collate lots of discounts together for you to be able to use in store and online. You can also get travel cards that give you discounts when you go home. Additionally, for the buses going into Hyde park from the city centre, you can show them your student ID card to get a cheaper fare.

9. There are different options for 2nd year accommodation- When the hunt for 2nd year accommodation begins, take your time to find a good place and good people to live with. Most students will move into a house or flat with coursemates, flatmates and friends. However, don’t forget that there is also the option to live at home if you don’t mind the commute. Another option is to live in a private student accommodation- it’s not as fancy as it sounds. This is similar to living in halls except you can choose your flatmates or you can live with new people. If you like your own space you can opt for a studio flat. You can also apply to live in Halls as a Subwarden, where you take care of the next incoming freshers in exchange for free accommodation.

10. Learn a new language- The University of Leeds has many resources to help student learn a new language. You can access Rosetta stone on minerva, join language groups with the language zone or get a language buddy on Leeds for life! This not only improves your employability but it allows you to connect with people from different parts of the world.

All the best,

Priscilla Ehiokioya, third year Dentistry student and Plus Programme Ambassador for the Faculty of Medicine and Health

Accommodation/Living Arrangements

House Hunting in Leeds 

Here's some great advice from our friends at Unipol, a student housing charity, on what to consider when looking for your new gaff:

We'll be honest: finding a student home for the first time can seem daunting and you may feel pressure to make a quick decision. However, if you follow these simple tips, you can guarantee a smooth ride and a good house at the end of it!

1. Search on the Unipol website after Saturday 20th January when listings go live.

The Unipol website hosts the widest choice in Leeds, meaning you can find and compare the best deals (using filters to find exactly what you're looking for). In the meantime, join Unipol’s Priority Access List to browse properties before the go-live date, and you’ll automatically enter the prize draw for the chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher. 

**Many students who house hunt before this date report paying up to £15pppw MORE than their friends who waited until after the Unipol start date.**

2. Be confident on viewings:

•Compare prices and standards by viewing a few different properties with different landlords - don’t be afraid to shop around and don't be pressured into signing for the first one you see (there is plenty of good accommodation!). 

•Use Unipol’s viewing checklist, which you will be able to find and tick off on page 21 their House Hunting Guide 2018.

•You can ask for improvements or discounts, but make sure to get them agreed in writing before you sign anything.

•Remember, YOU are the paying customer: the landlord should be professional, courteous and not pushy. If you feel unhappy or uncomfortable about anything, just rent elsewhere!

3. Pick a Code landlord for a fair deal, a safe property and reliable service. There are over 330 Code landlords in Leeds (and a surplus of properties!).

4. Visit Rate Your Landlord to find out what previous tenants think about your prospective landlord or property.

5. Get your contract checked by your student union or Unipol before signing. Once you've signed, there's no backing out, so read through thoroughly and understand the commitment.

If you're feeling unsure about anything throughout the house hunting process, Unipol are there to help and offer professional advice, so don't panic, and take your time.

Academic

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

The Big Pot of Gold

One of the biggest concerns for me when starting university was the ‘money fear’. How was I going to manage my loan? Would there be enough money to live off? Will I be able to fit a job around my degree? Here are a few tips from my experience:

My first top tip when considering your finances is look into your total sum of money for the year. Sit down, make a plan before coming to University. This not only includes the amount of maintenance loan, but check the website for different funding available from the university before arriving. This could be in the form of scholarships or bursary’s. Once you’ve worked out a rough weekly budget, look at your known expenditures. Phone bills, Netflix subscription, Spotify subscriptions. This will help you to calculate a more exact idea of how much money you have to play with. Most popular method is a spreadsheet to keep track of everything

Try and stick to your budget for the week! It’s very easy to overspend, especially if you’re like me and believe contactless isn’t money until you look at your bank statement to realise you have been a victim of your own fraud. My best tip for this is to take out the cash limit for the week and avoid using your card. Understandably this won’t work every week due to the odd expense here and there, going out at the weekend, buy that extra pair of shoes you really need. You can always get in contact with someone within the student’s union who will help you with budgeting if you’re finding difficulty in managing your finances at university.

