Things school-leavers might want to know about Birkbeck college, University of London

I am writing this blog entry as when I needed it two years ago, it was nowhere to be found

So, the big question is, what is it truly like to attend an evening university such as Birkbeck?

 

Fear not my friend, I shall lay bare all that is true before you 😉

“Will I fit in as a school-leaver?”

The short answer to this question is yes, of course you will! I think the misconception lies in how evening studies are more appealing to people who work in the day, of which the majority are over 25. I’d have to admit that statistically speaking, evening universities tend to have a larger mature students population, however with the introduction of full-time courses, the number of U25s is on the rise every year. This is also highly dependant on the course you are applying for. I study German and Journalism and find that on my German modules, there are more school-leavers, whereas my Journalism module attracts more mature students. Courses like LLB or Philosophy tend to have more mature students as well as a nature of those courses.

I think the misconception lies in how evening studies are more appealing to people who work in the day, of which the majority are over 25. I’d have to admit that statistically speaking, evening universities tend to have a larger mature students population, however with the introduction of full-time courses, the number of U25s is on the rise each year. This is also highly dependant on the course you are applying for. I study German and Journalism and find that on my German modules, there are more school-leavers, whereas my Journalism module attracts more mature students. Courses like LLB or Philosophy tend to have more mature students as well as a nature of those courses.

This is also highly dependant on the course you are applying for. I study German and Journalism and find that on my German modules, there are more school-leavers, whereas my Journalism module attracts more mature students. Courses like LLB or Philosophy tend to have more mature students as well as a nature of those courses.

In retrospect, I truly think that you shouldn’t let this affect your decision in choosing a course when the curriculum perfectly matches your needs.

“Is it only for part-time students?”

No, it is not. Birkbeck started introducing full-time courses since 2009 and has been working on them ever since!

But in this day and age, education takes on so many forms that I find full-time education to be highly overrated. Let’s look at an example: A full-time course takes on average 3 years to complete whereas a 75% intensity part-time course takes 4 years. The cost is the same, you get more time to study and have a healthy life balance. Talk about hard decisions!

“Can I change from full time to part time?”

Yes, you absolutely can! I think Birkbeck is rather flexible at this as they understand students’ circumstances and commitments well. It would be best to do this as early on as possible, preferably 2 weeks into the course as the longer you leave it the more unlikely it becomes to change.

I also advise you to start with full time and then change to part time if need be rather than the other way around as that would be more complicated to process (but not impossible!).

“Is it super tiring after a hard day of work to sit in a classroom and do more work?”

Personally, I didn’t find it tiring enough to moan about. I’ve got to admit I had it relatively easy though. I only worked 22 hours per week, still live with my parents, and didn’t have any major responsibility that would induce stress.

But from what my uni mates who work full time and actually have it hard told me, you don’t even notice the fatigue. Think of it this way, you go to a place with amazing people who challenge you academically while discussing something you enjoy knowing more about. It’s basically a fun fair!

“IS THERE EVEN A SOCIAL LIFE??”

This really amused me as it’s so typical of school-leavers to have this question.

To put it bluntly, yes, like any other university. Or how I like to put it: there can be a social life.

What I mean by that is, it’s totally up to you whether you want one or not.

At Birkbeck I feel like you can be more selective when it comes to socialising. So if you want to join societies, go out clubbing or have fun, the opportunity is definitely there. But whenever you need to calm down to focus on work, it is easier for you to do so as opportunities don’t get shoved down your throat. And you certainly won’t feel the need to ‘get in there and mingle’.

“You’ve been going on and on about the perks of evening studies, but what about its downside?”

Every thing has its downside.

Studying in the evening means that you almost have no excuse to not find work in the morning.

The opportunity is basically given to you and you have so many things to talk about in your CV to boost your chances of getting employed. Things like “I can be fully committed as I have the entire morning free to focus on work” or “As an evening student I get to hone my time managing skills and determination to complete set out tasks”. The list goes on and on.

