Foundation Year

An often misconstrued topic is that of the Foundation Year. What is it? What does it replace? What is it worth? What do you achieve? Those who have experienced it, or know those who have, will know how challenging but rewarding it can be. Further to a recent request, I thought it was about time someone answered the questions about what the year really entails.

Firstly, at UEA, applications are welcome due to a host of different reasons. It offers mature students a pathway to get pack into education, students who have not previously studied the subject area but wish to begin studying it, and those students who have been disadvantaged during their secondary education. The later can be a variety of different reasons, from personal reasons to lack of quality of your secondary school. For this reason, the age range within the students on foundation years is varied between 18 – 60+. Often the majority of the class are quite young, but try not to group yourself off from anyone older/younger than you! There is much to be learned from someone in a different generation to you and interacting with a variety of people is an essential skill for any career path.

How it compares to A-Levels
The year offers an intensive alternative to the A-levels that would normally be required to get into degree programmes in the first year. I studied maths, chemistry and biology at A-levels and actually found whilst there was some necessary repetition for those who had not, it featured extended topics and information that I had not encountered in previous studies. The year requires, in some parts, more detail than A-levels I felt. Most of this being due to the encouragement of thinking independently and not having to regurgitate learned answers such as in A-level exams. Having a year to learn how essays and scientific methods etc should really be written is an advantage that you will end up being most thankful for. Looking back as a first year student, the skills I picked up in labs and these extra pockets of knowledge really gave others and I on the foundation year an edge when going into first year. When you move onto your chosen degree, you will feel more prepared than those coming straight from A-levels.

Was there enough time?
I’m not going to lie, coming from someone who had studied the A-levels prior to the course, it’s not going to be an easy ride. It’s intensive and designed to fast track you to where you need to be. This is not a bad thing, and there’s so much support along the way. My personal advisor was Kelly Edmunds (course director for biological sciences with a foundation year) who was simply fantastic and really helped myself and fellow course mates progress into our chosen degrees.Whoever your advisor is, they will ensure that you are coping well with balancing your time throughout the year.

Coursework and exams
As previously mentioned, coming from a science foundation year I cannot express how valuable the foundation year was in teaching the proper write up for scientific methods. This is something no one will have been taught properly in their secondary education, and it is so essential to the rest of your degree. Your write-ups for labs etc are assessed in coursework. Towards the beginning of the year some of these coursework’s will be formative, in that they do not count towards your mark at the end of the year. Don’t take that as meaning you don’t need to do them though, they are a chance to practise and learn without the pressure of marks being added on top. Not all of the coursework is based on lab write-ups, often you will be asked to research a particular topic for yourself and produce an essay on what you find. These assessments will help you learn to reference properly and how to conduct legitimate research. Also, you’ll figure out the maze that is UEA’s library. You may also have exams at the end of each semester. These are called ‘course tests’ and get you accustomed to the layout and procedure of exams at university.

After the foundation year
For those of you wishing to advance onto more specialised degree programmes within your subject area, you will need to achieve higher than average marks on each module. For example, in biological sciences with a foundation year you can choose to advance onto biochemistry or biomedicine etc. For these you will need to achieve an aggregated mark of roughly 60% and above on each module you take, the exact limit is based on the course you wish to progress onto. To stay on biological sciences you need only achieve 40%+ in each module to stay on the course. Most hard-working students who wanted to progress to specialised courses did achieve this, and those who do not are offered the opportunity to do so after a first year on the biological sciences course if they bring their grades up high enough.

Notice I highlighted you must achieve these marks on each module, so if you have a weakness in chemistry but a strength in maths, do not rely on your maths marks bringing up your average, it does not work that way!

Any questions? Please ask away!



Student Cooks

There is a prevalent thought about university life that students can’t cook. This is false. Students can be good cooks, if not excellent cooks! It’s also super easy to cook on the cheap. There are loads of student cook books out there, don’t buy them. That’s extra money you could be spending on food and other things.

Carbs are your friend; if you want to live as absolutely cheaply as possible, carbs will make up a large portion of your diet. Potatoes, rice, pasta. Do you know how many ways you can cook a potato? Boil ’em, Mash ’em, Stew ’em. Sam knows. Be like Sam.


But in all seriousness use the power of the internet to find good cheap recipes. Food Tube, Sorted Food, DJ BBQ, Food Wishes (my personal favourite). Sorted Food originally started out as a group of student friends who wanted to show others how to eat cheap, so their earlier stuff is much cheaper than their current stuff. Check out some of the subreddits like r/food (for inspiration/cheats) r/cooking (for any and all questions). The easiest way to eat cheaply is to not buy meat, so the vegetarians do really have the edge in this. This doesn’t mean you should go veggie (if you’re not already) but eating a reduced meat diet does really save you money!

