Starting My Job Search

Hi everyone! I hope you are doing well and are ready for the holidays.

With the first term coming to an end, I wanted to make a short post regarding job searching and how to manage it during your time at Aston. Like many of my colleagues, I’ve been entirely too busy with coursework to put much effort into my job search. Whether that be looking for a part-time job or an internship for Term 3, I simply haven’t had the time to sit down and really look into what is out there. Fortunately (and hopefully), this is about to change.

With just two weeks until the term is over, I’m hoping to begin looking into vacancies and sending out my CV. While I am excited about this, I can’t help but feel I’m behind some of my peers, as I’ve heard a handful of them discussing their internships or interviews. After attending some discussions with the career services members, I’ve decided that I’m not necessarily behind in the process, but I do need to act quickly before I get to that point.

In my personal opinion, I think I’ve taken a good approach to my postgraduate experience thus far. Before the term started, I told myself I would focus the majority of my attention on academics; learning the system and making sure to keep up with all the work. As I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect from the modules, I wanted to be sure I was as prepared as possible for anything that was handed to me. Now that I know what to expect from the courses, I feel I can dedicate more time during Winter break and the remaining terms to my looking for open positions.

With that being said, I haven’t completely neglected my job search efforts. Thanks to the talks and workshops hosted by Career Services and Graduate Advantage, I’ve been able to learn what to expect and how to get started with the process. Career Services is Aston’s department dedicated to helping with all things career related. From CV and cover letter support, to job fairs and events, they are your go-to source when it comes to looking for work. Graduate Advantage is an organisation that works very closely with Aston to help students in their job search. I won’t go into much detail about them, but if you would like to find out more information you can visit their website here. Both of these sources are invaluable when it comes to looking for opportunities. Not only are the people extremely knowledgeable, they are very willing and open to help you anyway they can!

If there is any point I want you to take from this post it’s that, when it comes to balancing coursework and job searching, you have to know what you want to get out of your time at Aston. If you are just wanting to get top marks, then focus your attention on the assignments. If you are only concerned with finding the perfect job, then that should be where you allocate the majority of your efforts. There’s not necessarily a right answer here, it’s more about knowing yourself and working towards whatever is important to you. No matter what you choose, just remember that there are plenty of great people and resources here to help  you!

If you have any questions about career services here at Aston feel free to ask! If I can’t help you, I will get you in contact with someone who can.

Thanks for reading!

Garet

Group work during your MSc

This is going to be a quick, informational post for prospective students wanting to attend either the MSc in International Business (IB),  MSc in Strategy and International Business (SIB), or MSc in Entrepreneurship and International Business (EIB) courses at Aston. The focus is going to be the group work you will have the opportunity to partake in during your time as a student. I am limiting my views to these three courses as I am not familiar with the structure of other programs, so I apologise if yours is not included.

When I came to Aston, I assumed I would be have to work in groups as part of my course. Being a MSc program at a diverse university, it only made sense that this would be the case. After studying for two months, I must say  that I have been pleasantly surprised by  the emphasis Aston places on group work.

From the very beginning, they make it known that group work will be a central theme of your entire program. It starts with the Professional Development Programme (PDP). This year-long module focuses on helping you develop skills that complement your coursework such as Team Working, Leadership, and Academic Writing. It concludes in Term 3 with either a Study Abroad or Internship experience, or additional courses.

One of the main functions of the PDP is to put you into what is referred to as a Syndicate Group (or Working Group). You start with a certain group in Term 1, and then change groups for Term 2. This switching of groups gives you the opportunity to work with new people, and challenges you to learn how to work in a new situation.

The PDP is your first taste of working with a group of people from all over the world. In my Term 1 group, we have two Germans, one French, a Bruneian, and one from Thailand. As you can see, it is a very diverse group, and something you will need to be ready for when you arrive on campus. I can assure you it will be a valuable learning experience when you attempt to complete a 3,000 word paper while trying to include everyone’s opinions and contributions.

