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Feeling at home at Bath

Sasha Johnson talks about her first few weeks at Bath, explains how she became part of the student community, and shares her advice for new students.

Sasha standing by the sea
'Everybody is in the same boat and it can be a huge relief to put that into perspective.'

Sasha is a student on the BSc (hons) Psychology course at Bath.

My first day

Arriving on campus I felt mainly excited, but also a bit nervous! I was eager to meet new people and ready to enter a more independent stage in my life, away from home. But I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the whole university experience.

Luckily, I had nothing to worry about. I met one of my flatmates within minutes of moving in, and her happy, smiley personality quickly made me feel at ease. The rest of my flat, once I’d met them, were equally lovely and I’m still good friends with them today!

Even once my parents had left, I didn’t really have time to miss them because Freshers’ Week was filled with so many talks and activities. On my first day, I attended a Welcome Talk which introduced me to the basic ethos of the Uni; their emphasis on belonging and community meant that I felt at home almost instantly.

Beginning my course

My first few academic lectures occurred a week later. I was pretty nervous about these, as I wasn’t sure quite how big the jump from A levels to university-level work would be.

Thankfully, my lecturers were all engaging to listen to and eased us into things. Not everybody on my course had studied Psychology before, so the first few weeks of learning accommodated for the range of levels and experience amongst us.

Finding my place

For me, homesickness was never a major issue as I live less than two hours away, but I do remember feeling a bit ‘lost’ around three weeks into starting university. I knew that the worst thing I could do was bottle my emotions up, so I had a few heart-to-hearts with my family over the phone, and some with my flatmates, too. This was sort of a blessing in disguise, I think, because talking about emotions and wellbeing with them helped us to grow even closer.

If you are really struggling, though, you can talk to a professional at the University through the Wellbeing Services. Although I did not personally feel the need to do that at the time, it definitely put my mind at ease knowing it was an option I could take should I need it.

Adapting to a new learning challenge

My biggest challenge study-wise has simply been adapting to the style of learning at university. I’d been so used to being ‘spoon-fed’ information during A levels and simply regurgitating facts and knowledge that all the further reading and development of my own critical voice took some time to get used to!

I think it was a case of practice makes perfect and the more coursework I completed and feedback I received helped me to become more confident in my abilities.

Support from academic staff

My lecturers have been really supportive. While they will never just ‘give’ you an answer, they’re always available to discuss any problems with you and help you consider things in ways that might make things easier for you to understand, alongside guiding you to relevant resources.

I also would recommend everyone to take advantage of their Personal Tutor – in my opinion, they’re a bit like the mentors on X-Factor! They are very much on your side and will listen to any concerns you have as well as discussing your successes, which is so important for boosting your self-belief. I remember being a bit downcast about my exam results for the first semester, but when I told them to my Personal Tutor he reminded me that I had only been at university for less than six months, so actually my results were pretty good!

My advice for prospective students

I can only speak from my experience as a Psychology student, but if you’re considering studying at Bath, bear in mind that it’s a very different experience from A level and you will be encouraged to think outside the box and develop your own ideas. Personally, I think this is way more exciting than just learning facts and figures!

Also, make the most out of your lectures by engaging with your coursemates and the lecturers themselves. You don’t have to always speak up in lectures if you don’t want to, but it’s great to connect with people outside of them, for example by email or WhatsApp. Discussing your ideas with others can help you understand things better or in a new light. What’s more, you’ll probably realise that you’re not alone in the things that confuse or worry you – everybody is in the same boat and it can be a huge relief to put that into perspective!

Getting to know the campus

Bath is such a great university for many reasons, one of those being its campus environment. When I first visited the university, I was immediately struck by how compact everything was; you’re never far from the Library, cafes, or your own accommodation. That’s a real bonus if, like me, you have horrible spatial memory and navigation skills!

Also, being on campus really makes you feel as if you’re part of a community. Especially once you get to know more people as the year progresses, it’s unlikely that you won’t see a familiar face while walking about.

Another thing I love is the lake! It’s a great place to soak up some sun in summer, but even in the colder months, it’s so pretty. I used to go on walks around it fairly regularly, which I found was amazing when I needed to clear my head and get some fresh air after a period of studying. Oh, and of course say ‘hi’ to the ducks, too!

Exploring the city

Bath has all the high-street shops as well as some lovely little gems in the form of charity shops and independent cafes. I am a self-confessed charity shop addict, so Bath certainly does not disappoint! As a student, buying clothes second-hand was a great way for me to save money while still getting in my shopping fix. The local cafés can also make for a nice change of scenery from the Library if you fancy getting some work done outside of campus.

If you’re a foodie, Bath has some fab restaurants, too. I am yet to sample all of what’s on offer, but it’s definitely my goal for this year to go for more meals out! If I can make one recommendation, though, it would be the Adventure Café on George Street. I’ve been more times than I care to admit for lunch there… maybe I should invest in a panini press so I can recreate some of their lunchtime specials?!

Finally, Bath is such a gorgeous city in itself, you don’t have to spend money in the shops to have an excuse to go to the city. Bath is characterised by its oldy-worldy architecture - whenever I walk around, I feel like I’ve stepped into a Jane Austen novel! Jane Austen actually used to live in Bath, so if it’s good enough for her, it’s definitely good enough for me.

My favourite places to have a wander are the Royal Crescent and the River Avon. You’ve probably seen the Crescent on postcards of Bath, but it’s even better in real-life, with some lovely Georgian style buildings and greenery. As for the river, there is a pathway running for miles alongside it, so if you fancy getting in touch with nature, going for a walk, run, or cycle ride, it’s the perfect location. Just don’t try swimming in it!