Students’ Union

Put Down the Books. Your Future Wants Some Other Experiences to Look Back On. TUB-Thump 029

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High tuition fees mean that a lot of people want to make the most of their time at university.

For some, that means knuckling down and focusing solely on the academic work.

Episode 029 of TUB-Thump has a different suggestion.

Your academic work is just one strand of your learning and development. You can get a totally different set of qualities and skills from the activities and experiences outside of class.

To broaden your horizons to the fullest extent, it’s time to face more than one learning path. When it’s time to plot your next destination in life, more than one path will give you a bigger choice toward the quickest route to success.

No need to feel guilty about spending some time away from the books. It’s expected of you.


Here are the show notes for the 7-min episode:

  • 01:05 – You have two approaches to your learning at university. One is academic. The other is what you do outside of your degree work.
  • 02:30 – The focus on broadening your horizons beyond your academic work is just as important for developing yourself, both for now and the future.
  • 04:00 Many students still don’t realise how important the non-academic experiences are in shaping the story of you.
  • 05:10 – If you’re focusing mostly on the academic, you could be missing out on social activities, as well as improving your future career chances.
  • 06:10 – Don’t feel guilty about spending time away from the lectures and coursework for some of your time.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

Thinking of Running For a Students’ Union Position? See If You’re Up For the Challenge

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How much do you know about your students’ union?

When I was at university, I didn’t have a clue about the workings of my SU. It was a mystery that I didn’t look that closely into.

I didn’t have a clue about the workings of my SU back then. One of those mysteries that I didn’t ever look that closely into.

Fast forward to today, and I wish I’d known then what I know now. I would have been more involved, that’s for sure.

I’ve interviewed a number of SU officers about their roles for TheUniversityBlog. But it’s been a while since I’ve done one of those. Since I had Beth Moody and Liam Bligh giving some great input on making friends as Freshers last week, I’ve asked them to let us know what challenges they face as exec officers.

Just to remind you, Beth is VP Welfare and Community at Portsmouth Students’ Union (UPSU), while Liam is President of of Northampton Students’ Union.

Now, if you’re thinking of campaigning to become an officer at your SU this year, do you know how different the experience will be to your student lifestyle? What challenges might you face?

I asked Beth and Liam to give a flavour of the challenging, even scary, things about being an elected officer.

After all, getting voted in is just the start. Only after that does the real work begin!

Liam on the transition from student to SU employee:

“So far I would have to say changing my way of thinking from Student to Elected officer; just the lifestyle change between post-exam student and full time worker is massive to say the least. Hearing the alarm clock in the morning never gets any easier!” – Liam

Beth on taking up the challenge:

“Being an elected officer, I feel that I have amazing predecessors which leave a lot to live up to! I feel a duty to them to carry on everything that they did, and to work twice as hard as they did to prove myself. Coming from being unknown in the University to sitting alongside some very well-known students is intimidating too.” – Beth

As you can see, there’s not only a culture shock, but also some big boots to fill.

Talking of big boots, Liam was concerned that he might literally lose his footing:

“I had to do some speeches at the graduation ceremonies. I’ve never had an issue with public speaking, but having to do it in front of that many people is really scary. Especially when you are determined to not trip over your robes or remember whether you are supposed to have your mortarboard on or not!” – Liam

At the same time, both Liam and Beth are up for the difficulties they’ve faced so far and the challenges ahead of them. Here’s Beth:

“Whenever I start to find it difficult or like I am up against a brick wall; I remember that the students chose me to represent them. I really love this job, from helping an individual student to organising welfare related events or making a change in how the university operates, there is nothing else I would want to do, and that gets me through all the challenges thrown my way.” – Beth

An elected role in your SU need to be taken seriously. That can make the difference between shying away from the work and tackling it with confidence.

More than that, if you don’t take the role seriously, you could even be held accountable. Liam is braced for the impact of a new development at Northampton, but he’s also glad the challenges are there:

“We’ve also made it easier for sabbatical officers to be held to account, which puts a lot more pressure on us to do the work the Student Councillors expect of us. However, this additional pressure is a good thing as it motivates the elected officers to keep going and achieve more! So this year be sure to ask your officers about changing things and make the change happen!” – Liam

If what Beth and Liam have said doesn’t put you off…In fact, if what they say enthuses you even more, then you may love the opportunities awaiting you as an SU exec officer.

There’s just that small matter of getting enough votes from your fellow students now!

What do you think? Will we be seeing you in an SU election this year?

