Author: Heather

Year abroad part 2

The last installment finished at the point where I sent in the online application, so here is another update on my exciting Erasmus experience!

February 25th – Having spent the last month wondering when I’d hear more about Erasmus, I sent an (anxious) email to the study abroad office asking if my place is still confirmed.

February 26th – Got an email back, saying that I still have my place, and the email should have come through a month ago! It also included a list of the stages of Erasmus application, but I’m not sure which one I’m on (some are quite similar) so I will email again and ask.

March 1st – According to the study abroad office, I need to wait for the host university to send me their official application, so it seems that I still don’t actually have a definite place. Not going to lie, I’m really worried now, because if I don’t end up going, I will have nowhere to live in Birmingham next academic year, as all my friends have found houses. There are options in this situation (frantically posting on Facebook to see if anyone has any spare rooms, or applying for halls again), but obviously I don’t want to have to do either of these.

 March 15th – I have an email from Université Paul Valéry! It’s in French, which isn’t surprising, but I was kind of hoping it would be in English…

I have only skim-read it as yet, but the gist I got was that the ‘application’ is just admin, so I just need to send in some forms. Basically it looks like it isn’t a test, unlike UCAS applications. They also sent a link to their accommodation website, which was another thing I was concerned about, as it wasn’t clear whether I would get any help with this.

I need to read through the email and forms in more detail, but things seem to be looking up! Part three will probably be quite intense, as there will be forms galore, and student finance applications on top of this as well… oh and exam/recital prep and final projects due at the same time as all the forms. Don’t worry, university is fun really…

Year Abroad – Part 1


Since I learned on a university open day that it was possible for non-language students to do a year abroad, I wanted to go and study in France. I was studying French at A-level, and I was so excited for the opportunity to study there (in fact, the option to do a year abroad was one of the reasons I applied to Birmingham). I will be keeping a diary of the year abroad application process on this blog, and this is the first instalment! Enjoy!

October 2015 – Received an email about a talk on applying for a year abroad. Unfortunately is at the same time as one of my lectures. Booked appointment with study abroad tutor to catch up.

Found out that the systems for doing a year in Europe and outside of it are different. To go within Europe (for music students this is a university in France or Germany) I have to apply through Erasmus, and to go outside Europe (numerous universities, mainly in North America and Australia), applications are through Study Abroad.

Wrote a 500-word personal statement about why I want to study in France, to determine whether or not I will be allocated a place. In this I talked about how living in France would improve my confidence and language speaking skills, as well as why I wanted to go to that particular university. Sent personal statement to year abroad tutor.

December 19th 2015 – Received an email saying that I’ve been allocated a place at Université Paul-Valéry in Montpellier! Now to start filling in the forms…

December 29th 2015 – Printed off the first study abroad form, to be handed in on the 15th of January. Most of it is tick-able, but I don’t know how much money I will be paying to UoB whilst abroad, or how the course will be assessed In Montpellier. The internet wasn’t very helpful on either of these topics so I emailed the study abroad office about it.

January 6th 2016 – Turns out I was filling in the wrong form; the one I described doesn’t have to be handed in until June. The right form was actually one to fill in and send off online (which I have now done). It was pretty easy, just had to put in contact details and other things like that.

So that was Part One of my Erasmus adventure! I wonder what will happen next… (Probably more admin)

Going to University


My name is Heather, I am nineteen years old, and I am just starting my second year of a music degree at the University of Birmingham. Hobbies include (and, to be honest, are basically limited to) baking, running, and playing board games. I also enjoy making puns about composers.*

Born and bred in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, I didn’t exactly have a wide array of musical experience. I’d studied only the bare minimum of repertoire in my 20-minute instrument lessons, and music was hardly encouraged as a career choice in my ‘Mathematics and Computing’ secondary school (particularly for the girl who won ‘Einsteinette’ at prom). That’s not to say I hadn’t done anything; for 3 years I played in the Sheffield Youth Orchestra which did some great repertoire, although this did mean travelling to Sheffield city centre at 9am every Saturday (my friend and I learnt that cellos don’t deserve ‘priority’ spaces on supertrams – a disappointing but valuable lesson). Nevertheless, I was excited to join a course where enjoying classical music wouldn’t put me in the minority, music was valued as a discipline, and there was a variety of ensembles right on my doorstep (or in fact, a twenty-minute walk away; Maple Bank is seriously mis-sold as being ‘very close to campus’).

