Under the Microscope: The prick of the pine needle

The electric doors slide politely to the wings, and the humming of schedule monitors, baggage carousels and expectant courtiers of the port fade into insignificance. In its stead floats an olfactory welcome toward the arrivals gates – pinewood, freshened by recent rainfall.

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With inlets of the Pacific to the south and east, circumscribing evergreen forests and a mountainous crown, Vancouver embodies freshness. Walking along the boulevards of Coal Harbour, brunching on a bench overlooking False Creek or flying over Horseshoe Bay, the freshness is invigorating, and inescapable.

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The pine greeting at the terminal doorway gently washes over each visitor, awakening them from the soporific daze after a long night flight. The psychological pinprick of the pine needle serves as a sensory courier, delivering them into a British Columbia state of mind.

We who step out of the arrivals gates this autumn are encased within the freshness of university life. For freshers, it is, perhaps, the prick of the meningitis ACWY injection which will serve as the courier into these fresh surroundings.

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Whether breakfasting on peppermint tea and seeded brownie at Blenz every morning in downtown Vancouver or spooning in porridge before dashing out to a lecture on Wolsey’s economic policy, ferrying between David Lam Park and False Creek or between the library and halls, attempting to stake out coyotes in Stanley Park or a professor specialising in projectile motion, it is the freshness and vividity of the surroundings which will motor the fresher onwards.

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In Vancouver, the oft overlooked home of breathtaking landscape, the prevailing freshness sweeps through the streets, waterways, underground lines and cycling paths to propel the people there to progress. At university, in the first term this very freshness will be what powers the fresher through homesickness, insecurity…and self-catering.

Freshness has lost its freshness by this point in the article, which is exactly like everyday life. It isn’t fresh. It isn’t exciting. At this moment, the most exciting it gets is a new YouGov survey arriving in one’s inbox or discovering an unseen episode of New Tricks on iPlayer. But escaping into the evergreens at Stanley Park or within the fjords gives a completely different feeling, and it’s that feeling that we need to encapsulate in our everyday life.

When everything seems dull and boring, hunt the prick of the pine needle.

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Soundtrack: “Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind & Fire

To accompany each article in this series, each author has selected a piece of music which reflects the location.

Cambridge: the secret formula

So, there’s only one thing you want to read: our secret formula for getting in. The formula to auto-complete your dreams, propel you into a life of punting, formals and strange rituals and secure you a high-profile career.

Parents, pick up your pens: students, read carefully. This is important.

nothing

Yep, that’s it. There is no formula.

Let’s get one thing straight first. Applying to Cambridge or Oxford does not make you any better than someone who doesn’t. Cambridge isn’t the right environment for a lot of people – whether it be stress, course or the city itself – and just because you might happen to like it doesn’t mean anything. You’re not applying for a league table position, for a collection of arguably arbitrary numbers – you’re applying for a place to live for possibly 4 years, for a place to study in, to enjoy and to bear. If it isn’t right for you, don’t apply, just the same as any other university.

The beginnings

First things first, look on the websites. Although the internet may have been invented by an Oxford graduate, it’s still pretty useful. As well as the University itself, all the colleges and faculties have their own websites with lots of useful information including course details on them.

The prospectus is also good, but by far the most valuable are open days. Whilst the general Cambridge open days in July can be hectic and confusing, each college and often each faculty will have a specific open day, so you can really think properly about the feel of each component without having to rush around.

If there are any essay competitions, definitely enter them – it’s not only good for your UCAS form, but you might get the chance to meet your potential lecturers and it could help you to choose a college.

The choice

There may seem like a lot of choice for colleges, but don’t worry if you can’t really decide. People choose colleges for very odd reasons – they liked the ducks at Emmanuel, they approved of the banter of Trinity’s chair leg, they had a nice lunch from Queens’ at an open day – it really doesn’t matter!

If you’re good enough, you’ll get in, courtesy of the pooling system. Pick your favourite college, whatever your criteria might be. There’s no point ending up at one you don’t really like, which you chose tactically, when you could have got into your favourite.

The fun

Now we come to the crucial part: the UCAS personal statement. Forget any tricks you were told might work. Be truthful. That means not only actively avoiding any actual lies, but being true to what you are – what your strengths are and what you’re interested in. Don’t pretend to love the War of the Spanish Succession because you think the First World War is too mainstream; likewise, don’t go on about Tolstoy if actually you’d prefer to talk about Putin. If you get an interview (which you probably will if your grades are decent), it’ll be based around your interests, so if your ‘interests’ aren’t true, you’re probably stuffed.

Keep it relevant, and try to be original but don’t sacrifice truth for originality. Spend time getting it right – it’s important – and don’t let other people tell you what you should put if you don’t agree. Some courses such as MML are very broad, so you can focus on what you like – there is absolutely no need to fake a love for literature when you do actually love linguistics, for example.

You also have to complete the SAQ after you’ve submitted your UCAS form, which contains an optional short additional personal statement. Use that to tailor your interest towards the specific Cambridge course and opportunities that offers, such as breadth and variety. Double check you put in all the numbers correctly, because it’s an easy mistake to make, and check you send all the forms your college requires.