How To Move In and Make Friends as Freshers, From People Who Have Gone Through It

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When I first got to university, I didn’t know what to expect from the people I’d be living with.

Sounds familiar, right?

No matter how much work you do online to get to know your new housemates, the reality of meeting them for the first time is a big hit for the senses.

Here’s the good news: Moving in with strangers isn’t as hard as you’d think.

The randomness may be scary, but it’s the same for everyone. At least you know you’re not on your own about being on your own.

How do you make new friends and get to grips with your new housemates?

I’ve asked a couple of students’ union officers who have been through these situations and know what it’s like. You’ll find some tips from me here too.

Unique Fun

If you’re not sure how to play it, you’ve come to the right place! Your experience will be unique. And with a bit of calm preparation and a positive attitude, most of that experience should be fun.

As you’ll see, there are two very different experiences here.

Beth Moody, VP Welfare and Community at Portsmouth Students’ Union (UPSU), lived in a house on her own when she first moved to university:


“I loved my house, and being quite a shy individual when I moved to University, I couldn’t think of anything worse than potentially arguing over chicken nuggets or dirty dishes. I bought a Freshers pack, but it meant that I had to turn up to these events not having met anyone.

“That night I met loads of different people, and I ended up being invited to loads of house parties for the remainder of Freshers. Although I didn’t talk to them again after Freshers; it gave me the confidence to approach different people.”


Just because Beth didn’t move in with others, she was still able to go out and make an impact. It doesn’t matter if you live on your own or in a flat with 50 people, it’s important to approach others. Nerves are normal and everyone is new.

The big issue I always see is when someone shuts everything off and doesn’t interact with others. Sometimes they want to engage, but are scared to (more on that in a moment). Sometimes they don’t think the social side of student life is important.

If anything, the social side can have even more impact than the academic. Why? Because you know roughly where the academic side of things is headed. The whole point of activities and relationships outside of the degree is that you’re exploring new things and new people.

I like how Beth avoided the arguments over kitchen duties and who nabbed the food, but didn’t let living alone get in the way of making new friends and having a great time right from the start.

Food…And Parents

Many freshers move in with others, however. And that’s what happened to Liam Bligh, President of Northampton Students’ Union:

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Liam Bligh – President of Northampton SU 2016/17


“I lived in Margaret Bondfield halls in my first year, having only known the name of one of my flatmates through the Facebook group. After the 4 hour drive up from Devon and waiting for registration I was exhausted.

“Luckily for me, my parents went straight into the kitchen and introduced themselves to my future flatmates whilst giving out bits of the 3 cakes mum had insisted I brought to ‘help make friends’.

“After attempting to unpack some things and failing I went into the kitchen to then have my parents go around the room and introduce me to my flatmates one by one as if they had known them their entire lives…you can always count on your parents to make it weird.”


Okay, so I’ve long said that dishing out cake and doughnuts will make you popular. Then again, I assume you’ll be doing the dishing out and not your parents…

Anyway, back to Liam:


“Thankfully my parents eventually left and I was able to meet my flatmates properly, we spent the rest of the day chatting about stuff and eventually made our way to the SU for the welcome party, met so many people there, including one guy who I ended up living with for the 2 years after I moved out of halls!”


Liam was lucky to find such a close friend so quickly. Don’t be surprised if it takes you weeks, even months, before you find friends who you end up spending huge amounts of time with. That’s pretty standard.

Some people move out of halls and into a house with the same people they shared the place with. But many others group together with the friends they’ve made elsewhere.

For example, I was well into the first semester before I met the people I ended up living with in my second year. No stress, no rush.

Say Hi, With or Without Nerves

But what’s the secret to making friends?

Actually, it’s not that difficult. Here’s Beth again:


“During Freshers, everyone is in the same boat, no one really knows anyone; so if you are feeling nervous, they probably are too!”


Yep. When you’re all starting fresh, nobody is expecting anything in particular.

Remember that most people are worrying about how they’ll come across. They won’t be thinking about your faults and failings; they’ll mainly be thinking about their own issues.

While everyone is second-guessing themselves, why not take the plunge and say hello to people. No need to judge, and every need to be as welcoming as possible. If you don’t know what to talk about, ask questions and listen to others instead. People will feel relieved that you’re interested in them and you’ll feel relieved that people are so easy to talk to.

Liam has a similar view:


“I would just say it’s really important to try to meet as many people as possible in the first few weeks; you don’t have to get everyone’s numbers (I know loads of people that did this, kind of weird). I’d also say to use the Students Unions sports, societies and volunteering groups to find people with similar interests; I’ve lived with members of the cricket club in both of my 2nd and 3rd year after getting involved, so it definitely is a good way to meet people!”