Here are a couple great recipes that I’ve been eating the last few weeks that are both light on the wallet and the waist:

  • Mixed Bean Chilli with Jacket Sweet Potatoes

  • Chicken Thigh Curry (Serves 2)
    1 Jar Curry Sauce
    1 Red Onion (or White)
    1 large pepper
    2 Cloves Garlic
    3 Large Chicken Thighs
    Basmati Rice (per packet instructions)
    Double ingredients for 4 people, etc.

    Debone, and skin chicken thighs (a sharp paring knife is fine)
    Cut into 1inch chunks
    Season chicken with salt and pepper
    Fry chicken
    Remove chicken from pan – set aside
    Start warming the sauce
    Fry off the veg in the same pan
    Deglaze pan with water*
    Add chicken and veg to sauce
    Cook rice per packet instruction (up your rice game)

*Add a couple tablespoons of water to the pan to remove the fond that gets stuck to the pan. Adds loads of trapped flavour and makes cooking easier.

NB: bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are cheaper, and more versatile, great for a super cheap and easy roast dinner and curry.

Save The Owl Sanctuary

Loving your local is a key ethos here in Norwich, and yet here we are facing the loss of one of its favourite pubs, The Owl Sanctuary. Visit their website and you’ll see a very simple description ‘a music & arts venue, pub & coffee shop based in the city centre of Norwich’. They don’t need to promote themselves as anything more than they are, because their popularity keeps custumers, old and new, coming back time and time again.

The pub prides itself on being a venue for new local bands to showcase their talent, as well as bringing in fresh bands from all over the world. On top of this, they are also host for the Norwich Soup Movement who provide support for the homeless at the venue.


The Owl Sanctuary from outside the venue. (Image Credit: Livewire)

The venue is being bought out under the current owners nose by the owner of the building next door. Rumours indicate the new owner plans to convert both buildings into accommodation. You can read the official statement from The Owl Sanctuary here but be advised of some strong language. The Norwich Radical also wrote a fantastic article, pointing out the real effects of closing down influential music venues.

If you’re passionate about local businesses, like me, there’s things you can do to help:

– Donate to the Justgiving page  as an aid to all at The Owl Sanctuary.

– Fill in this Asset to Community form. EDIT: This form has received overwhelming response and they have received enough to take the venue under consideration!

Lets keep this pub as an asset to the community as opposed to an asset of one man.


What can I do in Norwich?

My family are coming down for a visit, where can I take them?

The obvious answer here is to go shopping! Norwich is home to one of the UK’s largest shopping destinations, ranging from two very large shopping malls down to small streets filled with cute and special little shops. You can take a look at my previous post here to decide on where to eat to take a break from your shop – but don’t just stick to this. There are so many cute little tearooms and restaurants dotted around Norwich that I’m yet to have a chance to try out – and I’ve been here for over a year and a half!


A snippet of Norwich City Centre

Shopping not your thing? No problem. If your family has had a long drive and are down for a couple of days, a day out at Banham Zoo could be just what everyone needs. They have over 2,000 animals and some of their conservation projects are worked on alongside UEA academics so you can use this to show off the great work your university is doing for the world – especially if you’re studying Biology like me!

giraffe zoo

Giraffe at Banham Zoo. Image credit:

My best friend is visiting from home, where can I go for a good night out?

If you’re really trying to show off, take him/her to some great pubs and bars. Norwich is absolutely filled with them – but we all have our favourites! Although a little pricey, Mr Postles Apothecary is an exquisite place to go for a drink. They serve some seriously good cocktails and the place itself is very magical! A beautiful place for a good catch up between friends.

Mr Postles Apothecary

Image Credit:

If you’re looking for a club – take a walk down Prince of Wales and see what takes your fancy. I’m not going to tell you which ones to avoid, figuring that out is half the fun of being new here😉. There’s lots to choose from so I’m sure you can find a place that suits what you like!

However, you might not always have the money to hit the town, so fear not there is a place you can go for guaranteed great nights out. It’s a legacy amongst UEA… some often leave so in awe of their great night that they are unsure if such a place was even real… some even say it is where angels go to party. I am talking, of course, about the legendary LCR. You can have a good old catch up with your friend and pre drink with your flatmates in the comfort of your own home. Once the time is nigh, you can stumble over to the LCR knowing that no matter what your friend is in for a good time, and they will leave counting down the days until they are coming back for another visit!

The lcr

Image Credit: Damn Good Productions

I’m taking someone on a date, where are some cute places to take them?

Most of the things I’ve said above are great ideas for dates (the LCR might not be the best pick but depends on the person, I guess). One place I always admire about Norwich is the Plantation Garden situated just behind St John’s Cathedral. It’s a really beautiful setting and, depending on the weather, could be a great set up for a picnic date. If not, it’s a good place to go for a stroll and a chat before venturing into the city centre for some good grub.

plantation garden

The Plantation Garden

Whatever the situation, there’s something for you to do! What’s your favourite thing to do in a day off in Norwich?