Check your college website and any information they send you for details about any essays you might have to send. Depending on your college, these might matter a bit, a lot or not really at all, so check TSR for advice, but in general pick essays you found interesting which are relatively recent.

The moment

If you do get an interview, don’t waste any time in getting ready for it. Ask for accommodation if you’re eligible (most people probably will be, depending on college). Going the day before will remove most if not all travel-related stress, relax you into the environment and give you more chance to make connections with people and the place – don’t forget you have to decide if you want Cambridge as well! If you’re settled, you are much more likely to do your best than if you’re frazzled after a train delay and confused about where you’re going.

It’s meant to be an enjoyable experience, so enjoy it! Socialise as much as you can – there’s no point wasting your energy on jealousy and competitiveness – and be positive about everything you learn.

For those of you with preparatory studies, don’t worry at all – they’re perfectly approachable and are a tool to display your ability. It’s a good idea to annotate a text you might be given, and also anything you’ve read, heard or seen which you can link in in case you forget through nerves.

The interview itself is designed like a supervision, so treat it like a conversation about your favourite subject. As long as you took our advice and didn’t lie on your paperwork, you’ll be fine – if it gets difficult, that’s when it really starts, so think rationally and creatively and reason answers through. They’re interviewing you, not your textbook, so be original as well.

And finally…

There’s no such thing as a typical candidate! Don’t write or say what you think they want you to write or say – it probably won’t work and you’ll get yourself into difficulty.

And that’s why we put a blank space earlier. Yes, there’s no formula, but there is a space full (oxymoron) of opportunity for you to fill it with what you want.

In the words of esteemed Cantabrigian Professor Stephen Hawking, “There should be no boundary to human endeavour.” Try in earnest if you want to, but only if you want to. It’s worth it.

Is Architecture ur cuppa

Today I’m going to share some of my experience in applying to architecture/architecture and landscape. Before we get started, let me ring a bell: this article may include fearsome and excitement to tears, so please get some fine tissue ready for yourself.
Ok let us begun.
1. What makes me feel Architecture is right for me
I myself is the taboo that cannot be judged between being either science-y or arty. Last year as my AS subject, I did art, physics, maths and further Math, and really enjoy the combination. I’ve always been interested in product design or interior design, plus I tried to seek for a broader course because I don’t quite want to specify yet.
I came from Shanghai, China and every now and then when I fly though the Pudong International Airport and Charles de Gaulle the airport in Paris, these bright and almost civil structure buildings comfort me: weirdly, I’ve been resting there way too often. So I started considering studying architecture in uni.
Work in architecture, you need:
• drawing and design skills
• good teamworking skills – are u willing to share your ideas, experience and knowledge
• problem-solving skills- to consider of the intended use of the building, safety, use of sustainable materials, the building’s expected life span, and costs.
• good numerical and ICT skills
• the ability to work accurately and methodically
• negotiation skills
• excellent communication skills – you will have a lot of contact with clients, contractors and other professionals.
After all, I will put these tags for the identities for an architect. #Artist #Engineer #Sociable
2. Career-wise: Education and training
It takes at least seven years of full-time study to qualify as an architect in the UK: 3+2+2. ‘Toughie’!
A bachelor’s degree is required first and foremost and is known as ‘Part 1’. Usually lasting three years of full-time study, the undergraduate degree in architecture.
On completion of your undergrad degree, ‘Part 2’ can be commenced. This part of the process enhances your overall architectural knowledge and looks at project complexity. Whilst the actual qualification varies between institutions (BArch, Diploma, MArch), the stage generally takes two years of full-time study to complete. You can choose transfer to a different university. Most courses are design-based and rely heavily on project work that is undertaken throughout the course. This part of architectural study allows you to enhance key ideas and skills.
The final stage of your architectural training , known as ‘Part 3’, requires you to complete a minimum of two years in professional training prior to your final exams. The course is taken at an RIBA-validated provider institution and once this final part has been completed and students graduate, you can register as an architect with the Architects Registration Board (ARB). This allows you to use the title ‘architect’ which is protected by law, so that only properly qualified architects can offer their services to the public.
However, the good news is that whilst you are training for the long session, you can still do other things at the same time. If we only live once towards 25year-old (ie 18 the age now+ 7training) why not do something I really enjoy?

3. entry requirement and skills
Typical requirements are art, maths and another science, possibly physics or geography. Since this is such a broad and complex field, It’s important to check individual degree course entry requirements carefully as they do vary widely in their approach, structure and emphasis.

It’s still amazing that im applying for this 7 years course. Again, this is my experience. Some for the acknowledgement may be totally wrong and if so, would you please kindly comment and let me know? In a way the more discussion happen, the better we can all get to know this field of architecture. Thanks.

Medicine: A Victim’s Guide

P1030869If you want to apply to medicine, be prepared for the sleepless nights, horrific admissions tests and gruelling interviews. It’s not an easy journey.