In our compulsory course modules, we stay working within our assigned Syndicate Group from the PDP. However, when you choose your optional modules, you will be placed into different groups specific to that course. For example in my Management of Innovation class, I am working with an entire new set of students, all from differing parts of the world. This is where things get interesting. Each class typically has at least one group assignment, which means you will spend a lot of your time working with your different teams. It’s a challenging task, but I promise it is going to prepare you for the “real world”. The time management and interpersonal/cross-cultural communication skills you develop will transfer perfectly into your career.

If you plan to work in today’s globalised business environment, you are going to need to know how to work alongside individuals from all walks of life. While the group work may seem like a lot at times, it is a vital part of your development as a young professional. And I can say from personal experience that completing a project with a great group of people is a very fun and interesting process.

If you have any other questions about the group work aspect of the course please let me know!

Thanks for reading,

Garet

 

 

Trip to London

Hi everyone!

So I was finally able to get back to London for the first time in over a year! Valeria and I took a coach there for her birthday last Saturday and returned on Sunday. It was a quick trip, but it was great to go back and see some friends I hadn’t seen for a long time.

As I want to make this both an interesting and informative post, I have chosen to break my trip up into three main parts: travel, food, and accommodation. In each part I will describe our trip, and then give any tips or information I think might be helpful, should you choose to go to London at some point.

Travel

As I mentioned earlier, Valeria and I took a coach (bus) to London. We booked our tickets online, the day before going, at www.nationalexpress.com. For  two round-trip tickets, we paid approximately £30 total (£15 each). This seems about average for the coach, depending on the day and time you choose to travel (peak tickets are a bit more expensive). We left Birmingham Coach Station at 8:30 am Saturday morning and arrived at Victoria Coach Station in London around 11:30 am. It seems like a long ride, but it did go by quickly as I slept most of the way 😉

Note: Our return-trip on Sunday took just 2.5 hours. We left London at 10:00 am and got back into Birmingham at 12:30. It just depends on time of day and traffic conditions.

Once in London, we bought the 1-Day Travel Card for Zones 1-6. This cost roughly £8, but gave us unlimited access to the tube and buses for the entire day. Unfortunately, by the time we were leaving on Sunday, the travel card had expired so we had to buy a Single ticket from our accommodation in Elephant and Castle back to Victoria Coach Station. This was around £4, so it is definitely worth spending the extra money to get the travel card for the whole day if you will be using public transportation.

Traveling by coach is not the quickest or most convenient way to get to London. Like I said, we booked the day before leaving, so our options were limited. There are trains that run from Birmingham New Street to Euston and from Snow Hill station to Maryleborne. If you get on it early enough, I’ve been told you can get some really cheap tickets for these trains. The train trips take between 1.5 to 2 hours, so they are much quicker (and probably much more comfortable) than the coach. A couple of useful websites to plan and book your  tickets are listed below:

www.thetrainline.com: Good to use for finding the right train, but they do charge a booking fee

www.nationalrail.com: Once you’ve found the right train, try booking it here to avoid additional fees

Note: Thanks to my friend Chris for the information on the trains. He’s from London and had some really good tips on traveling back and forth!

Food

While there, we ate some amazing Pakistani food at a place called Bundukhan. This was my first time eating Pakistani food, and it did not disappoint. Our friend Ushbah (who I found out was an expert on Pakistani cuisine) was kind enough to show me around the menu. In the end, I ordered a potato curry dish (I can’t remember the name) and it was excellent. My favorite part of the meal was actually a traditional drink called Lassi. From what I remember, it is a mixture of milk or yogurt, mango, and sugar. While it was delicious, Ushbah’s brother, Waleed, informed me that drinking too much at once can make you tired and give you a headache.

After dinner,  we got a drink at the Bavarian Beerhouse. The Bavarian Beerhouse (seen below) seemed to be a fairly authentic drinking establishment with wooden seats, classically dressed waitresses, and loud, singing patrons. We got there around 12, so we were only able to stay for one drink!

The best/most important restaurant at which we ate (according to Valeria) was Hummus Bros. If you’ve never heard of it, Hummus Bros offers great hummus at a very affordable price. There are four locations throughout the city, so it’s a convenient place to grab a nice lunch!