To help with my finances, my first task was looking into getting a job. With my loan I could live comfortably for the week, but I thought the extra cash can’t hurt, especially when you feel the urge for a really big clothes shop! Doing Neuroscience as a degree meant I had at least 12+ contact hours a week during first year and the timings at which lectures, tutorials and lab practical’s occurred varied each week. For some the timetable will be quite regular or not have many contact hours which can make it fairly simple to fit in a job.  However for me I thought, what a nightmare! I was worried that employers would be strict with flexibility and the irregularity of my timetable would be very off-putting.  Therefore my best advice is to look into getting a job within the university. Do this early! The jobs can be quite competitive due to the ease of being able to fit them round your timetable and the convenience of location. In my opinion, one of the best jobs to get is becoming a Student Host. This job is not only flexible and well paid, but allows you to develop valuable transferable skills, such as verbal communication, time management and leadership. By doing this you can pick and choose when you work, exams coming up – unable to work, not a problem! There’s always Joblink in the student’s union who can give you help with CVs and give advice about finding a job. Also the careers service can help boost your employability skills by offering workshops and advice.

Finance may seem like a bit of scary subject, especially if you’re not used to handling big sums of money at a time! Try not to stress about it, take available support if you need it. So, my take-home message would be: try to plan ahead!

Rebecca Morley, Neuroscience and Plus Programme Ambassador for the Faculty of Biological Sciences

Employability

Applying for Summer Internship Programmes

If you’re reading this it’s likely you’re starting to think about summer internships, and much like I did, you’re probably thinking ‘how do I find the right one for me?’ and ‘I’m worried about applications’. So, I’m here to give you some tips, tell you a bit about my experience, and guide you to some helpful links.

My best tip is to start looking early; don’t think that as they’re called summer internships, you should look and apply from June onwards. Most organisations will start advertising their internships during Semester Two, so before then I’d start thinking about the type of internship you want and where you’d like to work. That way, when applications open up you won’t have to waste time thinking about what you want, you can just find and apply for the internship you want.

I’d also say don’t underestimate how long it takes to do a good application. If your application is going to showcase why you’re the best candidate, you want to spend a good amount of time on it (not just quickly write it between lectures!). Starting early also gives you the time to seek help if you need it, such as going to the Careers Centre for CV advice or guidance on relevant skills for the internship. The same goes for interviews, the sooner you start preparing, the more mock interviews you can do and the better prepared you’ll be.

So, if you’re thinking ‘but does following these tips actually help with applications?’, the answer from my experience is definitely yes. When I applied for the Laidlaw Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship in First Year, a very prestigious and competitive opportunity, it really helped that I started my application early. I had the time to get advice from my tutor about showcasing my academic skills, use the Careers Centre to review my CV, and spend the time needed to do a great application (it definitely took me longer than an hour!). This links to another top tip, which is really research the values and aims of the organisation you’re applying to do an internship with. If you can showcase your knowledge of these within your application and interview, it makes you a stand-out candidate and impresses the employer with your extra commitment.

I’d also say don’t be put off from an internship because you’re not an expert in that field. I almost didn’t apply for the QStep Leeds Scheme this year because it focuses on improving the intern’s quantitative data analysis skills in a workplace setting. Coming from the School of History, I had never done data analysis and was worried I’d really struggle with the role. However, I’m so glad I applied as not only was I exactly the type of applicant they were looking for, but now I have a great experience and new skill to put on my CV.

Now, here are those helpful links I promised!

Careers Centre guidance on finding an internship

Information on the Leeds Internship Programme

The Laidlaw Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship (First Years only)

The QStep Leeds Summer Placement Scheme

Liv Powell, International History and Politics and Plus Programme Ambassador for the Faculty of Arts