Posted in student life, Uni work, Written by Tom

A Guide to…Western Bank Library

Before you view the best blog post that you will ever read, first I should tell you some bad news. This well be the last blog post I will ever do on here.

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I know, I know. It’s a sad time for everyone involved. However, as I leave you, the fellow 301 Blog viewers, I want to leave with you a special part of me. I want to leave you with my favourite place to study. My legacy, which I leave for you all, is a tour of the greatest library to man. I give you: Western Bank Library.

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The only bank which wasn’t bailed out in the 2008 recession.

“But Tom”, I hear you say, “Isn’t Western Bank stuffy? Doesn’t it have a weird silent area? Doesn’t it have books kept in weird cages? All my friends hang out in the IC and the Diamond, and they’re cool!”

Allow me to educate you all. Western Bank is where the truly hip kids hang out. The Diamond is for engineers, the IC is for everybody, and Western Bank is for the cool kids.

What’s so special about it? Over a million books. The IC has only just over 100,000. When you go to the lower floors, there are books that are in gated off areas because they are so rare. You came to uni to read, right? Well why not check out a leather tome written in Old English? Why not immerse yourself in an area where it can be you, your mind, a book, and your sheer contemplation away from any distractions?

I know, I know. This either sounds scary or unconvincing to the IC crowd. However, I hope to enlighten you all by taking you all on my own personal tour of Western Bank!

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So you enter this palace of wonder into the foyer. This is where people hang out and have lunch with multiple sofas available. It might not have its own café (although you can go next door to the Arts Tower if you are so inclined) but people are too cool to eat hot food on plates here. Instead, you’ll see the young whippersnappers munching on whatever they brought in their lunchboxes or portable food from elsewhere. This allows a more relaxed eating environment.

Another plus is that this open space allows you to meet multiple friends and also bump into others. You can truly hang out with a big group, which is useful to take decent breaks away from work. When you are in the IC and Diamond, you might decide to eat or have a chat at your work table. In Western Bank, with the provision that the upper floors are largely silent areas and no eating/hot drink zones, the foyer provides a sepeate place to relax. Your work isn’t constantly staring you in the face. You are in a different zone from that now, with friends, in a safe place.

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What makes this place such a vibrant spot to meet people is also Western Bank’s double edged sword. Because you will always see people coming down here to use the toilets and water fountain – the only toilets and water fountain in Western Bank. Rumour is that this is so because otherwise water pipes may leak onto the rare books here. Either way, it does prove an annoyance compared to the abundance of toilets available in the IC and Diamond. But what this does is ensure a good few minutes break in-between studying to keep hydrated.

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You go upstairs to the turnstiles, where you enter with your ucard. There is no monitor telling you how many people are in the building here. This is a place of mystery.

You go up the stairs to yet another lobby in which you can chill out. This is a more immediate place of respite to the silent area ahead. But there is a large amount of space here, sofas, printers, and the library help desk.

Onto the infamous area. The place some people dread, and others love. A room of polarisation. I give you, the silent study area:
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It has the sleek design. It has the glorious lighting. It has the book adorning its nooks and crannies. A lot of space and places to sit (unlike the Diamond!).

Many people feel uneasy here. They feel like making any noise in the silent study area, such as rustling paper, will attract the ire of all. Correction: people might look at you simply because it is some stimulus away from their work. It is a great place to concentrate, but every now and then people like to zone out and so they’ll have a look around. But know that everyone here is in the same boat to study, and no one is judging you because they are too focused on their work.

And now we go downstairs to the lower levels. As you go down further, the more obscure and older the texts go. Every lower floor is largely the same layout. You’ll find dark corridors of tomes, with the light only coming on as you walk past due to motion sensors. Personally, I find this pretty cool. Some might find it creepy. Whatever floats your boat.

There are multiple computers and study spaces to be found on these floors also. But on the second level, the main event: the cages! Again, some find them ominous. Personally, I love thinking what items could be so valuable that they need to be locked up. The Holy Grail? The Fountain of Youth? The real Da Vinci Code? I’ve never actually been in, but you can access it with staff help if you’re finding something specific.

