Monday 2nd August 2021

...with Emma Bailey by Senior College Ambassadors

News from Alumni

A five-minute Q&A with Emma Bailey by Senior College Ambassadors - Halle Afflick and Joe Roberts.

"Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did." – Newt Gingrich

Going to university and preparing for the “real world” is not easy. Dealing with grades, studying, money, pressure from family and friends, and having to answer the big question: "What should I do with my life?" means there are a lot of expectations on your plate. We hope students heading off to university will gain a lot of insight into what is involved by reading Emma’s contribution.

We were delighted to catch up with former Head Girl Emma Bailey about her life at university.

Did the pandemic have any impact upon your studies?

I was about halfway through my second term of my first year at University of Leeds when we entered the first lockdown. I moved home the day it was announced and didn’t move back until the September. The end of my first year was a complete write-off! When I began my second year, everything was online, even my one-to-one meetings with my personal tutor. It was such a change for all of us at the University, including the staff. Adapting to online learning was a challenge, and I think the hardest part was motivating myself to find a structure in every day. My Uni operated in a way that all of our weekly content was released on a Monday, and we had free reign to complete it when we wanted, with a live session for each module every week to ask questions. I found this difficult as I work best with a routine, but I managed to make my own timetable and try my best to stick to that.

How are you feeling generally?

I’m okay! I think it’s so important to be aware of how we are feeling, especially at a time like this. I really struggled with my mental health at the beginning of second year but making use of the resources provided by the Uni helped a lot. As well as checking in on your friends, make sure you check in on yourself, even if that’s just 10 minutes to reflect at the end of every day, and don’t be scared to ask for help if you need it – you won’t be the only one feeling the way you feel!

How did you cope with the move away from home and your family?

At first, I found the move to Leeds hard. I’m an only child, who was spoilt at home, so suddenly becoming independent and having to do everything myself came as quite the shock! I made sure to keep in contact with everyone at home as much as I could, through FaceTime and phone calls. I was lucky in the sense that Leeds isn’t too far away, so I could come home when I needed to, but I think the thing that helped me the most was just completely throwing myself in and getting involved in everything that the University had to offer. I met some of my best friends now on my first night at University, and they’ll be friends for life! Another thing I did to help was, before I left for Leeds, I sat with my family and made a collage of all our favourite photos and memories to hang on my wall in my student accommodation. It was a nice piece of home to keep with me, and to remind me of everyone who was supporting me on my new adventure!

What does your typical day at university look like?

Right now, I’m still online learning, so unfortunately that’s a little different to normal. One of the best pieces of advice I received on my first day at University was ‘Treat University like a 9-5 job and you will manage it so much better’ – I adapted this to 10-6, as this was better for me, and I try to stick to this every day. I sit down at my desk in my room or get to the library for 10AM. I aim to complete two lectures a day, both of which take around 2.5 hours! I watch the recordings and take notes on my laptop, as I find typing up my content much easier than handwriting things. Then, I’ll complete the essential reading for that lecture, and as I study Psychology, this is often a research paper, or textbook chapter. I’ll make notes on the contents of that, and then move onto any assignments that I need to work on. I’m usually completing a research report, or writing an essay, at any one time in the year, so I like to block off from 4-6PM to work on that. On some days, I have meetings on Zoom with my personal tutor, or live Q+A sessions with my lecturers, so I make sure I attend those too!

Do you or any of your friends balance a part-time job, alongside university?

A lot of my friends I know work part-time jobs alongside their studies. Most recently, some of my friends who study Medicine have become volunteer vaccinators for the NHS, based in our local football stadium. It seems like a challenge to balance being so busy, but it is certainly manageable. Nowadays, most maintenance loans are just not enough, and many students need to find other means to fund their living costs, and lots of universities often have jobs to accommodate this. Lots of my friends work in the bars and shops within the Student Union, and the teams there are very accommodating of university demands.

How do you balance your social life with your university work?

This was something I really struggled with in my first year, and I’m not ashamed to admit that my social life was my priority at first! However, since moving in with my friends in my second year, I’ve not found this difficult at all. Even though everybody has different workloads, we are all still busy, so the pressure to constantly socialise just isn’t there. Like I said earlier, following the advice of a 9-5 job structure has really helped me, and allows me to fully switch off at the end of the day, and distinguish between a social life and University work. I make sure I have a lot of structure in every day, and it’s okay if you don’t get everything on your to-do list done – there’s always tomorrow! Make sure that you give yourself a realistic and manageable workload every day, but when it comes to 5pm, switch off. Taking regular breaks was something I found really helped me, because overworking just leads to burnout and unproductivity. Socialising is just as important as working when you are at University, as unless you have a strong support network around you, the workload just seems unmanageable.

Do you have any tips on settling in university when you first arrive there?

Everybody feels just like you do. It’s such a nerve-wracking first few days, but everybody is just as anxious as you are. My student accommodation held lots of welcome events over the moving in weekend, and I tried to attend as many of these as possible to get to meet new people. Also, over the summer most University courses and Student accommodations have Facebook groups, where you can get to chat to people that you’ll be living with or going to lectures with. Like I said earlier, bringing lots of home comforts made my room feel a lot cosier and my own, and just making the most of the new opportunities that came my way really helped me settle in.

How does a lecture differ from an A-Level lesson?

This was one of the things I found hardest when I started University. The lecture is being delivered to over 200 people in the same room, so its daunting to think about asking the lecturer to repeat what they’ve said or ask a question if you’re uncertain like you can to an A-Level teacher. Lecturers cram in a lot of content into their timeslot, so sometimes you can miss things, or by the time you have understood what’s going on they’ve already moved on. The best way I found to take notes in a lecture was to download the PowerPoint beforehand, which lecturers often make available in advance, and really read through and understand the flow of the lecture – this way, nothing threw me when I went in. Also, lots of lecturers record their lectures for you to go back and watch in your own time, so I always make sure to re-watch my lectures at least once, so I know there is nothing I’ve missed. Lectures are often supported by content from a textbook in First Year, so making sure I read the relevant chapters really helped me to consolidate my learning.

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