Jenna Gilmour cropped

Jenna's story

Why Plymouth?

"I am a Conservation Biology student at the University of Plymouth, one of the most eco-conscious universities in the UK
This was my main draw to study in Plymouth because the city has an eco-friendly view as well. 
It is one of the best universities for my course and has the support of active researchers, in various fields.
The fact that you have Dartmoor and the ocean so close was important to me as I am from South Africa. This is such a diverse country in both wildlife and culture. Finding a city that valued this was vital.
The University of Plymouth is modern and constantly adapting to promote diversity and meet its students' needs, something my close friends and I all love about it.
I enjoy being involved in different things and meeting new people, which is why I joined the debating society. 
There is always something to do that ensures a balanced lifestyle not solely focused on studies but also on your wellbeing. Join a society or make your own, there are always options and support available with the University of Plymouth.
The overall vibe of the city is perfect. You are by the sea so it is still laid back, but you have all the conveniences of living in a city. 
The actual University has a great environmental outlook and was one of the best for my course while also offering a lot of support during my studies."

"I love Dartmoor and going to Cadover or Shaugh Bridge but my favourite is Bovisand Beach. It's only a bus journey away and there are loads of cute dogs around too. I also like the many parks in Plymouth city centre."

Bovisand Beach
Bovisand Beach

No culture shocks

"Being an International Student, the University treats you just like any other student, which is great. There are so many other International Students so you get to hear their stories as well.
They are also your main form of support if you need anything, but mostly you are there to enjoy your time like any other student in England. 

As an international student, it's important not to lose your identity. My friends love my sayings that are so common in South Africa

Having friends who are from your home country or even just international helps because you can reminisce and discuss the differences in culture without feeling overwhelmed by it. Plus, you can never have too many friends to join you on a casual night out. 
The best way to invite them is to do something casual, like get a coffee. Don’t wait for others to invite you because no one wants to be the first. Keeping it casual means there is no social pressure, rather just an extension of the chat you are already having.
New people are everywhere so just join societies or sports clubs or even a group in your lectures and have a few chats. You will soon find out which groups you want to be a part of. 

The lifestyle is better and there is a lot of freedom for young adults in Britain 

However, I will never take for granted the help the country provides to its people because I never had that, especially health care. Being able to walk and go wherever you please, whenever you want is probably the best part of living here for me. 
Public transport is always available and there is plenty of opportunity for adventure in the UK."

"One of my favourite things to do is to head down to Royal William Yard and find a place to have a barbecue. There are plenty of buses or you can walk there, and some drinks are always involved."

Royal William Yard

Making friends

"A friend reminded me that I’m not the only new person at the University, we all are. After that, I found it easier to chat to people.
Try to make friends with the locals because they will love being your guide to the UK and learning from you as much as you learn from them. 
Societies are a great way to do this, which sounds like a cliché but it’s true."

"Try to be in involved in as much as you can. It's easy to isolate yourself because of your differences but at university everyone is experiencing something new and it's a bit scary so there is no judgement."

Exploring Plymouth

"Suphas restaurant on the Barbican is probably one of my favourite places to eat. They offer Thai and Indonesian street food that is amazing and something I would never cook at home, plus they aren’t expensive for students.
The Stable, also on the Barbican, is a bit more expensive, but they do really good Devon-inspired food. There are so many unique restaurants, but I love cooking at home too so I still haven’t had the chance to experience them all.
The nightlife is always spilling over from the weekend but it can also be quite casual as most students don’t want to get too fancy.
The Students' Union (UPSU) often do themed nights, which is a club night. Pryzm nightclub is the Saturday night out location with Switch open late for those who want it.
During the day I usually meet up with friends and maybe go for a walk. In summer the good vibes are also at The Hoe by the lighthouse or even just on the Barbican. You could even do a day trip to Mount Edgcumbe or Mount Batten for some rock pooling and crabbing which I have done a couple of times, even in winter. 
Mount Batten. Getty Images mountbatten
Mount Batten
During the colder months, I tend to hibernate and watch movies with friends, but my favourite trip out is to do a charity shop run as there are so many that fund really important causes. We pick up random board games which get turned into drinking games – it's always a laugh." 

"My field trips to Spain and Mexico have been my favourite part of university so far. They were well organised by the lecturers who do a lot of research about the area. I also got to work on my Spanish."


Feeling supported

"There is always support in anything you want to do. 
If you want to get a job you can use the careers office who help with CVs and interview preparation as well as hiring for the University
When it comes to your course, they are all hands-on and you will leave with core work skills that are easily applied to any career and more specific ones learnt through experience for your degree. 
You will have a course tutor that you can discuss any academic issues with.

Jenna's top tips

Inspired by this story?

With a hands-on approach, we’ll give you the scientific tools to address these issues, developing your understanding of plant and animal biodiversity in the UK and abroad. 

Develop your knowledge of key areas such as population ecology, evolutionary processes, behavioural ecology, conservation genetics and habitat management, and prime yourself for a career in ecology, conservation or environmental monitoring.

Study BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology

Sarah Curtis - MSc Zoo Conservation Biology graduate only