There are a seemingly endless amounts of great restaurants and pubs within London. As with everything there, you can expect to pay a little more than in Birmingham. With so many choices, it can be overwhelming trying to choose where to go. Of course, sites such as Yelp and Urbanspoon provide reviews to help with you choose. I would suggest, however, that if you know someone who lives in London, or travels there often, ask them for some recommendations. In my experience, these reviews have been much more reliable than the internet!

Picture from Bavarian Beerhouse. Credit: John Frank Chiang
Picture from Bavarian Beerhouse. Credit: John Frank Chiang

Accommodation

Our friend Carlos allowed us to stay in his flat while we were there. He has a really nice loft located near Elephant and Castle. I had never been out that far on the tube, so it was cool to experience a new part of the city.

If you don’t have a friend’s couch to sleep on, there are other alternatives.

The first choice for students on a budget would be a hostel. There are many options out there, so I would suggest searching online for the best price. Of course, make sure to read reviews and ask anyone you know if they have any recommendations. I know of several people who have stayed in hostels while traveling, and they typically have nothing but good things to say about them. Hostels do, however, get a bad rep (some of it may be warranted), so be sure you are aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your things!

A more costly, but secure, option would be staying in a hotel. If you are unfamiliar with the city, you may want to choose a hotel in a popular, tourist-friendly location. These areas would typically be around central London, and also happen to be where prices are at their highest. If you are planning to stay in a hotel, I would suggest booking as early as possible to avoid higher fees and ensure they have available rooms.

The last option would be to look on a website like Airbnb, or something similar. These websites offer affordable accommodation to people planning trips to different locations. They are typically cheaper than hotels, and give you the chance to meet a local (the person who is renting you the room) who can give you tips on where to go and things to do. Valeria and I did this once when we traveled to Marseille. We rented an entire apartment from a guy who was traveling, and it cost us much less than staying at a hotel! If you are interested in doing this, I would definitely suggest going on the website and taking a look. A really nice feature is that they typically offer a biography and reviews of the host, so you can see what past visitors have said about them before booking.

A view from Carlos' flat
A view from Carlos’ flat

Well that’s it! My trip to London, sprinkled with some (hopefully helpful) tips and advice. If you get the chance during your time at Aston, definitely consider going to London! The city is full of life, culture, and adventure; it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and I am always looking forward to going back!

If you have any questions or comments, comment below!

Thanks for reading,

Garet

Living off campus: Is it right for you?

Having met several people living on campus at Aston this year, and comparing their experiences to mine of living off campus, I’ve seen there are good and bad sides to each option. This has led me here, hoping to provide a little insight to prospective students currently deciding whether they want to live on or off campus during their time at Aston.

This post will just be discussing the PROs to living off campus; I will discuss the cons in a later post!

Before I start, I want to remind you I currently live off campus in a private flat, so this is coming only from MY experiences and observations.  I believe all of the other bloggers live on campus except for Austin, so if you want to ask more specific questions, or get an insider’s perspective, feel  free to contact Julius, Lina, or Michael!

Let’s begin!

Pros

  • You are forced to learn the city
  • You have your own space
  • Can be a cheaper alternative to university accommodation
  • It’s a learning experience

You are forced to learn the city

Living off campus is the easiest way for you to learn your way around the city. In the case of Aston, the university has seemingly done everything they can to ensure you never have to leave campus. There is a Tesco Express to get groceries, great pubs and bars to have a night out,  facilities to do laundry, and cafes to get your coffee fix.

When you live in your own flat, you have to find these places on your own. Google Maps quickly becomes your compass, and getting lost is a common occurrence. If you want to eat, you have to find your way to the store; if you want a pint, take off walking (it’s England- I’m sure you won’t have to go far). While scary at first, I can assure you that in no time you will find yourself leading friends around the city like a seasoned tour-guide.

You have your own space

When living in an off-campus flat, you have an entire space to call your own. Not just the bedroom , bathroom ,and kitchen, but the area of the city and the street that you live on. It lets you feel more like a local within the community, and makes the city feel much more like home.

