Posted in Written by Sophie

My experience of BCUR (British Conference of Undergraduate Research)

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Although it is a belated response, now I am on my last regular shift ever at 301 (*sob*) I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on the experience I had of the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR – we pronounce this ‘beaker’!), both behind the scenes and as a delegate.

Working at 301 has meant I witnessed the amount of organisation and effort it took to put the conference together and although I wasn’t directly involved in the organisation process, I knew how hard everyone worked to make it run as smoothly as possible (and it paid off!).

As a delegate and student of Sheffield, I decided to be a volunteer for the conference on one of the days so that the price of the ticket could be waived (very grateful for this – coming from a poor student!) but also so I could gain volunteering experience for my CV. I volunteered on the Friday (13th April) and was very happy to be showing everyone where they needed to go and contribute to the smooth running of the conference. It also meant that the students presenting were aided in where they needed to be, and helped their nerves as a result because no one wants to be late to their presentation. I also experienced some of the students’ presentations, and it was excellent to see a range of academic research presented in each room. I think this opens students up to research areas they had never thought of before, and I definitely learned some new things (I saw a lot of black hole presentations – spooky!).

As a delegate myself, I was very nervous to be presenting. I had decided to present a poster during the lunch period, so that others could walk around and have an informal chat with me about my undergraduate dissertation. I was very surprised to hear that people had seen my research title on the programme and had come to see my presentation specially! The conference gave me a real confidence boost, and allowed me to express my research in a clear and succinct manner, ensuring that students of other disciplines understood what I was saying.

I want to say a huge thank you to 301, for not only being the best managers ever, but for putting on a well-organised, collaborative and friendly conference. I will always remember these two days – especially as it might be the beginnings of a career in academia!

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Posted in Intern advice, Written by Sophie

Dealing with rejection (it’s not as bad as it sounds!)

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Recently I had to deal with the fact that I will not be going on to work for a £22k graduate job after interviewing (*sob*), but I’ve learnt that it’s totally fine. The feeling when you find out is, admittedly, difficult at first, and it’s hard not to think that all of the preparation was for nothing. After a bit of self-reflection, I’ve learnt that (1) it’s okay to not be okay about something, and (2) whatever the outcome of something, you can grow from it.

I recently had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Emma Blakey at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (Twitter: @EmBlakey), who is a lecturer in the Department of Psychology here at Sheffield. She reminded me that rejection is a common part of life, and it’s completely normal to experience it throughout your student life and career. To prove it, she asked us to google ‘CV of failures’ – a professor at Princeton, Johannes Haushofer, had started a movement by uploading a CV documenting his failures throughout his academic career. It’s actually incredibly inspiring to see a successful professor list failures and be proud of them, because otherwise, you wouldn’t be where you are today. An excellent quote can be taken from Johanne’s document: “Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible”.

When everyone else around you seems to be getting on so well with their lives, completing milestone after milestone, it’s difficult to see the underlying failures that we’ve all been through. The failures often outweigh the successes, but it’s only the successes that shine through. However, it’s important to be proud of what you’ve been through, and to acknowledge what you’ve gained from failing, or being rejected.

I left the interview knowing I wasn’t going to get it. Perhaps in my head I had prepared for the blow, but either way, rejection does not have to set you back. What did I learn? I learnt that working with children is probably not the right path for me, and I learnt that (maybe) performing a role-play isn’t a great representation of what I can actually do. I learnt that interviews are not good on the hottest day of the year so far and I learnt that it doesn’t matter if your hand is clammy when shaking the interviewers hand. I also learnt that applying for jobs in the midst of completing a Masters course and having two part-time jobs is probably not the best thing for me right now – I will have time to do it eventually!

Rejection is hard, but everyone goes through it in all walks of life. All we can do is reflect on it (no matter how trivial the reflection may be, as above!), and be kind to everyone!

Posted in Intern advice, student life, Written by Sophie

Funding your Postgraduate Degree!

If you’ve applied for a postgraduate degree, you might be thinking about how you are going to fund it. The funding avenues are very different to those at undergraduate level, and it is important to know what sources of funding would be appropriate for you. As I am currently undertaking a Masters degree, these avenues will be most appropriate for Masters degrees, but you would find PhD level funding in similar ways.giphy (26)

The main way to find out what funding a university has is to check their website! They will likely have a list of funding avenues that you can browse and check their requirements. For instance, the University of Sheffield has a ‘Postgraduate Student Funding Table’ with a list of sources (https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/finance/pg). Depending on the type of degree you would like to study, there will be different routes for different departments. I applied for the Arts and Humanities scholarships, as I am studying English Language and Linguistics, but there also scholarships within departments such as Law, Management, Dentistry, etc.

There may also be university-wide scholarships, such as the Sheffield Postgraduate Scholarships, with 100+ scholarships worth £10,000 each for students that meet part of the widening participation criteria, or that have high academic success. Each university is likely to have set aside some money to fund postgraduate degrees, so be sure to see what they have on offer.

