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Being a commuter student at UCL

By Lauren Sandhu, on 30 October 2020

Did you know that over a quarter of UCL students commute into university from their family, guardian’s or own homes? We have launched some new guidance and information for commuter students on our website. Tonika is going into her third year at UCL studying Psychology and today she tells us about her experience of being a student who commutes into UCL to study.

How do you get to UCL?

I travel to university from South London via the Northern Line tube

What was your first year like?

My first year, particularly the first term, I tried to ensure I attended as many events as possible even though I was a commuter. I attended various Freshers events and joined a few societies which, if possible, I highly recommend as it helps you feel more a part of the university community. By the second term it became more difficult to continue attending society events due to university deadlines and various other commitments. However, by this point I also felt more comfortable having to travel to campus and nearby, which I genuinely believe was because I had made a conscious effort to try different events in the first term.

What would you want an incoming commuter student to know?

I would want incoming students to know that they have no need to worry. It can absolutely be a daunting experience but take comfort in knowing that everyone will be feeling the same whether they are commuting or live a two-minute walk from main campus. You may feel as though you are missing out but there are so many opportunities for you to get to know people whether they are on your course, in a society, meet in a café, or happen to sit in the same area as you in the library. Even if you have days where your transport journey has not gone to plan, do not let this cloud the fact that for the majority of the time it should run smoothly and will not detract from your overall university experience if you make the effort.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My days largely vary based on what time my lecture starts however, I always aim to leave the house about 1 hour 20 minutes before the start of the lecture. I have a 5-minute walk to the tube, and I am generally able to get a seat unless it is rush hour. My journey is about 45 minutes and in that time I usually do some required or extra reading for previous lectures or read over revision notes. Having completed the lecture it really varies, some days I will take out the required books from the library and complete my notes there or in the Bedford Way cubicles, my seminar may be that day, I may attend a society event, or my friends and I may choose to do something else other than work. Most days however I try to avoid rush hour on the way home which is just a personal preference.

What are the challenges and benefits of commuting?

Benefits of commuting;

  • You can save money, so there will be fewer financial worries throughout your university years.
  • University is still a big change but if you are commuting from your family home at least that is one constant.
  • It can mean you have your family around you for emotional or mental support when things become stressful.
  • If you are commuting from a shared home with friends, then hopefully this means you already know them well so there may be less issues than there would be at halls of residence e.g. issues with noise.
  • It can allow you to get to know and explore other areas of London.

Challenges of commuting;

  • You may find travel is expensive especially if you are also paying rent. I would suggest looking into what deals are available and which would best suit you whether that is a 16-25 Railcard, an 18+ Student Oyster or any other discounts. I also suggest making a note of your outgoing spending for travel and general spending.
  • Travelling for long periods of time can be tiring. I would suggest ensuring you have planned the day out in advance, so know what you will be doing and how long you will be away from home. This way you can pack your bag accordingly to include things like lunch. I also highly recommend using the time productively to complete any reading, do some revision, read over work, or even complete some work if possible.
  • Struggles with rush hour. Firstly, ensure you keep your belongings in a safe place and not on show, but also try to note which carriages or areas of the transport tend to have less people in and then stand or sit there. If your transport comes frequently, I would also suggest letting most of the crowd get onto the first tube, bus etc and then getting onto the second one. Again, if possible, I think trying to get some work done would be beneficial but of course be mindful of your surroundings.
  • A further challenge to commuting may concern worries that you made a wrong choice commuting. I think it is important to remind yourself of the reason why you chose to commute, whether it is financial reasons, wanting to stay with your family etc. As long as you are proactive you will still have a great experience of meeting new people, developing new friendships, discovering new cafes or museums, experiencing the great teaching and all that UCL has to offer.

My experience of UCL’s 2020 Summer Schools

By Lauren Sandhu, on 15 October 2020

At the end of July we ran 13 summer schools for students in Year 12 (S5 in Scotland/Year 13 in Northern Ireland) online. Some of the students who attended kindly blogged about their experience. Today we hear from Sarah who took part in our Natural Sciences Summer School. 

My name is Sarah and I am a current sixth form student, I started Year 13 in September. I am taking biology, chemistry and geography with my main interest being the sciences.

I was part of the UCL Natural Sciences summer school, which gave me a taster of a variety of different science subjects including astrophysics, molecular biology and coding. Over the course of the week I attended a series of virtual lectures with top academics, current Natural Sciences students and other Year 12 students.

One of my favourite parts of the week was the molecular biology session, where I explored the 3d structure of a protein using Pymol software. I followed a series of instructions that enabled me to observe the complex tertiary/quaternary structure of proteins. I also learned that using softwares like Pymol are common in biology, and that there are various other programmes used across the sciences, as technology becomes more integrated with the field. I also liked the ‘virtual café’ sessions, where I was able to talk to current university students. They were all extremely friendly and helpful and made me feel more confident in applying to University and clearing up any questions I had.

Finally, I really enjoyed the independent project work we had to complete. I spent several hours across the week learning about current scientific advancements and then consolidating the information onto a scientific poster. This experience allowed me to explore science outside of the curriculum and also gave me an insight into key university skills like researching and referencing.

I think other year 12 students should sign up for this summer school because it provides an insight on whether university is right for you on all accounts. The taster lectures give you an idea of what the subject you’re interested in is like at degree level, whilst the virtual cafes allow you to ask more specific questions, and the research project allows you to see whether you would enjoy the independent aspect of university.

