Magazine Issue 726 Summer/Autumn 2020 FRESHERSâ€™ EDITION
meet the 2020
Dear readers, To all freshers (wherever you are in the world right now) — welcome to UCL! And to all returning students, it’s good to have you back. We hope this special edition of our magazine will aid you as you settle into university during the strangest of times. This edition, whilst also a guide to UCL itself, aims to help you connect with the wealth of experiences and talent of our vast student body. We know that First Term is going to be a little weird for everyone, to say the least, but don’t let that deter you from taking advantage of this new beginning. If you’re new to university, take your time to get accustomed to UCL and student life, with brilliant experiences literally just at your fingertips. UCL (and, in our biased opinion, Pi Media especially) is a warm and inclusive place, so even if it’s a little concealed behind screens this term, trust that you’re joining a wonderful community!All our amazing contributors from both Pi and UCL Photography Society are testament to this.
Vanessa Tsao MAGAZINE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
We hope you enjoy all of the advice, reminiscences, and explorations packed into our Freshers’ Edition, so keep reading! Stay safe, and enjoy the magazine!
Dom Borghino PITV EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Your co-EICs, Vanessa & Emily
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Cover photograph by Katie Hadaway, with artwork by Valeria Fernandez-Soriano Graphics throughout the magazine from freepik & vecteezy
Evie Robinson SOCIAL MEDIA OFFICER
Isobel Helme PRESIDENT
Emily Hufton MAGAZINE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Chloe Rossington TREASURER
Matt Cross ONLINE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Daria Mosolova ONLINE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Katie Hadaway PITV EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Valeria Fernandez-Soriano DESIGN OFFICER
Joe Kenelm WELFARE OFFICER
Livvie Hall MARKETING OFFICER
Olivia Scott EVENTS OFFICER
Roma Rodriguez EVENTS OFFICER www.uclpimedia.com
Freshers’ Week in Focus By Gabriel Roberts
Studying at UCL By Jac
6 Your Tour of UCL’s Online Campus By Mia Lui
7 Questions with the Pi Preside By Isobel Helme
26 Studying in the Wake of the Pandemic: Productivity Tips for Online University By Evie Robinson
The Importance of SelfUniversity By Erika Notarian
Life after COVID-19: How the virus can foster a rethink of the university experience By Isabel Jackson
Tuition Fee Reductions: Necessary or Devastating? By Zsofia Lazar
Online lear be daun but we can make By Portia
24 How effective are UK university opening plans amidst COVID-19? By Bethany Maia Evans
16 Photo: Johara Meyer
Lockdown Photography Spread Pi X UCL Photo Soc
A Fre Co By M
L this COVID-19 Year ck Walters
Library Lowdown By Daria Mosolova
Back-to-school talk with Carol Paige By Emily Hufton
A History of UCL: the Essential Prequel for Incoming Freshers By Jack Walters
How to Survive Halls: COVID-19 Edition By Cerys Mason
5 Outdoor Spaces to Explore this Term By Nadia Freeman
What You Are Not Missing Out On During an Online Freshers’ By Zsofia Bekker
Debunking Misconceptions About University Life By Isabelle Osborne
rning may nting, e the most of it Kentish
SCIENCE & TECH
4 Tools to Boost your Productivity By Ebani Dhawan
esher’s Guide to omfort Films Maeve Hastings
38 Mother Nature: a Documentary from Lockdown By Hal Pilkington
UCL’S Written by Mia Lui To reflect the changes to education that are continuously being made in response to the pandemic, the UCL campus has had a digital makeover. With Freshers’ week around the corner, you are no doubt wondering what student life will look like this year. UCL is ready to welcome new students on September 28, but the coming months will inevitably feel different as we adapt to a largely online university experience. While the Bloomsbury campus will be open, albeit with reduced capacity, a lot of academic and social activity in the coming months will be digital. This might take some time getting used to, but UCL and the Students’ Union have been busy creating an engaging ‘online’ campus, to make your time at university meaningful no matter where in the world you are. If you want to learn more about UCL, a good place to start is the Introductory Programme, a virtual tour exploring the university’s past, present and future. The comprehensive Countdown to UCL page also has lots of information about various aspects of life at UCL. Here’s what you’ll find this year on UCL’s online campus:
Connected Learning UCL significantly re-designed its approach to education in Term One to enable all students to follow their course and connect with each other regardless of whether they are studying in London or at home. In line with this policy, ‘core teaching’ will be entirely online, including lectures, seminars and assessments. To familiarise yourself with the new learning environment and get ready for online classes, you can complete the Connected Learning course on Moodle using your UCL login.
S ONLINE CAMPUS The Students’ Union The UCL Students’ Union have outlined their approach for this year as “online first”, although some spaces will be open, so that everything that the Union has to offer is accessible online. Their Welcome page has lots of useful information to make you feel at home, from how to make friends at university to getting involved in student politics. For international students, the Students’ Union has created a “International Common Rooms” which are virtual common rooms hosted by their cultural societies to help students connect with each other, find support and take part in online events within their respective timezones. Undoubtedly one of the most valuable aspects of university life, clubs and societies will, like the Union, prioritise online activities. They have introduced a free Remote Membership, which you can get to join all their online events during Welcome Week and later in Term One. The Students’ Union have developed guidance to enable ‘core’ activity of clubs and societies to take place on campus in groups of more than six following new Government regulation, while other activities, including socials, will be remote. The list of groups whose in-person activity is approved by the Union will be regularly updated here. You can also check societies’ websites or Facebook groups to stay up to date with everything they’re doing. During your time at UCL, whenever you feel stuck, you can go to the Union Advice Service for help with academic issues, money, housing, and much more. These services have been running remotely since March, and will continue to do so in the coming year. For those that want to help others and make a difference, hundreds of volunteering opportunities, both in-person and remote, can be found on the Volunteering Service website. To keep up to date, you can join the Union’s official Facebook groups for new undergraduate, postgraduate, and international students.
UCL Services The university libraries will be open in limited capacity with bookable study spaces, but you will be able to access all the material you need remotely through the library website. The Careers service will also be fully accessible online for advice on all your career-building needs. They run regular workshops and one-to-one appointments to help you along your career journey. The university’s support services, usually found in our Student Centre, are available for online help all year round. Student Support and Wellbeing offer assistance with any issues you might have, including support for international students, study abroad, disabilities and mental health, while the Student Enquiries Centre is here to help with more technical issues, such as obtaining your confirmation of student status, transcripts, or sorting out fees. UCL has launched its online Connect To Protect tool, for staff and students to report confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases or indicate if they have to self-isolate. Starting university is a life-changing experience even in normal circumstances. This is a strange and challenging period for everyone, but take your time, and remember, with everything that’s on offer, you will have plenty of opportunities to make the most out of your time at UCL, even without a traditional campus experience.
FRESHERS’ WEEK IN FOCUS
NEWS Written by Gabriel Roberts Photo by Keli Sheng UCL’s Welcome Week, more commonly known as Freshers’ Week, starts next Monday, September 28. This week gives new and continuing students the chance to explore life at UCL before classes start, and this year, the Students’ Union and individual societies have been working to ensure that the vast majority of welcome events are online. The Welcome Fair is an opportunity for students to find out about about the range of extracurricular activities available at UCL, meeting representatives from different societies and student organisations. The Fair usually takes place on campus during Freshers’ Week and is attended by over 10,000 students across two days. This year, the Students’ Union has organised a virtual fair on September 30 and October 3, during which students will be able to visit over 300 different virtual “stalls” for societies and live chat with members about whatever questions they may have. Live
Q: What’s your favourite thing about Pi Media? We’re all from different degrees, and we all have contrasting opinions and outlooks. This means that our content shows an assortment of views, and personally means I’ve had the opportunity to make friends with people I wouldn’t have otherwise met.
Q: Describe your fresher self in three words!
Set realistic expectations for yourself. It’s unlikely that you’ll meet your future maid of honour/spouse/godmother of your children in Loop…but that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be friendly and introduce yourself to people. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel a bit homesick every now and again.
Oh - that’s a very good question! I’d say shy, enthusiastic and probably a bit panicky!
Q: What’s your favourite place in London?
Q: What has been the highlight of your time at UCL so far? Call me cliché, but without a doubt my Year Abroad; before we were all summoned home, of course. Get in touch for Montreal recommendations!
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you received before starting university?