UEA at Christmas

Some people dream about spending their Christmas somewhere extravagant like New York with all it’s bright city lights, or in a hot exotic country half way across the world. Well, those people are missing the real point! Any UEA student will tell you experiencing the build up to Christmas at UEA is where the real dream should lie.

(Yes, I am comparing UEA to New York. At least at any rate, it’s cheaper.)

uea chrsitmas

Photo Credit: UEA

Okay, so maybe our version of a Christmas tree is something to be desired, but at least it matches the rest of the lights on campus. Plus, I really like our unique tree, even if it’s not quite New York standard. You know when it goes up that Christmas is really starting here at UEA, and this brings with it lots of exciting things both at the uni and in the general town of Norwich!

The union begins it’s Christmas market pop-ups that offers a whole range of festive treats for yourself or as a gift. The shop begins to sell Christmas sandwiches (you need to try the Christmas cracker it is beautiful), the bar sells turkey, stuffing and cranberry baguettes and Unio roll out their festive menu of hot drinks. Then of course is all of the Christmas balls that societies arrange this time of year. I made a post last year about the BIO Christmas ball that I attended and it was one of my favourite events from last year. Most societies will have an event like this so keep an eye out for them!

In Norwich city you can experience the Christmas lights switch on. The light switch on isn’t the exciting part, however. The real treat is all of the food stalls that pop up with it, offering some really tasty stuff. Throughout December there is always little Christmas markets popping up so you just have to keep a look out for them. I’m planning on going to one later today at the forum to eat something new and grab a nice, warm hot chocolate!

One of the greater parts about Christmas at university is getting to decorate your own house/room with the cheapest things you can find. Bargain hunting is a common thing among students but when it comes to Christmas decorations things get serious. We trawled through our garage to find some lights left behind by previous tenants. Bargain one, tick!

Next, one of my flatmates managed to get some spare decorations from his mum. Bargain two, done! We also found a Christmas tree in the garage that we were given permission to use but it had no stand. So, us thrifty students used a giant red bull drinks cooler to hold the tree up. Standard.

Many students, like me, won’t actually spend the Christmas week at university. However, this makes going home for Christmas all the more special. Most students may not have seen their families since they left for uni at the beginning of the semester and this break to go home and relax is what makes the build up to Christmas at UEA all the more exciting!


Preparing yourself for next semester

Most of you probably haven’t even gotten around to thinking about what you’re eating for dinner tomorrow, let alone what you’re doing for next year. However, now is really the time to get yourself prepared. Some freshers may have found their work ethic so far to have been somewhat…er…slacking. Fear not freshers, it’s not too late.

Many students I have encountered so far this year are often commenting on how far behind they feel they are, with the first summative piece deadlines starting to creep up. I have done a foundation year, so I’ve already gone through all of this stress and settling into how university works as an education system far different to schools. Once the ‘newness’of it all wears off, you will begin to feel a lot better about your prospects, don’t worry! With time will come practise, and with practise will come the ability to time manage and prioritise work well over other things in your life.

I imagine a lot of you have said or have heard the words ‘I will sort myself out next semester’. Well, in order to do that you need to start now. If you have modules that are only for semester 1, start writing up revision notes into your preferred format. This way you can continue to look over them throughout semester 2 without impacting too greatly on other modules. For year long modules, get yourself up to date ASAP. It’s not too late to start now, and will only put you at a greater advantage for next semesters content.

This may not apply to you all, so for those of you who have found yourself off to a good start, keep going! The real trick is to not let it falter. If what you are doing is working for you, keep doing it. However, if you’re finding the way you revise may not be very helpful to you, this is the year to test out other methods. First year does not count towards your degree, so you can allow yourself some leniency as you find your feet. Now, this does not mean to say you can slack the whole year because a. you still need to pass and b. you really want to pass with high grades as the content you learn in first year will just continue to be built upon. You don’t want to spend time in second year still revising the majority of first year content, you want it up there in your noggin ready to go, so get working on it!


UEA’s Foodbank

As you can see in this video by BBC Look East, the students union here at UEA has released a fantastic new campaign to aid student poverty. For most of us, we struggle to stretch our loans enough to even cover rent, so this is a real problem and it’s great to see my university helping.

The donations will head to Norwich Food bank, as well as any extra food leftover from The Shop. As a worker at The Shop, it’s great to see that things that have been discussed over the past few months are finally coming into place. Normally, extra food could be taken by staff, but this offers a much more suitable alternative. Those who need it can then receive these donations in food parcels.

The union has released lots of flyers about the campaign, offering those in need of it some advice and support. If you’re one of the students who are struggling financially, head to the financial advisor’s in Dean Of Students. They can offer you some advice on what to do next and how to help, and offer you a food parcel to keep you going whilst you resolve your problem.

It’s things like this that restore faith in humanity, keep going, UEA!

Food Bank Flyer

Food Bank Flyer