The University of Central England: Elliot Choueka Stresses the Advantages of a New University Successfully Establishing Its Credentials. (Student Perspective)

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Birmingham: A city famous for Jasper Carrott, the Rotunda, the National Exhibition Centre and Aston Villa, oh and of course Spaghetti Junction! OK so on the surface Birmingham isn't the most alluring of places to visit, let alone to spend three years there whilst at university. But, and this is the nub of it, it is an exhilarating city to be a student in. Remember there is a lot more to being a student than just studying hard and regularly attending lectures (as I am sure you will all do!).

During the three years I was a student at the University of Central England in Birmingham I noticed a massive change to the city centre. It seems the powers that be decided the city centre needed an urgent sprucing up, something, which I am glad to say, has done no end of good to the city's image. If you want designer clothes, you can get them; if you want a vast selection of music, then just pop along to one of the many major stores which are there; and of course if you want to see the Gladiators then you've come to the right place. In fact the International Convention Centre (ICC) has the NIA (National Indoor Arena), home to the Gladiators, Birmingham's magnificent Symphony Hall, home to the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (and UCE's graduation ceremony), a top class art gallery and lots more besides, all under one roof.

The ICC stands on one side of Centenary Square, just off Broad Street, on the other side of which is the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, one of Birmingham's premier theatres. The Birmingham Hippodrome is home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and also hosts musicals and operas. A hop and a skip across the city will take you to one of Birmingham's other major theatres, the Alexandra Theatre which also hosts musicals and touring shows. If your tastes in drama and theatre tend away from the mainstream then the Midlands Art Centre, or the MAC to you and me, will be right up your alley. The MAC has multi-screen cinemas showing popular current films and also more challenging and thought-provoking `arty' films. It also has a couple of theatres, which are used throughout the year for a variety of student productions and other more professional shows. On the other side of the city, in Digbeth, is the Custard Factory (formerly the Bird's Custard Factory). At the Custard Factory you'll find an eclectic mix of coffee shops, bars, a theatre, art galleries, businesses, dance classes and much more. I would definitely recommend you go check it out.

For those of you with a sporting bent (I'm not one of them) you'll be glad to know that apart from Villa Park and Edgbaston Cricket ground, I am reliably informed that Birmingham boasts many other sporting centres including the Alexander Stadium, a world class athletics stadium near the main UCE campus in Perry Barr. The Snowdome in Tamworth is an indoor ski centre with artificial snow; and there are watersports at Edgbaston Reservoir. Birmingham also has over 6,000 acres of parkland and, bizarrely, more canals than Venice. In fact if you go down to Brindley Place, just behind the ICC, there's a whole load of new restaurants, cafe bars and pubs built around the canal.

The two major shopping precincts in the city centre are the Pallisades (just above New Street Train Station) and the slightly more up-market Pavillions. Both offer a huge selection of goods, cheap and expensive. Birmingham also offers a slightly off-beat style of shopping merchandise. Birmingham's jewellery quarter houses a great many craftspeople manufacturing top quality jewellery and silverware. There's also the Rag, Row and Flea Markets offering a wide variety of clothing, new and second-hand goods and many a bargain.

Very soon after starting as a student in Birmingham you'll have to visit Cadbury World, the real life Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. As well as having the opportunity to learn about the history of chocolate making you'll also be able to buy stack loads of cheap chocolate, mmm yummy! …