What can I tell you about Ironbridge?
I wasn’t sure how to approach this post, so I decided to approach it from the different objectives the trip was supposed to achieve (from my point of view).

Getting to know each other
The trip, even though it was only the second week, came too late for people to get to know each other. Everyone already had their friendship groups sorted out (SKE and newbies alike) so there wasn’t much mixing of new people. Fine if you’ve got friends but not what the trip was about. When the booze and snacks were cracked out the lecturers were nowhere to be found.

Useful practical activities
We didn’t do anything that we couldn’t have done in uni. Even the geology trail. We had one on campus last year and we’re having one on campus in a fortnight. Don’t get me wrong, the activities were great and I especially loved the biology trail around Blists Hill, but if the uni are tryong to save money they could host 2 day pseudo-STEM days at the uni. I would have liked to make a tile rather than going round a tile museum.

Seeing the value of field trips and residentials
Most people agree that field trips are fun and therefore facilitate learning. I think the field trip could be improved by making the activities that we did more relevant to where we were. We did physics, geology, biology and chemistry, and at no point did anyone specifically say why we were there. The residential aspect (the bit I was most dreading) was fun and worthwhile since I’d never been on a residential before. I only got 2 hours sleep but I think most people were in a similar boat, whether from drinking or from room-sharing.

Overall I think it was a worthwhile life and learning experience, but if the department is struggling enough to need future students to pay for it then they could make it a day trip or host it on campus with a restaurant meal afterwards. My other suggestions would be for them to make the activities more relevant to the location, or to make better use of the ‘dead-time’ before and after dinner perhaps with more team building than talks.

My last comment is just to note the difficulty some people had in finding car-sharing.