School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham
I was offered a place at the University of Birmingham in the UK after I met my professor at a meeting in India, so don’t miss out on the fairs organised by the University in the metro cities as you never know who you may meet!
Birmingham is truly international in character and the population comprises many different ethnic groups, so if you can converse in English and are independent you might not feel the relocation pinch other than missing face-to-face meetings with your family and friends back home. Birmingham is a city which has many cultural offerings and I personally feel that if one has lived in the metro cities of India, you would find life comfortable here (although the shopping centres do close earlier). In fact, there are so many events that much of your time can be spent socialising, getting to know new people and cultures, experimenting with world cuisines, and participating in team-oriented fun events (e.g. trips to other parts of the UK) that are both organised by the University and the City Council.
The primary aspect which has impressed me here is the careful thought the University and academic staff put towards inclusiveness. Even at departmental gatherings, the food provided caters to vegetarians, vegan or people preferring halal food. The academic staff members are very supportive and suggest possible solutions to problems, when shared. Even the accounts department, in spite of their busy schedule and workload, extend their help to students. I have had wonderful engagement with the accounts department at my School.
The University libraries provide a fantastic learning experience and the staff members working there are simply amazing. They are very helpful and cordial and, most importantly, the library has an online chat system so you can get very quick answers to any query you might have. The main library has a quiet zone, café with reading tables, discussion rooms and computer clusters, which can be used by students, and scanning and printing facilities are available. Also, if you are seeking entertainment, the library has a collection of international film DVDs. My academic life is a lot easier because of the state-of-the-art infrastructure of the library and the cosy atmosphere that it provides. Sitting at my desk, I can access all subscribed journal articles and e-books, ask questions for assistance, and raise requests for inter-library loans.
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts on campus offers many concerts, plays and performances for lunchtime getaways or evenings out. The tickets are sometimes free for students or at negligible cost. For sports enthusiasts, the Munrow Sports Centre at the University is the opportune place to be.
Another feature of the University which I liked is that the University campus is a self-contained small settlement - it has farm shops which sell fruit and vegetables, a grocery store, a travel agency, multi-cuisine eating joints, a salon, mobile repair shops, a computer hub where you can get laptops checked by IT experts, banks and ATMs, and cafés and coffee shops. Another very pleasing aspect is the multi-faith chaplaincy. The Hindu society holds weekly evening Aartis and time is allocated to various religious societies, and there are often cultural events taking place. The Bharat Parivar (the Indian student community) holds Republic Day, Independence Day, etc. and also organises many cultural events and get-togethers - Diwali, Holi, Desi-fiesta - to name a few.
The ‘Welcome Week’ that the University hosts for new students begins at the airport and includes tours of the campus, the city centre and lets you know about places, eateries, stores, and other necessary requirements for UK student life. They also tell you about the student discounts that are available and there is good assistance to help you find suitable accommodation. There is even a student ‘mentor’ scheme for 1st year students to help new entrants settle in.
All of this makes adapting to University life easy. The University Graduate School is a creative knowledge and capacity building resource centre. The plethora of web courses that the University offers caters to most of our soft skills and generic technical skill requirements. The School organises training sessions on various useful topics all year round, which not only add to your academic growth but equip you for professional life. Training sessions on leadership, entrepreneurship and business networking all help to add an extra dimension for your future prospects too. It is also instrumental in organising career fairs and providing funds to PhD students to organise conferences, seminars or summer schools.
The University’s website is an impressive information source making the passage from India to Birmingham for a novice international traveller far easier and the International Student Advisory Service helps international students with visa applications and offers advice on various issues including financial planning, bringing dependants and information for parents.
Last but not the least, the Guild of Students at the University is a vibrant student representative community. It has student groups which receive funding for activities and events, conducts training programmes and assists students in finding part-time jobs.
In short, I can say that the University of Birmingham is a very good choice of study destination and I feel that the University goes out of it way to assist students in the best way possible, within the framework of official duties. The University has many leading and well-known academics who try to make studying at university easier.