From Tehran to Newcastle

By: Shayan Safaei

I would like to start this by emphasising that I was not paid by Newcastle University to shower them with compliments here. This is me genuinely sharing my experience of studying the BSc Biomedical Genetics (Hons) at Newcastle as an international student.

I chose Newcastle as it was the best affordable university/city to study medical genetics with the centre for life and northern genetics hub located there, and I had been fascinated by some of their published research. On my first visit to the city, I found Newcastle very green, friendly, and peaceful. I was pleasantly surprised by how nice ‘Geordies’ were, and I am proud to call myself an ‘honorary Geordie’ now as a graduate.

A view of Kings Gate, photo by me. ~2016

Pros and pros…

To list a few good things about the academic side of things, I would start with how streamlined the administration was. At Newcastle, we had such accurate e-timetables synced with the phone calendars that we never had to worry about missing a session or getting lost on campus. I assumed this was the norm in England until I studied at other institutions and realised I took so much for granted! Another thing would be how up-to-date and organised our lectures were.

The majority of my lecturers were teaching us using their own research as an example – not to blow their own trumpet but to give us tangible examples. Lecturers at Newcastle actually care to teach you and take pride in their excellence. You get practical workshops and lab sessions that are so hands-on. Most of the stuff you learn you also DO in the lab, be it phylogenetic trees or GFP and C. elegans.

You get detailed feedback at a line-by-line level of detail on your essays/assessments. I appreciated that because without feedback, improving things is difficult! Also, you get lecture slides that are not a headache trigger and are a good basis for your notes and self-study.

Me on the day I submitted my dissertation – proof I am not a bot. You will enjoy your research project if you follow the instructions and treat it like a job. It feels great to do your own thing! Photo by me (!). 2018.
I used to make my own ‘checklist’ of timetable items based on the calendar timetables. You know what sessions you’re going to have months in advance which lets you plan uni life smoothly. Can also see the variety of sessions: lectures, seminars, feedback sessions, workshops, practicals, etc. You get training on all things you are expected to do from endnote referencing to presentation skills etc. Photo by me. 2018.

LinkedIn is overrated

Another thing about Newcastle is how approachable your lecturers are. I swear I sent 1000+ emails to my lecturers, asking questions like ‘can you please tell me what the third smallest green blob is adjacent to the transcription factor on the diagram?’ and I would receive a whole essay on the topic with references and diagrams if needs be! I remember one of the lecturers was teaching us Holiday Junctions and I sent him at least 20+ emails regarding that topic; I think it had gotten to a point where he’d suspended his cutting-edge lab discoveries just to help me get over the concept (you will enjoy that topic if you happen to do genetics…).

I also made friends with a few lecturers and benefitted from their advice on my career decisions and opportunities etc. I always felt like these people actually enjoy helping me grow! They would even help you as a graduate to apply to further training like STP and graduate entry medicine – in fact, it was with two of my lecturers’ help that I managed to submit a good application for med schools, and now I am on a graduate entry medicine course!

If you can’t let go…

It is worth mentioning that Newcastle is a very dynamic university and city, and once you graduate you can do lots there! I did a summer internship at the uni after finishing my degree and developed web design and coding skills through it which was a transforming experience! I happened to work as a support worker in Newcastle for two years after my graduation at one of the best learning disabilities specialised service providers in the country and learned so much on top of feeling great at that job!

Young printers

I cannot not mention the ‘robo’ (Robinson library), here all the magic happens. This library is huge, and they keep adding buildings. Super friendly staff, neat, silent study areas actually silent, and good computers. The IT team at Newcastle are on it, things don’t go missing, printers actually work, and you can trust it. Fell cluster near med school is open 24/7 including all holidays so you can actually rely on uni computers if your laptop is a joke like mine was!

My spot at the fell cluster. Photo by me. 2018.

Gannin’ out, pet?

Apart from fun nights out, a few of my favourite spots were: the town moor (especially when you get to chill on a bench and watch the cows live their best life!), the hustler (cheap, cool pool club with a decent bar), and Tyneside cinema (gorgeous historic building – super selective with films). You can also see plays all around Newcastle, even at the castle itself! Also, the SU has so many different societies, there is something for everyone and my mates who were into team sports were happy with the facilities and support from the uni. Also, check out Lit and Phil library for something different.

A panorama view of the quayside. Great spot for running. Lots of art happening at the Baltic and the Sage. Photo by me. ~2017

I may now be studying graduate medicine at another city but the toon (Newcastle) will always be in my heart!

Thinking about studying Biomedical Genetics or one of our other fabulous BNS degrees?

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