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.

Posted in Intern advice, Written by Sophie

My Essay Timeline

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Hi everyone! I thought I would share with you a short blog post about how I go about planning my essay assignments. I have been at Sheffield uni for three years now (scary, where has the time gone?) and I have discovered a planning timeline that works for me and helps me balance my workload.

I give myself at least four weeks to complete an essay, and that means that I don’t end up stressing near to the deadline:

Week 1: This is when I gather all of my readings and make preliminary notes on each one, with references to why it is relevant to my essay/argument. It is also a good idea to think of your essay question at this point (if you have to make up your own), so that your reading and argument is focused from the start.

Week 2: I then create a plan and structure for my essay. This picks out the main themes throughout the essay, and how I will go about laying out these themes. It is always best to do this before starting to write, as you can end up having bits of writing here and there which isn’t coherent.

Week 3: The write-up stage. I start writing my ideas and thoughts down under each theme, and try to reference other relevant sources as much as I can. I try not to restrict myself too much at this stage, because it can end up taking longer if I am bothered about sentence structure and typos.

Week 4: Finally, I make sure to proofread and edit my work appropriately to ensure that my writing is concise and that everything makes sense. Try to leave a couple of days to step away from your work in the middle of this week, so that you have a fresh pair of eyes to edit it again. You could even get your friends/flatmates/family to help you spot mistakes/understand your argument!

This is by no means the most perfect way to plan your essay but it has worked for me so far! Be sure to go to some 301 workshops to help with your essay, such as: Essay Planning and Structure, Developing Your Argument, Critical Thinking, Academic Writing and Time Management! You can see the calendar here: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/301/services/workshops

Posted in Written by Sophie

Considering Postgraduate study?

If you’re in your final year you might be thinking about your options for when you graduate. One thing a lot of people think of is studying a postgraduate degree – but it’s not for everyone. The pressure of looming Grad Scheme deadlines can sometimes throw you off and make you want to stay another year at university, and it’s not always a good idea. It’s best to weigh up the pros and cons of studying a Masters or PhD before heading straight into the application! Here are some tips and points to think about before you start writing applications:

  • Will it just be another year of study?

Of course, it’s excellent when you love your degree so much and want to carry it on. Or you might have found a really niche topic that you want to study which is slightly different to your undergraduate degree. Sometimes you can get into the career of your dreams by going straight into work, and you don’t always need a Masters or PhD to do it. Make sure you fully research potential career sectors that you might want to go into after study, and ensure that the Masters or PhD year will be a fulfilling one that may help with your career development. It’s absolutely fine to continue a subject you enjoy, but really think about the reasons why you want to study it. This will help in the application process too!

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  • Check all of the funding options available to you.

There are many ways to fund your postgraduate study, but these are not always as obvious or as widely advertised. There are the Postgraduate Loans, which in recent years have allowed students to lend up to £10,000 to help with tuition fees and living costs. Remember: the loan works similarly to the undergraduate loan – you only start paying it back once you start earning over £21,000. However, the repayments occur alongside the undergraduate loan, which is something to think about. Also, sometimes this isn’t enough, and you may need extra funds to help with living costs. There are often scholarships and bursaries available from most universities, as well as from charities and trusts. Two really good websites are Find A Masters https://www.findamasters.com/funding/postgraduate-masters-scholarships/scholarships.aspx to help you search for places as well as scholarships, and the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding https://www.postgraduate-funding.com/gateway which shows you a range of charities and trusts that are available to fund postgraduate students.

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  • How else will you be able to make the most of your Postgraduate study?

Studying at Postgraduate level also means that you can take on extra-curricular activities that you may not have had the chance to do if you were in a full-time job. It could also be a great time to join that society you didn’t manage to join, or work alongside your degree to gain extra experience. Think about the opportunities available to you while studying, and make sure to mention these opportunities on your application. Show that your Postgraduate study will be worthwhile and will benefit you in the long run!

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  • Don’t panic.

This is easier said than done, but this time of year can be very stressful for final year students. Make sure your current degree is prioritised over making applications, and take regular breaks (even if that means taking a full day off!) to recharge. It can get very overwhelming, but you do make it through the other side. It is not the end of the world if you don’t know what to do next year! Support is available all across uni.

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Good luck everyone!

Posted in Intern advice, Written by Sophie

Finding your house for next year: Don’t stress!