Pre-COVID-19, I would have said Old Compton Street on a Saturday night. Nowadays, you’re more likely to find me in Brockwell Park on a Sunday morning, having a wander and then a coffee in the Lido. I haven’t braved the outdoor swimming pool yet though...
performances and demonstrations will be streamed online throughout each day, which students can tune into from London and around the world. Individual societies will also be hosting online events during the Welcome Week and throughout Term 1. These sessions will help students to get a taste for the different activities that are open to them, and cover a diverse range of interests. Pi Media has organised an Online Welcome Meeting on October 1, where students can meet the committee and find out how to get involved with UCL’s largest student media outlet. The full list of all society-led events is available here on the Students’ Union website. For those hoping to try something active, the SU’s Project Active will still be organising online classes in various beginner-friendly activities. For as little as £2 per session, students can sign up to events like Vinyasa Flow Yoga on Mondays or Dance Fitness
on Thursdays. Other sports sessions will be held online or in person in a safe, risk-assessed environment, and students are invited to regularly check the list of societies approved to hold these events on campus. Although this year many students will be studying at UCL from across the country, and even the world, there will be an abundance of opportunities to connect with peers and to make new friends. The Hey Team is a group of UCL students that will be running online games and events from September 22 onwards, such as Soulmates Making, where students can fill in a survey and be paired up with like-minded people to chat with. These student volunteers, as well as many others, will be available to answer queries about life at UCL, from the best spots to seek out around campus, to navigating your transition to university. In past years, students have been able to access several top London clubs during Freshers’ Week via the
Q: What’s the most ‘typically student’ thing you’ve done?
Students’ Union’s Wristband. This year, however, the Union has warned that it is not selling a wristband and that any company advertising entry to “UCL Events” is not affiliated with the university, nor the Students’ Union. Students should not despair though, as UCL’s largest bar, the Institute Bar, and everybody’s favourite, Phineas, will be open for drinks from September 28 and 30 respectively. The Students’ Union has made an active effort to ensure that freshers will still have a warm and exciting welcome to UCL. Look out for upcoming opportunities to socialise, make friends, and learn a little more about the culture and community at UCL!
I’m not sure I want to admit this, but one of my first meals at UCL was porridge with mustard...never again. I’m not sure that’s even a ‘typically student’ thing to do, it’s just revolting.
Q: What are your three university essentials? I wouldn’t be able to survive without my planner. It helps me juggle university work, Pi responsibilities and meeting friends. Secondly, a good (non-leaky) thermos is an essential for 9am lectures; think about how much money you save not buying a coffee every morning, but bringing one from home instead. Finally, one of the lesser mentioned benefits of being a student is UNiDAYS, so having the app is an absolute must!
7 QUESTIONS WITH THE PRESIDENT OF PI MEDIA
Back-to-school talk with Carol Paige: Written by Emily Hufton
For students who don’t know about all of the work the Student Union does, how would you introduce your role and the Union’s role to them? To be really cheesy, I’d link back to its tagline, which is ‘Where More Happens’: it’s somewhere you can have so many different experiences as a UCL student, where you can find so many different people with similar interests to you, with different perspectives, and coming from a whole heap of different cultures. It’s really the place to make the most of your time at UCL. My role is to ensure that the Union stays studentdriven, by listening to its sabbatical officers and all 43,000+ students that are our members. My role has three parts: Democracy (ensuring fairness, inclusivity, and accessibility to every student), Operations (ensuring that what the Union does day to day is fit for purpose) and Community (which is all about communicating with students and ensuring that they’re happy and feel like they belong here).
What do you enjoy about your role? So much: I’m actually a second year officer, I loved it so much that I ran again! In the most general terms, I love improving things at UCL: finding a problem or issue and working with people to solve it. It sounds weird, but I can’t wait for my email to fill up with students’ questions and queries and comments on things, because that’s what I’ve really been missing!
What have you been working on over the summer? My time has roughly been split in half, between helping UCL prepare for the beginning of term, and ensuring that the Union is ready. It’s been a lot of planning for almost every eventuality, and a lot of big decisions, but I think we’ve been doing that quite well. The sabbatical officers have been embedded in the UCL response structure (something we’ve been praised by the OfS about!), and we actually have access to more meetings and people than ever before. I even have weekly catch ups with the Provost to bring different student issues to the fore. Something Ayman the Education Officer likes to say is that you should never waste a good crisis, and we’ve definitely succeeded in terms of student representation and student voice.
“There are 43,000 of us, you will find your tribe, it’s just a matter of putting yourself out there!”
Q&A with UCL’s Democracy, Operations & Community Officer What’s something you’ve been working on that you’re most proud of?
On to a more light hearted question: what were you like as a fresher?
Definitely getting back the rent guarantor scheme, which has taken months, the whole summer, but will help students who don’t have a UK guarantor. I’m also in the final stages of writing the Union’s very first Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan, which will ensure that what I’m working on now has longevity and that there’s a legacy.
In one word: a mess! Going to UCL was so different from my sixth form, and it was really the time to explore who I was as a person. It made me more adventurous, in a good way! I made friends for life in my first year, and I think that’s what I’ve been trying to ensure happens this year regardless of where our first years are starting their year.
What’s been challenging or frustrating about your role recently?
What advice would you give to Freshers starting this year, generally and in the context of making friends and connecting as much as possible?
It’s often really hard to manage student expectations [of restrictions] when we’re essentially a very open campus in the middle of the UK’s largest city, and it’s difficult not knowing how students will react [to our decisions]. Recently it’s definitely been frustrating as someone who’s part of a Higher Education institution to see the government completely scapegoat young people and universities [for the rise in cases]! Students are often the people working in the service industry in some of the most precarious situations, who are being forced back to work because they’re not on furlough any more.
In three words: Go for it! In your first year, your first month, your first week you are going to be outside of your comfort zone, but just trust yourself and trust that you’ll find friends. If you’re living in halls and you don’t find people who you vibe with there, you will someplace else in UCL: there are 43,000 of us, you will find your tribe, it’s just a matter of putting yourself out there! Another piece of advice for freshers: read student media! If you really want to understand what’s happening at UCL, it’s often the best way to do that. Pi, Cheesegrater, and Savage spring to mind (I apologise for any other student media I’ve missed). Also listen to Rare FM. Oh, and the Union Plug—go to the digital welcome fair on Wed 30th September and Sat 2nd October! You’ll be able to talk to different clubs and societies and really find the group of people that you most vibe with. It’s going to be really good and I’ll be hosting a 6-hour long live broadcast with the Activities Officer.
NEWS EIC PICKS
STUDYING AT UCL T
Adapted from an article published b This academic year, while campus will be open and limited face-to-face ed in Bloomsbury to ensure the safety of stud
Online teaching and Connected Learning During the first term of 2020-21, contact hours will be significantly reduced. “Core teaching,” -the content needed to complete a module-will be provided entirely online. This will include lectures, tutorials, seminars and assessments. While this may vary from course to course, access to in-person teaching is expected to be reduced to no more than two hours per week. UCL’s new ‘Connected Learning’ programme is designed to support students to adapt to the new online teaching. For those hoping to take advantage of campus life, there will be access to the libraries, UCL Careers and the student centre but this will need to be booked in advance. Still, UCL suggests that students should “hold meetings on Microsoft Teams, not face-to-face in meeting rooms.”
Photo by Katie Hadaway
Arriving on Campus When students arrive on campus, they will be introduced to a “Zoning system.” Three entrance points: the Front Quad, Gordon Street Gate and Malet Place Gate, will now be “Welcome Stations” where students will wash their hands upon entering campus. UCL has also advised students on how to get to campus: avoid peak times on public transport and “consider walking or cycling.” UCL has installed 600 new cycle racks throughout campus this past summer to encourage this safer and greener mode of transport. For Tube journeys, UCL has encouraged students to use Tottenham Court Road or King’s Cross stations, where social distancing is easier. Photo by Johara Meyer
NEWS EIC PICKS
THIS COVID-19 YEAR
by Pi Online, written by Jack Walters ducation will be offered, noticeable changes are being made to student life dents and staff members against Covid-19.
Photo by Phaedra Trick Photo by Francesco Federico
Exams UCL has now confirmed that all examinations will be held online and has reassured finalists that dissertations would not be detrimentally affected by the distanced learning. UCL added that among the online teaching schedule students will have access to “highly interactive sessions in real time… [and] engaging learning activities designed so you can study at your own pace and in your own time zone.”
