Tag Archives: Education

19 things I’ve learnt in my 1st year of Uni

So first year is coming to an end,, which is both terrifying and depressing in equal measure. I know its a cliche but I really don’t understand how its gone so fast! If this carries on I’ll be graduated before I feel like I’ve even been here 5 minutes!

These past 9 months have come and gone at supersonic speed, but in the mean time I feel like I’ve learnt quite a bit. This post is kind of a summary of what I’ve learnt and I hope it serves as a good bit of advice too. Much of it is those old clichés that no-one listens too at the time, only to realise in hindsight that they hit the nail right on the head, but some of them might be less obvious…

1) University is wonderful.

2) Halls are not wonderful.

3) The people you live with in halls will most likely not be your life-long friends. Especially if they smoke copious amounts of weed in your kitchen and never tidy up after themselves.

4) You will make some VERY good friends at Uni. Its something to do with the shared experiences and the close proximity. There’s a temptation to stick in the small group of friends that you meet during Freshers, but keep yourself open to meeting new people all the way through the year. You’ll probably end up meeting the people you have most in common with sometime after Christmas.

5) Enjoy Freshers. It won’t last. You’ll most likely get 1/2 way through and be exhausted/ill/on the verge of death. Ignore all of this and power through anyway. You won’t get it back. Of course the nights are generally hilarious and great fun but remember, its not all about getting hammered every night though. Don’t pass up the opportunities to try random sports and activities during the day and take ALL of the discounts/vouchers/free things you can get hold of. Even that soap and flannel set and jar or pickled onions you never thought you’d need.

6) NEVER put foil in a microwave. Seems obvious, but don’t forget this. It ALWAYS ends badly.

7) Even if you get desperate…NEVER resort to eating dry Tuna in brine straight out of the tin. Its just not worth it.

8) Chicken Dippers should only ever be consumed at 3am…when you’re very VERY drunk.

9) There are lots of people on campus who think they’re the bee’s knees. You’ll notice their hipster-ness…but they’re no more cool than anyone else. There are no ‘cool kids’ at Uni because no-one cares and this is fantastic.

10) There are more opportunities for you to learn things and do things and get involved with things at University than you could shake a stick at. Seek them out…and do them ALL.

11) If people get jealous that you’re taking these opportunities…ignore it. Do what you want to do. Concentrate on making University what you want it to be and squeeze the most out of it that you can…because it goes SUPER FAST!

12) The words ‘1st Year doesn’t count’ are VERY annoying…and some people use this as an excuse to say ‘I can fail 2 modules and get 40% in all the others and its fine..its only 1st year’ but being one of those people is neither clever, nor cool. Don’t be one of those people.

13) Go to ALL of your lectures. Even the 9am ones. Its really not that hard…and you’ll miss out if you don’t. You can always go back to bed afterwards if you’re really THAT tired.

14) Some lecturers are AWESOME. Some aren’t so interesting. Some modules are AWESOME. Some are a bit dry…but they’re all there for a reason – to give you the best possible grounding for second year when things get serious (booooo!).

15) If something in one of your lectures catches your attention, go with it. Look it up, read around it, read papers on it. Grab the chance to learn really exciting things while you have plenty of free time. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just make sure they’re not stupid questions first. Don’t bother your lecturers with questions that you could google in less than a minute. They’ll always appreciate good questions…but they won’t appreciate having to ‘mother’ you.

16) The library is a treasure trove of information. Use it wisely…but not after 6pm or on a Sunday..the library at these times is a very odd place to be.

17) Make the effort to get to know your lecturers a little bit. Ask them questions about their research and be interested in whats happening on campus. You could sit through 3 years of lectures without a lecturer ever knowing your name but why would you want to do that?

18) University is generally awesome but if something isn’t right and it annoys you, don’t be afraid to question it. Get involved with SSLC (Student-Staff Liason Committee) or get your voice heard through your Student Union. Most people will happily moan away, but then sit there and do nothing about it. Don’t be one of those people.

19) If you have an idea about a new society, or some fundraising or a project…run with it and try and see it through. There’s lots of help and support and the transferable skills you learn will look great on your CV.