It’s that time of year when landlords and agencies start to advertise their properties for the next academic year. giphy.gif

This is often a stressful time for students, and it certainly was for me in my first and second year, when I didn’t have much knowledge about renting houses. Here are some tips for finding houses, and try not to stress too much as there are always options for living in Sheffield!giphy 1

  • Be certain about who you want to live with.

This is my most important point, and that’s deciding who you would like to live with. It might seem that the people you are currently living with in halls are great, but sometimes arguments can occur later down the line, and you might have already signed for a house with them. Even if the house you end up going for is not as nice as the houses earlier on in the year, at least you would be living with people that you enjoy being around! Think about people on your course, societies, work, etc. and ask what their current plans are. Even if you don’t intend on signing for a house soon, it’s often good to get an early start when it comes to knowing who you want to live with. Remember that hanging out with your friends may be different to living with them, so really think about it.

  • Find a reputable landlord.

There are many reputable landlords in Sheffield, but sometimes you can come across less reputable ones. A big tip from me would be to go to propertywithUS in the Students’ Union to discuss the options for the area you would like to live in. Check the landlord/agencies’ reviews online too – even though an agency might appear reputable, the reviews may tell a different story. Also, check through their systems for deposits and admin fees. Usually, the deposit will be put into a protection scheme, which handles potential disputes towards the end of the tenancy and keeps your money safe. It’s often good to pay a deposit to cover you for damages, and sometimes there may be hidden admin fees (check the small print!).

  • House hunting events are fab!

The University often puts on events for those who are still looking for houses. There is always one early on in the year, but this is mainly for agencies and landlords to advertise their properties. After this event, often houses get signed for quickly. Do not worry about this – there are always properties, especially for groups of four and five. Most properties are also in walking distance or a bus journey from uni, so there will be something, somewhere. If you are looking for housemates, there are often events advertised even later in the year, for groups that are looking for individuals or individuals that are looking for groups. Check the Sheffield uni Facebook groups too – a lot of students advertise properties on there, but make sure to meet up with them with a friend. It could be unsafe to go on your own!

  • Check everything in the house.

When you are arranging viewings for houses, be sure to check every room in the house, and look for things that may need repairing (such as broken furniture, facilities, mould, general fittings, etc.). Ask the current tenants about any problems that may have occurred there – don’t be embarrassed to say this in front of the estate agent. They’re human too, and even though they’re trying to sell you the house, they wouldn’t mind if you asked lots of questions! Don’t be pressured by pushy landlords too. Only sign if you are happy with everything (or if there are solutions to any problems that have arisen), which leads onto my next point!

  • And finally… only sign when you’re completely happy.

After making sure you know who you want to live with; checking the landlord/agency; and going through every aspect of the house, you can go ahead and sign. Ensure you read through all of the contract (as it is legally binding!) and ask the landlord if you are unsure on any of it. Also make sure that they have a repairs and maintenance team in place, and ask about insurance for the building and your contents. You often have to buy your own contents’ insurance, but it’s often good to ask about it.

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Happy House Hunting! And don’t worry about it – there are always places to live and people to live with. It’s just about finding the right ones.

Posted in Written by Sophie

Finding support when you need it! Part 2

Happy Monday everyone! 🙂 Here is the second part of my blog post on finding support across the University, as promised! Hopefully some of these services will be of use to you, if you’re having concerns about any aspect of University life. Check back to last week’s post if any of these services do not relate to your current situation.

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Disability and Dyslexia Support Service (DDSS)

DDSS assist students with any kind of impairment or condition which makes it difficult to study or undertake assignments. If you have a specific learning difficulty, mental health condition, autism spectrum condition, physical impairment (not an exhaustive list), then speak to someone at DDSS who will be able to help you. There are a number of different ways they can help you, and it is all based around your needs, such as 1:1 support, copies of lecture notes, extra time in exams, etc. DDSS are located in the Alfred Denny Building near the university concourse.

English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC)

There are a number of English language courses and services available with ELTC for students who may be wanting to improve their English. The facilities consist of modern classrooms, well-equipped computer suites and audio-visual equipment and learning resources. All of the staff are experienced in teaching international students both in the UK and overseas too. ELTC are located at 78 Hoyle Street if you have any English Language-related queries.

