In today’s blog, Laura describes her experience through higher education which included Education Studies at the University of Cumbria (UoC) (2015-2018) followed by a masters in Psychology of Education at the University of Manchester (2018-2020).
Living in Workington all of my life, and with a lack of confidence in moving away at 18, I decided to study in Carlisle. This meant I could travel to the campus, live at home and stay involved in my existing hobby of playing for a local football team. I maintained my social life with my friends from home, but often wondered if I had missed out on the social experience that you often hear about when moving away for university. Despite this, I enjoyed my university course and realised/appreciated the opportunities that were on my doorstep.
I attended UoC at the Fusehill Street Campus – which is a relatively small site. Although I struggled slightly to begin with, the campus soon became easy to navigate due to its size. Although it was small, the site still had a couple of different places to meet friends for lunch or just for a coffee and chat. As well as this, the library was well stocked for my course – books around education were easily accessible both in physical copies, and books/articles could also be found online. This was good for me, as it reduced the drives through to Carlisle on days I was studying from home (although of course, I could drive through to use the library when necessary).
For my assessments at UoC, I mainly had to write essays/ written assignments. This was favourable for me, as I work better on these, as I can research at my own pace and construct an essay rather than take exams. As well as the written assignments, I had some presentations throughout the three years. Admittedly, this was something I struggled with at first as I lacked confidence in my abilities. However, as the course went on I started to realise my ability and had great support from my tutor, and by the end of the course I had much more confidence in these assessments. Now my job includes presenting to groups of learners, including whole year assemblies, which I could not imagine being comfortable with when I started university.
During my time on my undergraduate course, I always had a Saturday job in a café (I had worked here since I was 16). This job was great and allowed me to have another aspect to my social life as I worked with fabulous people! As well as my Saturday shifts I also had the opportunity to pick up extra shifts occasionally – mainly during the school holidays. This worked really well around my course. In my second year, I also worked in another office job two days a week. This job led me to work on the National Citizenship Service programme across the summer break. All of these jobs really helped me to develop my skills alongside my degree, but you should try and balance any work with the demands of your course. My lectures were two days a week and I ensured I balanced my time so that I could work on my degree to the required standard.
Whilst completing my degree, I decided I would like to study the psychological aspect in more detail and applied to the Psychology of Education masters at the University of Manchester. I was accepted with my results, and after my graduation I felt I now had the confidence to move away and experience a new city alongside my further study. For this course, I stayed in halls which were never more than a 10 minute walk away from my buildings for lectures. This made it easier to meet up with my friends from my course for lunch or for a chat between lectures. The structure of these days was different – I was in lectures from 1-4pm and 5-8pm for two days a week. I did enjoy this structure, though it meant I missed out on playing for the football team due to overlapping times.
However, I regained the social side I missed here through joining a gym and going to classes with a friend from halls (which is where I lived). I have to say that moving into halls when I hadn’t yet experienced this was daunting but I made great friends – we were all in the same boat. It is important to look at different accommodation options and see which is best for you. I chose halls as I didn’t know anyone in Manchester yet, and I’m glad I did. Studying in Manchester was brilliant after living in the same small town all my life, as the city was on my doorstep! There is so much to do and see, and after this experience, I would be happy to move to another city in the future. Unfortunately, due to the current situation, I have not been able to attend a face-to-face graduation for my masters, but this is something I will look forward to if it is rearranged in the future!