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NO, thankfully not, as the title may suggest, a review of the some what dreadful band Stained I merely refer to the fact that it has been quite some time since I graced the shores of Ciao-land. And by quite some time I mean it was well over a year ago that I last thrilled you Ďallí with one of my opinions. But now I have joined the ranks of university students that plague this world I figured I would have a lot of spare time on my hands to get back to the serious business of writing reviews on this much loved site. So here I am back and ready to bore. JOY!
Now having just become a university goer I felt it was only right that my first return opinion would be on the place in which I shall, hopefully, be living, working (and maybe, every so often, playing) for the next three years. And that place (for those of you who havenít already read the category at the top!) is the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
I shall start with the geography of the place so feel free to scroll down the page at once. Aberystwyth is a small(ish) coastal town situated on the central, erm, coast of Wales (yes I actually chose to come to Wales) in the county of Ceredigion. It is the largest town in western Wales which does make it somewhat isolated with nowhere else of significant size for the surrounding 50 miles or so. The main town itself lies at the foot of Penglais hill bordered by hills (Pendinas and Constitution Hill) on either side. The town is fronted by a long stretch of rather stoney beach with the occasional grain of sand which can be seen.
Rather unfortunately the main university campus itself lies above the town towards the top of Penglais hill. This does mean finding a way of going from point A (the campus) to point B (the town), which is easy enough the total distance is about a mile, but unfortunately also from point B to A which means the walk (or for those who can afford it taxi/bus ride) up the hill. I personally choose the walking option normally. Partly because Iím a cheap-skate and partly because itís about the best form of exercise I get. Being at the top of the hill you do get some really spectacular views of the town leading to the ocean (well sea) beyond. Of course these do require sunshine to be at there best which is somewhat of a rarity in Wales sadly.
There is also another campus situated a couple of miles away from that of Penglais where IT and some biology courses are taught. In addition to these two the courses that the university offers in education are taught down on the sea front.
Iíll move on now to the facilities and such that the university here has to offer (do worry I will get on to the drinking soon enough). The uni offers a wide range of courses particularly in the field of the sciences I believe. My course is that of a BSC in Economics and Accounting & Finance (oooh arenít I extremely boring and oooh arenít I clever? and oooh donít I choose courses with annoyingly long names). Unlike most in my first year I donít actually get to choose any of my units of study. In some ways thatís quite bad as I would have liked to add some diversity to my degree by studying some form of science unit but in another way itís good as it meant it saved me sooo much hassle when registering! God Iím lazy!
All of my course is taught in the beautiful surroundings of the Penglais campus which is great because it means I donít have the problem of travelling long distances between lectures and tutorials (again Iíll say that Iím very lazy).
One of the great things about the university here is that the vast majority of the student halls are situated on the campus itself meaning that u can simply roll out of bed ten minutes before your first lecture begins and still arrive there just about on time. For a student that is G-O-O-D!!
There are a fair number of different halls to choose from when coming to study here. Firstly you need to choose whether you want a hall that you can live in, and pay for, the whole year round or whether you want term time accommodation that you (and your possessions) have to vacate during the holidays. There are halls that are catered, for the non-cooks out there, un-catered and those, like mine, where there is a restaurant in which you pay for meals at cost only upon production of your hall card. The later option is one that I can highly recommend as it gives you the opportunity to cook when you want and have cheap food provided when you just can not be bothered rather that being stuck down to one or the other. The halls on offer are mainly on campus but there is also the rather luxurious student village just across the road and the sea front residences.
Hall accommodation is offered to every first year student as well as many places to the second and third years should they choose to take it. I would highly suggest going into halls for the first year at least as it really is a great way to meet new people. However for those that donít like the option of that there is, obviously, a large range of private, rented accommodation on offer. The halls fees are pretty average ranging from around £50-£70 per week for single un-catered accommodation with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities and lightly more for those halls that are catered or rooms that have en-suite facilities.
Many of the rooms include network connecting for those wishing to be linked up to the web. However for those without a PC in their study rooms or those without the space for one there are around 1000 university PCís around the campus which are available for students to use Ė many 24 hours a day which Iím guessing will be great for last minute essay writing although as of yet I have not found out. It is very important here that you do actually use the computers regularly as all important information is passed on through emails, coursework must be typed and lecture notes and review questions are all posted up on the Ďnet for those that may have missed out on lectures for one reason or another.
The university also has very strong library facilities. It includes a main library and several smaller specialist ones that stock course and subject specific texts and journals. Any book can be easily found by simply searching on the internet database which gives info. on the bookís available and those that are currently on loan/ when they will be coming back in. If however you canít find the book youíre after in the universities own library do not fear for just off the university campus is the national library of Wales. This is one of only 6 (or about that number) of libraries in the UK that stocks every single copy righted book. So basically if you canít find it there it donít exist mate. One thing to note though it is purely a reference library and books can not actually be taken out which is a shame in some ways.
Alright, alright enough with the boring stuff. What is there to actually do in and around the university when youíre having a quick break from your laborious studies (coughs vigorously). Well considering Aberystwyth only has a resident population of around 8,000 once all the tourists and students are taken away thereís one hell of lot to do. This is, I suspect, due to the huge amount of business that students bring to the town in term time which is then replaced by that of tourists during the holiday seasons.