Social Distancing UCL has also decided to maintain a two-metre requirement for social distancing. The only exceptions are in situations when students are in circulation spaces that make it all but impossible to keep this distance apart. This includes hallways and cloisters, all spaces where face coverings are mandatory, when the length of direct contact is minimal, and in research labs and specialist spaces that have been assessed as posing a low risk. The exceptions granted to areas where face coverings are mandatory comes as the university has “strongly encouraged” face coverings to be worn across campus; face masks will be sold on campus to aid this.
Campus Capacity UCL has stated that it intends to cut the number of people onsite to just 25 percent of capacity. For students coming to campus, UCL will introduce one-way system, temperature checking and increased access to soap and hand sanitiser.
Photo by Eszter D. Kovacs
Library Lowdown coming within two meters of another person, while study spaces are to be sanitised in-between reservations.
Click and Collect service
Written by Daria Mosolova Photos by Abigail Spreadbury As libraries begin to reopen after campus shut down six months ago, students are to adapt to the new normal of booking study spaces, using the Click and Collect service and returning books by post. On September 3, the Science Library became first among UCL libraries to reopen doors to students since campus shut down in March, following the outbreak of coronavirus in London. The Institute of Education (IOE) Library followed suit on September 14 and as of now, both are to accept students on weekdays only, operating at 25 per cent capacity to accommodate for social distancing measures.
Bookable study spaces
To gain access to study spaces and desktops in the libraries, students should reserve a seat online seven days prior to their visit. Bookings are available for 3.5 and 5.5 hours with a maximum allowance of one visit per day, although these “limits will be reviewed as demand increases,” according to UCL Library Services. Additional study spaces are also available for booking in the Student Centre, which will be open throughout the week, albeit not for 24 hours as it used to be during the previous academic year, but from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. only. Students are “strongly encouraged” to wear face coverings on campus and are required to do so when
Students can borrow books and other study materials without entering the building, using the Click and Collect service which has been put in place at five UCL libraries, including Main, Science, Language and Speech Science, IOE and The Institute of Archeology Library. Up to 10 books at a time can be requested via Explore, UCL’s online discovery tool. The books will be available for pick-up on the next working day, at Collection Points located by the entrance to each library. Books can be returned in person at the Front Gate Lodge on Gower Street or sent to the university by post if students were unable to return them before leaving the UK in the previous academic year. In addition, the Laptop Loans for Students service is operating at 12 UCL libraries, although the supply of laptops available for borrowing is decreased as each has to be quarantined for 72 hours upon being returned.
Electronic resources and remote learning
Given that many UCL students have opted out of coming to London during Term 1, all resources required for a given course’s core content must be accessible in an electronic format on UCL Explore. Students can also submit a form suggesting new online resources for the library to purchase, which will be passed on for a Subject Liaison Librarian to examine.
NEWS EIC PICKS
About to join us at UCL? Catch up on the past few centuries Written by Jack Walters Photo by Eszter D. Kovacs Adapted from Article Published by Pi Online The contentious creation of ‘London University’ UCL was founded on February 11, 1826, completely defying the educational status quo of the time Not only was UCL London’s first first university, it was the first secular university in the UK, admitting students irrespective of faith. UCL’s reputation as an inclusive university continued throughout the nineteenth century. In 1878, UCL became Britain’s first university to accept female applicants on the same terms as men. The Student Union dates back to 1893, and again, UCL claims that the Union is the first student representative body of its kind in the history of any British higher education institution. The key founders of UCL - James Mill, Henry Brougham and Henry Crabb Robinson - were inspired by the utilitarian thinker Jeremy Bentham. Almost 200 years later, references to the so-called “spiritual father” of UCL can be spotted across campus. You will inevitably pass the man himself, whose body has been preserved and turned into an “auto-icon”, which was recently moved to the new Student Centre. Buildings and lecture theatres on campus, including the Jeremy Bentham Lecture Theatre and Bentham House, also bear his name.
UCL Renames Buildings & Spaces Honouring Eugenicists Adapted from Isobel Helme’s Pi Online Article On 19 June UCL announced that it will rename campus buildings and locations named after eugenicists Francis Galton and Karl Pearson, a move that the university has called “one step in a range of actions aimed at acknowledging and addressing the university’s historical links with the eugenics movement.” [....] According to the statement, “Signs on the Galton Lecture Theatre, Pearson Building and Pearson Lecture Theatre will be taken down with immediate effect. Other changes to the names on maps and signposts around the UCL estate will take place as soon as is practicable.” The Galton Lecture Theatre will from now on be known as Lecture Theatre 115; the Pearson Building will be named the North-West Wing; and the Pearson Lecture Theatre will be Lecture Theatre G22.
“That Godless institution in Gower Street” A Religious Rivalry The intentions of the university’s founders were extremely controversial at the time, and consequently, UCL was dubbed “that godless institution in Gower Street.” In fact, the university’s rivalry with King’s College London (KCL) stems from the late 1820s, when KCL was set up as a Christian-led institution in direct response to UCL ‘s secular approach. Since then, the rivalry between students on the Strand and those here in Bloomsbury has grown further. During the 20th century, the mascots of both universities were frequently kidnapped by students of the rival institution. The most infamous encounter was in the Great rag of 1922, when KCL students captured UCL’s now controversial mascot, Phineas, off of Tottenham Court Road. UCL students retaliated, and after an hour of intense combat, Phineas was returned to Bloomsbury. Today, the rivalry is contested across the capital’s sports fields and indoor arenas, in the London Varsity series. Old Gowers According to the UCL website, 29 former students or staff members have received Nobel awards, the most recent of which was just six years ago when John O’Keefe was awarded the prize for medicine. Nonetheless, the UCL alumni list stretches far beyond Nobel prize winners. In 1996, a group of freshfaced students moved into Ramsay Hall; they went on to form Coldplay and produced hits including “Yellow” and “Paradise.” Pi Media Finally, Pi Media will enter its 75th year of existence in 2021, having a rich history as the university’s largest student paper. Launched in 1946, the magazine, which bears the name of the former provost David Pye, sought to bind UCL students together after years of wartime division. We hope you look forward to being a part of UCL’s history from September! www.uclpimedia.com
The past year has been very different: unprecedented, challenging, isolating. As we all quickly returned home or prepared for a locked-down London, we had no idea what to expect. The places we know so well were suddenly transformed, uncanny. This collaboration with UCL Photography Society aims to create a sense of community through the visual medium, as people share images from wherever they weathered the first wave of the pandemic. Weâ€™re incredibly grateful to all of the photographers for their submissions, and to UCL Photography Society for sharing their amazing talent with us. 16
Huevla, Jesus Minchon Rodicio/UCL Photo Soc
‘During the virus outbreak, all outdoor parks in Hong Kong, including children’s playgrounds, were closed, hence the entangled tape. Once everyone is masked up, everyday work continues for slight reassurance to their hearts.’ Hayden Jit Hei Chung/UCL Photo Soc
‘A photo I took home in Ireland once I ‘escaped’ London in March.’ Florentyna Syperak/UCL Photo Soc
LOCKDOWN Berlin, Johara Meyer
‘Sustainable Travel’ Danielle Sargeant/UCL Photo Soc www.uclpimedia.com
West Sussex, Jess Young/UCL Photo So
‘In a season where Japan experiences fluctuating weather conditions, my quarantine was made better by a rainbow appearing over the Tokyo skyline after a sudden rainstorm.’ Kyoka Seguchi/UCL Photo Soc
‘This was taken in the Old town of Thessaloniki Greece, in an area also known as Ano Po Phaedra Tric
Nice, Moise Mbarga-Abega/UCL Photo Soc
‘Hometown during lockdown. Shot on 135mm film.’ Winnie Seung/UCL Photo Soc
in oli.’ ck
‘Taken in Saltsjöbaden, Sweden, on a waterproof disposable I found at the local supermarket. During quarantine, I’ve been making the most of the few warm days summerhas to offer and these are the results.’ Astrid Wihman.
