With Freshers’ over and everyone moved in, assignments handed out and student loans dwindling, it really does feel like university life has started. By now everyone’s been to their course inductions, started classes and, if you’re anything like me, trying to desperately learn about Harvard referencing and academic journals.
As UCB is not only a university but a college as well, I’ve already been here for two years which means my transition has been from a college student to a university student. For anyone thinking about doing this transition I’m very happy to talk to you. Personally, I think university is very different to college, the standard and volume of work is exceedingly higher. I expected this as it was clearly explained to me, nevertheless, it’s still a shock to the system after doing an NVQ. University somehow feels a lot more grown up than college. The deadlines feel more real, the classes seem more important, but after being at UCB for two years it’s still hard to shake the college mindset.
The main shift I’ve felt so far this year is that my stresses during NVQ were all to do with the practical service lessons, serving in the restaurant and getting through an evening service. This year it is massively different. Not that I don’t think about the practical sessions, but most of my time is spent thinking about both practical and theoretical assignments or pieces of work.
Another factor that is different to college is that for the majority of my time at college I was under 18 which meant nightly clubbing wasn’t an option (although, as anyone in my class would know, we spent practically every night in the Shakespeare). Also, because I was living at home, the ability to do this wasn’t particularly practical. Living at uni and being approximately a five-minute walk from the main clubbing street in Birmingham has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is easy nights out but the disadvantage is that it is way too easy to go on a night out. Personally, for me, I like a night out but money-wise and education-wise I think it’s sensible to set limits. (I’m sat here typing this after having a week of the worst Freshers’ flu ever, so it’s safe to say I’ve learned my lesson.)
Another different aspect of being at university is the grading. I’ve spent two years where the only option was to pass or fail and for me this probably wasn’t the best incentive. I’d be working hard on a piece of work and look at the person next to me throw it together in five minutes and I’d just be thinking ‘why am I trying so hard when we’re ultimately coming out with the same grade?’ So for the degree this is going to be so different for me since I feel like I’ve got a real incentive to work.
Then there’s the obvious incentive that I’m now in A LOT of debt, which at the moment isn’t really on my radar but it’ll probably bite me on the bum the second I go to get a mortgage. The fact we’re now paying for this education I think has hit a lot of people but it has both positives and negatives. For example, my class weren’t happy with the working environment of one of our kitchens and the fact everyone is now paying gives the students a stronger voice to say this needs changing and we’re not happy. On the other hand, paying for the course for me adds a lot of added pressure – the pressure to get as much out of it as possible. My course has 24 weeks of teaching and I’ve done two of them already. That’s not a lot of time so each week really counts towards somethings I’ve paid £9,000 for.
One big difference between uni and college is that you can join societies at university. There are so many to choose from and I’ve had so much fun already being a part of the cheerleading society – it’s been so challenging as a sport to learn! I’m shocked at the amount of fitness this sport takes and how hard it is in general. Socially (I might be a bit biased) but cheerleading seems to have a lot of fun!
I’d say the final real difference between college and university is the independence aspect. At home I was never a hard teenager to look after but I’d always enjoyed the little luxuries that living with your mum brings like having the washing up done, mum’s cooking and the lifts here, there and everywhere. Living at uni has no more of that, I’m now fully responsible for my own washing up (which is the only chore I really hate). I’ve always been pretty independent anyway and the thought of living away from home never really scared me as I’ve always been happy to travel by myself be left at home by myself and overall I really like being in my own space. Living on my own has made me appreciate a little more how many minutes in the day are spent cleaning the kitchen surfaces, doing the dishes and vacuuming – all the little jobs that have always been done under my nose for the most part.
So if you’re currently on an NVQ and thinking about progressing to higher education, just take into account the difference between these two types of education as well as lifestyles. UCB is a friendly place to be and that’s part of the reason I signed up for another two years. The transition between these two levels of education is pretty strange but let’s see what I’ve got to say about it in maybe six months time.