4th year student Amy talks about studying Physics at the University of Birmingham.
Why choose Birmingham?
When I started looking at universities, I decided to visit a number of open days. When I came to Birmingham, I entered the Physics Department and within five minutes I was talking to some of the lecturers, not only about physics, but also about my interests and what they like to do outside of the department.
I just felt that it was a really friendly environment and I wanted to learn somewhere where I felt comfortable. So, after going to a number of universities, I decided that Birmingham fitted the lifestyle I wanted more than anywhere else.
In my first year I lived in the Beeches, one of the University's satellite sites. When I arrived I was quite worried, because I’d never visited the site before and I didn’t know any of the people I was moving in with. We sat around quite quietly until everyone’s parents went home – then everyone went down to the car park and I met about 50 people in the first minute! After that it was just one community of people, with the same worries and concerns, because we were all in the same situation.
My advice to people who are applying for university now is 'don’t worry about your accommodation!' It really doesn’t matter where you live, it’s going to be the people that you meet that makes your experience, not necessarily what your bedroom looks like. Saying that, we were in one of the cheaper accommodations and everything was of a perfect standard. I didn’t have any issues, whatsoever, so it's not something for you to be concerned about.
There is a wide range of facilities on campus for students. Walking around the campus you can quite easily get everything you need for day-to-day life. There are supermarkets and places to get food and there is a number of nice cafes where you can meet friends and go over some work if you need to do something – it's a very chilled atmosphere.
The library contains every book you could ever need for your course; no matter what your niche subject is, they’ll have a book for you. If they don’t, the ordering-in service is excellent. I know for a few of my projects, I’ve been studying things which are quite different from what other people are doing. The library staff have been really helpful about locating sources for me.
There are a number of banks on campus, so if you need to go and sort out your finances, you can do that inbetween lectures. You don’t have to go into town, even though it’s only a short journey.
The Munrow Sports Centre has got an excellent gym – I play badminton in a couple of hour breaks between lectures. It’s just a really nice way to break up your day and get some of the things done while you are on campus without having to travel too far.
Advice to prospective students
My advice to prospective students is to research what course you want to study first, then go and visit a number of universities. You can only really get the feel of somewhere from visiting. While a prospectus can give you the basic facts, you are not going to understand what the atmosphere is like or get a chance to talk to students unless you go on a visit.
So, go and visit the universities and departments you are interested in studying at and ask the questions that you don’t necessarily think that other people would be interested in, the ones that are important to you. If there is a particular hobby you’ve got that you want to continue, check that there is facilities available for you to do that and make sure that you are going to be happy at the place that you choose.
After I’ve finished my degree I’d like to work in the financial sector, which may seem a little bit of a jump from physics but I have learnt a lot of transferable skills such as analytical skills, working with groups of people and other self-skills like computer-based work.
Quite a lot of these skills can be found in a number of degree programmes and are applicable to a wide range of jobs. So if you're not necessarily sure what you want to do after you’ve finished your degree, it doesn’t mean that you are narrowing your choices by taking a particular career path. At university level, you can change your mind afterwards for what you want to do.