Could Covid-19 Foster A Uni Rethink? experience. Moreover, widespread dissatisfaction amongst underpaid teaching staff has inevitably led to strikes, which have only served to increase student dissatisfaction. But how can the virus possibly improve this situation? Surprisingly, we now have much reason to be optimistic when it comes to universities. Petitions for fees to be reduced this year have been signed by over 350,000. The response of the government was that universities ‘must deliver high quality courses’, otherwise students should complain to their provider. In other words, universities, now more than ever, must deliver value for money, and this must be done online. This could lead to radical long-term improvements in the delivery of courses due to greater utilisation of technology. Before the pandemic, students from my department couldn’t access lecturecast and weren’t allowed laptops in seminars. Now the department is beginning to embrace technology, with increased use of online resources and reading materials, and, of course, pre-recorded lectures, leading to an enrichment of the academic experience. UCL has also launched a ‘Connected Learning’ program to support this. Written by Isabel Jackson Artwork by Eleftheria Kousta The university experience has long needed a rethink, with dissatisfaction on the rise among both teaching staff and students. However, progress is in sight. COVID-19 is forcing a radical shift in the university experience, perhaps one that can stimulate long-term progress. The problems in the university system have their roots long before the strikes and pandemic. Student satisfaction was already plummeting: in 2016 only 37% of British students believed that the university experience provided value for money and a mere 11% agreed they had ‘life satisfaction’. Just 16% believe staff teach creatively, bringing the effectiveness of current methods into question. These statistics signal the necessity of seismic change in both the academic and social spheres of university; a change the pandemic has also compelled. The root cause of this dissatisfaction is the increase in tuition fees, which tripled in 2012 to £9,250 a year. When this, plus living costs, are considered, it is hardly surprising that many students do not consider their experience worth the money. University has become transactional and students are being forced to play the role of the consumer, making it very difficult for universities to provide a quantifiably worthwhile
“The most valuable action universities can take is to listen to their students” This shift is likely to outlast Covid-19.‘Blended learning’ seems likely to continue in the future, when universities have greater opportunity to plan ahead. But it is also crucial that this does not lead to less of a social experience. If lockdown has taught us anything, it is the intrinsic need humanity has for social contact. Especially in London, it is vital that universities take extra efforts to foster community to avoid students feeling isolated. If there is less face-to-face teaching, there will need to be more group work and collaboration outside of lectures to allow students to forge connections with their coursemates. There is every reason to be optimistic about rethinking the university experience. Our degrees train us to think critically, to rethink and challenge our environments; of course students are challenging the experience they are provided by universities, and have ideas about how universities themselves can be reconceived. The most valuable action universities can take is to listen to their students.
Tuition Fee Reductions: Necessary or Devastating? As students start to return to universities around the globe in a new, socially-distanced capacity, a divisive question has emerged - whether or not universities’ tuition fees should be reduced.
Written by Zsofia Lazar Photo by Eszter D. Kovacs Currently, students will not be entitled to refunds or compensation ‘if the quality (of virtual education) is there’, as Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, said. Her comments in May came as the government announced financial aid for universities affected by the closure of campuses and a fall in international student numbers, in the form of £2.6billion in tuition fee payments, and £100million in research funding for the 2020-1 academic year. Virtual teaching poses the main concern for students - face-to-face learning will be greatly reduced, limiting the relationships that one can develop with lecturers. Online technical difficulties may also restrict teaching capabilities. Research has shown that just 7% of students last year were satisfied with the quality of education in the last few months of the 2019-20 academic year because of virtual learning, while 87% have said that teaching hours decreased after March. Moreover, lack of access to libraries and data banks could be severely limiting for those working from archives and researching, with students losing many necessary materials for their courses. Another argument for reducing tuition fees centres around the understandable inability of universities to provide students with the traditional university experience in all its forms. Covid-19 safety will be present in all parts of university life: classrooms, halls, extracurriculars. Making new connections with other students will be more challenging than ever before, with restrictions on socialising in halls and limited inperson society events. And tuition fee reduction is possible - more than 85 universities worldwide, especially those with large endowments, have made changes to tuition fees. Therefore it is clear that something can and should be done to reduce the burden of tuition fees on students
who are not receiving the package of experiences and quality of teaching that they signed up for. There are, of course, arguments as to why universities should not reduce tuition fees. In many universities, the cost of instruction outweighs the price paid by students, with gaps in funding made up by the government and alumni endowments. This cost has only been increased because of the necessity of new technology involved in teaching. Moreover, making universities Covidsafe is also costly - buying personal protection equipment for students and staff, reducing campus occupancy and conducting testing increase costs significantly. For instance, an estimated one billion US dollars is required for the weekly testing of all University of California students. When teaching in a virtual environment costs more than ever, tuition fee cuts could be deadly to smaller institutions. Other arguments against fee reduction include believing that teaching virtually does not provide ‘substandard’ education when compared to faceto-face learning. This partly relates to the ease with which professors will be available, as well as the sentiment that universities have made ‘enormous efforts’ to provide effective teaching. However, it is undeniable that student engagement is lessened by online teaching, leaving less opportunity for questions and time with lecturers, and possible technical difficulties like not being able to access certain resources, or an unstable internet connection make it even harder to learn effectively. Whilst there are valid arguments against reducing tuition fees, these are vastly outweighed by the injustice of students paying full fees for an experience that is nothing like they were expecting. There are universities worldwide that have changed their policies and fees because they recognise this - why must we, as students, shoulder this burden?
SCIENCE AND TECH
How Effective are UK University Opening Plans amidst COVID-19?
Written by Bethany Maia Evans Artwork by Issie Wan With ever changing government guidelines, expectations of the 2020/2021 academic year are constantly shifting. This begs the question as to how UK universities are planning to tackle the upcoming academic term amidst COVID-19, and how these strategies might differ. University College London (UCL) has already outlined its idea of what Term 1 might look like: campuses will be open, as will UCL libraries, the Student Centre and Studentsâ€™ Union UCL spaces, although physical access to these facilities will be limited. In-person lectures will be severely restricted and, depending on the programme, likely to be no more than 1-2 hours per week. In the meantime, all core teaching will be made available online. Where testing is concerned, UCL have announced its plans to provide up to 1,000 COVID-19 tests a day for staff and students, but only to those showing symptoms of the virus. How does this strategy diverge with those outlined by other UK universities? To sum it up in one word: testing. While some universities, like the University of Oxford, have taken a similar approach in providing symptomatic testing, others have not. In a pilot scheme, the University of Southampton will be providing all staff and students,
whether they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or not, regular testing throughout the autumn term. Similarly, the University of Cambridge will be providing students living in colleges weekly coronavirus tests, but not to those living outside these colleges. Other universities, like the University of Sussex, will not be testing at all. Instead, staff and students showing symptoms will be directed towards the national testing service. So, of these differing testing strategies, which will be the most effective to control the virus? Perhaps taking a look at the COVID-19 numbers at different US colleges, which opened recently, can answer this. The University of Iowa, which did not test students upon arrival on campus, has since reported around 1,500 cases of COVID-19. Other colleges with limited testing services, like the University of Georgia, have experienced similar outbreaks. Meanwhile, at Boston University, where students are tested upon arrival on campus and then twice a week, there are just 22 cases of COVID-19. Likewise, Duke University, which regularly tests students and staff, has reported 52 cases of COVID-19. Regular testing is not the ultimate solution, however. At the University of Illinois, where students are tested twice a week, the number of cases of COVID-19 has risen to more than 700. Experts say that if cases continue to rise as they are, this number could reach 8,000 by the end of the Fall term. The university had not considered that students would participate in offcampus activities or ignore the recommended safety measures. Perhaps this was an unrealistic expectation. According to Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, isolation is not a practical solution for students who are at an age where the maturing brain is set up to take more risks. A more realistic and potentially effective approach would be to put in place rules that encourage socialising with masks or social distancing, rather than ban gatherings outright. As the academic term draws closer, it will be interesting to see which of the strategies that UK universities have taken pans out. However, if lessons are to be learnt from US colleges, it has become increasingly clear that regular testing and student compliance are key to preventing outbreaks of COVID-19 and keeping communities safe.