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And that’s Western Bank for you. I hope my tour may have changed your mind if you were a doubter, or proven nostalgic if you’re a lover. And with that, I bid you goodbye. Good luck on all your 301 travels!

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Posted in Intern advice, student life, Written by Arinola

On final year feels & learning statistics over the summer

What an unlikely combination of words, I know! However, whether you’re a final year student, are starting a Masters degree in autumn or are currently studying a PhD that requires some knowledge of statistical software, this is perfect for you. Just stick with me. 

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Like most other final year students, I am currently at the point where revising for my last set of undergrad exams and attending my last few lectures is seeming like too much to handle. As if that’s not enough, I am determined to enjoy these last few weeks with all my friends before some of us go off in separate directions for much needed summer holidays and to start our proper adult lives. It is a lot and no amount of warning can prepare you for the experience but I try to smell the roses when I can. It also helps that I’ll be hanging around over the summer to enjoy this amazing city that has become my second home.  

Amidst all of this, I still find time to obsess over the fact that I will be starting my MSc in Behavioural and Economic Science in September. Yes, I am a sucker for academic pain. The combination of the gruelling nature of my upcoming Masters and my need to find anything but the upcoming exams to think about led me to an interesting discovery. The university is running R and SPSS workshops after exams! I understand that it may seem very strange to find this exciting and I assure you that I am desperately looking forward to taking a long leisurely break over the summer. Yet, I can’t help but be happy that I can get an early start on learning R, which will be crucial for a few of my MSc modules. This is me smelling the roses 🙂

If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to learn how to use R or SPSS and don’t trust yourself to actually start doing some learning via YouTube or Codeacademy, I think this is a perfect opportunity. Especially if you’ll be here in the last 2 weeks of June when these are being put on. The R workshops are a total of 8 hours spread over 4 days and the SPSS workshops are a total of 10 hours spread over 5 days. Also worth noting, they all start at 10 am so it really won’t interfere greatly with your other leisurely plans 😉

Posted in All things 301, student life, Uni work, Written by Stefana

301 Study Skills Online Resources

The 301 Academic Skills Centre has a great variety of services available to all University of Sheffield students such as workshops, 1:1 tutorials, online resources, PASS, and the Academic Skills Certificate. In this blog post, I will be talking about the 301 Study Skills Online.

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Beside all the events that happen weekly during term time at 301, we also have a great variety of online materials. If the workshop you really wanted to attend is not available anymore or if you cannot attend the sessions, do not worry! There is plenty of information on the 301 website that can help you learn the skills you are looking for.

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The topics covered contain useful information about what they are and how they are related to academic work. There are also short videos giving tips and hacks on how to better grasp the subject covered. Useful and relevant resources such as files and templates are available to download. These can help you organise your academic work. Additionally, if you want further information on the topic there are links provided to both internal and external resources.

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Some of the topics covered are:

  • University Study
    • Independent Study
    • Note Taking
    • Reflective Practice
  • Everyday Skills
    • Time Management
    • Reading Techniques
    • Critical Thinking
    • Mind Mapping
  • Communication
    • Group Work and Collaboration
    • Presentation Skills
    • Poster Presentations
  • Writing
    • Academic Writing Overview
    • Essay Structure and Planning
    • Scientific and Lab Report Writing
    • Referencing
  • Research
    • Dissertation Planning
  • Assessment
    • Exam Technique
    • Exam Revision
    • Making the Most of Feedback
    • Mental Wellbeing

If you want to have a look at some of our online resources you can find them on the 301 Website under Study Skills Online.

I hope this was helpful and you will learn new and interesting things when using the online resources!

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Posted in All things 301, Intern advice, student life, Written by Arinola

Making the Best Use of the 301 Workshops

Upon first finding out about 301 and the variety of workshops on offer, I know that the first instinct many of us have is to pick the workshops that seem relevant and sign up to all of them in one fell swoop. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that by itself. However, a couple of things can make that strategy problematic and I’ll share some advice on what you should be doing instead.

