Surviving First Year as a Mature Student
Starting university as a mature student can be daunting. We caught up with Ashlea, one of our Glenside Resident Assistants, to get her take on how to make the most of life at UWE as a mature student.
What are you studying and what year are you in?
I am just finishing my first year in Physiotherapy and I have loved every minute of it. Before coming to UWE I enrolled in a foundation course to get myself back in the zone and to improve my chances of getting in (school had been a long time ago). I would definitely recommend doing a foundation course if you are able to. Getting back to studying when you are a little older can be scary and I feel it really set me up well for my current degree.
How did you feel before you moved into Halls?
Terrified!! Not really, but it was a total mix of emotions. I was obviously so excited for the new chapter in my life, but I was also anxious about who I would be living with and if I would make friends. Luckily none of my fears were realised, so let this be a reminder that it's never as bad in real life as you think it's going to be. My flat mates were not crocodiles (an actual dream I had) and not everyone thought I was the weird Irish girl, so a win on all accounts I think.
Which accommodation were you staying in?
I stayed in the sought after Mulberry House. The reason for the coveted nature of this House is that it has two entrances and one of those is very close to the laundry and post room - trust me this is gold dust. I was in Flat 37 which was an entirely female flat with 5 mature students including myself. Two of those girls are now my best friends and I am so grateful to have lived in Halls with them. I would definitely recommend the Halls route for accomodation if you can get it. Living with people you don't know can be challenging at times but it's important to remember that you don't have to love all of your housemates, you just have to respect that the space is shared - do your washing up, clean the bathrooms and get on with your life. On the plus side, I only had to wake up at 8.55 for 9am lectures because I lived so close and I will probably moan every morning now about not having that anymore.
Did you manage to get in contact with anyone living in your flat before you moved in?
Yes, I joined the Facebook groups which I think is a must. I managed to meet my flatmates on the groups as well as some people on my course. One of my amazing flat mates even picked me up from the airport so we could arrive together. It definitely takes the pressure off knowing that you (sort of) know people already. There are even specific groups for mature students where you can discuss things like childcare or accomodation concerns with fellow UWE students.
Why did you choose UWE?
Aside from how absolutely beautiful Glenside Campus is, I just loved how welcoming UWE was. I got into a university in Dublin (my hometown) and although it had higher ratings, UWE won me over with the personal touches, calling to welcome me to the university and offering help along every step of my journey. I wasn't disappointed when I enrolled either, UWE has been there for me throughout this year with everything from financial and wellbeing support to advice with my studies; I've never had to face anything alone.
What’s the best way to make new friends?
Just get chatting, even if you don’t feel confident, talking to people is the best way to make friends. If you don’t like a whole lot of talking just ask people questions, most people love talking about themselves. University is full of interesting people from all over the world, with extraordinary lives and you never know who you might meet.
I also think it’s important to remember that you don’t need to make your friends on the first day. Take your time getting to know people, be yourself and don’t be worried if other people seem to be in groups already, you will find your people and they will be worth the wait.
How did you find the Resident Assistant job this year?
I have loved it, it's been so much fun getting to know everyone on campus. It can be difficult at times because you don’t want people to be afraid of you and you do occasionally have to be the 'bad guy' and remind students of the rules that keep us safe on Campus but I've always wanted to be approachable and I'd like to think I was a shoulder to cry on if anyone was not having the best uni experience. I would definitely recommend getting a job on campus if you are a mature student and especially if you are from out of town and don't know the areas yet.
What do you most like about Bristol?
Would it be weird to say the aquarium? Honestly, Bristol is full of amazing places and people and I love that I am never bored here. There are so many great cafes, bars and sightseeing opportunities. I especially love the views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge from the observatory.
What advice would you give to a mature student coming to Uni?
Keep calm, be brave and put yourself out there; try to join societies, do a sport and get involved with the Hallslife activities. I am a part of the dance society and it has been a little slice of heaven during a busy week. Try to remember that most people are feeling scared or shy and a smile can go a long way. Finally...have fun! You came here to get an education and it's important to prioritise your studies, but student life is way more fun than the real world and you won't be here forever, so enjoy it while you can.
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