Online Learning May Be Daunting, But We Can Make the Most of It Written by Portia Kentish Photo by Elena van de Putte/UCL Photo Soc Beginning university is overwhelming at the best of times. A new environment, new friends and new academic material, while exciting, can be a lot to adjust to. On top of this, the prospect of doing all this from behind a screen has led to understandable concerns about the upcoming academic year and the impact digitalisation can have on the university experience. However, as it becomes apparent that adaptations to the pandemic are here to stay for some time yet, we need to learn to make the most of the opportunity rather than fret over the unchangeable. This can only happen if we treat online learning as a new medium altogether, rather than a substitute where much of the experience could be rendered untranslatable. It’s undeniable that incoming 2020/2021 students are facing unprecedented challenges to their learning experience. Yet, there’s also the potential for unprecedented benefits. The flexible nature of online learning not only allows access from across the globe, but can also be malleable to the student’s learning style. The freedom to pause (or fast forward!) lectures gives newfound control to students, allowing adjustments for each specific learning style. Oftentimes, in-person discussions cater to the learning style of the average student, rather than every student. The ability to pause, go over, ask questions upon reflection, and approach the professor via video or chat forum has the potential to allow for a more holistic catering to student’s learning styles. To ensure the potential benefits of online learning are equally accessible UCL should step in to ensure that the multitude of styles can be effectively catered for, given the circumstances. For starters, wealth dividers such as access to
internet, devices and learning material should lie at the forefront of UCL’s planning process. Moreover, full consultations with students, especially those with learning difficulties, is paramount to ensuring that online learning reaches its full potential for the whole student cohort. So far, the university has been promising in their statements, but the proof is in the pudding. Furthermore, online learning must be treated as a new format rather than a substitute, where curriculums and teaching styles are created rather than transferred. While this shift towards a reliance on technology allows control and flexibility for the student, this can only come from adequate digital literacy from the university. The digitalisation of learning cannot be viewed as a substitute of in person, but rather a new form of learning all together. The success of online learning rests, largely on teaching staff ’s ability to use it to its full potential and a total reimagining of course materials. UCL has stated that it will provide training for all staff, and students to ensure that this occurs, yet training cannot be enough. Rather, consideration of students and teachers abilities, as well as the specifics of each course must be carefully balanced and reviewed. In such, curriculums, strategies and training has to shift in tangent to ensure a holistic learning experience. Online learning presents a new array of opportunities. To make the most of this year, we should try to view it from this glass-half-full perspective. However the very format of teaching, training and mentality towards the academic experience needs to change too. Now more than ever, students have an unprecedented level of control in tailoring their education to meet their specific needs, but to take full advantage, UCL must do it right.
Studying in the wake of the pandemic: productivity tips for online university Written by Evie Robinson The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the way education is currently operating in the UK. With a ban on large group gatherings and the enforcing of social distancing policies, universities have been forced to look toward online mechanisms to deliver education to students. Thus, the 2020/21 academic year is set to look very different to previous years, and though sometimes a challenge, there are lots of things you can do to make your online university experience productive; here are my top tips for studying online this academic year.
Take note of your environment Your surroundings and environment are key factors in determining how productive you can be. The following tips can help you to maximise your productivity whilst studying at home:
Get out of bed! This sounds like an obvious one, but it has been important for me in terms of being productive recently. As most people will be taking their UCL classes remotely, it can be easy to spend all day in your pyjamas and touch base on Zoom from the comfort of your bed! But studies have proven our mentality is affected by both our surroundings and attire, and simply getting dressed
and making your bed can instantly make you feel more productive and ready to tackle the day ahead.
Inspire yourself through your surroundings Chances are, you will be spending a lot of time at the desk in your room this academic year. So, creating a workspace that you actually want to study in will make a big difference to your productivity levels. Personally I love filling my workspace with plants and greenery, as well as photos of my family and friends. I am also a huge fan of motivational quote prints and postcards, as every time you see them you feel encouraged and motivated to reach your goals.
Organise yourself Buy a planner! Organisation is so important, and applies to both inperson classes and online study; instead of finding the right lecture hall, itâ€™s scrolling frantically through your emails to find the Teams link five minutes before the class starts! Keeping a physical planner is a great way to stay organised, as you can write down key dates and times for things as well as keeping to-do lists. Definitely take advantage of student discounts when getting your planner; shops such as Paperchase, Ryman and WHsmith often do some great back-to-university deals.
Master Google Calendar In the current climate, things are constantly changing and thus events are often reschedule, so Google Calendar is perfect for this. Societies at UCL will often use this to schedule their events. You can combine your own personal calendar with society calendars and keep everything in one place.
Tailoring your approach to online classes
There are many productivity tips that can be transferred from an in-person class schedule to an online one, however online university does pose some unique challenges. Here are my key tips:
Establish a routine Online lectures may often be asynchronous, so you might not have as concrete a timetable as in previous years. It may be tempting to push back your 10am lecture, telling yourself you will do it later, but this is a slippery slope; before you know it, you are ten lectures behind, and the more they pile up, the less motivation you will have to do them. Give yourself set times for studying, and also schedule time for doing things that you enjoy! If you discipline yourself and stick to your routine, you’ll soon find yourself accustomed to studying at specific times in the day, which will increase your motivation to get your tasks done in this time slot.
Decide on your method of study What kind of note-taker are you? Do you prefer typing your notes or handwriting them? University is a totally new experience in more ways than one, and it can be difficult at first to know the style of studying you should adopt. I chose to take notes digitally during my first year (mainly to keep up with how quickly my professors talk!), but I’ve now realised that trying to catch everything your lecturer says is not always the most effective approach, and sometimes it is better to listen and reflect instead. So this year I have decided to handwrite my notes; we’ll see how it goes. It’s okay to change your method or style of studying at any time; your first year at university is a great time to experiment and find out what works for you.
MON DA Y
Artwork by Valeria Fernandez-Soriano
Adjusting to life at university is a huge deal in ‘normal’ circumstances, so doing it in the midst of a global pandemic is undoubtedly scary. But remember everyone at UCL this year is in the same boat, even those who have experienced life at UCL pre-pandemic. Online university poses its challenges, but it also has a lot of positives; having more time on your hands without the daily commute gives you the chance to try other things like joining a new society (Pi Media?). Try to embrace this crazy new style of university life, and you’ll definitely get the most out of it.
SCIENCE AND TECH
4 Tools to Boost Y
With the new academic year creeping up on us, we’re all going to be much busier. Balan we’re going to have to be a lot more effective and intentional with our time management make the decision a bit easier, here’s a Pi-curated list of product
StayFocusd PROS:Customisable settings, reduces distractions, improves focus
Todoist PROS: Excellent natural language processing, integrations with many apps
CONS: Only for Google Chrome
CONS: Free version has limited functionality
This Google Chrome extension is perfect for those who find themselves distracted online. As StayFocusd puts it: You sit down at the computer, and you swear you’ll be productive. Next thing you know, it’s twelve hours later. You’ve checked your email, updated your Facebook status, browsed the trending topics on Twitter and looked up your favorite band on Wikipedia. What you haven’t done is work. With StayFocusd, you can allocate a maximum number of hours per day to spend on distracting websites. If you have an urgent task which requires you to be extra productive, you can make use of ‘Nuclear Mode’ where you can block access to the entire Internet (except for websites you put in your ‘allowed’ list beforehand). Keep in mind: with ‘Nuclear Mode’, there’s no turning back!
Todoist is a to-do list app that helps you free up your mental space. Adding tasks is quick and simple, requiring only a few clicks. This app divides up your to-do list by 'projects', which means you can create different to-do lists for your different modules and other parts of your life. It is also possible to connect your Todoist to Google Calendar so that your tasks are synced to your calendar on all devices. An especially handy feature is that you can get location-based reminders. For example, once you enter the Student Centre, you get the notification to begin working on your problem sets, keeping you on track from the get-go. Todoist also has integrations with apps such as Slack, Siri and Google Drive.
These productivity tools won't make you more produ you've got a work system that you're comfortable with, an experience. At the end of the day, you’ve got to test ou
SCIENCE AND TECH
ncing online lectures with sports clubs, societies, and a multitude of other tasks means that t. There are a plethora of apps and desktop extensions that may boost your productivity. To tivity tools for just about anything you’ll need at university or work.
Google Calendar PROS: Easy to navigate, integrates with your Facebook calendar CONS: Requires Gmail account, can get cluttered easily This one may seem obvious, but it really is an essential! Google Calendar is a time management and scheduling tool which allows you to set reminders, make appointments, and schedule events. Most societies at UCL use Facebook to inform members of their upcoming events. With Google Calendar, it is possible to integrate and sync your Facebook calendar, allowing you to stay updated with all the meetings and socials. And, since it is linked to your Gmail account, it syncs across all devices, notifying you about any event that is happening well in advance.
uctive, but rather augment your productivity. Ensure that nd then integrate these tools to enhance your productivity ut various tools and filter down to what works for you!
