With A level results day coming up, thousands of young people, at the opening of an envelope or a click of a button, will be magically transformed into Freshers. Having being in the position myself less than a year ago, I remember all too well that nervous-excited feeling when you find out you are definitely going to uni! What should I expect? How do I make friends? For those of you coming to study Geography at Leicester, here are 10 pieces of advice that will ensure a smooth transition into university and set you up for a great few years studying your degree.
1. Turn up to your lectures and take notes
- Most lecture slides are put up online for you to download, however don’t rely on these. You will likely not fully understand or comprehend the depth of the topic because lecturers elaborate on the notes put on the slides.
- Introductory lectures are important for finding out as much as possible about events, the campus, course structures and other information you will not receive by email. They are also a chance for you to meet your lecturers and course-mates before official lectures begin.
- Take notes to help you process the information you are hearing and to give you something to look back at when you are reading around the topic and revising. Only rely on your friend’s notes in extreme cases (i.e when you are too sick to go to the lecture because you have genuinely caught something) because they will be difficult to decipher, difficult to make sense of your friend’s specific note-taking techniques and you probably wont understand the point the lecturer has made.
2. Go to all the geography induction events and daytime activities
- In my year this included a free pizza with your student mentor/Bud Wiser, pub quiz, Geography society bar crawl, several introductory lectures and tour of Leicester.
- Although most of these aren’t compulsory events, they are the best way to make friends on your course. This is advised whilst everyone is in the same position of not knowing anyone, so you don’t leave it until everyone has settled into friendship groups in order to make friends. You will still be able to make friends after these first few weeks but in the first few events it is much easier.
3. Create a group of course friends
- These people will make your first year a whole lot easier and much more fun! As well as supporting each other through the course, you will undoubtedly make great long-lasting friendships.
- You can do this by making a couple of friends at the very first events and casually introduce them to each other. Befriend those who are shy and sitting on their own and then introduce them to your other friends. Your other friends will likely also introduce people to the group until there is quite a lot of you – accept the members of the group may fluctuate a lot during the first few weeks. However, be friendly to everyone and your group will grow.
- Once the members have pretty much settled into your group, make it official by creating a group chat on Facebook, WhatsApp or which ever is most convenient for all of you. This is the easiest way to stay in touch with your new course friends, share resources, help and support each other, celebrate and moan together, organise group study sessions, meet-ups and nights out and generally get to know each other when you aren’t together.
- Always be open to letting new people into your group, especially those who are having trouble making friends on their course. Try not to become too clique-y like a scene out of Mean Girls, keep interacting with other people on your course.
- Don’t think that you can only befriend people on your specific course -only BA Human Geography for example. Your lectures will overlap a lot with those on slightly different Geography courses so you will easily be able to stay friends. Having friends with strengths in different areas of Geography will be hugely beneficial to enabling you to help each other out with parts of the course you are having trouble with.
4. Take advantage of your personal tutor and buddy/mentor
- Don’t be afraid to ask them questions – even questions you think are silly, they won’t mind, they are there to help you!
- You can email your tutor or visit them during their office hours.
- Ask your mentor if they have any unwanted first year textbooks they can sell to you – much cheaper than buying them new.
5. Do the reading!
- The mantra of all lecturers, it is important to do the reading – it will help you understand in lectures and mean you don’t have to do a lot of extra reading when you need to be revising for exams.
- Try to do extra reading as well as reading to help your basic understanding of the lecture content. Your lecturers will likely suggest some journal articles or chapters that you can read. Take notes on what you read, along with a reference, so that you can quickly learn the content when it comes to revising. Even if you are having trouble keeping up with the lecture readings, keep finding time to read so you aren’t as behind when it comes to revision time.
- Practice reading effectively, absorbing as much useful information as possible in the time you have, and learning what you need in a short amount of time.
- If you find a really good book chapter, journal article or newspaper case study – share it with your friends! Have a full on debate about it. This will help you to start ‘thinking like a Geographer’.
6. Start early when doing assignments
- Pretty obvious, but many students underestimate the time they need to write an essay and end up pulling a very stressful all-nighter – not fun!
- Manage your time so that assignments don’t pile up – again obvious but easier said then done.
7. Read the news
- Lecturers like to ask you about current affairs, and knowing what is going on in the world will give you current case studies to use in your essays/exams as well as help to ‘broaden your mind’.
8. Avoid first-year-doesn’t-count-syndrome like the plague
- The unofficial medical definition of first-year-doesn’t-count-syndrome is where the fresher makes little or no effort to succeed in his/her first year because his/her results at the end of the year do not count towards his/her final degree. Long-term symptoms include a lack of knowledge to build on in second year, difficulty establishing a good work mentality in the second year, difficulty breaking habits, inability to go on a year abroad and a bad result on his/her academic record that future employers to see.
- Technically at Leicester the first year of your Geography degree doesn’t count but it is important to make it count because it will make the transition into second year much much much easier.
- Immerse yourself in Geography, discover what really interests you, and you will find the motivation you need to succeed.
9. Explore Leicester
- For human geographers particularly, it is useful to explore Leicester during the first term at Uni. If you have a bus pass, take a few buses around the city, if not, go on a walking tour – make sure you take a map!
- Study the different cultural geographies and find out about the history of Leicester. This will really help with the multiculturalism aspects of the BA fieldwork module in the second term.
10. Join a geography-related society
- Whatever you find interests you during your first term at Uni, join a society that relates to it. This will provide you with opportunities to put what you learn into practice and experience it for yourself.
- Browse the societies during the Freshers fair or on the Student Union website. Don’t worry about joining a society late – they won’t mind.
- For example: If you are interested in environmental issues, join the Environmental Action Society or volunteer with the Environment Team. If you are interested in the issues facing women in the modern world join the Feminist Society. If you are interested in international relations and political debates join the United Nations Society. Just take a look at the website!
- Joining the Geography society is a great way to meet other people on your course but the events are mainly evening socials. Join a more specific society if you really want opportunities to have fun and grow outside of, but still related to, your course.
That concludes my 10 tips for Freshers – I hope they help you settle in during your first year and enjoy the beautiful subject that is Geography! If you have any questions at all leave a response below and I will reply within 24 hours!