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School of Physical and Chemical Sciences

Student blog- How to survive uni life, Naeem Ahmed

Naeem is just going into his final year of studying BSc Chemistry and in this blog shares his tips and tricks for new students

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Tips from a final year chemistry student

Starting university can be a daunting journey if you just finished your A-Levels or are someone considering becoming a mature student. Moving to a place where everything is new, can be quite overwhelming especially if it’s your first time living away from home. Whether you decide to commute or live on campus it can become exhausting. That’s why the more support you get the better your experience will be. In whatever area you might need help, there will be a support system available for you because QMUL knows how stressful it can be at times with these big changes.  You must do your best to accept and even embrace these changes. 

This blog will hopefully aid you make the transition to university life much smoother and more enjoyable. I am going to tell you the tips and tricks to help make everything easier. I lived out during my first year of university and decided to commute the second year. I made many mistakes during the process but hopefully once you’ve read this you’ll be able to learn from my mistakes. 

So lets start the journey of settling into university…

So you’ve decided that you want to become an independent person and get away as far as you can from your poor parents. One thing I would recommend before moving out is to not overpack and only take the essentials. You only need the basics: one coat, one jacket, few jumpers, few t-shirts, 2 jeans and and a suit for interviews. 

Another thing I would recommend is to invest in a mattress topper especially if you have back problems, most dorms have stiff mattresses, and this is something that really saved my back. Another little tip that really helps is to leave your door open for the beginning few weeks, just so you can bond easier with your roommates as they can easily pop into your room. Trust me it makes the whole process of socialising easier. And speaking of socialising, fresher’s week is a must for first years so make sure you do as much as you can during that week. Everyone is in the same boat and are nervous, so don’t feel like you’re the only person. Even if you’re not an extrovert like myself, there are plenty of things to do and people to meet. Go out and have fun. The opportunities are everywhere and all you have to do is take them and just be yourself!

To commute or not to commute? 

Now during my second year I decided that I’ve lived the life of independence and thought I’d consider commuting from Luton to London. My journey took me from 55 minutes to 70 minutes depending on the weather conditions and delays. Luckily, my area had great transport links to London, so commuting wasn’t too tough. Now If you are commuting in your first year and think that everyone else is living out having fun which means you won’t be able to make friends, that Is absolutely incorrect. You’ll still meet plenty of people who commute and live out, personally in my course majority of the people commuted. I’ve crashed at my course friend’s apartments most the time so don’t think you need to live out to get the university experience. A tip I would recommend is to get a rail card if you are eligible, as this would give you a major discount on your tickets. If you are travelling to London, then also look for purchasing a travel card as this includes tube which works out cheaper. And during my journey to and back university I would read my notes, news or a book to make use of the time. Another very (very!) useful tip I recommend when commuting is to invest in noise-cancelling headphones, this will help you big time when you’re trying to concentrate with a noisy background in the train (trust me when rush hour hits!). 

Budgeting!

Having fun and meeting new people is all nice and dandy but you’re going to university primarily to attain a degree and with that comes studying. Buying textbooks can be really expensive, so what I did was I bought used versions on eBay and gumtree and some from the year above if you know any. This will help you save a lot of money especially as you’re a student looking to save. 

Opportunities the university offers

Having a fancy degree to show your brain muscle in your CV Is nice but that’s not enough. There are many extracurricular and opportunities available at university to help boost your experience. And if you are feeling you want to do something different with your degree there are plenty of things you can do. I want to get into investment management with my chemistry degree which is quite different but perfectly fine as you just need a degree in most cases. However, filling up your CV and building your network should be a key priority during your university years. There are many amazing societies available ranging from educational, cultural, charity, career related and so on. I heavily advise you join to societies that pique your interest and not join everything. Becoming a committee member can also help gain leadership and teamwork skills with roles like president, Vice President, treasurer, secretary etc. During my second year I became secretary for the Bangladeshi society and joined the Queen Mary investment team. 

Final year

My plan for third year is to join the film society and learn more about making videos and editing. You can also become a course representative if you want to stand out as a good leader, this is where you liaise with students and lecturer to help make a better experience for your course. Another vital thing is to make a LinkedIn, this helped me connect with many across sectors for coffee breaks and job opportunities. A perfect platform to help develop your brand. Networking might seem like a weird and awkward task but if you see the person like a friend rather than an employer it makes the experience a lot more pleasant. A good networker also helps others network, so if you feel a certain person can help another person then you should help them connect with each other.

There are also organisations such as BrightNetwork, UpReach and SEO London to help you network further by getting you at attend insight days, masterclasses and networking events. If you are a first year then a spring internship can help you stand out and give you first-hand professional experience on what a working environment is like. In my first year I completed a Queen Mary program called QTaster that gave me the chance to go to insight days to various firms in Semester A. If you want to gain project experience and get paid, then there is a program called QConsult which I also attended. In this program I was assigned in a team of 5 to help a client enhance their business as a management consultant would do. This is a perfect chance to develop your teamwork, leadership and analytical skills.

Things to do outside uni

And you don’t have to things that are just available in university, there a plethora of things outside. For instance I decided to join GuideDogs which is a charity that helps blind people walk with a guard dog. The reason why I joined is I love dogs as well as wanting to give back to the community. I also joined my local kickboxing gym and fight as a amateur fighter for Storm Gym for the K1 competition.  The list is endless so go out there and try out new things.

To conclude...

Have you got what it takes to get into university? Are you now prepared to tackle the challenges university faces? You should be now prepared to get away from your parents and run to university as quick as possible (only kidding). I hope you have learnt from reading my journey so far to university.