Overseas university spotlight: The University of Sheffield (UK)
Updated: Jul 18
Students' unions make up a large part of the social life at universities in the UK, and at The University of Sheffield, it's no different.
In fact, Sheffield's Students' Union has been voted as the best in the UK for the past five years.
Indeed, it was quite impressive!
Here are some of the highlights from my visit in May 2022!
Sheffield as a city
With 29,000 students, The University of Sheffield is located in England's fourth largest city.
But what's particularly unique about the city of Sheffield is that it has a much smaller feel to it.
It's really felt like a city of neighborhoods.
Just 15 to 20-minutes drive outside the city is the Peak District National Park, a great place for hiking and exploring.
Football fans may also find it interesting that Sheffield is home to the world's oldest football club, Sheffield United, which was founded in in 1857, decades before the university!
But between walking, biking, buses or trams, this city is easy to get around, and it's just two hours from London.
Established in 1905, The University of Sheffield is a Russell Group institution and a world top 100 university with six Nobel Prize winners (including the inventor of penicillin!).
During my visit, I got to learn about the history department (where there is actually a professor from my hometown, Cincinnati!) as well as engineering.
Engineering courses and labs are located in the new Diamond building, which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (with showers, so you never have to leave!).
Inside, there's a cafe, social study spaces, quiet study spaces, a makerspace, classes and labs.
I got to participate in a taster lab with the materials engineering department.
I also learned that in the department of music, there is a new purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility for instrumental lessons, practice, small-scale rehearsals and sound recording, and it is a certified Steinberg Training Centre.
As you'll note from some of the photos that many campus buildings are built from brick, Sheffield is considered one of the UK's six original 'red brick universities'.
Located about a 15-minute walk from the city centre, nowadays, the campus has a good mix of old and modern buildings, including the aforementioned Students' Union, which has its own club, bars, study spaces, cafes and shops.
During my visit, I was fortunate to be able to participate in a Tea Society gathering and sample a few different teas and biscuits while having a nice chat with students.
They really want to make sure that everyone has a friend, and even for students who are shy, they believe that sampling different teas can work as a great conversation starter.
Another initiative I thought was amazing is the newly opened Swap Shop, a completely cashless store to promote sustainability; students can get a new article of clothing simply by donating another.
Sheffield's campus is located right next to Weston Park, one of the prettiest places and a wonderful spot to relax, study or soak up some sun.
In the Arts Tower, one of the tallest academic buildings in the UK, new students will also be delighted to discover one of the only remaining Paternoster elevators, which is a lift in continuous motion with no doors.
It sure would make going to class even more exciting!
Recognised as top employer for LGBTQ+ workplace equality (11th in the UK in 2020 overall and #1 Trans Inclusive Employer two years in a row), Sheffield is also a very inclusive campus with dedicated LGBTQ+ support and gender-neutral restrooms.
Students wanting to live in university housing will have a bit of a walk though; it's approximately 20 minutes up a mild hill when leaving campus.
On the other hand, at least getting to campus (downhill) when you're running late in the morning is easier, right?!
One thing I found really interesting was the number of repurposed buildings acquired by the university and used for different purposes than when originally built.
Below, you'll see St. George's Church, which is now home to a lecture theatre and university housing.
Imagine living in a former church!?
How about studying and performing in a former church?
Sheffield's Drama Studio opened in 1970 and is the former Glossop Road Baptist Church.
Campus safety is also a priority; there is a Women's Minibus service that will drop women off at their front doors (as long as it's within two miles of the Students' Union) seven days a week during term time for as little as £1.
The University of Sheffield: Summary
I didn't know what to expect from Sheffield as a city and also university, but I was really surprised and impressed by both (especially the Students' Union and types of support available).
The students were all super down to earth and friendly, and it has a very active, bike-friendly campus and welcoming culture alongside highly regarded, research-focused courses.