However, there were nerves under the excitement. I don’t know if my list of hobbies told you this already, but I don’t get out much (there were fourteen composers in that footnote. FOURTEEN.), and so I was a bit worried that my aversion to clubbing would make me an outcast. However, there really was no need to be nervous; the university put on great sober events throughout welcome week, and while I am probably in the minority in my complete avoidance of the local nightlife, I soon developed a close group of friends with a similar lifestyle to mine. Obviously, if going to clubs and dancing all night is your idea of a good time, that’s fine too, but my point is that whatever you enjoy, it’s easy to find like-minded people to do it with. What I’m trying to say is, you’ll have a great time at university whatever you do with your Saturday nights, and who gets to say that Cranium is less fun than Snobs, anyway?

*Let me be Franck with you, music can be a Rimsky business to go into, but don’t go Haydn your talent. If you feel like Spontini-ously singing, or writing a symphony on the Spohr of the moment, go for it! It’s important to relax though, for example by going Chopin, watching a film (I recommend ‘Bax to the future’) or by drinking some Tchaik tea. And if someone’s losing sleep, try singing them a Lully-by, I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. Just don’t get too Strauss-ed out (for example by making too many to-do Liszts) or you’ll come out in Ives. I should get a Handel on these puns now or someone might put an em-Bach-o on them.

Why I like this module: 2nd year choices

Why I like this module graphic

After a first year comprised solely of compulsory modules, picking four of your own choice can be a pretty big deal. When we chose ours, there were thirty-four to choose from, which was both a blessing and a curse.

Because music as a discipline covers so many areas, having this many options is a good thing because the curriculum can cater to everyone’s interests. A selection of our choices were ‘American Experimental Music’, ‘Shakespeare and Music’, and ‘The Sixties’, and the overall list spanned everything from the medieval period to present day, as well as including more creative/practical options.

However, as someone who overthinks everything and is generally indecisive, this list was very daunting. Naturally I could rule out some modules straight away (‘Recording’ wasn’t the ideal choice for a technophobe like myself), but there were still plenty of others that looked interesting, and since getting a time-turner wasn’t an option, I had to firmly tell myself that I couldn’t take twenty choices.

After considerable thinking/agonising about my future studies, I eventually decided on three modules that I absolutely wanted to do. This left one empty space on my module form, which I chose to fill with something a bit different to what I usually like to study.

Here’s what I ended up doing:

  • Solo performance – doing this meant that I could continue my instrument lessons (as well as the definite advantage of not having timetabled lectures for it). Even though the idea of doing a recital is quite scary, I think it will eventually help me get over my stage fright. Also, all my other options are coursework-based, so it’s nice to not have to stress about essays for the entire year.
  • Paper composition – I enjoyed this (and was quite good at it) in first year, so I decided to continue it to a more advanced level.
  • Music and the Brain – this module is about how music affects people who listen to it, with particular regard to emotion and music’s health-giving benefits. I did GCSE and A-level Psychology, and have always been interested in how the brain works, so this seemed like a perfect option for me.
  • Sacred Music in Secular Britain – this is to do with the relationship twentieth-century religious music had (and still has) with its contemporary society, and is the ‘unusual’ option that I decided on after all the others. I tend not to think much about the cultural context of music, so I chose this to help give me a wider perspective on musical works.

In short, my advice to people unsure about which modules to take would just be to do things you’ll enjoy, and don’t be afraid to do things that are going to push you a bit. If you know exactly which career path you want to go down, that’s great, choose things that will help with that, but it’s also worth venturing outside of that sometimes.


heatherHello, I’m Heather and I’m in second year studying BMus Music

Home town: Rotherham, South Yorkshire

Instrument: Clarinet and piano

My favourite piece of music: Rachmaninoff – Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini

Why I study music: I always enjoyed learning instruments and composing, and it’s a very varied degree in which I can do these things as well as develop academic skills like essay writing.

Hobbies: Baking, running, reading, board games

Fascinating fact about me: I have a minor obsession with sloths (I have a cuddly toy sloth called Slothgang Amadeus, and my dream is to go to Costa Rica to visit the sloth sanctuary).