Tuesday 16 September 2014

10 ways student life in 2014 is different than in the 1990s!

Having bitten the bullet and gone back to university 20 years after I left I am finding some huge differences:

1) Tuition Fees

I was an undergraduate back in the days when all UK students had their tuition fees paid by the government. No worries about paying back money when we finished it was all just done for us.

Now I have to borrow £9,000 off the government (still waiting to hear whether I have got it!) and pay it back once I earn a decent wage. It makes going to university a harder decision to make when you have that hanging over you..

2) Living Costs

I wasn't eligible for any grants for living costs but my parents gave me a decent monthly allowance. I worked every vacation to boost up the funds and made use of the bank's overdraft facility to the max. Student loans were just being introduced but I only borrowed £1,500 over the 4 years at university.

This time I have qualified for a small bursary but it is less than 2/3 of what I was earning. I have had to apply for maintenance loans and child care costs help to bridge the gap. Scarily none of these have been approved yet 2 weeks into my course..

3) Technology

When I enrolled at Swansea in 1991 I took with me a non Windows 286 PC to type up my essays on. We had lessons in how to use the new fangled Windows and used a Mainframe computer to write code to analyse data. There was no Internet.. communication was via pigeon holes in the department.

Much of our course material is on the university's Blackboard computer system. We are expected to have laptops to bring to training sessions. Communication is via e-mail and we use smart phones to capture evidence of our training.

4) Accommodation

As an undergraduate I lived in shared accommodation at Hendrefoilan Student Village. The first year 11 of us were in one house and then 9 for next 2. The joys of communal living! As a postgrad I was in a very cold back to back terraced house in Leeds with my boyfriend and 2 younger girls.

Now I am living in my own home (albeit rented) with my two children. So if someone hasn't washed up or cleaned the bathroom then its all my responsibility! 

5) Transport

I couldn't afford a car at uni first time around. Instead I had a bike but also could choose to take the bus or walk to campus. Cheap and cheerful.

Now I need a car to get me to placements and to all the training sessions. Also to get my children to and from school and their activities. Not the cheapest of things on a student budget...

6) Socialising

This was a big part of undergrad life. From Fresher's week onwards there was an excuse several times a week to go out and drink far too much very cheap alcohol. We had balls for every society at Christmas and in the summer. Lots of fun.

No time to socialise with a 37 hour week of training and placements! Not only that but I can't afford the much more expensive alcohol prices on my reduced budget. We may have a group Christmas dinner but so far all we have managed is a shared coffee on our lunch break..

7) Textbooks

All books had to be hard copies and took a big chunk of each term's money. There was a large library on the campus for getting extra information though.

Being a teaching course there are lots of books we are advised to get as we have to teach all the primary subjects. For the theory side of the course some books are available in an electronic format via the university. Of course I am 15 miles from campus so its hard to nip into the library - it may be cheaper to get them via my local library for £1!

8) Sport

I took up rugby when I started uni. This was my exercise for the next 4 years with training and matches every week. It somehow didn't compensate for the alcohol consumption and I graduated a few stone heavier than I started..

Right now I am struggling to fit my running in. There is a lot less free time and I am giving in to tiredness too often. I need to be more organised and get the miles ramping up again..

9) My Family and Other Animals

For the majority of my time at university I only had my steady boyfriend to consider when doing things. This was a pretty straight forward task as we were on the same course and enjoyed the same activities.

Now I am the mother of two children who both have to be taken to and from school every day that I am on my course. Unfortunately there is no breakfast club at their school so when I have early starts they have to spend the night before at my parents' house. At least this means they aren't at after school club every night! My children are the proud owners of 2 guinea pigs so whilst they are staying away from home I have to remember to feed them every morning... 

10) Subjects

Apart from in my first year, when I madly did Geography, Geology and Italian to fulfil the course requirements, I was a one trick pony for four years. Yes Geography is a wide ranging subject but at least it was all related to each other.

Now as I am studying for primary school teaching I have to learn how to teach:

  • maths
  • English
  • geography
  • history
  • computing
  • art
  • RE
  • science
  • PE
  • drama
  • (I am sure I have forgotten something!
Plus lots of theory behind teaching and working with children with all sorts of special educational needs. It is certainly keeping the little grey cells ticking over...


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