A source of funding that is not often utilised is the ‘Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding’, which gives you access to charities and external bodies that would like to fund students regardless of subject or nationality. You can register via your student email address or simply login while you are on campus to gain access to the site. You can search for specific criteria that you meet, such as where your usual home is, what your parents’ jobs are, whether you come from a widening participation criteria, and even, whether you are a vegetarian/vegan (some students have been funded via this charity before!). It is worth having a look through the website – the amounts that charities give may be a lot smaller than the scholarships but if you manage to secure a number of these, you could be receiving enough money to fund part of your studies.

Finally, there are Postgraduate Government Loans which are providing loans of up to £10,609 for postgraduate taught Masters students aged under 60. If you are wanting to take out a loan via this route, be mindful that when paying it back you will be doing so alongside your undergraduate loan, as opposed to it being added on top of your first loan.

Make sure when applying for funding that you really put across your passion for the subject and how the degree/funding will help you (and the wider community) in the future. What are your short-term and long-term goals? How will others benefit from your study? Do you have any particular dissertation ideas in mind?

I wish you the best of luck in applying for any postgraduate funding!

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Posted in Written by Sophie

Having trouble sorting accommodation? Be a Residence Mentor!

As well as working at 301, I also work as a Residence Mentor at Endcliffe (I still can’t quite believe I am managing it!). I have found it an incredibly rewarding experience, and have met so many friends along the way. Here are some reasons why you should apply to be a mentor, and some tips for the application process!

Why do I enjoy it?

  1. It is rewarding to support your mentees and help them through welfare concerns and difficult times at university.
  2. I am able to help out at Residence Life events, as well as put on my own events, gaining event management skills.
  3. There are so many practical, transferrable skills for my CV, such as time management, organisation, administration and communication.
  4. I am happy living in a block with other mentors, as I have met so many people and everyone is so friendly.
  5. The job is not too demanding – it is only two shifts a week and you can easily swap shifts if you need to complete some uni work!

What are some tips for the interview process?

The interview process, for me, was split into two stages: a group interview and an individual interview. This seems like it would be quite a daunting experience, but once you actually sit down in the room, it’s not so bad! My advice would be to keep being yourself, and let your personality shine through. Make sure to get across your viewpoints, but also listen to others and ask those who are quiet about their opinion (as listening is a major part of the role!). For the individual interview, bring in your past experiences as much as you can, giving concrete examples of when you showed excellent transferrable skills. And finally, breathe! They just want to see how well you can communicate and if you’re friendly!

Here you can access more information and apply for the role: http://www.residencelife.co.uk/residence-mentor-role-201718-apply-now_27642

Good luck!

Posted in Written by Sophie

Managing your anxiety during deadline season

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Everyone gets anxiety at some point in their lives, and it can go up or down for students depending on the time of year and how many assignments you have to complete. I have found some ways of coping that work for me when it comes to deadline season, and hopefully they might be useful to some of you who get anxiety or stress around this time!

  1. Focus on one thing at a time

One of the main things that I do when it comes to deadlines is trying to focus on too many things at the same time. The brain can only cope with so many tasks at once, and sometimes you can be doing an assignment or revision and your mind wanders off to another worry. Keep focused on the task that you are trying to complete, and worry about the other thing later. Let ‘future you’ deal with that when it comes to it!

  1. Google calendars and check lists!

To make sure that you don’t worry about lots of things at once, organise your life with Google Calendars so you know where you have to be, and use check lists (either written down or online – Checkli is a great website!) so you know what piece of work you will be doing and when. It is so satisfying when you can finally tick off a task, and it is quite rewarding when you know you have completed it. Don’t feel pressure to stick strictly to a check list if you have decided you don’t have time on a particular day, or if you’re feeling too exhausted to complete something.

  1. Take regular breaks

This is probably drilled into your head all of the time but it is so important to take regular breaks. Whether that be watching your favourite Netflix programme, or going out with some friends, make sure to wind down now and then so that your brain has a rest from the work.

  1. Try not to focus on the future, focus on the ‘now’

Part of Mindfulness (which I really recommend, head on over to the University Counselling Service to find out more!) is making sure you focus on the present, rather than the future. This is often the cause of lots of stress, and sometimes you cannot control what will happen in the future. All you can do is try your best in the current moment, and the future will sort itself out. Perhaps organise the weeks ahead at first, but don’t think about them until the time comes to complete the task.

  1. Talk through it

If you’re struggling, I couldn’t recommend more to speak to someone. I have been doing this more and more and you begin to realise things about yourself as other people can bring another perspective to a situation. If the stress and anxiety from university work is getting you down, speak to a friend, a family member, a colleague, a lecturer, anyone! And be sure to go to your GP or the counselling service if it all gets too much. People are here to support you and there is always someone you can talk to at university who will listen.