Studying in Birmingham

Zoe Bush·28 June 2021·7 min read
Studying in Birmingham

Hello, my name is Zoe and I am a second year student at the University of Birmingham studying BA English Literature. So far university has been an incredible experience, I have gained so much confidence in my subject and as a person. Going to university has enabled me to meet so many different people from a wide range of backgrounds who have become great friends. University has also been a fantastic place for personal growth and career development, offering students plenty of opportunities to explore their interests and expand their horizons. My experience of university has made me a lot more assured in myself; moving away from home was a daunting prospect but it has helped me to grow as a person and to have some great experiences meeting new people and engaging with new opportunities.

What’s it like living in a big city?

Moving to university at eighteen years old was the first time I had ever moved somewhere new, so naturally I was nervous at leaving my small village to move to a big city. These nerves became excitement as I realised all the different attractions that Birmingham has to offer. Whether you’re into clubs and bars, eating out at restaurants, theatre, sports, art or gaming, there are a whole load of different venues for every interest. Big cities are full of exciting opportunities to try something new, and they are well connected through public transport which makes it so much easier for students to get about and find new places to enjoy. People come to live in big cities from all over the country and all around the world, meaning you get to experience new cultures every day and meet some great people.

What was my course like?

Studying English Literature includes both lectures, in which a lecturer will talk to a room full of students about the subject matter, and seminars, smaller groups with student-lead discussions about the week’s work. English Literature is a course which doesn’t have too many contact hours, meaning you must be good at organising your time and planning your own independent study, which is a good skill to have across any course. Majority of my time outside of lectures and seminars is spent reading novels, plays, poetry and short stories in preparation for the following weeks. Often English Literature students will be given opportunities to go and see plays performed and these opportunities continued during COVID-19 where these performances were given on screen.

What was my accommodation like?

In my first year of university I lived in university accommodation, sharing a flat with five other first year students. We each had a double bed and an en-suite bathroom, and though our accommodation was catered we did have a shared kitchen and living room space. As we were catered, going to get our dinner together was a great way for us to socialise as a flat, we would also hang out together in the kitchen and living space a lot of the time. In my second year I have been living in a student house in an area right by the university called Selly Oak. There is a great community feel within this area as it has a large student population. We really get a sense of independence from living in our own house; going through the housing process and dealing with any issues ourselves through our landlord has been a lot more straightforward than I anticipated.

What was the student life like?

There are five universities in Birmingham, meaning that there is a huge student population. There’s so much going on for young people, from street markets to clubs there’s something for every student. The city is full of well-known chains as well as independent venues. Students are known for enjoying the clubs, bars and pubs as well as the museums, galleries and sporting events. Many places will offer student or other discounts making the whole experience of living in a city more affordable. In my first year I enjoyed exploring the clubs, with specially catered student nights out. My second year was unfortunately disrupted by COVID-19 but that meant that my friends and I were able to explore some of Birmingham’s outside spaces such as the parks and woodlands. Since things have opened up I have loved discovering all of Birmingham’s vibrant bars and going out for brunches in new restaurants.

Was there time for extra-curricular activities?

There are over 500 student groups, societies and associations at my university. Whether you’re interested in joining the society for your subject, volunteering, religious beliefs, music, film, food and drink or sports there will surely be a group that appeals to you. Universities also give you the opportunity to create your own society about whatever you feel passionate about. Joining a student group is a fantastic way of trying something new or exploring your favourite hobbies whilst also making some great friends. There is definitely time to participate in a student group which interests you outside of your studies. During my past two years at university, I have been involved in the student newspaper. My favourite section to write for is food and drink, sharing recipes and reviews with my fellow students.

How did COVID-19 impact my experience at university:

COVID-19 unfortunately had a big impact on students. The online learning system felt quite different to being taught face-to-face, but I quickly became familiar with it. The university put lots of support in place to ensure that students adjusted to the new way of learning. In the end, online lectures had both their pros and cons. Whilst it was a shame that students couldn’t go into university with course friends and participate that way in lectures, there was a lot more freedom with being able to watch lectures on your own time. We did have access to learning spaces on campus through a booking system, so that was a great way to still feel productive and make use of the campus. Many students were disappointed about not being able to participate in societies in the usual way, however the student groups still made an effort to reach out to as many people as possible through online events. The student nightlife was unfortunately impacted as we had to stay at home, but we did take this as an opportunity to be more creative. In my house we had cocktail evenings, we made different world cuisine together and we played a lot of boardgames so that we could make the most of living with friends.

What have I gained from my degree?

My degree has given me the skills for academic success as well as the life skills to live independently. I have gained interpersonal skills and knowledge about the workplace and career paths which I can enter into beyond my studies. University has given me the chance to make some great friends, to try lots of new hobbies and to explore a whole new city. University is a fantastic experience which I would highly recommend to anyone.