The of Birmingham can boast about a lot of things – a simply gorgeous red brick campus; a long and illustrious history as one of the oldest universities in the UK; a plethora of famous alumni including Neville Chamberlain, Tamsin Grieg, Baroness Amos and Elgar. For the ordinary, eager student, however, there are a lot more things that you’re not told before you start studying here. Here are 10 things they don’t tell you about being a University of Birmingham student.
1. You will be oddly proud about your university having its very own train station
You might have your own car, or – if you’re lucky, or a city-dweller – you might take the bus more often than not. Or you might just prefer walking everywhere.
There’ll be plenty of walking involved, but everything else will be blown out of the water once you realise that your university has its own train station. Its very own stop! As it’s only two stops away from Birmingham New Street, getting around Birmingham simply could not be more convenient. Selly Oak, the student area, has its own stop too, so getting home from uni or seeing your mates is insanely easy – and much drier than walking back in the winter weather.
You may not realise it at first, but you’ll be so chuffed by this little nugget of information that you’ll start bragging about the train station to anyone who’ll listen. Even though you’re bragging about a train station. Yeah, it’s worth it.
2. You will develop a strange affinity for a clock tower
Taking a photo of Old Joe has become a rite of passage for every University of Birmingham student – it’s practically illegal to study here if you haven’t posted a picture of the tower to Instagram within your first semester. Old Joe is often lit up for charitable causes, so sneak a picture of the colourful Joe when you can.
Old Joe is adored by every student, adorning UoB posters, society adverts and any promotion of the university by anyone whatsoever. Before you know it, you’ll see his silhouette everywhere, and you’ll be used to figuring out the time by the sound of his bongs. (Just a warning: he’s a couple minutes early, so if you’re rushing to a seminar and you hear him, you’ve got just enough time to make it.) You’ll probably cry his name in joy when you return from your holidays. Just don’t stand underneath him when he bongs – you’re doomed to fail your degree then!
Did you know, also, that Old Joe is the world’s tallest freestanding clock tower? He was also the inspiration for J.R.R Tolkien’s tower of Orthanc, in Isengard, in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy!
(Don’t worry – if you didn’t know it now then a UoB student just hadn’t got round to telling you yet.)
3. You will staunchly defend the city’s status as ‘Britain’s Second City’
This is a long-standing feud that the entirety of Birmingham has with the entirety of Manchester, but Birmingham is massive, and it is the second-largest city in the UK. It is twice the size of Manchester and that is really rather self-explanatory.
As a University of Birmingham student, you will be a resident of Birmingham. Therefore, it is not only in your interest but it is your duty to defend your city’s title.
4. You’ll have the most beautiful campus in the UK
This one is less objective than the previous point, but the University of Birmingham campus is extremely aesthetically pleasing. The native red bricks of Birmingham (hence the Redbrick name of the University newspaper) stand out in stark contrast to the green of the Green Heart and cloudless blue (or cloudy grey) skies. The University Court, where most of the red brick buildings reside, is by far the prettiest part of campus. Other notable parts of the campus include the new University of Birmingham Library, in all of its glorious golden splendour, and the mermaid fountain at the Guild of Students, the UoB emblem.
As with Old Joe, who also resides on that court, you’ll take any opportunity possible to snap a good photo of campus – especially on those few-and-far-between days when the sun is shining and there’s not a cloud in the sky! Your mates from home might get annoyed with the same pictures of the same locations, but at least your uni mates will share the delight you feel about this uniquely gorgeous campus.
5. Unless you’re from around here, you’ll realise that the Midlands is actually real – one day
As someone from the Midlands, I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I said that I’ve spent most of my time here at uni trying to convince Southerners that the Midlands is genuinely real.
Maybe I am exaggerating, but the point still stands. The Midlands, for a lot of people, sounds like a very pretentious way for a few people to separate themselves for the ‘rest of the North’, but I promise you we have our own culture!
Northerners are a bit better at this (it’s true, we don’t have your brilliant, broad accents, but plenty of our own). If you’re a Southerner – well, I don’t have much hope for you.
6. You’ll be disappointed by how student-y Selly Oak is, but you’ll be delighted to be so near campus
When you move into student housings from second year onwards, it’s overwhelmingly likely that you’ll go to Selly Oak. A Birmingham borough in its own right, Selly does have residents of its own – they’re just vastly outnumbered by the number of students that come to live here.
Unfortunately, the most ‘studenty’ areas in Selly Oak are exactly that – terrace houses, cramped and dirty – but that is an inevitability of dumping most of your students in one place. Luckily, Selly Oak has a whole host of places you can eat, chill and relax, including lots of parks, takeaways, cafes, pubs and convenience stores. It’s every student’s dream.
Plus, Selly Oak is delightfully close to the main campus – for some lucky renters, it’s a mere five minutes away. Much better than the walking times from the Vale!
7. You’ll just get used to construction works everywhere
The University of Birmingham campus is quite delightful – but it’s also going under a lot of renovation. This has been going on for years now and while the results have been dramatic – the Green Heart, for example, was only unveiled this year! – there’s still a long way to go.
It won’t disrupt your daily journeys but expect to see building sites and construction works. Best to take some headphones for when it gets really loud.
8. UoB jumpers are, undoubtedly, the comfiest jumpers ever
The Unique store in the University Centre sell a lot of University of Birmingham merchandise: most of it is clothing, in the American college style, and the deep, rich colours of the University. For a student, they can be quite a hefty price at first, but once you buy it you’ll never regret it.
They really are the comfiest jumpers ever. You won’t want to take it off until you have to – until it’s worn down to threads and it really, really needs a wash.
Am I happy because of the jumper or the cat? Answer: both.
9. You’ll be forever indebted to Roosters after a night out
Nights out on the town are fun – even better when they’re to close venues like Selly Oak’s very own Circo – but at the end of it all, there’s no doubt you’ll want a good, greasy meal.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, look away now – but Roosters do the best fried chicken. As it’s on Bristol Road, it’s in a really convenient place for a lot of students, so don’t be surprised to see a queue of half-drunk, exhausted students eagerly awaiting some good fried chicken. Once you’ll taste it, you’ll join that queue too.
10. You’ll dread leaving university because you’ll be leaving one of the best places ever
The one thing to know about studying at the University of Birmingham is that you’re going to love it.
The vibrancy and the energy of the university are unparalleled, and its world-class teaching is evident. The university is beautiful. The city is packed and full of things to do. You’ll make some of your best friends here. Every day will be a new experience in a university and a city that is always changing, always improving.
You’ll be sad to see it go after you finish your degree. I know I will be.