It can be difficult to know what to expect when starting university, especially if you’re moving away from home and living independently for the first time. We spoke to first year BA (Hons) Digital Marketing student, Fergus Puddy, about his experience of joining Birmingham City University. He tells us all about how he settled into university life, the difference between college and university, and advice for new students joining in September!
What were your expectations before starting your first year at university?
I expected university to be much more full-on than it actually is. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely always work to be done, but I’ve actually found it quite similar to A-Levels. It’s nice that the transition was fairly easy.
How did you find settling in during your first few months of university?
I’d definitely say that the first few days are quite daunting, especially for those who’ve maybe never lived away from home. For me, the main challenge was finding my way around. I’m originally from Bristol, which is laid out completely different to Birmingham, so this took a bit of getting used to. After a bit of time, I now know my way around easily and have made loads of friends, both on my course and outside.
What types of projects did you do during your first year?
We often work on group pitches, and for the higher credit modules there are written essays to accompany. We also have seminars every now and then, which are like group projects with a different mix of people from the course each time. During these seminars we’re given forty-five minutes to create a presentation to address a certain brief.
Have you had the opportunity to work with industry partners in your first year?
Yes absolutely! We have a multitude of guest speakers for each module who are very approachable and are able to provide different outlooks on how to approach the sector, as well as sharing general business knowledge that’s very useful when approaching briefs. We’ve also had the opportunity to work with two different professional marketing teams from real-world clients, which certainly ups the ante when working on the end of module assignment.
What have you enjoyed most about the course so far?
I’d say that I’ve enjoyed pretty much all of it. If I had to pick a specific thing that I enjoyed the most, it would definitely be the group tasks and briefs as they’re a really good challenge – they push you outside of your comfort zone and get you meeting new people. It also helps you learn from your peers, and it can even provide you with a different perspective and new ways to approach a strategy or creative brief.
Is studying at university much different to college/sixth form? Why?
I’d say it’s different in one key aspect – you have to discipline yourself. There’s no one to nag you about deadlines and your parents aren’t there to check whether you’re working or not. You have deadlines and no one is going to meet them but you.
There’s also so many great resources to use, so you have to be much more independent in using your initiative to get the most out of your experience. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help - lecturers are always supportive and want you to achieve the best that you can during your time at university.
What advice would you give to students who are starting university soon?
Don’t be afraid or anxious about starting. As Stephen King said, “The scariest moment is always before you start. After that things can only get better”. This is definitely true for your university experience. The day you get dropped off can be daunting, but on the flip side, you’re now probably living the most independently that you ever have in your life. For me, the excitement of living like a real ‘grown-up’, outweighed the anxiety.
Find yourself a hobby to keep busy in your free time. Or better yet, you can join one of the many societies on offer at BCU. Joining the Rugby Team gave me a bunch of really good mates who I now go to the pub with.
Finally, try and get into a routine. Most people are happier, healthier and more productive when they have a routine. I’m not just talking about an academic routine, but include downtime too. For me I wake up early on a Sunday and walk into the city centre to grab a coffee from my favourite coffee shop. This is almost a ritual for me and it helps me relax after a busy week. It doesn’t matter how you spend your downtime, as long as it helps you recuperate as this time away from your work will make you better at your work – and it helps prevent you from ‘burning out’ too!
Find out more about the course