PROS: DIY, limitless creative ability, diverse functionality
CONS: Steep learning curve
Notion is best described as an all-in-one workspace. It is a sleek, sophisticated app that brings together diverse work tools to supercharge your productivity and bring order to chaos. The possibilities with Notion are almost endless. You can use it to create a database of all your lecture notes, track your to-dos and weekly goals, or even save articles and videos that resonate with you. Notion helps you inculcate effective studying techniques such as spaced repetition and active recall. You don’t have to build these workplace structures from scratch thanks to their amazing community templates database! Not only is it great for revision, this app can also act as a ‘second brain’ where all the interesting and valuable information you consume can be stored and retrieved later on to create purposeful results. There is a lot to talk about in regards to Notion, so here is a video that elegantly sums it up!
Written by Ebani Dhawan
The Importance of Self-Care Whilst at University Text and artwork by Erika Notarianni With the first term rapidly approaching, the phrase “self-care” may not be the first thing that springs to mind. There are understandable pressures at the start of any academic year, yet the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated these feelings of anxiety, stress and uncertainty. For example, social hubs like study spaces and campus meetings with friends may no longer be accessible like they once were, which can be discomforting, particularly for new students trying to assimilate into campus life. It is for these reasons that having open conversations about self-care and well-being is exactly what’s needed right now. But first, how can we talk about self-care if we don’t understand what it means or why it’s important? Surprisingly, self-care is not all about yoga classes and weird diets. Self-care is about doing things that make you feel good within yourself, things that you enjoy and that bring you happiness at the times when you need it the most. Self-care should be as much a priority as your next assignment. Here are some things that I have tried to do throughout the pandemic to practice some self-care:
studying and lie in bed all day watching Netflix? Sounds perfect. Do you want to go to the gym one day instead of the library? If it works for you, go for it! And that should be your focus. Lean in to the support networks around you Taking the first steps to open up to a friend or family member is the hardest part, but almost always worth it. Alternatively, UCL offers a range of different tips and services on their ‘Support and Wellbeing’ page. Follow like-minded individuals on social media Why do I follow fitness fanatics on Instagram when I don’t enjoy going to the gym? Perhaps they encourage me to get past the front door, but more likely, I am just setting myself up for disappointment when I see their posts. Social media is an enormous part of our lives now, even more so with Covid-19 (who thought that was possible?). So perhaps it is time to take a flick through Instagram and Twitter and make sure that you are following people who post inspiring and engaging content, the kind that makes you feel better rather than worse. Covid-19 has not only uprooted our day-to-day lives and routines, but our perspectives too. Perhaps now we can all finally understand the importance of self-care, and start prioritising it.
The artwork behind the title is a watercolour painting that I completed of flowers I saw in Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regent’s Park, as part of my self-care routine during the pandemic to take walks in nature.
Walks in nature - Hampstead Heath, Regent’s Park I’m starting with a cliché I know, but it really works! There is no shortage of green spaces in London and sometimes I just really need a burst of fresh air to get me out of the house or library. It is also the perfect opportunity to safely meet at a social distance with your friends! Time management Self-care is time management, so you don’t get sucked into the horrible world of all-nighters. It is about making time to see your friends. Self-care is all about balance. It is about listening to your mind and body and deciding 30 what’s right for you. Do you want to take a break from Graphic by Issie Wan
A Fresher’s Guide to Comfort Films Written by Maeve Hastings After the excited yet fleeting trepidation of Freshers’ Week, you may be wistful for some downtime. Some films lull you into a mindless comfort, a feeling akin to warm fuzziness. Embroidered to these movies may be feelings, places or people from different times in your life, so that watching invokes déjà vu. Here are five to add to your watch list:
The Hangover (2009) Practically an ode to hangovers, Todd Philip’s comedy smash is, paradoxically, a visual hair of the dog. Despite being at the age of marriage and parenthood, Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) embody the inchoate energies of youth, and the film pulsates with drugs, strippers and general debauchery. The haze of Vegas offsets the stasis of 2020 Freshers Week, so that watching becomes a vicarious experience. Indeed, Sin City, a locus for vice and hedonism, forms the backdrop for hallucinatory deliriums, tigers in bathrooms and babies in oversized sunglasses. For watching on morning-afters.
Ladybird (2017) Greta Gerwig’s masterpiece hinges on the liminal space between childhood and adulthood navigated in the transition from high school to university. This is where the magic lies - in the threshold - not so much about the coming of age as the leaving it. Saoirse Ronan’s eponymous Lady Bird watches, in a narrative rhythm that matches the pace of time, her adolescence pass out of her reach. Gerwig’s acute vision of teenagerhood, in all its romantic whimsicality, reads like a love letter to youth.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) Voted the most inspiring on-screen heroine of all time, Bridget Jones is the seminal ‘relatable’ bachelorette, navigating the urban London dating scene while untouched by cynicism. Treat yourself to the musings and romantic philosophy of Jones, narrated through Austenian bon mots and intoxicated renditions of “All by Myself ”. Renée Zellweger eviscerates the trope of frenzied singleton, instead portraying Bridget with a refreshing candour. And, she shares the lingua franca of UCL freshers: “Ah, no. Was at a [socially distanced] party [with five other people] in London last night, I’m afraid I’m a bit hungover [nervous laugh]”. Like I said… relatable.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) A one-hour-fifty-four-minute serotonin trip, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again reifies feel-good escapism. The sun-soaked charm of the movie is embedded in the provincial landscape, the fictitious Greek island of Kalokairi. Young Donna (Lily James) embodies freedom: an insouciant twenty-something who traverses Europe and collects three lovers who function as postcards. Laced with temporal and spatial shifts, the intricate flashback structure creates a diptych which becomes a homage to mother-daughter relationships. Dance along with the cinematic choreography and sing along to the jukebox hits with new flatmates!
The Holiday (2006) ‘The Christmas Feeling’ in a tangible form, The Holiday is the visual equivalent of drinking hot chocolate in front of a fire. Something about it evokes home: latent beneath the cliché meet-cutes and prolix dialogue is a warm nostalgia, the perfect remedy for homesickness. Kate Winslet’s Iris, who blurs the lines between hopeless romantic and romantic masochist, and Cameron Diaz’s Amanda are quasi-doubles, flirting with existential crises against the earthy hues of Surrey and photogenic landscape of LA. This one’s for the nights when you just want to curl up and feel cosy.
5 outdoor spaces to explore this Written By Nadia Freeman Artwork By Eleftheria Koust
Teaching might be online this term, but you don’t have to stay holed up inside! Discover London’s great outdoors this autumn for some socially distanced fun.
REGENT’S PARK Perfect for: picnic lovers Getting there: 20 mins walk from UCL, or Regent’s Park Station An easy walk from campus, Regent’s Park is immensely popular with UCL students and not one to miss. With stunning gardens, pedalos, and London Zoo at your fingertips, you can spend an entire day in this massive space. The highlight of the park is the amazing view of London from the top of Primrose Hill, which only gets better as the day draws on. Photo: Abigail Spreadbury
ST JAMES’ PARK Perfect for: feeling fancy Getting there: St James’ Park Station The London you see in the movies! St James’ Park is huge, stretching all the way up to Buckingham Palace. With incredible gardens, lakes, and views, the space is truly fit for a (or the) Queen. Head to the iconic location on a nice day for a 99 Flake and a trip up to the palace gates. Photo: Laëtitia Flour
OLYMPIC PARK Perfect for: sports fans Getting there: Stratford Station The Olympic Park, which opened to commemorate the London 2012 Games, is a monument to more exciting times in the city. Bike tracks, flat land, and the Olympic Stadium dominate the space, making it the perfect place for sports. If like me you’d rather die than travel across the city to exercise, don’t write it off yet: the park also boasts cute decorations, a café, and the ArcelorMittal Orbit - a giant red sculpture with views of east London and a MASSIVE slide of nearly six hundred feet!
