The Transition to University

A Futures department event for the Upper Sixth

1 February 2024

Our thanks to Izzy and Minty from the Upper Sixth (Year 13) for sharing their experience.

On Wednesday 31 January, the Upper Sixth were fortunate enough to spend the afternoon at the inaugural ‘Upper Sixth Transition to University’ event. As we approach the end of our time at Downe, the Futures Department are ensuring we are prepared for the next step and this event was an invaluable experience to aid this.

The event kicked off with an introductory talk by Professor Robert Blackwood from Liverpool University; we heard about how whilst academics will become harder, being mentally prepared for this next step is just as, if not more important. He explained how different universities will provide varied approaches to learning and how we should be aware of this in order to decide if we, as individuals, will be suited to this. Overall, hearing from him certainly provided some helpful guidance in how to approach this transition and one take away which we will not forget is to leave Wikipedia behind!

Following this, we broke off into groups to attend various sessions all focused on transitioning to this next step. My first session was Cookery with the Willis Matrons, Mrs Aird and Mrs Bedingham. I started with Mrs Aird where we followed a simple recipe to make chocolate chip cookies, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed eating!

My group and I then moved to work with Mrs Bedingham where we made homemade meatballs to serve with pasta and tomato sauce; this was an easy recipe even if it took a while for us to even form the meatballs. This showed us that making food from scratch is much easier than we possibly anticipated. Both recipes were simple to follow and I’m certain all of us will be able to make them when living independently!

I then moved on to my second session ‘Managing Friendships’ led by Mrs Barnard and Miss Taylor. They led an informative presentation, exploring all the social aspects of life at university which we may not have necessarily known about. As a good majority of us have been at Downe since we were 11 or 13 years old, this session was an informal but important discussion about how to branch out and get to know new people. However, I must say that the highlight of the session was seeing photos of both teachers when they were at university and living in halls of residence!

Another session was held by Miss McManus on ‘Staying Safe’, it was incredibly informative and considered safety related to health as well as crime. We learnt that to ensure a smooth transition into university life research prior to starting is essential. This includes considering the location of the nearest GP, checking your vaccinations are up to date, and ensuring all items of value are insured as theft is common at university.

We were then given valuable advice of things we can do at university to ensure we maximise our safety, such as always considering where you’re going out at night and how you’re getting home, checking the accommodation is safe with the appropriate locks and to place a limit on your contactless so you don’t end up accidently spending too much money. I learnt so much and feel a lot more confident in my ability to keep myself as safe as possible at university.

The final session was split into two sections, the first part focused on ways in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be utilised to budget at university. We were able to experiment with different language models and see how they can break down monthly spending whilst helping you save or create shopping lists on a budget. It was interesting to see how AI can help support us in our everyday tasks.

The second part focused on accommodation and was led by Will Pring who specialised in accommodations at Exeter University. It was incredibly insightful, and my main takeaway was to make sure that when the time comes, I am entirely sure of the group I want to share with because once the contract is signed it can be hard to get out of it.

We all found the day incredibly helpful and feel a lot more prepared and excited to go to university! I also feel particularly lucky that we have the opportunity for these events, that help support us in the transition for life beyond Downe House.

Click here to learn more about how the Futures Department supports our pupils.

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