Changes: First to Second Year

End the end of second year, a number of things had changed since the end of first year – surprisingly, time does that. Over the course of the year, many opportunities presented themselves to me. First of all was this, the position as a student blogger! It’s been a worthwhile endeavour not only to contribute to my university but also to diversify my skills. Being in a STEM field, I don’t do this kind of writing all that often, so this was definitely beneficial for me.

 

My course, in fact, also changed. At the end of first year, I decided to switch from straight Biology to Ecology and Conservation, however, not even a week later, I made up my mind and chose to specialise into Genetics instead. Ultimately, it all came down to module choices and which course allowed me to take my preferred selection of modules. You may come to the end of your first year and realise that another field entirely is calling to you, in which case you may be able to make an interdisciplinary transfer. I have two friends who have transferred from Creative Writing to Human Biology and from Games Programming to Music Production!

As for my societies, I remained in the LGBT society, but I became less active in the volleyball club and more active in the historical reenactment society. Towards the end of the year however, my dedication was primarily with the newly minted sustainability society, and mainly on the allotment that we have given new life. Next year I may join the climbing society, who knows what’ll happen!

Another change from first to second year is accommodation, since I lived in halls for my first year (the lovely chancellor’s court), and had moved into a rented student house for my second year, sharing with one former hallmate, one coursemate, and two others from the year above who my hallmate knew well from societies.

Now, two years after first attending Fresher’s Week on campus, I am in Illinois, USA, acting as a research affiliate for the Morton Arboretum during my sandwich year. Not only that but I completed an Erasmus internship over the summer in Sweden. There are many opportunities for engagement, change, and evolution at Edge Hill University. I’ve been lucky enough to experience quite a few of them and you may too!

ERASMUS+ Procedure and My Experience So Far

As I’ve mentioned before, the biosciences department currently have links to a few other universities in Europe with which the ERASMUS+ program is available. They exist in Sweden, Cyprus as well as potentially Germany. I have so far completed my first week of placement at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Umeå, with a fellow coursemate.

There was a fairly substantial interest in the program across my year group, so after applications were processed, interviews were held. The Erasmus Program Leader from the department, as well as the International Office, were both present to ask a few questions. After that, if you are selected, it’s a matter of waiting and filling in the relevant paperwork when the time comes. Make sure you fill this in as quickly as possible! The sooner you do this, the sooner you get approval to book flights and finalise accommodation. Which is an issue if you are staying in Umeå.

SLU, Umeå, Sweden,

Housing is hard to come by in Umeå, and can be expensive. The two options that might be best are either: staying in a current researcher’s residence with them or in their place if they are away during the summer; or staying in a student’s accommodation after they have moved out for the summer. For our Erasmus placement this year, we’ve had to stay in a hostel for a week, although will be staying in a current researcher’s apartment while they are away for the rest of the summer.

Despite the hostel, it’s been a good first week – I’ve got to know the city as well as fellow colleagues and have even managed to go clubbing and meet some new people here! If you’re so inclined, I’d recommend the pub/restaurant Droskan and the Take Queer event. Also if you are around for the end of semester, the festival Brännbollsyran which hosts music and a rounders-like tournament should be something you look into before going. Now that the introductory week is over, we’re off up to Gällivare to get stuck in with some real hands-on research!


If you want to stay updated with my adventures in Sweden with SLU, then you can check out my blog dedicated to it.

Biology – Second Year Decisions

With the summer term of second year approaching, many people have had to decide on a number of future ventures – third year modules, dissertation topics, and perhaps summer placements. So, in chronological order I present to you – the recent decisions of biosciences students.

Erasmus

Although not a particularly​ recent event, it does pertain to the summer activities of the biology students and affects their summer plan. Back in term one, details of the ERASMUS+ program were announced and applications were accepted. The ERASMUS+ program is a europe-wide student exchange of sorts. In the case of the biology department, there are two institutes that currently offer summer placements for students: The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), and The Cyprus University of Technology (CUT). I have been lucky enough to be offered a placement at SLU, where the department that our own biology department is currently in contact with is the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies. The kind of activities that occur during placements here consist of bird, fish, invert, forest, and fire ecology, as well as research into genetically modified trees. Since I am to be abroad during the summer, I cannot be present at our very own Edge Hill University (EHU) to take part in the internships hosted closer to home.

Internships

A more recent decision to be made regarding the summer break is whether or not you would like to work an internship. Currently, the university offers​ a number of summer internships for students to assist in research with the lecturers. Since I was already due to be away over summer, I have experienced this process as a third-party of sorts as my fellow students have applied. Numerous topics are available with various lecturers, for instance: microbial genetics, extremophile microbial genetics, vector biology, dermatogenetics, conservation, and forest ecology. After the long summer, students will head back as third years and begin their new modules.

Module Choices

Third year, currently weighted slightly more than second year, will consist of new modules to those studied in the second year. A full list of modules (and who came take them depending on course) can be found on the relevant course pages in the biology section of the EHU websiteSome modules may be available to choose in second or third year, which is a wonderful idea, as it allows further customisation of your course – allowing you to choose a full range of modules relevant to your degree focus. Of course, the big one – the dissertation module, is a module you must choose for third year.

Dissertation

With a wide range of courses and lecturers, comes a wide range of topics for dissertations. As tutors are limited to a select number of students per individual, they are allocated as fairly as possible to the topics you have expressed interest in. Since deciding on your dissertation topic may seem like a herculean task when presented with so many options, help had been provided in the form of suggested topics and questions, and the option to begin research in the summer. So far, the department have been very helpful in assisting in our decision – with lecturers coming to pitch their topics and inspire us.