One of the great things about clubs and societies is that you already have a common interest with the other members. Whether it’s cricket, quiddich, or computers, you’ve got one core subject even when you don’t know what else to talk about.

And once you get chatting, the other subjects come along soon enough.

Summing It Up

Here are the main points to remember for making new friends:

  • Everyone is new – Being on your own means you’re not on your own. Since the Fresher experience is new for practically all students, there are no big expectations of you.
  • It’s good to talk – In other words, don’t be shy. Social gatherings may not be your thing, but all you need is the word “hello” and you’re ready to strike up a conversation. On the other hand, if you’d do better in a crowd, go out to the events and say hi to people that way. Whichever way, get talking.
  • It’s better to be interested – Ask questions and find out what makes other people tick. That way, you don’t need to talk about yourself so much, and people will still enjoy your company because you let them talk about themselves. Us humans are so easy to please!
  • Be social – Don’t stay in your room. Venture out. And at the very least, have an open door so people can see you’re available. You never know, someone who pops their head around the door to say hi may end up being a great friend over the coming years.
  • Be generous – Offering food to others is great. From sweet treats to making main meals, you’ll be amazed at how thankful others are at your generosity. I’ve long said that a box of doughnuts is cheaper than a big round of drinks, yet it’s more memorable. Imagine if you bought a case of Krispy Kremes once in a while. I wouldn’t call it a bribe for friends (unless that’s literally all you do!), but it is a tasty ice-breaker that people will remember you for.
  • Find activities – University activities, SU clubs and societies, local groups, and all sorts of other parties and events are brilliant for making new friends.
  • Go online – Use your phone or laptop to keep an eye on events. Your SU probably has details on their website. Then there’s Facebook groups, regional sites, and other activities on offer through the university intranet and email lists.
  • Relax with the relationships – None of this should stress you out. It can be daunting, but it shouldn’t be scary. Nerves aren’t the same as having a panic attack. Take the plunge and expect a range of experiences. You won’t hit it off with everyone, but who does? Even the most charismatic and social of people aren’t universally popular.

And if you need any more tips than that, here’s some previous TUB posts with the lowdown:

Living Together Through the Years

Living With Others: Be the Genuine Article

20 Hints for Living With Others

And get ready for my new audio show coming soon. TUB-Thump will feature even more short, sharp tips on making the most of your time at university…including tips on living with others and having a happy student home.

6 Big Reasons For Second Year Woe & How To Wash The Woe Away

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In my last post on getting motivated when you get back to uni, I said about the shock of the second year.

We need to talk about more than motivation… We need to talk about conquering your Second Year Woe.

Yes, Fresher life can push you in every direction until your head is spinning. That’s covered.

But it can be just as much of a whirlwind for second year students too. It’s not fair to expect you to take everything in your stride when you’ve still got so many new challenges of your own.

So let’s address a few of these things right now. Get it sussed before you get stressed.

Like my previous post, I’ve asked Bethany Wren, VP Academic Experience at University of Brighton Students’ Union for some help with this. You can reach Bethany on Facebook and on Twitter too.

So, here are 6 Second Year Woes and how you can deal with them:

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1. The honeymoon period is over

When you start anything new, everything is shiny and exciting and woo. By the time you finish your first year, it’s easy to feel that the freshness has gone.

This is where you need to be proactive. There are loads of activities to explore, new situations to dive into, and many ways to rekindle your excitement.

Attitude makes a huge difference to how you feel. When you decide something is boring or you feel like your situation won’t be as exciting this year, you set yourself up for a foregone conclusion.

Continue where you left off. Write down what you want to achieve and experience in your second year. Commit to something you were meaning to do, but never got around to in the first year.

Try to get others involved if you can. The power in numbers will spur you on.

And with ALL THE THINGS going on, it’s easy to forget about YOU. One of Bethany’s personal student survival tips gets you to focus back where it counts. She says, “Look after yourself. Sounds simple now, but it truly [is] the most important thing to do”.

Simple–but crucial–things like food are worth thinking about, explains Bethany:

“Your diet will change how much you can study and how positive you’re feeling, so don’t forget your veggies!”

For more healthy foodie hints, check these TUB links in the archives:

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2. There is more housing admin and travelling to do

If you’ve been living on campus (or near to it) in your first year, everything was practically on your doorstep.