Photo: Andrew Hufton
Perfect for: staying local Getting there: 5 mins walk from UCL or Russell Square Station Ideal for when you don’t want to contend with the Tube, Russell Square is Bloomsbury’s finest. A short stroll from campus, it’s near enough to uni for easy access but infinitely more tranquil, making it the perfect place to let go of the stresses of studying. Small but perfectly formed, there are several fun things to keep you occupied here, including fountains, very Instagrammable flower walkways, and a stylish restaurant tucked between the trees. Photo: Nitya Mahajan
BANKSIDE Perfect for: park haters Getting there: Waterloo, Southwark, or St Paul’s Station If you’ve (understandably) grown to despise parks over lockdown, Bankside could be your answer to enjoying the great outdoors without setting foot on grass. Admire the Thames on London’s iconic Millennium Bridge and stroll past mustsee attractions including the Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre. If you fancy stopping off somewhere and government rules permit, the Tate Modern is reassuringly spacious and boasts everything from masterpieces to a rooftop restaurant with one of the best views of London on offer. Photo: Amina Reeb www.uclpimedia.com
What You are N During an O
University is all about expanding your academic horizon and paving your road to success with great connections and prospects. It is an extraordinary institution that historically elevates you from the masses and inserts you into an intellectual and forward-thinking community, where the convention of great minds sparks stimulating conversation. Or is it the ‘best time of your life’, 3 years of parties and neglecting coursework and readings for Tinder hookups? Let’s assume that prospective UCL students expect the first experience described, rather than the last. But then there is Freshers’ Week. For those who feel like they might be missing out on a magical experience as Freshers’ moves online, I’m here to reassure you that’s not the case. In-person Freshers’ is demanding. Instead of letting first years simply get to know each other, they are thrown into an overwhelming, weeklong social turmoil, where they’re expected to be everywhere at once. Based on my experience, it would be much easier to make friends without the pressure to go on a pub crawl dressed as your favourite animal, which is fairly odd already. There are a million things to do, like the Harry Potter Society’s London Tour – something you will somehow always miss. Campus resembles an ant colony with everyone running around mindlessly, trying to make it to every discussion board, pub quiz, weekend hike, workshop, museum visit and campus tour; which means you are most likely to never see someone twice. Instead, you end up not remembering names and with 100+ strangers on your social media feed. No rest for the wicked: time to go out! (Again…) There will be no agreement on a club to go to until you’re already on the Tube, but people will have the WRISTBANDS to help decide. UK tuition fees are up to triple the annual per-capita income in Bulgaria and then, before even getting your UCL timetable (which will only happen in October, don’t worry) you are led to believe on Facebook that the Freshers’ parties are amazing and, worst of all, worth it. Everyone is going and you definitely have to spend an additional £80 (aka half a week’s rent) on entrance fees.
If you manage to avoid conforming to British customs (getting too wasted during pre-drinks and not making it to the club which – let’s face it – happens to the best of us) and make it to a venue, here comes the real challenge. You will queue for an hour in the cold and of course, you will not have brought a jacket - it is after all against your beliefs to spend so much (£3) on the cloakroom. If you can disregard the very thing people normally go out for – the music – you might even have a good time. Try ignoring Rick Asley blasting through your ears at 80 decibels on repeat. In hope of an actual conversation you flee to the smoking area, only to again witness more painful small talk this time, drunk.
‘A September like no other’ —one without the pressure to party, forced social interaction and extensive spending—to me, seems like a good one. All in all, you will wake up the next day having spent your monthly allowance and having missed the Harry Potter Society’s tour of London – AGAIN. The only thing you achieved is that you look like a zombie on your ID card, because of course, no one warned you that a photo will be taken today. Nevertheless, tonight you will try again, possibly have an even worse time and try not think about Harry Potter the next morning Although a virtual Freshers’ isn’t ideal, you can at least actually enjoy the company of fellow students without having to worry about missing out on another event you’ll probably regret . In many ways, online Freshers’ might make it easier to form sincere connections, although you might still have to save your strength for the small talk!
NOT Missing Out on Online Freshers’
What course are you doing? Where are you from? Wow that’s so cool, I was there this summer! Where are you staying? Oh yes, I learned a little French in high school too!
Isn’t London SO expensive?
Written by Zsofia Bekker Artwork by Dicle Ece Bulut
How To Survive Halls
Written by Cerys Mason Photo by Phaedra Trick For freshers choosing to study in London this year, there is one definitive university experience that most will have to face. It is scarier than assignments, more intimidating than societies, and, quite frankly, almost as big of a deal as coronavirus itself. You can avoid campus, attend online lectures and network online to your heart’s content, but you can’t run from this. Yes, I’m talking about the cruel mistress Halls of Residence herself. Obviously, this year things will be quite different in halls, so you lucky freshers are unlikely to be faced with the horror of 20 people being in your kitchen at 2am when you sneak in for a midnight snack. Nevertheless, there is still much wisdom to pass on, and with the added stress of Covid looming over many students’ minds, I have collated a definitive guide of how to survive halls in this wild year. From Astor to Max Rayne, Shafer to intercollegiate, they’re an absolute joy, if not sometimes very chaotic, so above all enjoy yourself!
Actually unpack. I mean, really unpack. There is absolutely nothing worse than three open suitcases sprawled out on your dorm floor for a month before finally getting sorted out. Socialise! As current UCL guidelines stand, common spaces in halls will be open from 8am-5pm with social distancing in place, which gives you a perfect opportunity to meet not only your flatmates but others in your building on moving day. To spread your wings even further, join UCL’s virtual community ‘Flourish’ and meet students from all over the university during freshers. Don’t be embarrassed about home-sickness. It’s normal, we all get it, and being apart from family at such a weird time is tough.
Allocate shelves in the fridge and STICK TO THEM. I mean, unless you want to start a year-long food theft feud with your flatmates, of course. Don’t beat yourself up about eating takeaways for the first week straight. There are more important things in life, like actually doing your washing and making some friends – and besides, you’ll definitely, 100%, for sure be able to budget in the future. Right?
Throughout the year:
Accept that fire alarms are a huge part of your life now. Yes, the first few times are annoying, but when freshers ends and the dreaded realisation sets in that they actually do a weekly drill, all year long, you really do have to just be okay with it. Take advantage of guests not being permitted in halls this term and actually leave your room to see your friends. If you resist the temptation to just sit in your dorm, watch Netflix and nap, you can explore the whole city in your free time and see much more than your own four walls. London has some incredible open spaces to offer, not to mention our very own Main Quad, which gives socialising a new setting this year. Staying safe in the outdoors while discovering London’s hidden gems never looked so good. Try not to cry whenever Circuit is mentioned. No one has ever been able to successfully use the app on their first try, and that’s just a fact of life, so buckle up and push through. Discover the wondrous meal that is cheesy pasta, tell all of your friends about it and proceed to eat an entire
pan of it every day for a week. Trust me on this one, there will never be a more iconic freshers staple. But don’t ‘leave the pan to soak’ – everyone has the right to hate you if you do. Don’t be mean to your cleaners. They are more important now more than ever, and are risking their lives to clean up the nasty mess that some careless students made, so chat with them and thank them! Help them out by cleaning up after yourself, getting the gunk out of the sink, doing your dishes, and please, please, for the love of God, clean the fridge. For those incredible nights spent drinking in the kitchen, forget wine glasses. They’ll all smash, and you’ll end up either stepping on glass or yelling at someone for ruining your prized Ikea collection. Mugs are absolutely acceptable. Drinking out of the bottle is acceptable. Go off. Lastly, remember to stay safe, happy and healthy. Navigating a fun yet careful halls experience will undeniably be a daunting challenge this year, but definitely very possible. Wear a mask, socially distance, sanitise and enjoy the craziness of uni life. You’ll meet some incredible people in halls who might just end up being your friends forever, so make the most of it all. www.uclpimedia.com
On Film Watching My favourite filmmaker is a Japanese filmmaker working just after the Second World War, called Yasujirō Ozu. He made this beautiful film called Tokyo Story. This film changed my life by showing me what films can do, and how I could recognise my own family members and my own experiences in such a distant culture from where I grew up. For me, a great film affects you in a fundamental way: emotionally, philosophically, how you see the world. [...] There’s something about the cinema, watching a film with a group of people, even if you don’t know them; it’s so communcal, you’re watching something together. That shared experience is very beautiful and unifying.
Text & Photography by Hal Pilkington (UCL Film Soc), including stills from his upcoming documentary
Film Poster by Hal Pilkington
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et involved, push yourself out there, reward you boundlessly. The main milar receptivity to film as you, and n and desire, and that in itself will ple through UCL Film & TV Soc.
