Tag Archives: Student Life

Eight Days at Seathwaite Valley

A vital part of many of our courses at Newcastle University is practical work; giving student’s the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge is essential in helping them to progress. Today, Geomatics student, Sheoma Richards, tells us about her experience of a field trip to Seathwaite Valley.

Every year first year students on the Geomatics courses embark on an eight-day field course to Seathwaite Valley in the Lake District. The purpose of this trip is to allow students to practice the stills learnt in a lecture room to accomplish real world tasks. The overall aim was to produce a detailed topographic and contour map of a given area by triangulation, levelling, traversing and detailing.

Day 1

We arrived to Glaramara House which was our base where we would process our data, have meals and spend the night. GIS (Geographical Information Systems) students set out to create a sampling regime to capture soil moisture values and analyze these values based on a quantitative and qualitative hypothesis against soil moisture. SMS (Surveying and Mapping Science) students practiced setting up a total station, taking angle measurements and completed a two-peg test. We all had an evening lecture and then savored one of the many astounding three-course dinners provided by the hotel.

Day 2

GIS students collected their points and returned to the hotel to upload and process them for analysis. SMS students occupied a specific control station and sited to other visible stations within the triangulation network. They also drew a witness diagram for the station that they occupied and created abstract sheets for horizontal and vertical angles.

Dr. David Fairbairn using a Leica Zenos.

Day 3

GIS students presented their findings and proceeded to Seathwaite Valley to measure 12 rounds of observations for horizontal angles. SMS students did levelling at the valley to confirm that the values from OSBM remained unchanged over the years. In the evening, all Geomatics students were now joined and divided into four groups to establish a control network scheme. The Lake District showed us its true potential as we were showered with rain for that entire day.

Day 4

To my surprise, we were greeted by a bright yellow object in the sky that we definitely did not expect to see. A set-up challenge was performed to determine the location that each group would have to survey. Group two celebrated as they proved to be victorious on this challenge and were able to get the first choice. After the challenge was over, each group went to their respective sites with ranging rods to complete reconnaissance. We headed back to the center for lunch and later returned to the valley to start traversing. We placed pegs into the ground to create the control stations and drew witness diagrams to be able to locate them for future reference.

Nominated member of each group performing the set-up challenge.

Day 5

At first, we were very worried that we would not be able to do any traversing as there was thick fog everywhere! However, a few minutes after arriving to the valley, the fog suddenly vanished, making way for the sun. We continued our traverse observations and computed our traverse for horizontal and vertical misclosures. Levelling was also completed to known benchmarks to make sure that our vertical values of two stations matched those of the OSBM.

Day 6

Despite the soggy weather, more levelling was done, and groups began to detail points of their site to be able to map the area. These detail points were entered into a spreadsheet to generate the coordinates of each point for plotting. We also created 2D and 3D excel spreadsheets of our traverse observations.

Levelling through the rainy weather.

Day 7

Groups continued to detail while some members remained at the hotel to start the process of plotting. Later that evening, we were visited by two representatives from Leica Geosystems who demonstrated some of their software and equipment to us. One of the representatives was a past student of Newcastle University and also educated us on life beyond Geomatics.

Day 8

There was a set-up competition between the representatives from Leica Geosystems and two staff members. The winner was Dr. Mills who currently holds the record for the fastest set-up time! We proceeded with our plotting while some members got additional information for detailing. Once the plotting was completed, it was impressive to see the finished product of a topographic and contour map of Seathwaite Valley for each site. As a feeling of contentment came over us, reality struck when we realized that this meant we would be leaving tomorrow morning.

Representatives from Leica Geosystems competing against two staff members for set-up competition.

Although it was eight days filled with work, it was one of the most enjoyable things that I have done on the course thus far. I would advise prospective students to make the most of this field course and appreciate the method of processing by hand. Only when you understand what is done by the instrument and software, would you truly understand what you are doing. If you are looking for a degree course that not only teaches you what you need to know but also challenges you to think outside the box, Newcastle University’s Geomatics courses are for you!