Even before you can start, think. Is this really something you want to do? Did you find your work experience interesting? Do you have the qualities required to succeed as a doctor? You’re probably thinking ‘How on earth am I supposed to know, I am only 16!’ You’re perfectly right: how are you supposed to be sure of a decision that will decide the rest of your life? The answer is, you’re not. The people who say ‘I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, I can’t wait to do medicine, I’m going to love it’ are a bit weird. You don’t have to be sure; it’s a career that is very demanding, and you are going to see lots of things that are really horrible…it’s not all enjoyable. Every time you make a decision, you are gambling with the patient’s health and possibly life. The responsibility on your shoulders is huge. You must be able to deal with the stress that comes with making mistakes. Having said this, it’s a very rewarding career. You might be lucky enough to sense that in your work experience. If you’re genuinely passionate about people, and you like the way science is used in treatment, then you’re on the right track.

Right so, where to start? Work experience. Get as much as you can. The G.P, the hospital, the children’s hospital etc. I cannot express how important it is to understand what you’re putting yourself through. Nothing is more valuable in giving you an insight into this career. Forget about expensive courses such as Medlink (although rather fun and a good to put into your Gold DofE residential section) – they’re quite useless, but WORK EXPERIENCE IS FREE! Email doctors or departments – if they don’t reply, try again. Keep on trying until you get responses. And apply early. Eventually they’ll have to accept you. Once at work experience, ask questions about things you don’t understand. Observe how doctors act around patients and ask yourself if is this something you want to do for the rest of your life. If after all this you’re still in, then do a lot of volunteering. Again, apply early to care homes and hospices; although there are often lots of volunteering spaces, in a sector ever growing with the ageing population, there will be lots of applicants. It’s not fun. It’s so sad to see what conditions like dementia can do to people. But you learn so much about compassion. You learn so much about communication. And you learn about making a small difference to a person’s life just by talking to them. It’s that ‘rewarding feeling’ that makes being a doctor so worthwhile.

You probably ought to aim to start your work experience during Year 11, while you’re thinking about your AS choices. All universities will require Chemistry, so if you don’t like Chemistry, maybe you shouldn’t be considering this career path. Most then also want Biology, but not all, so if you absolutely hate it you could always bear that in mind – but again, it’s incredibly relevant to medicine. I’d recommend Maths, because there are so many numerical and statistical skills required in the other sciences, in a medicine degree and in a medical career, and I took Physics to further my interest in science generally. However this fourth option is really up to you – some people use it to study an arts subject like History or a language like French or German. Pick the A Levels you really want to do, because they will guide you towards the right sort of degree for you.

Where to apply? Well, this all depends on what sort of person you are really, how you learn, and your academic record. Don’t worry if your GCSEs aren’t up to scratch, although you might want to reconsider if don’t have at least 6 A*’s, since you are going to be up against candidates who will have perfect academic records. You should be aiming for 4As at AS level, although it’s not compulsory. Medicine is highly competitive: the people applying are really the crème de la crème of the country. So, revise a lot, sort out anything you don’t understand and use the support you have from all your teachers. Then there are two medical admissions tests, the UKCAT and the BMAT. You will know your UKCAT score before you apply but you won’t with BMAT. Therefore, I’d say it’s too risky to apply to more than one BMAT university but it’s your choice. It’s what you feel confident about when you’re preparing for them. Look up which universities require which test as I think it changes slightly every year. In order to prepare for them, I’d recommend doing the Kaplan course for UKCAT. I know it’s annoyingly expensive but from my own experience I’d say it’s definitely worth it. They give you a huge amount of practice material, and it is a really important test, as so many universities require it. So cut down on new clothes, forget that new laptop you want and invest in Kaplan. Sorry. And do the test in the summer holidays of Year 12! It’s way too stressful to do it during school time in September. Knowing your score early will give you more time to focus on other parts of your application. As for the BMAT, revising your GCSE syllabus and doing the practice books should be sufficient; I’ve heard bad reviews about Kaplan for BMAT, although as of yet I haven’t been myself.

Which university? The way medicine is taught will differ from university to university. Problem-based learning is much more independent than integrated or traditional. Research which universities offer what type of course. What sort of learner are you? Do you like to be told things or do you like to figure out things for yourself? Your desire to attend a particular university should be balanced with whether you stand a realistic chance of getting in. Do you think you will meet the universities requirements? Sadly, not everyone can get in, it’s almost like a lottery, and you could be the ‘perfect candidate’ but still can be rejected. The process is tough. You need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario – do you want to take a gap year or do something else? This process tests your commitment and resilience. You must be prepared for failure. There are a lot of things to consider when applying to medicine. I haven’t even talked about interviews yet because I don’t know much really. I am still in the stage of filling out my UCAS form and editing my personal statement. Your non-medic friends will probably get offers very soon after sending their UCAS form, whilst you might have to wait all the way until March. Don’t be disheartened: you’re not alone.

Is it worth it? I don’t know. I’m not a doctor yet. However, I know I love science. I know I love helping people. I’ve loved my volunteering, brightening someone’s day by engaging in a basic conversation with them, and I’ve loved how studying 3 sciences has broadened my knowledge. Best of luck!