Living on your own also allows you to detach from the university lifestyle should you ever need or want to do so. If you are a person who is easily swayed by peer pressure, living in an accommodation can be detrimental to your studies. When you are surrounded by friends who are constantly wanting to party or hang out, it can be difficult to A) say no B) prioritise studying over fun. It’s never easy to admit that you may not be the most strong willed person, but it’s important to be honest with yourself and know what you can and cannot handle before it’s too late.

*This point can vary greatly depending on the type of person you are, your hobbies, and your overall motivation for attending uni in the first place. Like I said, self-awareness and knowing your limits are key to avoiding disappointment when final grades are posted. 

Can be a cheaper alternative to university accommodation

Depending on the area you choose to stay in, and the size of the space, you can drastically reduce your living expenses while attending university.  Student accommodation tends to be a bit pricier than renting your own space, and what you get for the money doesn’t seem worth it to me. The housing is nice, but you often share space with three or four people, and if there are any issues it can make for a long year.

Renting a flat does come with a few extra bills you won’t see in student housing. In our case, we have to pay electric, water, and internet. This does make for more expenses each month, but the total cost still comes out to slightly less than what you pay in university accommodation. As a side note, paying for Sky internet is definitely worth it. While Aston has ok internet, from my experience it can be spotty and unreliable at times. I haven’t tried it personally, but I’ve heard from others that using Netflix or other streaming sites can be extremely slow or not work at all.

When comparing the cost of living on campus vs living off campus, it’s important to be realistic. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Estimating your monthly or weekly budget is important to ensure you have enough money to live comfortably.
  • When you are paying for electric  and water, you have to be aware of usage- this isn’t your parents’ house and they aren’t paying the bills anymore, so turn off the lights!
  • Cooking your own meals will save you an unimaginable amount of money.
  • STICK TO YOUR BUDGET

It’s a learning experience

If you haven’t done so before, living on your own is a great experience. It’s an opportunity to take on more responsibility and prove to yourself you are capable of succeeding! It’s also a good chance to develop new, transferrable skills such as: cooking, repairing stuff, cleaning massive amounts of unwashed dishes, becoming more aware of how dirty you really live, and many others yet to be discovered.

Jokes aside, it really is an opportunity to become independent. Having to rely on yourself to eat, clean, and get up on time is actually a very rewarding feeling. It may be more difficult or stressful at times, but  I guarantee it is going to help you in the long-run.

This will be you at some point. Credit: Giphy.com

With the proper planning and frugal habits, renting a flat is definitely a cost-saver. Be aware though, living alone is not easy. It takes practice and a rewiring of your mindset to make the transition from living at home to living on your own. There will be many moments of uncertainty – and I can assure you, you will burn something at some point- but  remember, it’s ok to make those mistakes! You’ll learn from your failures and you will become a more responsible and self-sustaining adult by the time it’s all over.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, or any other topic, please feel free to ask!

Thanks!

Garet

Good day, Birmingham

Good day , Birmingham!

First, I would like to apologise for the long break between posts. As I’m sure my fellow Aston bloggers can attest to, pre-arrival activities tend to consume a large portion of time!

So I arrived in Birmingham this past Thursday! The flight was long and tiring, but that was to be expected. Immigration went surprisingly smooth; it took less than 5 minutes from the time I handed them my passport to them stamping it!

After waiting in the airport until around 9:30 am, I took a cab to my letting agency. They gave me my keys and a quick rundown of what to expect at the flat. One interesting point (and I’m still undecided on whether or not I like it) is the electricity. It works similar to a pay-as-you-go mobile, in that you get a key stick (not the actual name, but that’s what I call it) that you take to a corner store and top it up whenever you’ve run out of credit. You then take the stick back and insert it into a box at the flat. The box reads it and gives you the pre-paid amount. After that, you are good to go until it runs out. I’m not sure if the rates are the same as if I were paying the electric company directly, but I plan to find out soon. As I said, the jury is still out on this and I will let you know how it goes!

