Seven Things I’ve Learned – Teodora Crivineanu, Queen Mary University of London

Teodora Crivineanu is a UNIVERSALIO applicant who is currently studying Law at Queen Mary University of London. After her first year at the university, Teodora sent us a list of seven things she discovered that might be important for a future student:

  1. Law textbooks are expensive and should be bought after you receive the official list at the beginning of the academic year. Exactly a year ago, I received an email from the university about a list of recommended books we could read. I searched for them on the internet and they all turned out to be textbooks. I bought a Contract Law textbook that cost around £60, confident that I had acquired my textbook for the year. But guess what? During the first week of the academic year, I received an official list for each module, with all the books and textbooks; not only was there another Contract Law handbook that was easier to read, but the edition I’d bought only a month earlier was not the most recent, which meant that it was missing a great deal of the curriculum on Contract Law (since a law passed in 2015 was only included in the newest edition). So it’s best for prospective students to be patient and buy their books in the first week. And it’s important for everyone to try to save their money for handbooks. I don’t know if the same principle applies to other study programs, but law books are very expensive, and it’s not like you only need one book every year. Nope! You have 3 textbooks per module, which means at least 75 pounds spent on the module (we have 4 modules per year).
  2. Before you rent a room, don’t just look at whether the building looks cool and where it’s located, go on a virtual tour of all the rooms. Okay, I know it may be too late for this piece of advice, since almost everyone has already chosen their room for the year, but I thought some might want to move after the first semester, and the advice is basically valid year-round. The point is that, although there may be two rooms with the same price and the same floor space, one of them might be more appropriate than the other. There may be several reasons: campus location, room shape, room orientation, etc. For example, I had an issue with the shape of the room: although I was paying more than most, my room was rectangular, which made it seem small and dark. Others, who paid less, had fewer amenities (such as a private bathroom), but their room looked cozier and cuter because it was square.
  3. The grading system in the UK may be very different from the one in your own country. At first glance, you might assume the systems are about the same: 85% means 8.50 on a 10-point scale, 47.5% means 4.75, etc. However, while this perception isn’t mathematically wrong (the equivalents above are formally true), the significance of the marks differs. In Romania, I would have been crying for two days for a mark of 7 in an exam, whereas in the UK, getting over 70% is all you need.
  4. Going out with friends helps you learn. In my first semester, I studied for 10 hours a day, standing continuously at a table without getting up, without any kind of breaks, just going out for lecturestutorials and urgent things. This is not okay for three reasons:
    Your productivity decreases when you don’t give your brain a break (that is, instead of studying for two hours and having a 20 minute break, you end up studying for 3 hours with the same results, so you’ve actually lost time)
    You get fat. At all the meals at the QM cafeteria, French fries are served. At every meal! Not to mention Sainsbury’s sandwiches, that have about 1200 kcal per sandwich. If anyone tells you you can eat like that without gaining weight, I can show you before & after pictures of me in Romania and England (i.e. me in Romania + 10 kilos)
    You feel better. Socialization doesn’t just mean fun; it also helps with productivity. If you get involved in the right groups, you’re going to talk about college a lot, which means you’re studying while talking in an informal setting, and that’s the most awesome thing!
  5. If you have a question, it’s up to you to ask. I try to emphasize this as much as I can: there are no stupid questions, or at least the English don’t think there are! Therefore, you have to ask any question that goes through your mind! If you don’t manage to ask the teacher during the tutorial, send an email; absolutely everyone will appreciate you asking questions and showing interest in the subject matter. While I haven’t encountered this, I suppose there may be arrogant people who could mock those who ask questions. But that shouldn’t matter: what’s important is that you understand what you’re being taught. Plus, when you get a good mark on an exam, you won’t care that somebody laughed.
  6. A law student should attend as many events as possible. Briefly: When being evaluated for a solicitor’s position (for example), the activities and events you attended will be the main focus. Those starting their second year in September probably know this already, but it’s important to get started with this from your first year. All faculties have a website announcing events on campus, and 90% of them are free. Even if it’s an open day at a company you have not heard of, or a workshop on a group exercise which you have never done before, absolutely no one will question your presence there or exclude you. Not only will the event look good on your CV, you’ll also gain experience and self-confidence!
  7. Everybody starts from scratch. My biggest fear before I started college was that everyone else would be much better than me from the start, because they had read more or had taken extra courses. Wrong! When you go on a purely academic program, such as Law, everyone starts from scratch. So I suggest that prospective students use their summer holidays to read whatever they like, with as little connection to Law as possible. No matter how passionate you are about Law, I assure you a time will come during the academic year when all you’ll want will be to stay in bed without doing anything. Because, as a Law student, you have a LOT to read, and not too much spare time. So it’s wiser to take advantage of the summer while you can, before you forget what “free time” is.