So let us start with what most would call the most important thingÖ.pubs. Thereís lots of them! Over 60 at the last count. And they come in all shapes and sizes. Most of them are student (and English) friendly however there are one or two that you are advised to avoid as these are the local pubs for local people and they want no students there. I guess thatís very understandable though as the students have invaded the locals town and they donít want them invading all their pubs as well. The price of drinks is generally pretty reasonable although it does vary from place to place. My personal recommendation would be weatherspoons which is, in the words of the great David Dickenson, cheap as chips (although not as cheap as the one in my home town of Evesham it does have to be said). Its always worth looking out for bargains that you get on certain nights of the week as well. I found one place selling shots for 33p each on certain nights which canít be bad now can it??
In addition to the plentiful pubs on offer Aberystwyth also play host to three nightclubs. Now donít come here if youíre expecting to live it large in the next Ministry of Sound Ďcos it ainít gonna happen Iím afraid. The clubs here are of the small and cosy variety. The first, situated on the towns pier, is pier pressure. This place is truly awful and should be avoided like the plague itself. Once you finally get in after the 2 hour long queues you find yourself in club not large enough to house a family of pygmy hamsters. CRAP!! The second is The Glen a much more pleasant place which plays some really cheesy music. Unfortunately itís right on the edge of the sea front so itís often to annoying to bother walking there (again Iím lazy). The third, and in my opinion the best, has to be The Bay. Itís a two floor affair with the top playing your normal nightclub tunes and the bottom having specialist nights such as reggae, rock and the somewhat excellent indie night every Monday.
When youíre finally done drinking you might want to know what else the town has to offer. Shops wise itís fairly impressive, again when compared to a town of its size. It has a large number of supermarkets which include Summerfields, Safeways, Kwiksave and a rather handily positioned Co-op just off the Penglais campus. Thereís also a number of quality clothing shops which will suit most tastes (Iím personally rather keen on the most excellent surf shop stormriders), CD and video shops, some good bookshops and your normal Woolies, Smiths and Boots. It is lacking in a big department store though. Thereís also branches of most major banks here so you need not worry about switching accounts unless youíre with a more obscure bank chain.
You wonít starve here either. There are eating places to suit all tastes and pockets. Chineseís, Indians, Italians, pub-restaurants, fish and chip outlets, organic cafes, kebab houses and many more all grace the streets of Aber. Advice to students thoughÖ..please try not too blow your whole loan eating out and drinking in the first few weeks of term. Youíll regret it in the long run if you do!
As far as entertainment is concerned Aber doesnít do too badly. For starters there is the arts centre which is actually situated on the university campus. This plays host to drama performances, concerts and guest appearances. Last week me and a flat mate had the pleasure of going to see Sir Patrick Moore lecture there. Fantastic. Thereís also The Students Union on campus which is home to quiz nights, band performances and appearances by D list celebrities such as the recent visit by fun houseís Pat Sharp! As well as this thereís a cinema on campus showing both arty and modern films and a bowling alley just out of town which I canít really comment on as I havenít yet visited the place.
If those arenít enough for you and you are a student then there are the many university clubs and societies open for membership. Thereís the sporty ones ranging from the normal (football, rugby etc.) to the less normal (Ultimate Frisbee anyone?). Being a lazy git Iíve only joined the surfing club so far and I havenít done any of that yet. Then there are the societies which include music clubs that cater for all tastes (Iíve joined the Indiesoc and Rocksoc), language clubs, conservation clubs and even a chocolate appreciation society.
For sports fans there is also the highly recommended sporty card. Ownership of one of these (they cost around £20) gives you free access to the swimming pool all year round, cheap entry to the university gym and cheap hire of other sporting facilities on campus.
If worse comes to worse and you run out of things to do you can always just go for a walk in the surrounding breathtaking country or simply go relax on the beach. If youíre going to make a day of the beach though I would suggest heading a few miles up the coast to Borth or Ynyslas where you will find miles of beautiful sandy beach. There is just one problem with thatÖ..the beach does tend to lose its appeal when itís -5 degrees or pouring with rain.
Well I think Iíve just about covered the basics there so to sum up: so far Iím really enjoying my time here (NB. I have only been here for a few weeks so that may all change and Iíll let you know if it does). The course Iím studying is vary good and the lecturers all seem very knowledgeable (and Iím not just saying that because my uncle lectures here, which he does by the wayÖ..probably should have mentioned that beforeÖ.oh well too late now!). Everyone here seems really friendly, with the exception of a few of the locals, and the surrounding area is absolutely beautiful. The town amenities are good considering Abers size and you can normally find something or other to do. The only thing that may put you off coming here is the size of the place. If youíre use to London or Birmingham this may not be the place for you, itís just a little too small. But apart from that I canít think of a nicer place to be spending my university years. Phil :)
I went to Aber and your review brought it all back to me. Great place to study.
phillegg 06.02.2003 22:50
i dont go to aberystwyth but my better half is there in her first year. I've been up for a few weekends, its a nice place. Don't like that hill you have to climb, but niec range of pubs! ALso, the fact that the train station is Weatherspoons made me laugh!! lol
andymcf 16.11.2002 18:52
Hi! Just a couple of points. Firstly, you wrote: "When youíre finally done drinking you might want to know what else the town has to offer". The first thing you need to learn is that you have NEVER finally done drinking. Secondly - and less frivolously - do you intend to learn Welsh and - if not - would you envisage that not doing so would be a disadvantage? All the best - great op!