Find out more about Newcastle University’s Geomatics courses here.

Work/Life Balance as a Mechanical Engineering Student

Ever wondered how to balanced a degree like Mechanical Engineering with social activities, relaxation and part-time work? It can seem tricky, but second year student, Will O’Donnell, has got it covered. In today’s blog post he explains how he manages his time. 

Life at Newcastle
I’m currently studying for a BEng degree in Mechanical Engineering, and as a Stage 2 student I remember what was important to me when choosing a university to study at. Something that mattered a lot was the work/life balance wherever I decided to go, which, thankfully, resulted in me choosing Newcastle. It is often difficult to see how to manage your studies and extra-curricular activities when looking in from the outside, which was true for us all as applicants. Fortunately there is no shortage of things to do here, as well as your studies (though as a Mech Eng student, the work is plentiful). Contrary to popular belief, there is definitely room for a life outside of an Engineering Degree, and it is remarkably easy to find a nice balance between the two aspects of university life when you get the hang of it.

Stage 1
First year of Engineering, while undoubtedly a step up from school teaching, is not the hellscape it’s cracked up to be. Sure, there’s several new subjects that you’ve never considered before (e.g. Thermofluid Dynamics, Materials Science etc), but it’s important to remember that these are new to everyone else too. I worried that not taking Further Maths at A-Level would severely hinder me, but the point of Stage 1, I soon realised, is to bring everyone to the same level. For the Further Maths students the topics were very familiar, but the lecturers did a fantastic job of making everything clear and understandable for those of us who didn’t know our imaginary numbers from our eigenvalues. This was also true for mechanics, as the material taught was familiar to many, but not to the extent that it became boring or overly simple. There’s a lot of practical work, no shortage of trips, and enough fresh content to keep you on your toes. Busy though the days may be with learning, there’s still plenty of time after to blow off some steam in the various societies on offer, or in a nearby pub. I never felt particularly overwhelmed, and there was invariably room for relaxation and enjoyment over the year.

Stage 2
Second year is a bit of a gear-change. The complexity of the course content steps up, and the amount of work is greater than that of first year. While this may be the case, and it is certainly unavoidable, it was not the death of my life outside of the lecture theatre. In fact, I joined the Water Polo Society, and trained regularly every week. Keeping active helped me focus and introduced me to a bunch of new people. The nature of Stage 2 meant that our course spent a lot of time together outside of teaching time, and we became significantly closer as a result. More so than Stage 1, the sense of community in our year was present. Luckily we are all quite similar, with enough differences to keep life interesting.

Winding Down
Getting out of lectures and feeling the fresh air on your face is a wonderful sensation, unless it’s past October and the temperatures have plummeted again. The rest of the day is waiting to be filled, and provided I’ve done all my work (even occasionally when I haven’t), I go and enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation. As with most students, Netflix is my friend at times like these. If it’s sunny, some of us will go to the Moor and pass out for a bit/play a game of something.

When I want to do something more active, we will go the gym (for some unfathomable reason we’ve started going at 6am, but I feel great afterwards and oddly have more energy during the day) or hit the climbing wall. There’s also a local pool that’s great for a swim whenever I’m feeling particularly restless.

Part-Time Work
In second year, I got myself a teaching position in the local pool. It’s easy to fit around my studies due to the short hours, and the people there are fantastic. I wouldn’t say its strictly necessary to get a job in first year, as there’s a lot to take in and a job can only add to that feeling. That being said, it’s never a bad thing to have an income, and it takes some of the pressure off finances.

Time Management
I’ve certainly had some trouble with this, especially at first. Being by yourself for the first time, while liberating, is a minefield of potential pitfalls. In first year, it is crucial to develop some good habits in terms of self-discipline, as these will carry forward into future years. It’s tempting to stay up till all hours on a binge-watching session, or go out four times a week, but as the year goes on this can affect the uni side of life. I found it useful to work away from the flat, and especially in second year it is much easier to focus in the library. It’s also easier to go somewhere and do impending work straight after lectures because, lets face it, if you go home intending to do some work later it’s never going to happen. Basically, so long as you use some common sense and, that critical thinking that Mech Eng imparts, you can’t go far wrong.