Top tips for education based placements

As a 2nd year Primary Education student living in halls, at this time of year I find myself undertaking a lot of reflection. Watching my flatmates who are 1st year primary education students go out on placement I find myself thinking how I was in their position only a year ago and how far I have developed during this time. Although challenging, placement is an exciting and important time in constructing your professional development. Having had the experience of a first year placement and making it through (somewhat) successfully I find myself offering advice to others who are embarking on placement, work experience or even just considering a career in primary education.

1)      Don’t be afraid to ask for help – often when going into schools you feel like you want to change the world and the thought of having this power is an amazing feeling, but you cannot do this alone. The university offers a wide range of support to help and assist you throughout your placement and I would make the most of every opportunity when someone is willing to offer you their help.

2)      Magpie ideas – you will find this term used quite frequently in Primary Education but building a strong portfolio of resources and lesson ideas will make planning easier and less time consuming in the future. If you see a lesson you like make a note of it, ask the teacher about the resources and see if you gain a copy of the lesson plan. Don’t be afraid to ask, teachers will often see it as a compliment that you have enjoyed their lesson and seen the benefits that it is has on children’s learning.

3)      The more feedback the better – it may seem daunting having someone critique you for the first time, but teachers only want to help you, it’s important to remember that they were in your exact position once also. Try and take as many chances to be observed as possible normalising observation will reduce stress and increase your performance in the classroom.

 One of my reasons for choosing Edge Hill to complete my degree was the wide range of opportunities for placement such as a remote placements which can occur all over the country. Seeing my flatmates going through placement in their first year has only made me more excited to begin my next placement and implement what I have learnt over the past two years.

Why do a Course with a Placement?

So if you choose a course that involves a placement you’ve made a brilliant choice as you get the best opportunity to experience the field of work you want to pursue.

Depending on what course you do depends what time of year you’ll be out on placement. But regardless of the time of year… let’s face it, the best type of experience is the hands-on kind; there’s no better way to learn and improve.

Some examples of courses that have elements of placements involved in the course are early years, primary and secondary education, nursing and midwifery. These placements are tailored to the course so you’ll be sent out in a cohort, meaning that you won’t miss any contact time with tutors or miss lectures. Which is all good news seen as you will definitely have enough work to do throughout the year, boredom is never an issue.

Personally I’ve found that going on placement is great in the sense you truly understand what job you’re building up towards; by that I mean what’s expected of you on a day-to-day basis. Most of what is involved in the job you probably have never thought of and overlooked, meaning you know all the ins and outs before your three years are up. Employability-wise this experience is definitely going to look most favourable when going for jobs, definitely something you have to think about before you start your degree.

I hope this insight into placements has helped!

So how big is the intern pool?

hSo this week has been a little stressful to say the least. In fact it’s getting to the point where no amounts of Harry Styles swooning can pick up a girl back up.
For the first time in my life swimming around the dating pool has been pushed aside and I’ve attempted to dive head first into what I call the ‘Internship/Placement Pool’, and let me tell you…its pretty shallow…and when I say dive I mean more like an ungraceful bomb.
Now I wouldn’t describe my self as a totally naive air head, but I did think that at least one of the 25+ placements I’ve applied for would have jumped at the chance of a free designer  and hard worker, but sadly not thus far, and I’m starting to realise how seriously shallow this pool is and how many other people are trying to swim and managing to drown in it too. I’m not trying to apply for any fancy pants internships either, I’ve tried small and large design companies from london to all over the south, but so many companies just don’t have the space or time to take people on for work experience. Don’t get me wrong not all the replies have been totally negative, some have given really positive feedback but just don’t fit around my times or just don’t have the space to take people on, and it does start to get you down after a while.
I’m starting to realise I’m going to need some help serious help and this is where Student Services come in. The best advice I’ve had so far is ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, so as soon as I get back to Ormskirk in September I’m going straight there to find out what connections the University have and how I can use them to find a good placement. I’ve also been contacting all the family, friends and friends family I know in media or design industries to help me try an get some good contacts! I’ve heard so many good things from peers about Student Services for this kind of thing, and everyone says they are so helpful, so I can’t wait to get in touch with them!

For any fellow placement searchers out there, don’t give up hope, we will get there!

4 Months off – Whats a Girl to do?

Now at first glance, a 4 month summer holiday sounds like complete bliss! No waking up at 7am, no all night study sessions, no to-do lists, it’s hard to believe I’m about to start complaining isn’t it! But so far I am precisely 4 days and 21 hours in and I am banging my head against the wall with boredom! I’ll be honest I’m the kinda girl that needs to be occupied 24/7 not having anything to do, sends me a little bit crazy because I love being busy. So today, I decided I really should make a plan to make the most out of this summer…

First things first, I need to work my way outta that overdraft, so I went back to the bar I was working in last summer and convinced them to employ me again.
– Job and Money, CHECK

Next, I decided with 4 months off I really should try and get some experience in my field. So I’ve literally spent the whole of today scouring the web for any and every design internship and placement going – I’ve had loads of help from Uni with my CV so with that under my belt, the next step is writing a million and one cover letters. Wish me luck!
– Placement, CHECK

Thirdly, with all this spare time on my hands I can finally get stuck into projects that got tossed to the side line during the heavy study period at the end of term. This includes getting back into my beauty blog, and getting back into Yoga. I’d actually forgotten how much I love it!
– Hobbies, CHECK

And last but not least, spending time with my family and friends, being so far away during term-time really makes me miss everyone from home, so I am so excited to spend loads of time with everyone this summer.

So there’s a little insight as to what the next 4 months are looking like for me. Hope you all have amazing summers and are getting excited to be starting at Edge Hill in september!