Studying in the evening also means that sometimes you would have to come to class with an empty stomach as you rush to uni from work. But most times the lecturers understand that you have commitments and would allow you to have your meal in class. As long as you don’t let the rustling noises of your sandwich’s aluminium foil disturb the class too much!

Studying in the evening also means that sometimes you’d miss out on gatherings with friends or family. But if you can pull through one or few times of not being able to hang out, the amount of knowledge you’re getting back is well worth the sacrifice.

That is all I have to say for now!

If you have a specific question you can leave a comment below or come meet me at Birkbeck’s 12th September Open Evening (click here to sign up, or google Birkbeck’s Open Evening), I’ll be working as a Student Ambassador. 

Good luck on whatever it is that you decide to do and hopefully I’ll see you this autumn 🙂

 
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What is your most memorable culture shock?

A little background, I’m from Vietnam and have just moved to London 4 years ago. I consider myself a novice in British culture and at this point am still exploring the many ways in which British society functions. Therefore, not only do I have one, but rather many memorable cultural shocks to share.

The word “fat” and its sensitivity:

I was working with two female colleagues one day when we started discussing the weather (as you do in England). My colleagues commented on how cold the weather was and without much thought, I casually replied: “I don’t feel very cold because I have my fat shielding me.”

By saying this I had meant my physical layer of fat in a scientific way where it shields you from the cold. But to my horror, the two girls started comforting me: “Stop it, you’re not fat” and “You’re not fat, I’m fat”.

This made me quite confused as I didn’t know why they assumed I was calling myself fat. It was only after I consulted my British friends that I found out using the word “fat” is basically calling for immediate female reassuring.

Racism (mostly based on ignorance and immature mentality):

London has been quite nice to me as so far I’ve only encountered this unpleasant incident once. This was at the beginning of my moving to the UK, I was waiting for the bus in Hampton Hill where out of nowhere I heard “Ni hao ma”.

I ignored it at first as I thought logically this greeting shouldn’t apply to me. But when “Ni hao ma” changed to “Konnichi wa”, out of pure curiosity I turned around to have a look. It wasn’t friendly greetings between people who respect the other’s language, it was just three secondary school kids proudly giggling at the sight of me turning my back around as if they’ve just fluently converse with a native.

I was extremely uncomfortable but decided to ignore it out of shock as they continued to throw random sentences at me. Until this day I still regret not being more agile to react and show them that that wasn’t acceptable, especially in a diverse city like London.

How is this a cultural shock you ask? Well, in Vietnam it’s very homogeneous. Not to mention Vietnamese people are discreetly racist. The audacity of these children was what got me.

Relationships and the terminology “love”:

This is the most embarrassing and uncomfortable thing I’ve ever done since my arrival in the UK, if not my life. I fully blame this on my 15-year-old-self who loved shoujo mangas where they mess up your perception of reality.

I was fresh off the boat and found a boy I fancied at college. Long story short, on our school trip to Wales I confessed to this boy saying: “I love you”.

Of course, like any normal (British) person, he was (incredibly) creeped out. I had known him for less than 2 months, we’ve barely spoken and I just full on professed my love to him.

It took me a disturbingly long time to find out how only when you’re deeply infatuated with someone do you use the word “love”. I continue to cringe every time I remember this period of shame and my most sincere apologies to you A***, for totally putting you off love and probably traumatised your short time at college.

The legendary walking speed:

I’m sure many would agree with me on this but my walking speed increased drastically since my moving to London.

I often find myself dashing through the escalator even when I’m not in a rush to be somewhere.

This was made known to me only when I was on my volunteer placement in Tanzania. My native counterparts often complained about how I constantly left them behind. But habits die hard and without knowing, I keep falling back to my “normal” walk pattern to much of my counterparts’ displeasure.

These are the few things I’d like to share, thought it might entertain and hopefully make people more aware of the complicated nature of cultures.