Work/Life balance as a Civil Engineering Student

Organising your time on a course with high contact hours, such as engineering, can seem daunting. Farah Nabilah gives us an insight into how she manages her time as a Stage 2 Civil Engineering student. 

I am currently studying BEng Civil Engineering and something I often get asked about is how I find the work/life balance. Initially, I found University life to be very different to school in a sense that you must be independent. At school, the teacher would go through the material and after, we would go through the questions in class. At university, the lecturer will go through the material and a few examples in lectures, but you are expected to go through the practice question in your own time. We have the opportunity to ask the lecturers any questions during tutorial sessions. The tutorial session is more of an informal session where you can ask the lecturers or any PhD students one to one questions. After a couple of weeks of being at University, I started getting used to this system.

Stage 2 is different to stage 1 as there are less lectures to attend but more work to be done outside; in particular, group work. You also have more design modules as opposed to just learning mostly theory like in stage 1. For me, I did spend a lot more time studying outside of class to try and understand these concepts, so I do have to organise my time well. I usually volunteer on Sunday to give myself a break from doing University work.

To switch off I like to take walks and get some fresh air. The University is close to Leazes Park and the city centre which is great as I can take a walk there with my friends to refresh after a session of studying. I also like to watch TV shows when I have time. I work as a student ambassador and I help out during events such as open days and post application visit days. I really enjoy doing this as it helps me to develop my communication skills and I get to share my experience at University with other people.

I think that in order to be able to manage your time whilst still having fun, it is important to stay organised. I keep a planner, so I know what events I have on each day and make sure that I don’t miss out anything important. Also, I try to prioritise tasks; I do tasks that are more important first. Most importantly, I think it’s beneficial to do the work as soon as possible so you are not left with a large amount of workload and don’t end up being stressed.

Find out more about Newcastle University’s Civil Engineering degrees here.

Work/Life balance as a Marine Technology Student

Marine Technology student, Verity Thomas, tells us about her experiences so far studying at Newcastle University and balancing her workload with her extra-curricular activities.

I am currently a stage 2 student studying Marine Technology with Naval Architecture. The work life balance on the course is definitely manageable. Stage 2 is quite different to Stage 1, in which we had a 9am start every day. In fact, being in Stage 2 can lead to much better study habits. You will no longer live on campus so popping home during every gap in your timetable is not an option, meaning that you’re more likely to go to the library or one of the many study areas on campus. The quantity of work in Stage 2 is the same as Stage 1 and although comparatively harder it is as equally challenging as Stage 1 because you know more about the subject.

To ‘switch off’ I watch a lot of Netflix and take walks in Exhibition Park with my friends. There is a lot to do in Newcastle and surrounding areas so occasionally I will go to Tynemouth or South Shields. There is so much to get involved in and I recommend people looking at the Student Union’s ‘Give it A Go’ service, where you can try anything from surfing to making baths bombs at Lush…whatever you find relaxing.

I have many hobbies and am part of eight societies Newcastle University and one club this year. That includes: 20-minute, Archery, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, GigSoc, NerdSoc, RAG, Vegan & Vegetarian, and WetSoc. As well as this, this year, I have taken part in Fresher’s Crew, written for the Tab, and am working towards my NCL+ Careers award. I have three part time jobs, which include being a Student Ambassador, Private Tutoring, and being part of the Universities Northumbrian Naval Unit.