My first impressions of the city are that it is very lively, and full of culture. Our flat is located in the heart of Chinatown and I’ve enjoyed the experience so far. We are just across the street from Acardian, which seems to be a great spot during the weekends. There is a wide variety of restaurants ranging from Latin American to Indian and many pubs and night clubs. If you are in the area, make sure to check them out!  We are also a short walk from Bullring, New Street, and the City Centre in general. I’m really happy with our location, as I think it will be great for both of us commuting to our respective campuses.

Valeria arrived here Friday night! We spent most of the day Saturday getting the necessities and walking around the city. On Sunday we walked to the Aston campus. It was my first time seeing it in person (don’t judge me!) and I must say it made me even more excited to get started. It’s in a great location and in close proximity to a few other universities. I wasn’t able to go inside or talk to anyone, but there will be time for that in the near future.

I will be posting more frequently now that I have arrived in the city and am getting settled. If you have any questions you would like to ask, please feel free! I may not be an expert, but I will answer as best I can 🙂

Garet

 

A picture from Victoria Square. Photo credit goes to Valeria
A picture from Victoria Square. Photo credit goes to Valeria

Hello everyone!

Hello everyone! My name is Garet Quigg and I will be attending the MSc in Strategy and International Business program at Aston in the Fall of 2014.

I was fortunate enough to be selected as an Aston University/Banco Santander Scholarship recipient for 2014-2015. One of the opportunities the scholarship provides is the chance to write a blog chronicling my experiences of being a student at Aston. I must say that while the financial support of the scholarship is great, I am probably more excited by the prospect of being able to share my experiences with other students. From arriving in the city for the first time, to meeting professors and fellow students, I want to give an interesting and informative look inside Aston University and the city of Birmingham.

As such, I would like to welcome you to what will hopefully become a helpful source of information as you begin your journey to Aston.

Before we get started, I would like to introduce myself a little more. As I said before, my name is Garet. I’m a 23 year old business major from the United States. I grew up in a small town in central Missouri and did my undergrad at Maryville University in St. Louis. I’ve traveled to the UK twice- both study abroad experiences-and visited a handful of other countries on vacations. Before I graduated high school I had never left the US, but ever since my first trip to France in 2009, I’ve fallen in love with seeing and experiencing the world.

When I’m not working or studying, I enjoy hanging out with my friends and going to the gym. I like to mess around on Photoshop and WordPress, and I’m an avid FIFA 14 player when I have the time. I am also a fan of just about every sport besides baseball, which I find completely boring to watch but really fun to play.

I’ll be traveling to Birmingham with my wonderful girlfriend, Valeria. We will be living together around the City Centre, so I hope to be able to provide some great stories and insider information about the area in future posts!

Before I go, I would like to encourage you to post any questions or insights you might have in the comments section below.  Aside from responding to them directly, I would like to compile them into a future post. This would allow anyone who comes across the blog to have quick access to some FAQs, and may provide useful information for them.

I am really excited to get started and develop this blog into something that may help others! I would like to thank the fine people at Aston University and Banco Santander for this opportunity. Banco Santander is doing great things for students around the world, and I’m happy I can contribute to their efforts.

Thanks for reading!

Garet Quigg

About me

Garet_blogpicMy name is Garet Quigg. I am a 23 year old Masters student from the United States. I received my undergraduate degree in International Business, and I am looking forward to the challenge of completing my MSc Strategy and International Business from Aston. I grew up in a small, close-knit community in central Missouri. When I’m not Skyping with my girlfriend, Valeria (she lives in Venezuela), I enjoy spending time with my friends and family. I go to the gym whenever I can, and I love to watch and play just about  any sport. Some of my hobbies include working with Photoshop and Wordpress, and playing FIFA with my friends. I chose the MSc Strategy and International Business program at Aston because of it’s well-rounded and diverse curriculum. The program not only teaches the fundamental principles of strategic planning, but it always students to gain firsthand experience through the consultancy based dissertation. I am really excited for everything going on in the next year! Valeria and I will be living together in City Centre, and we will hopefully have some great stories and advice to share with everyone. I cannot wait to get started and share my experiences of being a student at Aston!