Personal Tutor

Your Personal Tutor is someone you can talk to about any academic worries, or any personal circumstances that could be affecting your academic study. They may have expertise in the subject area that you are concerned about, or can give general advice related to essay feedback and structure, exam revision and managing your workload. You will have some dedicated time to have a general meeting with them (and potentially with other students too), but you can schedule as many meetings as you wish with your Personal Tutor, as and when you need to. There may be a specific way of setting up these meetings, whether that be through Doodle Poll or through their Google Calendar, or I am sure you can send them a quick email.

Careers Service

The Careers Service is now located in Edgar Allen House at 241 Glossop Road (as of recently!) and is dedicated to careers information such as graduate jobs, part-time jobs while you study, developing your CV/applications, and much more. They are helpful for any year of study, and can also help you once you graduate. They hold a number of different events that you can attend, whether that be Careers Fairs, talks, and networking opportunities. You can schedule one-to-one appointments too, to go over anything you may be concerned about, such as personal statements, CVs and applications. There are online courses too, called Career MOOCs, which help you to succeed when writing applications and attending interviews. There are so many resources available at the Careers Service, so check the website out: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/careers/index.

That concludes my (non-exhaustive) list of services that could help you across the University! If you are still not sure where to go, SSiD are excellent at signposting and can point you in the right direction, especially if there is something you need help with and is not mentioned here.

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Posted in Written by Sophie

Finding support when you need it! Part 1

Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to go if you’re in need of support. There’s so many support services available on campus and it can be overwhelming when you’re not sure what each one specialises in. In this blog post I have listed a number of services that may be beneficial to you, no matter what your problem is. Hopefully I have covered most grounds here!giphy (8)SSiD

SSiD are here to answer the majority of your questions about all aspects of university life. If they cannot answer the question for you, they can direct you to appropriate services that will be able to. During your time at university, problems may arise where you’re not sure which service would be best, so SSiD can help. They’re also there to print new UCards, results, certificates of student status, and are able to confirm your student status too. SSiD are on Level 3 of the Students’ Union.

Central Welfare and Guidance (CWaG)

Central Welfare and Guidance support students who are experiencing personal difficulties that may be impacting study or their university experience in general. They have direct links to external agencies depending on your situation, such as: Rape Crisis, SY Police, Domestic Abuse and Community Mental Health. Some situations that CWaG include, but are not limited to: serious ill health, bereavement, bullying and harassment, mental health problems and domestic/sexual violence. They’re your number one service for anything welfare related, so pop in to see them on Level 6 of the Students’ Union.

University Counselling Service (UCS)

As well as the University Health Service (UHS), the University Counselling Service are available for anything Mental Health related. Not only are there appointments available for all students, but there are many online resources and sessions running. There are Mindfulness Stress Reduction sessions, Group Therapy and Individual Counselling sessions, and various workshops. You can access Self-help resources here: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/counselling/self. If you think you’re having any mental health problem, the UCS can help you at 36 Wilkinson Street. To book your first appointment, you can register with Student Access to Mental Health Support (SAMHS) for triage appointments: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/mental-wellbeing.

Nightline

There are sometimes evenings when you just need to talk to someone about something that has been troubling you. Nightline, a volunteer-led association run by Sheffield students, is an excellent service who will listen to you, and not lecture. No problem is too big or too small, and all of the students are trained to keep things non-directive, confidential and anonymous. They operate between 8pm and 8am any night during term-time, on the number 0114 222 8787. You can also call 0114 222 8788 for information. They also have a listening service via email if you don’t mind waiting longer, on nightline@sheffield.ac.uk.

301 & Maths & Statistics Help (MASH)

The place to be for anything academic skills-related. Whether that be wanting to beat procrastination, brush up on your writing skills, or deciding which statistical test to use in your research, 301 and Maths and Statistics Help can help. You don’t have to be an undergraduate either, postgraduates are also more than welcome and you can be from any degree background. We have workshops, one-to-one sessions and online tutorials, so however you would like to work we have it available for you.

On top of all of these great services, there are SU officers that can help with any of your concerns and complaints, and can make change happen. There are also societies within the SU, such as LGBT+, Black and Ethnic Minorities students committee, and more that you could get specialised support from and meet like-minded people. This is not an exhaustive list – there is plenty of information on SSiD’s page via the university website too!

Check back next week for Part 2! 🙂 giphy (9)