UNIVERSITY IS THE BEST TIME OF MY LIFE

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SIMON KILLINGTON

University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

I found it relatively easy to decide which course to do, it was where to go which I found harder to decide. As good as a course might be, I think it is equally important to live in a town or a city which you can relate to.

The main reason for going to university is to get an academic qualification, but personally, I think that the social side of things and developing as a person are equally important. The good thing about university life is that you are left to your own devices, unlike school, where you're told what to do and how to do it. It's important to socialise and meet new friends. lt takes some people longer than others. If a student has any problems, about anything, there's student counselling available at all universities, where they try and help out as much as possible. I've been a volunteer for our Student Counselling Scheme for some time now. I've found it very rewarding, not only with helping other students through university life but also as an extra-curricular activity.

I'm in my second year, so I share a house with friends. It was difficult at first, what with doing your own washing, ironing and cooking, but you soon get used to it. Last year I would just eat chips and beans and spend the rest of my money on beer, but this year I'm trying to cut down on the chips and beans and eat a bit more healthily. It's great living in rented accommodation, but sometimes you can have problems with landlords. If you do have any, there's a Student Welfare Service, which advises you on what to do if you have a problem.

You have to learn to balance your academic work and social life. At first, I spent too much time going out and hardly any time in the library. You learn from your mistakes and you soon learn how to balance it all.

I have a grant, a student loan, money from my parents and various holiday jobs to keep me going. I worked out that I have pounds 45 per week for living (after rent). I feel that the financial situation for students is rapidly getting worse. As grants are decreasing more and more students are relying on student loans and getting overdrawn. You must be so careful with your money, because one day you have it, the next you don't.

University has been the best time of my life. It's three years of hard work and great fun. It's a positive thing to do!

CATHERINE GOODWIN

University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

University is a half-way house between leaving home and getting a job.I didn't see university as a chance of escaping from home, because I like being at home. You become independent away from home and you have to stand on your own two feet. I admire students who manage to live on just a grant and a student loan.

It's hard to balance your finances alone, because most students are used to Mum helping out. There are people who come to university whose parents shop weekly in Marks & Spencer, so they think that normal. Hopefully they realise that is a bit extreme and they shop in cheaper supermarkets. It might be poorer quality but at least it's cheap!

FIONA PATTISON

Heriot Watt University Edinburgh

I think that a degree helps a person to get on in life. I also think that other things you learn at university, like independence, are equally helpful. A lot of it depends on hobbies and societies that you get involved in.

Employers aren't just interested in degrees these days. You've got to look at other ways you can expand yourself. They don't just want someone who has spent four years of their life book-bashing. They want someone who can communicate well with people and work hard in a team. University definitely broadens the mind. You get to talk to people and avenues open up for you which you thought never would.

I was quite involved in our Student Association r

I think that a degree helps a person to get on in life. I also think that other things you learn at university, like independence, are equally helpful. A lot of it depends on hobbies and societies that you get involved in.

Employers aren't just interested in degrees these days. You've got to look at other ways you can expand yourself. They don't just want someone who has spent four years of their life book-bashing. They want someone who can communicate well with people and work hard in a team. University definitely broadens the mind. You get to talk to people and avenues open up for you which you thought never would.

I was quite involved in our Student Association right from the word go. I wanted to do something that was still outside my course so I could meet new people. I got involved in the welfare side of things. It's a student's chance to say, "I don't like the way this is being done, let's change it!" I'm never one to sit around and complain about things. If something's bad, I want to change it and that's what the Student Association does. I'm now what you call a sabbatical, which means there's an election held in which all students can vote. There were three of us elected as President and two Vice-Presidents. My area of responsibility is welfare, which means that if there's any problem that affects a lot of students at Heriot Watt, it is my duty to inform students how they can spend their money better. I arrange financial fairs, talks with British Gas, the Electricity Board and British Telecom. It's also my duty to tell the university what's going on, what's affecting the students and to try to campaign through the National Union of Students to the Government.

To be honest, I don't think I'll end up doing something job-wise with my course. Languages are useful but it's more the work I've done through the Students Association, particularly in equal opportunities, that I want to expand in.

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