If right now, you’re having a look at all the Exam Techniques and Exam Revision workshops we have available and thinking, “sign me up!”, you will find this blog post useful for ensuring that you can utilise the information you gain from the workshops – and smash your exams, of course! 🙂

  1. WHY: Yes, yes. I know you know why you’ve chosen to attend a particular workshop but think about it. Say you don’t have any group work this semester and have always been really unenthusiastic about the prospect of doing assessed group work, so you sign up to attend a workshop on that here at 301, I’m sure you’ll find it useful because I did myself. Now that’s different from signing up to attend that workshop and 9 others because you just like the sound of them. There are a ton of workshops to pick from and they are all great but it is worth considering your reason for attending the workshop and having in mind that your interest will affect how seriously you take the workshop, your willingness to engage with the material and your drive to get the best out of it.
  2. HOW MANY: I touched briefly on signing up to 9 workshops at once and I’ll now elaborate on why that may not be the best idea. Quality over quantity applies a lot here but it’s not the quality of the workshop that is in question at all. It’s the quality of information that you can feasibly get out of, and then apply to improving or developing the skills that the workshops aim to provide support with. How realistic is it that after attending 9 workshops in a semester you’ll be able to successfully
    • get better at presenting;
    • reading quickly;
    • taking notes effectively;
    • working well in a group; and
    • planning your dissertation

and do all of that within 12 weeks! I mean, if you can, fair play to you and please…

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Just bear in mind that you have at least 6 semesters in university and if you prioritise your skills needs every semester, the probability that you’ll leave university having gained all of the skills I’ve listed above is most likely a 100%. You can afford to take time and be deliberate about it.

3. THE FOLLOW-UP: From experience, this is the most difficult part. Nothing good comes easy, they say, but it is so tempting to hope that attending a workshop or 1:1 study skills tutorial will set you right up. You do have to make time and work with the advice you have received so that you can make progress. Revisit the slides you get sent as many times as you need to as well as any notes you take. Also make sure to use the resources recommended to you during the workshop. It’s normal to be eager for a marked improvement within say 2 weeks and to be frustrated if you don’t see any. Take your time and after a while you will be instinctively doing things a different way after making those repeated efforts initially.

I hope you find these tips useful and are having a fantastic Easter break whether that is being spent in the IC or somewhere a bit more fun catching some sun rays.

Posted in Extracurricular, student life, Taste of work, Written by Tom

An Ode to Stephenson: The Forgotten Library of Sheffield Uni

Today I will take you on a tour through a hidden gem of Sheffield University. Students who have studied here past and present have gone through here not even knowing of its existence. It is akin to the Chamber of Secrets, only with a more mysterious history. Lo and behold, the Stephenson Library!

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*A mystical choir sings in the distance*

What’s so special about it, you ask?

Imagine being transported back into time. Imagine knowing what being a uni student here in the 50s was like. Imagine being able to know what exam papers they took, and what kind of building they lived in. That is the Stephenson Library.

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The library is attached to the Stephenson accommodation, which is from the Georgian era. It is located across from Endcliffe, signposted from the Edge and on Endcliffe accommodation maps. Its a 5 minute walk from Broomhill.

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Picture the scene. You walk into the entrance to what feels like a hotel lobby. To the right of you is a reception which is always empty. Old painting adorn the walls. It has the smell of a very old carpeted hotel or building if , like me, you know that distinct and oh so intoxicating smell.

To your left, there is a large hall. It is a large space where an indoor sport could be played with multiple table tennis tables (is there a technical term for that?). You may see the odd soul playing it, but there are never more than a handful of people within its boundaries. You also see a piano on the other side of hall.

You go through the lobby, up the stairs. There are portraits of wardens hanging along the walls.

Wardens? An outdated concept now, they were what came before Residence Life mentors, those who oversaw the wellbeing of students and ensured they weren’t getting up to any trouble. You head straight on through a door to a large room surrounded by even larger portraits of wardens, ominously looking over you.