It is important to manage your time whilst still having fun. You need to remember why you are at university and you’re ultimately here to get a good degree, and that if you work hard now life will be easier later. It is easy to forget your priorities when there are many other reasons why you are here too. Sometimes, you’ll get behind on work because you are doing those activities, because you get sick, because you have interviews and assessment centres to go to. Once this happens, try to catch up as best as you can. If you feel like you can’t and don’t have the time to watch RECAP or see your lecturers then draw a baseline and allow yourself to focus on the new information that you are learning and realise that this often doesn’t require the old knowledge that you missed. Talk to your tutor about the situation, as they will put it into perspective, especially as so many people go through the same thing. Try to talk to people about how you feel because it is comforting to find out that you’re not the only one! And try to remember that there is still time even if it feels like it is running out before exams.

To stay disciplined whilst still having fun I recommend treating university as a full time job. If your lectures don’t start until midday then go in at 9am and do some revision for them. If your lectures finish by 3pm then go to the library until 5pm. Study in a group and then it’ll be more fun and social. Take a packed lunch and snacks and then you’ll be more inclined to work rather than having to go home or into town because you’re hungry, plus it’s cheaper! Whilst at university only dedicate your time to university stuff i.e. not replying to general emails or applying to jobs because then you’ll always be doing other chores and not your actual studying/coursework. Take your evenings and weekends to relax doing nothing in regards to university work and catch up on non-university chores such as washing and food shopping.

Find out more about our Marine Technology courses here.

Work/Life Balance as a Chemical Engineering Student

As a student it can sometimes be difficult to effectively balance your studies with life outside University. In this blog post, stage 4 Chemical Engineering student Sophie Murta tells us about her experiences so far, and how she finds time to unwind.

I’m currently studying MEng Chemical Engineering as a stage 4 student. My main drivers when selecting a university were the staff. This was a huge draw of Newcastle as the staff were all really friendly and down to earth on the open days and this has continued during my time here. Everyone is happy to help whether it be academically or personally. The support in offer at Newcastle is great – not only from the staff but from fellow students also.

Stage 1 – I found stage one a great introduction to university life. The lectures and lab sessions were well structured and allowed the transition from school to university to be as easy as possible. I was also able to quickly make a good group of friends on the course as we would always have lectures together so spent a large proportion of our time together. The Chemical Engineering society was also a great way to make friends and settle in as advice from other students always helps. I always attended the society events as well which is a great way to relax with course mates and spend time together that is not work related.

Stage 2 – I found stage 2 not too different from stage one as the structure was very similar – just a larger workload and some more chemical engineering content. The contact hours slightly drop due to fewer lab sessions and the higher level of independent study required for group assignments and individual work.

Stage 3 – I enjoyed this stage the most so far as I was able to combine the skills and theory I learnt to design a plant from scratch as part of a team and a unit operation in detail. This was a great way to see the standard and quality of work that would be carried out in industry and having one project to focus on that included so many different aspects was really interesting.

Stage 4 – In the masters year the course caters for further learning and specialisation. I chose the standard chemical engineering route with an optional module of process control. Not specialising allowed me to gain a broad understanding of each sector, which I found gave me flexibility when applying for jobs. The other main part of stage 4 is the research project which has allowed me to develop further lab and research skills as I have designed my own experiments and project, which I am able to dictate the direction of. This gives a sense of freedom and autonomy that I feel is preparing me well for the world of work.

To switch off from my course and work I like to get involved with a lot of things that Newcastle has to offer. My hobbies include participating in the student brewing society (StuBrew) which I have been involved in since stage 1. In stage 3 I was elected president of the society, which was a great experience as I was able to work with a fantastic team on a project we were all passionate about. I also enjoy watching sports, going to gigs and eating out with friends all things Newcastle is great for.

During my time at university I have had many part time jobs, from working as a student ambassador at the university to working in bars and restaurants. I have mainly taken these over the summer to allow me to focus on studies during the academic year.

I manage my time by trying to treat my course like a job – I will work 9-5 on weekdays which allows me evenings and weekends to relax or to catch up if I need any additional study time. This allows me to switch off from work and allocate my free time to socialising or other hobbies and interests.

Find out more about Newcastle University’s Chemical Engineering courses here.