Computer Science student Benjamin writes on his experience as a commuting student, alternative study spaces on campus, RAPs, and finding independence.
My university experience is that 5 days a week, I go into university by train, attend some lectures, go to the library – make notes from the lectures, complete assignments, and come home again. At the weekend I will usually relax but may occasionally a bit of programming work if it’s not too intensive and I feel like it. I enjoy listening to most of the lectures, hearing information on topics you are interested in is always fun, even if knowing you’ll be assessed on it makes it a little more stressful. It can feel quite lonely solitary working away for me, but the feeling of productiveness is comforting.
Wish I’d Known
I was quite surprised in first year to see an exam scheduled for a Saturday and I wish I’d known about this in advance (it would have been quite disruptive to me as I work weekdays and rest at weekends, so managed to discuss this with them to work around this).
I found it initially quite hard to find study space on campus (I’m not great at doing non-practical working at home) – while there are lots of spaces, they mainly get very busy due to the number of students at the uni. I eventually found out there was a library on the Selly Oak campus (Orchard Learning Resource Centre) which is huge is very quiet outside of exam weeks. It’s just a 30-40 minute walk from Westgate (which makes a rather nice lunchbreak).
The Reasonable Adjustment Plan (RAP) is essential for getting necessarily adjustments for things you need adjusting to cope with such as exams and groupwork. These adjustments have come in useful many of times.
Make sure you schedule your days well and stick to them. There is a lot of work, and it makes it feel more manageable if you know when you’re going to be able to do everything. I find scheduling padding/overflow time is helpful as things sometimes take longer than you think.
Seeing my mentor is an important part to the week, they can help to make sure everything is in check which is reassuring, troubleshoot when things don’t go to plan and also help with specific areas I may be struggling with.
Public transport gets incredibly busy in the 5pm rush hour, most study spaces are open late which can be used to work and skip and wait out the rush hours! I usually study till 7pm and then catch the train – it’s much more relaxing, and I get far more work done in the day by doing this.
The commute can be a good opportunity to do essential/recommended reading, but this depends on time time/busyness – sometimes it’s nice to have reading to distract but at other times it’s nice to unwind from a busy day.
Although I’m not as independent as a residential student, I still have enjoyed the independence university has given with me compared to school. I used to be someone who had a council provided taxi to school every day, but now I plan my journey and time and I enjoy the independence this offers. There’s also the independence in learning/digesting the content from lectures yourself and it feels so rewarding to find your way of doing this and continue doing it throughout uni.