Name: Plamena Yonkova
University: Sheffield Hallam University
City and country: Sheffield, England
Major: BSc (Hons) Business Information Systems
Year: 4th (final)
Sheffield Hallam University is the third largest university in the UK with more than 37,000 students. It has 2 campuses; the main one (where I am based) is situated in the heart of the city and right next to the train station.
Business Information Systems is a challenging course that provides a unique combination of IT skills and business perspective. It gives a great insight into how businesses can benefit and run better through technology-enabled change. Our course tutor developed the course in such a way that each of us is fully supported by other one year older BIS students through a strong pipeline. The majority of BIS students complete their placement year working for large international companies such as HSBC, IBM, Eli Lily, SAP, Nestlé, etc.
The course content provides a wide variety of modules. From a technical point of view, we have modules such as Programming Practice and Database Systems which are nicely combined with more business focused modules such as Understanding Organisations, Managing Change and Professional Project Management. Finally, to ensure that we conduct ourselves professionally at our future work place, we have a couple of soft-skill based modules, for example Professionalism and Communication Skills. During the second year you are given the opportunity to shape your university experience by choosing 2 out of your 6 modules depending on what career path you want to pursue.
Difficulties experienced during the first year
My first year at university always brings a smile to my face. I remember the numerous cases of me and my blank face when course mates talked to me with their typical English accent that makes you think you completely wasted the last 10 years of your life believing you know English to a suitable degree. Not to mention the times when you are not sure what the exercise requires so you need to ask for clarification or even worse, you are not completely sure what your exam question means. Other than that, I did not experience any difficulties completing my first year with a 1st class. It was more a matter of accepting the cultural differences and overcoming them quickly.
University library & literature
The university has a modern learning centre with easy access to all electronic and paper based articles and books that you may need. You can borrow a laptop, camera or other equipment from the reception for a day or two if you need them to complete your tasks. PCs, booths and meeting rooms are available on an ad hock basis or via our online booking system. A quiet area for study is situated on the top floor of the building. Not to forget, the learning centre is open 24/7 throughout the year with a very few exceptions. Just dive in and enjoy it!
Career Center and professional development
The Career centre employees are very friendly and always happy to help you. I remember for my first assessment centre I booked some time with an experienced employee from the Careers and Employability centre to talk me through the potential exercises and provide me with some useful advice and links to prepare in my own time. They also check your CV thoroughly and organise practice interviews to ensure you present yourself in a professional manner to your potential employers. Another great opportunity is the career mentoring scheme that you can apply for to get professional advice and support from a mentor from the business world, as I did with my mentor from KPMG.
It will not surprise anybody who studies in the UK with the amount and the great variety of sport clubs my university offers. It hosts over 40 sport clubs from performance focused sports such as football, rugby and cricket to recreational and outdoor activities like snowsports and climbing. I personally attended the yoga classes a few times – a nice and relaxing way to combat the stress after a tough day at university.
There are a great number of opportunities for those who consider themselves party animals. Bearing in mind that Sheffield is home to 2 universities, one of which is the 3rd biggest in the UK, you are right to think that cafes, clubs, pubs and bars are behind every corner in the city to accommodate the needs of those many students. However, I prefer spending my time walking around the beautiful Botanical Gardens in Sheffield, spending a day out with friends in the Peak District National Park, going ice skating or going to the Centertainment leisure park to watch a movie or play a game of ten pin bowling. Also, Sheffield has good transport connections which contribute to my desire to explore and travel around England as much as possible.
Cultural and social events
Sheffield is the home of the World Snooker Championship. Another great event that took place in Sheffield is the 2012 European Figure Skating Championship which proves again how popular ice skating is in Sheffield. For the football fans, Sheffield with its two football clubs hosts regular football games. Last but not least, we have three theatres in the city offering a great range of opportunities throughout the year.
Cut the costs
Sheffield is a relatively cheap student city compared to the rest of England. My advice would be to avoid living in student accommodations which usually tend to be a little bit more expensive than privately rent properties. Also, supermarkets like Aldi & Lidl offer good value for money deals that can save you a few pounds.
Insurances and transport
Honestly speaking, I don’t use public transport in Sheffield as all major amenities are within walking distance. It is a fact that transport in England is very expensive. However, there are a couple of things to consider before you proceed to purchasing your ticket. If you are commuting on a regular basis by train, it is worth paying £30 per year for a 16-25 rail card which gives you 30% off rail fares. Also, if you don’t mind spending a couple of hours more to get to your destination, then Megabus is a good and much cheaper option for you. Overall, be prepared to pay more than you would in Bulgaria.
Jobs and work permit
Since January 2014, Bulgarians no longer need a yellow card as a proof of right to work in the UK. You only need to apply for a National Insurance Number (NIN) to be able to work up to 20h per week. There are plenty of opportunities to find a part-time job while studying. The university also maintains a Jobs and Events Database where you can find information for available both on- and off-campus positions.