History@Portsmouth

University of Portsmouth's History Blog

Welcome to the Journey! Starting as a First Year History student

Are you just about to start your first year as a History student? In this case, Welcome to Portsmouth University! You will probably wonder what it will be like and what to expect. Then why not read this blog written by one of last year’s ‘freshers’, James Farrar. In his blog James, who is just about to start his second year, looks back at his experience of starting the exciting journey as a History student.

University is not an unknown, unexplored frontier. It is a fantastic place of opportunity and learning. You are not the first to land at its shores. Neither was I or the millions that went before. Thus, this should be a time of excitement. The future can be as intriguing as the past.

Just like going from school to college, the transition from college to university can initially be somewhat daunting. Yet you have got this far already, and over the next few weeks everything will gradually become second nature. Being able to adapt to new situations is something we all can do, whether consciously or not.

Of course, there is more work to do at university than at college. This is okay, as long as you keep an eye on it. Be realistic with your targets – slow and steady wins the race, a good pace is ideal. Remember to give yourself some downtime too!

I found it best to plan out what I would be doing each day of the week by using a large wallchart where I would enter everything important. If you plan and utilise your time well, most things will naturally fall into place, making your life much easier in the long run. Being in the right environment can also help your work ethic. Some people like being independent, completing work in their room while others like to study in groups in the library. Whatever works for you is best!

On the topic of the library, in my opinion this is the ‘crème de la crème’ of university spaces. Although the system of books can at first seem overwhelming, the library staff are as efficient as Christmas elves, with books belonging to a logical place and space. The library website too is easy to navigate and has the brilliant feature of allowing you to check how many copies of a book are currently available. I personally like paper books more than eBooks; I therefore spent a fair amount of time in the library. Never disregard paper books or the library, you might just find a book that is absolutely perfect for that piece of work you are writing. The library also boasts numerous computer stations, study spaces, and a café, so there is no reason not to visit!

Certainly, one of the challenges that I faced in the First Year was juggling different modules all at once. However, in time you learn to juggle far better than any performer. Planning really is your friend, along with your timetable. You will instinctively get into the flow and your brain will do the rest. Seminars and lectures are new experiences too. Lectures are, in essence, presentations aimed at giving you vital information to prepare you for the seminars that follows. Seminars are group discussions where you will reflect on the reading you did in preparation as well as the lecture beforehand. The two work together.

I found it best, if possible, to not read for significantly different modules on the same day. Looking for themes across modules gives you a stronger understanding of history as you will start seeing links and similarities. Never think that the reading for one module is only relevant for that particular module. You may be able to recycle information at another point. Thinking thematically will also help you to write essays.

Yes, essays are part of the course – shock horror! In all honesty, in a strange and bizarre way, I looked forward to writing essays as each one is a blank canvas to showcase your understanding. You will be writing detailed notes about a topic, analysing different historians’ views, and forming your own opinion. Although it may not take a great length of time to write an essay, start even before you think you need to start to ensure you have plenty of time to deal with any problems, or add new points.

You will be shown the appropriate technique to write essays and the university offers fantastic additional support in the form of the Learning Development tutors if you want further advice. Of course, the lecturers are all on your side too and want you to do well. There is never a stupid question, and emailing your tutor or lecturer is an ideal way if you need a pointer in the right direction. I found one-to-one tutor meetings very useful as it was a perfect opportunity to ask anything. Furthermore, the feedback you will receive on seminars and essays is invaluable as you will know exactly what you can do to improve next time.

You will be shown the appropriate technique to write essays and the university offers fantastic additional support in the form of the Learning Development tutors if you want further advice. Of course, the lecturers are all on your side too and want you to do well. There is never a stupid question, and emailing your tutor or lecturer is an ideal way if you need a pointer in the right direction. I found one-to-one tutor meetings very useful as it was a perfect opportunity to ask anything. Furthermore, the feedback you will receive on seminars and essays is invaluable as you will know exactly what you can do to improve next time.

Having completed my first year, I have so far found university to exceed my expectations. By now, you have probably heard the phrase “transferable skills” just as many times as Brexit. Learning how to write academically in conjunction with creating and expressing an educated argument are some of the skills you can expect to gain. Everything is worthwhile when you receive the grade you deserve. University will inspire you to achieve the best you can in relation to your commitment and dedication.

Forging new friendships is a bonus too! University will shape you for the better both academically and socially as a person. Welcome to the beginning of a rewarding and fulfilling journey!

, , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply