‘An Honest Guide on Getting to Grips with Sociology at Degree Level’.

October passed in a flurry of orange leaves, pumpkin-lattes and dusty knitwear pulled from the very deepest of depths of our wardrobes and, now, November has arrived with a bang (literally… hello bonfire night!). Another yearly event is also taking place in those first few weeks of November here at the University, and unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last month or so, you will know what I am talking about – the very nifty little Festival of Careers!

Now, I do not wish to bombard anyone with more Career Development messages than they have already experienced, but it really is something worth getting involved with. Yesterday saw the final prep-sessions take place in order to get your Careers wristband to gain you entry to the festival, but if you were one of the many students who did attend a prep-session and are still considering giving it a miss, I really would encourage you otherwise. It’s understandable to be a little apprehensive about talking to employers, but there is no shame in going along merely to watch how others interact with them, maybe ask a few questions about why the company is eager to talk to students, or even just to pick up a few leaflets to aid your careers choices once the festival is over. The Careers team here at the University of Leicester really are outstanding, to pass up on the awesome opportunities they provide the student-body with would be madness; check out their website at https://mycareers.le.ac.uk/home.html and have a nosey at what’s on offer!

I was first introduced to Sociology whilst picking my AS Levels for my placement at Sixth Form in 2010. If I’m honest, I didn’t really understand what the subject entailed, but it was in the timetable category which would allow me to study Classical Civilisation and I didn’t want to do psychology because someone told me there was a lot of numerical data handling, so it seemed like the obvious choice for me. I sat down in the introductory lesson on my first day at my new school, a little anxious of what I had let myself in for, and listened as the teacher told the class that we would never look at society in the same way once we had completed her module… and she was so right! Most everyone will have, at some point, whether it be through academia or on the news, been exposed to this omniscient cover in which you see the world as we once knew it in a completely different light – from Stalinism to global trade, the discipline is entwined with nearly every aspects of human living and even more so in academia.

Once I had my eyes opened to Sociology and the gargantuan scope of which it delves into societal life, I knew I had to take it to degree level – I had great rapport with my teacher, loved to debate current and political issues, contribute to worldly discussions around me and seemed to be hitting the higher grade boundaries in most every assessment. So, I attended multiple open days at Universities across the country and, on a whim, decided to add Leicester to my ever-growing list, and the rest is history – I was blown over by how enthusiastic the department seemed and could really imagine myself in lectures on Globalisation, Ethnicity, Education, the Sex Trade and the list goes on and on.

However, during the summer and that excruciating wait for A Level results day, I started to really doubt myself; was I right for Leicester, for Sociology, for University at all? I would be working alongside really intelligent people, from all different walks of life – what if I couldn’t step up to the mark and contribute to any discussions anymore?!… This continued for a month, or two, or three, and before I knew it I was packing up my room and sitting in the car, squished between boxes and rails of clothes, ready to start climbing the next ladder of education. All of my worries disappeared, utterly engulfed by excitement.

Arriving to my first week of lectures seemed like one big blur of newness; the two week long Fresher fair, meeting new friends, adjusting to living in a city and learning to cook seemed to take some of that pressure felt during the summer away. By the time my first assessment deadlines reared their heads, however, the doubt had returned. Degree level Sociology is very different to A Level Sociology, and I would imagine a world away from GCSE Sociology – how ever would I know how to structure my essays? Is it okay to mention Functionalism anymore?! What. Is. Referencing? Even Marx and Weber are blurring into the same person!

There is, without a doubt, many Sociology Freshers here in Leicester who could relate to my experiences this time last year. So, here are a few ‘top tips’ to keeping your cool and getting to grips with everything Sociological in 1st year;

  1. Books, and lots of ‘em; you do not need to buy every single book mentioned in a reading reference, despite what your friends are telling you. A much better alternative is to speak to your lecturers about books which they would recommend to be relevant for the next three years of your studies. A Sociological Dictionary is a must.
  2. Referencing; is scary! Even second, third, fourth, and every single student to have ever been in existence will shudder at the word. However, there will be available resources to help you get to grips with the stickler – from library help sessions, available guides on Blackboard, or even putting an hour aside to run through the process with your personal tutor, help is readily available and once you get it, you’ll never have to worry again. This brings me on to…
  3. Personal Tutors; USE THEM. One of the things I really struggled with in first year was how isolated your studies were – from the days of draft after draft of essays at A Level to independent study, it was a shock to the system. Your Personal Tutors are there to offer you advice, help ease your worries and discuss essay titles with you to help you grasp a greater and more detailed understanding. Not only that, but one day you may need an academic reference and someone who has seen you regularly for the three years of your studies would be ideal.
  4. Drop-in-Hours; again, very similar to the brilliance of Personal Tutors, but with lecturers instead! You may find yourself in lectures of 100-200+ sometimes – if your lecturer runs drop-in-hours, a chance for you to have one-on-one discussions on anything that’s troubled you within their module, take it. These are highly educated, experienced and enthusiastic people willing to help you; to turn that chance down would be madness!
  5. Mentoring; there are plenty of second and third year students willing to shadow and give advice to first year Sociologists on anything from advice on accommodation, making friends and reassurance in terms of your academic work. If you truly are feeling like you could do with another student who has been where you’ve been to help you out, give Dr Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor an email at jst4@le.ac.uk – this past month, she has been responsible for trying to organize and set-up a comprehensive mentoring system.
  6. And finally, HAVE FUN; University is a chance for you to really find yourself, work out what you have passions in for learning and paving a way to a future career – it’s not all doom, gloom and essays, so do not forget to go out and enjoy yourself!

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About Amy-Rose

Amy-Rose has now graduated from the University of Leicester.

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