No two experiences at University will ever be the same. I learned that in my First Year, when friends living next door suffered through a series of awful flatmates. My flat, on the other hand, was full of fantastic people. I couldn’t have asked to spend my time with a better bunch.
Despite this difference, we shared quite a few of the same experiences. We all went clubbing in Birmingham, all went to the same pubs, all had lectures and seminars that we prepared for and took part in. So, what better way to compare University experiences than by talking with someone who went somewhere completely different for their studies?
Jen and I have been in touch since 2017. We both wrote for Campus Society, a social media platform for students, before it shut down late last year. She was one of the most prolific contributors on the website, and she still shares her stuff online. You can find her over on JenRoseWrites, where she blogs about books, baking and all things in between. She recently finished reviewing Killing Eve, and I’d highly recommend giving them a read if you’ve ever been even slightly intrigued about the hype behind that show. We’ve written another collaborative blog post over on her website, so if you like this one then you should absolutely follow this link.
Jen is a 22-year-old writer from the North West, Liverpool John Moores University alumna, and graduated in 2019, just one year after me. While I read English and History, she specialised exclusively in English Literature. Jen loves gin and Gordon Ramsay memes, so send your best-quality ones her way on Twitter.
Here’s exactly how our time at University differed.
How did you fill your personal time while at University?
Jen: I spent most of my time reading – both course texts and non-uni stuff – though I did enjoy the odd night out with mates, a play or two at a local theatre or just watching TV…nothing too exciting!
Josh: I spent a while trying to convince myself to go to the gym that I’d spent money on, or to keep up with Taekwondo lessons while away from home. If I’d stuck with the fitness lifestyle, I might have mastered meal planning a lot earlier than this year.
At the start of First Year I tried to work part-time, but was lucky enough to not need to, so quit to focus on my academic and personal life – which I’d highly recommend if you’re in a position to be able to do. Otherwise, I spent a lot of time writing, either for Campus Society or Redbrick News, the student newspaper, as well as juggling time spent with coursemates and housemates.
What were your personal and academic highlights?
Jen: Personally, my highlight was getting to attend press nights at a local theatre. Even though my review only ever ended up on the uni website and social media, it was just a really exciting opportunity for me – it definitely increased my love for content writing, which saw me write for Campus Society, Uni News and start my own blog.
Academically, I think the best moment for me was having people from all over the world comment on a blog we had to create for a module. Funnily enough, reaching people from all over the world with my writing is still a great feeling!
Josh: Personally, my highlight has to be doing so many new things with the new friends that I made. I’d never been to a trampolining park, played foot-golf or had cocktails while playing mini golf before I went to Uni.
Academically, the dissertation hand-in, and getting that all-important picture in front of Old Joe, the University of Birmingham clocktower, was a huge highlight. Avengers: Infinity War was also released in cinemas the day I handed in a three-day exam paper, which was the ultimate pay-off.
How did you find the work-life balance?
Jen: At first I was worried I wouldn’t be able to hack the work-life balance with the huge reading list and onslaught of essays but, as the course went on, I realised the only thing stopping me from having the “life” bit was me!
Josh: UoB made my work-life balance really manageable. There was always a lot of reading, and I’d consistently work right up to a deadline, but that wouldn’t stop me from going to the pub or for a night out. The only obstacle that got in my way was from being too tired, which was my constant state for the three years that spanned my degree.
Describe your favourite tutor. What made them such a legend?
Jen: Tough question! I think my favourite was Professor Gerry Smyth. He’s a Humanities and Social Science lecturer, specialising in modernism, Irish literary history, and much more. My favourite of his modules was called Our House, exploring the concept of home and domesticity. He taught really interesting modules and his teaching style was incredible (the Dad jokes though? Not so much!).
Josh: It was a tough call, but my favourite was Dr. Matt Hayler. He’s a Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature and Digital Cultures and taught the University’s best module: trans- and post-human literature. We explored the morality behind transforming bodies beyond what nature intended through literature. I loved it.
Plus, his office was a pop culture kingdom. Nothing else is a better qualification for living legend status.
What one piece of advice would you give to your First Year selves?
Jen: Don’t worry about uni. Just enjoy yourself, learn as you go, and you can make up for it in the next two years!
Josh: Chill out. Doing well academically is important, but since First Year doesn’t count – why burn yourself out? Save that for the next two years, pal.
A huge special thanks should go to Jen for collaborating with me on this. We hope it’s provided a useful insight into our University experiences – but this isn’t the end! You can read us answering five more questions about Uni over on her blog, by clicking right here.