Advice for new students to the University of Glasgow

The idea for this blog post came about after talking about safety with Jen. There are some aspects of student life I have no experience with (i.e. halls/student accommodation), but there’s also a lot I do have. Some of this post will be useful for all students and some will be tailored to those taking literature courses. If you have any questions feel free to comment or ask me a question on tumblr.

A few key terms

To start us off there are a few key terms that you will hear throughout your time at Glasgow University.

GU – Glasgow University.

GUU – Glasgow University Union, one of the two university unions (more later).

QMU – The Queen Margaret Union, the other university union and also known as ‘The QM’.

UG – Undergraduate; if this is your first degree/first time at university this is probably you.

PG – Postgraduate are students who have completed an undergraduate degree and have therefore graduated.

GUID – This is your student number, also referred to as a matriculation number. This number doubles as your username for logging into any of the university computers and services. If you forget it, don’t worry because it is printed on your student id as well 🙂 To log into any computer or web services you need to put your student number and last initial – i.e. Sally Smith’s GUID would be 5566777S.

Seminar/Tutorial – Tutorials/seminars are classes you take alongside your lectures and follow the more standard ‘class’ setting you’ve had at school. Depending on your degree you may have labs instead of tutorials. Both the names are used by different staff and departments, but a tutorial and a seminar are usually the same thing.

 

Information & useful websites

At the University of Glasgow (also referred to as Glasgow Uni) there are a couple of key websites that will make your life a lot easier. First up is your student center which you can access through this website (it requires a working GUID). If you’re already registered and enrolled for classed you’ll probably already be familar with your student center. It is the place where you can enrol in classes, view your grades, pay fees, and also houses all of your personal details.

Next up is Moodle 2. Moodle 2 has a very funky long winded title and explanation, but the majority of the times you will just hear it called Moodle 2. New students are generally told about it in their induction sessions at the beginning of term. If you want to get a head of the crowd and want to hunt d0wn reading lists, you can access it at http://moodle2.gla.ac.uk/. Moodle 2 is the online center for course information, lecture hand outs/slides – anything to do with your classes.

Need to set internet up on your laptop or mobile phone? No problem. You can find this out and other technical information at the IT Helpdesk website. There are also print out setup details for using the wireless internet and printing available outside the IT Helpdesk on level 3 of the library. There are also student mobile apps available, including a timetable and room locator which is brand new this year. You can find these here: http://www.gla.ac.uk/apps/

The library website. Need I say more?

The Student Representative Council, fondly known as the SRC, is pretty much what it sounds like; a council of students. They are here to help every student and are your representatives if you have any problems. They are always fighting to help students and their website is armed to the teeth with useful information. Definetly check it out, especially the advice section as it covers a bunch of stuff that new students need to know such as council tax, academic appeals, accommodation and much more. Don’t be afraid to go see them or get in contact with them; they are friendly and extremely helpful 🙂 More importantly they genuinely care about each individual student’s case.

Lastly, there is an online help center where you can log support calls for help. If you’re a new or returning student, this is a very handy website to remember. It is located here and it means you can sort out any problems without visiting the campus. So if you’re at home for the summer, or you’re an international student not coming to Glasgow until the start of term, you can get quick and efficient help from where you are. Just remember if you do log a support call give as much information as possible, including course names and course codes or screen shots of errors. This helps your problem get sorted quicker!

 

The Campus

We are blessed with a gorgeous campus with loads of facilities and even our own Howarts (yep, that’s right, the Main Building was J K Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts) – but it is very confusing. Don’t let this put you off Glasgow Uni; all campuses are the same and we’re fortunate enough to have one of the most beautiful ones. If you’re a new student you’re most likely going to be on campus for Freshers week (see here for more info) and I really advise taking the time to explore the campus. There will be loads of student helpers around (decked in brightly coloured shirts and high-vis vests) so if you get lost just ask. You’ll generally find that most students are friendly and have been in your position, so don’t be afraid to politely ask someone for directions. We’ve all been there 😉

I really recommend printing off a copy of the university campus map (the pdf is here) or taking the one you got with your information booklet. Even now in third year I still carry it with me, and have a pre-term date with my best friend to find out where our classes are. They change every year and I don’t think even the staff know every inch of the campus 😛 If you’re worried about getting between classes take the time to route your journey before classes start. Each class is supposed to finish at 55 minutes past the hour and start 5 minutes past; however, it isn’t uncommon for lecturers to run over time. If you have to make a mad dash between classes make sure you’re sitting close to the stairs and leave 5 minutes early. The lecturers are not going to be offended, if you’re worried that they may be, speak to them before they begin and just explain.

As mentioned in the key terms the University has two unions; the Queen Margaret (QM) and the Glasgow University Union (GU). In general terms you will find the geeks, nerds, gamers, roleplayers, punk/metal/rock fans at the QM. The GUU tends to appeal more to the opposite type of crowd. That’s not to say these guidelines are specific or requirements of either Union, that is just how it tends to work out. For example, the QM is where the GUGs (Glasgow University Gaming Society) have their weekly events/meetings.

