What is student life like?
Being a student is fun, but it does have its down side. For most students it is the first time that they have left home and is therefore somewhat disconcerting. The realization that there is now no mechanism around to take dirty smelly clothes and magically transform them into clean ones is a horrible one. There is also the feeling that nobody at university particularly cares about you, or how you are doing. This is not true; courses come complete with a whole bunch of people who are there to provide support.
Every institution will have a support infrastructure to help you to get the best from your student life. It is important that you identify these folks. They might be called tutors or supervisors. At Hull we have supervisors backed up by a Student Success Adviser and a Disabilities Tutor.
The supervisor is your academic support person. They are a useful weapon of first resort if you have problems with your course or any aspect of student life. It is important that you get on well with your supervisor, laugh at his or her jokes, pay regular visits etc; one day he or she may have to tell a sceptical staff meeting that the reason you failed your exam was that a giant magpie flew off with your revision notes.The supervisor is also the person you will want to write a glowing reference for you when you apply for jobs after graduation.
You get to meet your supervisor on the very first day of your course, and keep in touch for the rest of your stay in the university. If you have any questions about how life is lived, or university procedure, ask your supervisor first. They may not know the answer, but they will certainly know someone who might.
At Hull we also have a Student Success Adviser. Emily can give you advice on directions to travel if you are having problems. She makes call to each of our students when they join the department and can provide great advice on the best way to do well in the university.
One of the more interesting things about joining a university is that a whole new set of eyes will be seeing you at work. This means that at Hull we frequently pick up on issues such as dispraxia which might have passed unnoticed until students come to study at university. We have a Disabilities Tutor who is very experienced in spotting these issues and suggesting suitable support.
None of our support staff will actually admit to wearing vests with a big "S" on underneath their shirts, but they have been known to do some pretty superhuman things for their students.
One of the big problems with being a student is that you have almost no money. Financially, the student's lot has got much harder over the years. However, living at university does not have to be expensive; the on-site catering does good food at reasonable prices, and university accommodation represents pretty good value.
Although you are poor, so is just about everybody else you know, and the Union Main Bar seems to do a pretty good trade most nights. All of which brings me to my favourite student joke, which appeared on a computer system in this department :
Q: What's green and takes a week to drink?
A: Your student loan cheque....
If you have money problems tell your supervisor. It is unlikely that he or she will immediately produce a wad of notes, but they do know who to put you in touch with, and anything which may have a bearing on how you perform academically is something you should tell your supervisor about.
The workload can be pretty daunting at first, until you find a rhythm. There's a kind of "calm before the storm" when you arrive, as for the first few weeks you won't have much work assigned to you. However, on most courses that changes pretty quickly a few weeks in when the first courseworks land (usually around the time that you run out of clean underwear....). Be prepared for this, and make sure that you take advice as soon as you feel that you might be losing touch with the pace.
At Hull we have "Peer Assisted Student Study" sessions which are run by third and fourth year students who are there to give you help getting through the content. They've "been there" and survived the experience. The are a great place to find out the best wasy to cope. The good news is that after a while you will find that the work will settle down (and you might even find a launderette to do you clothes - or just go home with a huge bag of washing...).
One pro tip is to check on the description for the courses that you are doing and find out just when work will be dished out and is due in. At Hull we have a timetable just for this, so students can plan their social life around your workload.
The Social Whirl
Everyone should have a social life. Even Computer Scientists. At the start of your university life you will get to go to some kind of "Fresher's Fair" where all the various student societies tell you what they get up to and encourage you to join in. It might be best not to sign up for everything, but it might be fun to have a go at something you have never done before. Particularly if it takes you right out of your comfort zone. Things involving public speaking, such as debating, are a great way to brush up your presentation skills and make friends with people on courses completely different from yours.
The Student Life
Perhaps the most important thing about being a student is that it is a time of your life when you can devote yourself pretty much entirely to something that really interests you. If you enjoy writing sonnets, an english course is a great place to be. And if you enjoy making computers do things, and finding out just what they can do, then a Computer Science degree makes a great deal of sense.