Despite it being held online this year, I still felt extremely welcomed by all the UCL staff and students and enjoyed the social activities. For a first-generation student, the week was extremely beneficial and cleared up many doubts/worries I had in a manner that was fun and engaging.

My experience of UCL’s 2020 Summer Schools

By Lauren Sandhu, on 17 September 2020

This summer has been a busy one for the Access and Widening Participation team. At the end of July we ran 13 summer schools for students in Year 12 (S5 in Scotland/Year 13 in Northern Ireland) online. Some of the students who attended kindly blogged about their experience. Today we hear from Natalia who took part in our Languages and Cultures Summer School. 

My name is Natalia and I live in Scotland. I have just moved into 6th year (my final year at high school). My favourite subjects at school are Music, French and Business Management and for my last year I have chosen to do Spanish, Administration and Advanced Higher French. At university I would love to study International business with Spanish because this gives me an opportunity to know the world of business as well as studying a language which I absolutely love.

I really enjoy studying languages at school because I have always wanted to travel. In the future, I would like to live in Spain. I have always loved Spain’s culture, the climate, and their attitude and dynamic and hence, this influenced my decision of applying to the Sutton Trust’s Summer School at UCL to study “Languages and Cultures”.

During the programme, we had a series of fun activities that we could complete on various languages such as French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and many more. Additionally, we received talks from people who work at UCL who were able to give us advice and answer any questions which we had about university. We also had the opportunity to speak with current students at UCL who are studying languages and we had a Q&A session with them which gave us an insight into what university lifestyle really looks like and what studying languages also looks like.

I really enjoyed meeting people who work and study at UCL because it really gave me a clear insight into this university. I have never considered studying outside of Scotland or at UCL before this Summer School, but now, this experience has opened my eyes to so many opportunities. It changed my view on what university looks like in terms of studying. Before this programme, I thought that once I start university it will be the same, plain things that will be taught to me and that once I go into the course, I will only be able to focus on studying and I will have to drop all of my hobbies to the side. However, to my surprise, I have found out that universities offer so many different societies and opportunities which completely changed my attitude towards going into university.

I really recommend this Summer School to everyone! Others should join this programme because you learn so much about university life and you get to meet so many lovely people. I have learned so much just in five days and this was done virtually this year – I can only imagine how much I would learn if I were there in person! It is such an insightful program and it was very enjoyable too. If I could, I would re-do that whole week again because I found it so fun!

My experience of UCL’s 2020 Summer Schools

By Lauren Sandhu, on 3 September 2020

This summer has been a busy one for the Access and Widening Participation team. At the end of July we ran 13 summer schools for students in Year 12 (S5 in Scotland/Year 13 in Northern Ireland) online. Some of the students who attended kindly blogged about their experience. Today we hear from Lena who took part in our English Summer School. 

Who knew that in just one week you could acquire so much knowledge, have so many new experiences and forge so many new friendships virtually? I certainly did not. It is sufficient to say that the UCL English Summer School programme far surpassed and exceeded my expectations in every facet. As well as providing a jubilant, friendly and amicable atmosphere, the programme also allowed me to meet incredible faculty members and allowed me to forge deep ties with companionable, skilful, diligent students around the country. The balance of structured seminars/lectures, social events, and university prep/advice sessions was tremendously beneficial in rounding out my first experience of the ‘university lifestyle’ (for lack of a better word). I now feel that I have an advantageous awareness of myself, both individually and professionally, and I am excited to reveal that the UCL Summer School programme has helped me decide to go to university (preferably in central London) and to pursue an undergraduate degree in Journalism.

It is truly unbelievable how much one can accomplish within the span of a very strenuous, yet exciting week! In the English programme, we studied a wide variety of texts ranging from novels such as The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne to also studying one of Shakespeare’s transgressive plays, Twelfth Night, arguably one of my favourite plays by this writer. However, one of the lectures/seminars that intrigued me the most was the very first one where we studied the historical context of the Harlem Renaissance. This lecture/seminar challenged my one dimensional and linear perspective of this historical period since I have never studied it before. It was an eye-opening session.

All the texts we studied centred on the notions of Chance and Accident and how these texts linked with the key themes. To summarise, we analysed theories, critiqued prose and verse, and took a more critical look at how these works link with contemporary and modern society. To finish off the week, we were put in groups of three and each student had to contribute to the presentation that they have set up with their group. I analysed the play ‘Twelfth Night’ with my group and did a critical analysis of Malvolio, linking it to not only the two key themes (Chance and Accident) but also interpreting how this character may link to contemporary and modern society as well. I took an unusual approach talking about the taboo topic of ‘Cancel culture’ and linking the construct Malvolio with modern TV shows such as Black Mirror and books like Trainspotting.  It was a very enjoyable and insightful session!

Through the programme, I gained a better depth in pressing societal issues, collaborated with like-minded individuals, and grew unbelievably as a person. The Student Leaders were so energetic and easy-going and their intuitive way of thinking always broadened my outlook.  This helped me realise that I intend to go to university as, although I might be out of my comfort zone, joining a new, unfamiliar environment, I will also meet people from all walks of life and learn more than I would have envisioned!

I would recommend learners to sign up to the programme as not only would you have a taste of what university would be like,  but you would be able to expand your knowledge thanks to professors and lecturers who teach passionately and effortlessly and involve viewpoints that span different cultures and world views. Thank you UCL for a lovely experience that I will not forget!

UCL English Summer School Participant 2020