So I think that just about sums it up. In short my advice reads as follows…Enjoy EVERY minute. Have FUN. Be INSPIRED. Don’t take it for granted. It might not always be perfect. Sometimes it might be quite hard, but take the bad with the good. Not everyone is as lucky as you are, so make the most of the experience.  

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1st year does matter and my beef with MCQ’s

“First year doesn’t matter”.

Chatting to a friend the other day, we realised that those four words have possibly been the most annoying four words we’ve heard all year. I think its meant to be reassuring (at least it is when the lecturers say it), although sometimes its a bit more snide. Its like anything, when you go past a stage in life it becomes hard to look back and remember how you felt at the time. Instead you tend to see a rose-tinted picture where everything was less stressful and more fun and you know what, you’re probably right. I’ll probably look back in hindsight and see a totally different picture to what I see now. I’ll long for the days when it didn’t matter.

I don’t know if its the same situation everywhere, but in England the first year of your degree doesn’t count towards your final mark. You only need to pass your first year modules (40%) to gain the necessary 120 credits, your marks don’t go towards your average. Now this is nice in some ways. I think the main argument for this is that is allows you to ‘settle in’ to your studies without having any pressure put on you. In reality, it seems many students use it as an excuse to do very little work for a year. Whether they come unstuck in 2nd year is another matter.

I wonder if lecturers on 1st year courses feel the same? I wonder if its frustrating for them that they’re supposedly teaching things that ‘don’t matter’? It must be annoying when only 1/2 the class turns up to a 9 o’clock lecture that you’ve spent time preparing, mustn’t it?

So 1st year doesn’t count. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. I don’t know about anyone else but I’m not confident enough in my ability to know I can mess around for a year and be fine when I turn my brain on in second year. I see this first year as the basis on which I’ll build in the coming two years, so to me its important to make sure I ‘get’ everything we’ve been taught. Its frustrating when people above me on the ladder of degree-dom (New word. I like it.) brush me off with those four words. I think they see a naive fresher who’s worrying unnecessarily. I’m not worrying. I just want to know where I stand.

First year exams at my university are largely multiple choice questions. With a class size of 150 students, its quite obvious why this is and that’s completely understandable. Nevertheless, I don’t like multiple choice questions. They don’t test what you ‘know’, they test what you can memorise. Everyone says that University is not about rote learning. Well in first year, it is. But isn’t first year meant to be about gaining a foundation of knowledge on which to build? How can you be sure that you understand the core of what you’ve been taught when you’re tested on it by being asked 40 questions that relate to one sentence of one lecture of a 150 hour module? There are some modules where this is justified. My Zoology modules for example. I just need to know the difference between a cnidarian and a rotifera, where the turtle’s came from, what a bird’s bones look like, how an amphibian breathes…but testing my knowledge of the underlying principles of evolution, for example, with a multiple choice question test seems a bit of a cop out.

While my lecturers assure me otherwise, I’m sure its quite easy to fluke an MCQ exam and this leads me on to my next point. We only ever get given our percentage mark. We’re not given access to the right answers (because the majority of the questions stay the same from year to year and they don’t want us to pass them down to next year’s freshers). So we get no feedback on which questions we got wrong. If I get a mark of 70% on an exam, its impossible for me to be absolutely certain which 30% I got wrong. In my head, I’m thinking ‘what if the questions I thought I definitely got right were actually the one’s I got wrong and I fluked the one’s I didn’t know?’  Then I could go through the whole of the rest of my degree thinking I know things when I don’t and not knowing the things I think I don’t either. I’m not sure that makes sense in anyone else’s brain, but it does in mine. Before you say ‘just go and ask your lecturer individually’…I have, but when everyone’s saying to you ‘1st year doesn’t matter’ and you’re taking up your lecturers’ time by wanting to get feedback on an exam, it makes you feel like you’re being a nuisance.

I think basically from this we can conclude that I think too much. Maybe I’m in a minority that finds this whole brushing off of 1st year a problem, but deep down it obvious that the first year of a degree is somewhat important. If first year REALLY didn’t count for anything, none of us would be here would we?