By Ellyse, Higher Education Student Governor and BA (Hons) in Psychology with English Literature student with University Centre Farnborough
I liked being close to home much more than I expected I would and didn’t miss the fact that I hadn’t moved away or have the traditional party scene that universities with student unions can offer.
Initially, the biggest appeals of a fast-track degree to me, aside from being able to achieve a Bachelor’s degree in two years and ‘catch up’ on the year I had taken out to work full-time, was the small class sizes as it offered more class discussion, more focused lectures and personally, less anxiety to speak in class.
It also meant I got a lot more 1-to-1 help than any of my friends received at their respective universities, simply due to the fact that I could be 1 of 5, or 1 of 25 students, as opposed to 1 in 100.
The lecturers have always been available to me for whatever I required, be it support, a listening ear in stressful times, a quick chat about an upcoming assignment or something in class I didn’t understand – their door is open and no problem is too big or small.
Doing a fast-track degree within two years was harder than I thought as a whole, because the workload has peaks and falls, such as when assignments and exams can fall in the same period whilst still doing lectures, but then a few weeks later there would only be lectures to focus on.
It was easier because I still found time to socialise with friends, which I thought would be a struggle given the amount of work.
Clearly in busy study periods you have to make some sacrifices, but I think it’s particularly important to maintain a good work-life balance to maintain good mental health and reduce stress. For me that was facetiming friends at their respective universities (seeing as we were unable to see one another due to the covid-19 outbreak) and taking time to read something not on the syllabus or watch the latest series.
I was worried about making friends, having kept the same friendship group since the start of secondary school, but I didn’t need to worry because the community is so vast and inclusive that it is hard to not find someone you click with.
My advice would be to try and open and push yourself to be talkative, even if you’re shy, as I was to begin with.
Through becoming a Student Representative, Student Ambassador and the HE Student Governor, I also gained opportunities to mix with people I probably wouldn’t have, from non-fast-track courses, such as media and graphic design – so that also proved a great way to meet people and make friends.
As someone who started at the university with crippling anxiety, though good at hiding it, I can say the university truly turned me around for the better.
I don’t normally speak openly about my mental health issues, but everyone struggles with it and in order to promote less stigma, I feel a responsibility to effect change myself.
I had no confidence in myself, didn’t think my life had much purpose and was close to giving up, but the university reignited my love of learning, and by merely engaging my brain in learning they helped me to take my mind off of the negativity that had taken over my life.
I also sought help from the counselling team (which I highly recommend as they’re an amazing team) and support from lecturers I particularly connected with, when needed.
From there my time at the university went from strength to strength.
To only speaking to two people on my first day, I had thrown myself into being a student representative, then a student ambassador, within the first few months – a big feat for someone with anxiety.
Following that, my course leader approached me around a month later, asking if I would apply for Student Governor for the university, an opportunity I would have never, ever previously considered would present itself to me.
Writing my personal statement as to why I should be student governor was a tough feat, as being positive about myself isn’t something that comes naturally, but eventually I submitted it with little hope it would go any further.
The day I received the email saying I had been elected was the first time in a long time I felt I had achieved something. Since then, I have been re-elected, having been HE Student Governor for the past two years and am a changed person to the one that started in September 2019.
I have actively taken part in board meetings, presenting reports to the governors of the college, as well as multiple validations of courses for the college alongside leading experts in the respective field.
If you had told me I had achieved one of these things back when I started at the university I would have laughed said you had the wrong person, but as cliché as it sounds, you really can achieve what you want with hard work and determination, plus a little push outside of your comfort zone.
TAKE THE OPPORTUNITIES OFFERED TO YOU!
I can gladly say I have managed to submit all of my assignments on time, despite the all-nighters, last minute panics and rushes of adrenaline submitting minutes before the deadline (apologies to my lecturers for the last minute panicked emails). *Please do not follow in my footsteps. As your lecturers will tell you, Turn It In can be slow, so submitting 3 minutes before the deadline is a thrill, in a bad way…*
When you’re juggling lectures, assignments, family/home life and potentially a part-time job, time-management can be very hard.
It’s important to plan your workload so that it’s not all left until the last minute or you will burn out, spoken from experience…
At the beginning I would say I admittedly had a bad work-life balance, as I was going out and seeing friends more than I perhaps should of – but I quickly rebalanced this and prioritised time to complete uni work before making time for my social life.
When it got near to deadlines I’d try to tell myself I could only binge watch a series* if I’d done some focused, productive work.
Personally, I find it very hard to stay focused for long period, so it could literally be just 2 or 3 hours of work that day, as long as that time was spent focused on a piece of work without distraction and got me closer to a finished product.
*Netflix Series I would recommend:
Admittedly, this is slightly counter-productive to what I was saying, but you have to make time for yourself and these are my go-to’s…