Being very limited in what I could do, I thought: let’s go out to the one place that I could at the time, the garden. And that’s where my mum was every day, just to have somewhere that’s very calm and peaceful, where whatever’s happening outside is going on ‘out there’. I almost had too much time, you could say: I went out, no notes, no schedule, it was a very intuitive process in that sense and felt very natural. I like the idea of capturing a subject first and foremost. If you want to be a filmmaker and take on a subject, there’s no better one than the one right in front of you There are always little things about the people closest to you that you don’t know about, so it was a process of discovery.
Finding himself without a documentary subject for one of his classes as lockdown began, third year Philosophy BA student Hal Pilkington turned to his surroundings at home for inspiration, creating a short film about his mother, and her deep connection to nature fostered through her garden. The result, a 9-minute long documentary entitled ‘Mother Nature’ will be released in Autumn 2021. In an interview, Hal spoke about the process of creating such an intimate portrait of a family member, his inspiration, and advice for budding filmmakers.
Debunking Misconceptions About Freshers’ Week
Written by Isabelle Osborne Artwork by Valeria Fernandez-Soriano Photography by Zosia Stoklosa
It is often said that university is ‘the best time of your life’: a great opportunity to meet new people from all across the globe, pick up new hobbies or rekindle a past skill, and launch yourself into your chosen career. Social media informs many prospective students’ perceptions of university life. Additionally, you may find yourself sitting around the dinner table with distant relatives whose children have been to university, claiming their experience was truly out of this world. However, it is important to address the fact that what we see on social media is only a tiny percentage of someone’s day, and the tales your relatives tell you are only the highlights of their children’s experiences - people very rarely show or tell you the lowlights. This fuels many misconceptions about university life, but your experience can be just as memorable even if your university experience doesn’t quite fit the ‘criteria’.
Misconception #1: Freshers is the best part Everyone looks forward to Freshers. In the pre-COVID world, this meant a week where the fancy dress costumes are put to good use, you lay in bed until midday and don’t go to sleep until 4am; the COVID climate is likely to entail more Zoom quizzes and online yoga sessions. Many believe that Freshers is the week where your campus credibility is decided and your best memories are made, but looking back on my own experience of Freshers, I disagree. Because Freshers usually blurs into the start of term, it’s impossible to pack in all that’s on offer without feeling absolutely exhausted by the end. My favourite memories at UCL so far are those that I made further into term, as I found my way around the new city, started to explore campus, and began meeting more and more people through societies. Going in with the mindset that Freshers was just going to be another week gave me a much more positive outlook ,but lots of people I know came to uni thinking Freshers was going to be the most amazing time of their life, and were subsequently disappointed. Freshers is only the beginning - there’s so much time to make memories!
OPINION Misconception #2: You’ll meet your friends for life in Freshers week People often see Freshers as the sole opportunity to meet the friends you’ll stay with for life, and if you havent met your people by the end, you’re a Freshers failure. This is not the case for everyone. Whilst it’s easier for you to make connections with people during the first week, as everyone is new and looking for a friendly face to talk to, the people you meet in Freshers aren’t necessarily going to be those you’ll bond with over time. Friendships are based on more than shaking a hand, finding out what halls someone is in and buying a round of drinks (often the Freshers ritual) - they are built on getting to know someone, confiding in them and sharing experiences over a period of time. It’s impossible to do all of this in one week! In addition, it’s perfectly okay to realise by the end of Freshers that the people you’ve been hanging out with aren’t really your type of people. There are so many ways to meet people at university - societies, on your course, (virtual) social events - that you don’t have to be wedded to the people you met in the first few hours.
Misconception #3(a): Your degree will be easier than your A-Level Ah. This was a tough realisation. After the hard slog of A-Levels, I couldn’t imagine having to work any harder than I did to achieve my place at university. Whilst I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, I hoped my degree would be a little more bearable than my A-levels were. The first lecture of the year quickly proved me wrong. But, this is nothing to fear! At university, you are doing your thing, your passion, your chosen discipline, and the chance to explore a subject you love in more depth makes the intensive studying more worthwhile. This misconception often informs Misconception #3(b):You don’t need to work hard in your first year. Whilst most first year courses don’t hugely impact your overall degree, how you perform in first year will likely set you up for the rest of your course. As well as the inevitability of deadlines and end of year exams vital for your progression to the next year, some first year marks will be used to determine whether you are eligible for a year abroad and can contribute to earning you a work placement in second or third year. Besides, all the work you do and feedback you get in your first year will undoubtedly be useful for further down the line.
Misconception #4: Finding your soulmate at university Another perception of university is that you will find your dream partner, preferably in first year. Whilst this is the case for some, it isn't for the majority of others. And that is perfectly okay! You will meet so many people during the course of your experience, so whilst statistics suggest it’s likely that you’ll meet your future spouse, you shouldn't put this pressure on yourself. University is about building connections with interesting people from all across the world, from different walks of life who have so many experiences to share, so don’t narrow your social circle to those you feel could be a potential partner. Focus on self-growth and building friendships - anything else is a bonus.
Misconception #5:University life is perfect Like any experience, there are many amazing highs, but there are also lows. It’s unrealistic to think that you’ll be happy all the time, with undeniable academic pressures, as well as having to navigate cooking, cleaning and shopping for yourself potentially for the first time. It is important to remember that these factors won’t make for plain sailing 100% of the time.If you can accept that there will be many highs, as well as the odd low, you will go into university life feeling more grounded to reality. You should not be tempted to compare your experience with others, especially based on what you see one social media; it is important to remember that your university experience is just that - yours. Overall, whether you have the ‘best time of your life’ depends on what that means for you and what you do to make it the best it can be. Everything about a university experience is subjective, so don't worry if it’s different from your or other people’s expectations.
A spotlight on some of our favourite articles from Pi Online in recent months. Follow the hyperlinks in the title to read!
Written by Anna Vall Navés “An installment highlighting the work of Quan Choy, a UCL student and graphic designer that has used her talents to fight against domestic violence during lockdown.”
Written by Pia Keeley-Johnson “A reflection on Pride from April to August: what do we stand for?
Written by Zayna Dar “As ethnic tensions in Xinjiang continue to mount to the tentative clampdown of world leaders, hopes of China being brought to reckoning are fast diminishing” www.uclpimedia.com
“A letter to her fellow 2020 graduates reflacting on the past three years at UCL and reminding them that taking care of each other is the only way to face uncertainty”
Big Oil again peers into the abyss
Written by Christopher Soelistyo “A price war, a pandemic and a green energy transition have combined to spark the gravest crisis the oil industry has ever known”
Black authorship and the “right to write”
Written by Jessica Maya Jones “A reflection on the ethics of authorship and the persistent lack of diversity in the publishing industry”
Uighur muslims: a minority marginalised by their motherland
Written by Margareta Durovcikova
Covid-19 and the co-opting of the Pride flag
Three strikes and a pandemic: A letter to the class of 2020
UCL’s Lockdown Entrepreneurs: #KadsForKawans
Icons by Vecteezy
st Pi Media Virtual Welcome Meeting Thursday, October 1, 2020 5:00 PM - 5:45 PM
Interested in joining UCL’s largest student media outlet? Dial in to Pi Media’s Virtual Welcome Meeting to meet the committee, hear our editors’ plans for the upcoming year, and find out how to get involved with the society! Aspiring writers, seasoned columnists, hopeful hacks, photographers, artists, filmmakers - we want to meet you!
OCTOBER EVENTS CALENDAR
Pi Media Quiz Night Friday, October 2, 2020 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM
Missed the welcome meeting? Enjoyed getting to know the team? Fancy a break from your new flat mates? Whichever boat you’re in, we’d love to put you to the test at our first quiz of the year!
Journalism Over Coffee Thursday, October 8, 2020 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Dial in to meet other members of the society and find out how good your general knowledge is. Crucially, remember to BYOB!
Passionate about student journalism, but unsure about what makes a great piece? Tune in to our coffee hour to hear from the editors of Pi Online and Pi Magazine. Expect nuggets of journalistic wisdom, discussions of widely read Pi articles, mini-challenges, and coffee-infused bonhomie. We can’t wait to see you there!
Graphics by Olivia Hall www.uclpimedia.com
Back Cover by Eszter D. Kovacs