What’s it like now you’ve moved further away? Got a longer walk or a bus journey to add to your plans? Sigh.

And what about those housing issues you’ll have that you didn’t encounter in your uni accommodation?

All this takes time.

So factor in something productive when you’re commuting, even if it’s only a few minutes extra walk. Listen to audio of a lecture as you walk, or stick on a relevant podcast. If you take a bus to campus, do some reading or writing so you’re not just looking at your phone doing nothing in particular.

And keep a communal diary for stuff to do with your home. When the bins go out, cleaning rotas, bill payment deadlines, and so on. A bit of joint legwork when you first move in will save you a lot of time over the rest of the year.

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3. Work/Life balance is hard to organise

I don’t like the term work/life balance, because it’s not about finding equal amounts of the two things. What you really need is a personal stability that keeps you happy and productive in all aspects of life.

Arrangement is crucial. You can’t wing it any more. Sort out your time, your schedule, your social life, your research, your priorities, and so on. If you go with the flow and let other people dictate when you go out at the last minute, you’ll have less fun than if you had your social time mapped out.

You don’t have to be too strict, but you’re setting yourself up for a fall if you go with the flow all week. An impromptu get-together is fine every now and then. But every other night? Danger.

Then you’ve got extra-curricular activities. It sounds like a lot of extra bother, but it’s not as bad as you’d think and it’s worthwhile for all sorts of reasons. Here’s Bethany:

“Use second year to gain some really valuable work or volunteering experience! I myself did this and am now able to not only say it was one of my greatest memories of university but I can also use it practically for anecdotes in interviews.
“For those who are going into second year who had taken out a year for an internship and are potentially feeling like they have lost touch with peers they made friends with in the first year, I urge you to join a society or a sports team or look at the huge range of activities that park life put on. Amber our Activities and Participation SABB at Brighton will be around putting on loads of great events and activities so watch out for them. You are guaranteed to find something you’ll enjoy!”

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4. You were hit by “First year doesn’t count-itis”

Yep, you’re not alone. This still happens to SO many students.

Your Fresher year is a great time to get to grips with university life and meeting new people.

But that year is also useful for getting to grips with degree study and meeting new concepts.

If you didn’t put in as much effort as you wish you’d done, prepare for catch-up time.

Okay, it’s painful.

And yes, it’s frustrating.

But don’t panic just yet!

All you need to sacrifice is an hour or two each week. Spend that time revisiting the content and textbook material from your first year. Read up on academic essays. Prepare in advance for the work ahead of you. See lecturers at the earliest opportunity if you’ve got any concerns so you can get them dealt with and out of the way.

Basically, get clued up now so you don’t continue playing catch-up all year.

You can make up for lost time, so long as you don’t choose to procrastinate and ignore it.

First year doesn’t count-itis may be inconvenient, but it’s no disaster when you grapple with the issues head on.

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5. No more “cute, fluffy, first year subjects”

Even if you took the work in your Fresher year dead seriously, your next challenge won’t be more introductory modules. By now, your tutors have taken off your stabilisers, removed the safety rail, and disconnected the sat-nav.

But fear not, because your tutors are still on hand to help you where you need it. They’re not monsters, even the scarier ones.

Don’t feel shy or weak when you feel lost. Be honest about your situation and ask for advice.

Here’s more from Bethany:

“Remember what you have learnt from the first year. Look back over the feedback you got. Can you identify any trends coming up for example, ‘lack of structure’ or ‘undeveloped area’?
“I would suggest that you seek out your personal tutor in the first semester, to not only touch base with them but to also ask if they can advise you on these particular reoccurring themes in the feedback and how to develop or work on them in your assignments this year.”

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6. Second year doesn’t get the dynamic focus as first and last years do

There’s so much focus on Freshers and final year students who are about to graduate, that the in-between years are sometimes left behind.

Speak to your students’ union and get the specific issues of second year students heard. That’s why Bethany and other Sabbatical Officers are there at your SU…To listen to you and help take action where it matters.

What do you feel is missing from your second year? How could you be supported better? Are tutors fully aware and supportive of your second-year circumstances?

Basically, don’t suffer in silence. The more voices that can put their point across, the more likely second year students will be seen with just as much importance and not as those in a forgotten year between first and final.

Own your second year with confidence. You’ll go from ‘Woe’ to ‘Grow’ in no time.

Many thanks to Bethany for the great advice. I’ll leave the final word of encouragement to her:

“From me and the SU, I wish all students the biggest and best of luck this year! Go for it!