 

We’re no longer in Kansas Toto

University is not high school – it seems obvious right? Wrong. The biggest bit of advice I can give to new students is that everything is now your responsibility. You need to locate your classes, you need to have your reading/tutorial work prepared and yes; you will be expected to do an oral presentation. Don’t expect your tutors or lecturers to spoon feed you. If you don’t understand something ASK. Your tutors are usually Post-Grad students so they’ve been in your position before.Don’t be afraid to email and ask questions!

This bit of advice is especially important to remember in year 2 when you start thinking about honours. Some courses may require submitting a separate application or portfolio. If you want to ensure you get a chance to apply then it is YOUR responsibility to ask someone about it. I know that some people missed out on applying for the Creative Writing Dissertation option because they waited for the university to tell them.

 

Facebook Groups

My biggest pet peeve is students relying on facebook groups for answers to questions related to courses (such as exam dates, timetable clashes, reading lists) – don’t. If you have a question email someone. It might be your tutor, the course convener, your advisor of studies, or even the department secretary. That being said; facebook groups are useful for asking your peers for help with work, notes from lectures you missed, or trying to track down that awesome quote that you can’t quite remember. You’ll also find older students offering copies of texts as well. You can find all the groups for Glasgow university here.

 

Contacting the University

I’ve already mentioned a few ways to contact the university (support calls, emailing) but I feel that I need to pass on an important lesson I’ve learned – go to the department office. If you’re waiting for the department to reply to your email or you’ve been trying to phone them without – just go straight to the department office. The same goes for tutors or lecturers; go see them during their office hours. Don’t sit waiting for someone to realise you’re waiting because it could be weeks.

 

Journals & Databases

This is more of a specific one for literature or theory based subjects. Online journals are collections of articles and databases of electronic data which you can use for secondary sources in your essays. The biggest one is JSTOR but you can view a list of them over here on the library website. Just select your institution (the university of Glasgow) and log in with your GUID. You can also sometimes find some hidden gems in Google Books.

 

Books

As a literature student you will find yourself spending a lot of money on books. However, there are a few legal ways to lessen the cost. Any books over 100 years old are no longer copyrighted and this means free e-book versions. You can find a lot of these on Project Gutenberg and also the Amazon Kindle store. You don’t need a kindle to use the Amazon Kindle store; just download their computer version.

There are also a few online sites where you can swap books for free. Bookmooch works on points; you earn points for swapping books and use these points to “buy” books. Readitswapit is similar, but you swap a book for a book – so you’re only paying for the cost of the postage.

 

Disability & Long Term Illnesses

If you’ve had a hard time at school due to health problems, you’re probably feeling pretty jaded and fed up. I know how you feel; I had the same problem. High schools and colleges are just not equipped to understand or help students with disabilities or long term illnesses. Thankfully universities are better and I really suggest contacting the University Disability Team. They will offer you an appointment where you will meet with a disability advisor who will discuss the various ways that they can help make your studying easier. This could be listing you as flexible attendance so you don’t get in trouble for missing classes, getting the library to collect books for you to pick up, or giving you extra time in exams. These are just a few exams I am aware of personally and I really do recommend these guys. They are extremely supportive and understanding, and most of the time they have heard of your health condition/s before. So you don’t need to sit and explain every little detail to them. Also, each college and department have an assigned disability coordinator who liaise with the Disability Team and your tutors. They are easily reachable via email and are very helpful and understanding.

On a similar note the Counselling and Psychological Services is also brilliant. Mental illness gets a lot of bad press and stigma attached to it, but these guys are here for any students who need help. They have drop in sessions, one on one appointments and group sessions available.

I recommend both these teams with a lot of personal experience. If you have any questions or worries just ask 🙂

 

Safety

And finally we’re at the topic which started this whole advice idea. My friend Jen was asked on tumblr whether Glasgow was safe and here is her response. It got us talking about safety advice for students, so here’s a few key points on that subject:

  • Lock your doors and close windows. This may seem obvious but if you’re not from a city you might not be used to doing this. Get into the habit!
  • If you need to walk home alone then choose a direct route through public areas. Avoid parks, dark alleys and so forth.
  • Always keep your keys or an umbrella at hand; if you’re worried about being followed holding these in your hand can act as a deterrent and as possible weapons.
  • There are always self defence classes available and I highly recommend anyone taking them. You don’t need to be super fit or an awesome fighter to pick up a few defence moves that could save your life.
  • Always keep an eye on your drink when in a pub/bar; take it to the bathroom with you if you have to! Also, covering your glass with your hand stops someone from dropping something in it.
  • Don’t flash your electronics about in public or on public transport!
  • If you feel uncomfortable anywhere then leave. Preferably with other people, but if not then make sure you’ve got a safe way home. Real friends will look after you, not force you to stay somewhere/with people that make you uncomfortable.

 

Questions?

If I’ve missed something or you want to ask something I’ve not covered then just leave me a comment 🙂 You can also follow me on twitter @jadedlioness

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