All old white men, they are products of a bygone era.  But the largeness of their portraits makes you assume that these people were central figures in student life, with the power to expel students for naughtiness under the stricter university rules of those times.

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The building currently has no computers, but this room did before they were sent to The Ridge in Ranmoor this year.

Stephenson is meant to be undergoing maintenance, explaining their disappearance. But no maintenance work has been done.  Maybe at some point some work will be done, my guess would be summer, but I am unsure for reasons I will give later.

There is a router in this room, so if your laptop, like mine,  struggles to pick up wifi in certain places, it will have no trouble working here. There are plenty of plug sockets in this room.

However, the true gems are in the side rooms. Accessible from both this room and the corridor you travelled through, these are two medium sized rooms with two massive wooden tables to work from. There are no plug sockets here so don’t station yourself here if you have low battery life for your laptop. However, the tables are perfect for group work with the tables easily having the space for A2 sheets of paper, which a group could brainstorm a mind map or project of the like.

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Or a group relax and chill

But what shines through are the other things that adorn this room. You have pictures of the classes who stayed here from as early as the 1950s! This is a true piece of history. Its quite interesting to see how male-dominated university was back then, but slowly and surely girl power crept in and the ladies begin to populate the benches.

giphy-6But not only this, the rooms contain the exam papers that Sheffield had since the 1950s. There are some true gems to be had here. Did you know Sheffield used to have an art course? Or that if you were to study Roman or Ancient Greek history, you’d have to know Latin/Greek? I’m sure that no matter what your subject is, it’d be incredibly interesting for you to see how much exams/your subject have changed over time. I think this is enough of a reason to visit Stephenson on its own.

And the final touch? A load of other magazines and books from ages gone by. Funnily enough, there is no way to borrow these as there are no library facilities. However if you want a break, or want to read something curious, then feel free to have a read while you’re here. You have copies of the Spectator and National Geographic from the 90s and earlier. A true treason trove.

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As you walk this building, you feel a connection to university days gone by. The fact this library is connected to Stephenson accommodation conjures up images/feelings of similarity of Oxford/Cambridge, where each college has both its own accommodation and library solely for the students belonging to it. Indeed, you almost feel like you don’t belong in this building. Some people live here (apparently) including Residence Life mentors. The lounge feels like it is used by the residents for big events.

But it just isn’t. That room with the warden portraits? The last two times I’ve been there, I was the only one in there for the many hours that I studied. Even in my first year when it was slightly busier, there were always spaces to study. It seems so strange that this place isn’t used considering its proximity to Endcliffe.

But therein lies the appeal of Stephenson. Its lack of activity is reinforced by the fact its reception is always empty. Indeed, its old paintings make it feel not only like an old hotel, but a haunted one.

But it, in a way, haunted. Haunted by a lack of activity. It was obviously bustling in its day, but the more modern addition of the Endcliffe village accommodation and The Edge has drawn them elsewhere.

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Curse you.

It is haunted by its former students and their exam papers, as I’m sure they were.

Its haunted by the wardens. They watched over their students then, and they watch over you now.

Its haunted by the inability to explain why its so empty, why students choose to go to the crowded IC rather than study here. Maybe its because first year students go to the library less…or maybe they stray due sheer lack of knowledge about it.

There isn’t any history of this available. Most of my thoughts here are simply observations, imaginings of the building. In a university dominated by high tech building, this building has been forgotten. Its been forgotten by the students. Its been forgotten by the university, for it doesn’t even have facilities to oversee its collection of antique books and magazine. I wonder if the computers will be forgotten, and it’ll be decided that they’re better used at Ranmoor.

But most of all, considering the antiquity of the building in its entirety, the Stephenson Library has been forgotten by time itself.

And that is why I love it. If the building maintenance actually happens and it gets renovated instead, we may see it get ‘sexed up’ by high tech facilities.

But it will never be the same. It will no longer be the distant portrait of time which you will find me in, shuffling my notes, as so happened half a century ago.