Charlotte Lewis chose the History with Politics pathway in her second year of studies at Portsmouth. She found the second year to be a ‘step-up’ from the first year, and gives three suggestions for ways to meet the challenge.
This time last year I began my second-year studies in History with Politics at the University of Portsmouth. I remember very clearly the intense anticipation of increased workloads and importance of essay submissions as they now counted towards your final grade. So I write this blog with the intention of allaying the fears and worries some new second year students may have by recounting my experience and offering a few tips to help you get started on your journey through second year.
It is widely acknowledged by university students that you should expect your second-year studies to be much harder in comparison to first year. However, whilst to some extent some students may find second year to be a greater challenge, you should expect that your skills have also developed substantially, in parallel with the challenges you will face. In my personal experience, I certainly found second year to be a ‘step up’ in terms of the significance of the work I was submitting. As second year grades count towards your final grade, this obviously places more pressure on the quality of your work, inevitably causing more stress. However, I discovered early on in the year three ways to counter this stress. Firstly, purchasing a planner helped me greatly to organise and plan my time. Using this planner to make lists and schedule my work load, helped me to have a realistic appreciation of what I could achieve within a given period of time and to organise my days effectively. Time management is vital to ensure you are working as effectively and efficiently as possible and, in all honesty, planning saves you a lot of time and most importantly pressure in the long run. I found that planning my daily tasks prevented any last-minute panic or unforeseen decisions having to be made; this meant that my work was of a higher standard as I allowed myself ample time to get the task done and to do all the necessary checks, amendment and alterations. Trust me when I say that if you plan your time effectively, you will most certainly feel more in control of your life academically as well as socially.
Secondly, when planning your schedule, allow ample time for non-academic activities also, such as sport or socialising. It is so important to take time away from your studies and focus your mind on other things. Personally, I joined the Lacrosse society which not only gave me a scheduled opportunity to exercise through training sessions and games, but it also allowed me to make more friends so I would definitely recommend that if you haven’t already joined a society, you try one out as it is a great way to relieve stress and take your mind off the academic side of things. Your second year is a better time than ever to branch out and experience new things!
Thirdly, I cannot stress enough the importance of communicating with your tutors when you need some guidance. Your tutors are there to support you in every way possible so you must use this to your advantage. I did find in my second year that I needed more support as I wanted to ensure that my submissions were of a high standard and with the help of my tutors, as well as the learning development team, I did just that. As you will probably be aware by now as you enter your second year, moving to university results in a much greater degree of independence; for some this will be welcomed, and for others… not so much. However, it is important to realise that you must not leave it too long before you ask for help if you need it. During the first term of my second year I regularly visited the learning development team and my tutors for advice when planning and writing my essays. This was extremely beneficial as it enabled me to understand what is expected of me and it also helped me get back into the swing of things, especially after the long summer we have had. This is going to be even more important this year as the UK lockdown has meant that we have had even longer time away from the university environment. There is never any shame in asking for help so if you feel like you need it, just ask and support will be there.
Lastly, in your second year, you should begin thinking and exploring your potential dissertation topics. This mainly became significant for me after Easter as I began thinking about what I have enjoyed studying and what I have found the most interesting since studying History at University. It is so important to select a topic which you find interesting as ultimately you are going to have to motivate yourself to do the research and write the words and choosing something that you enjoy will certainly help alleviate some stress in the future. When my tutors first began mentioning our dissertations, I was nervous and shocked by how quickly time had gone as I knew my dissertation marked the end of my undergraduate studies and time at Portsmouth University. The thought of writing a 10,000-word dissertation honestly intimidated me and I began doubting my abilities to complete the task. However, if, like me, you feel intimidated by the prospect of writing a dissertation, you must remind yourself that you are more than capable and that your skills as a historian will have vastly improved by the end of your second year, more than you probably even realise. Whilst it might seem that the level of difficulty in work increases throughout university, your skill level also increases in tandem and so you can always meet the challenge. At this stage in the year, it is a more important time than ever to start contacting your tutors and asking for advice as this will certainly be unknown territory.
The second year was initially very daunting for me and so it is my hope that these few tips will help guide you through and let you avoid some of the pitfalls. Of course, everyone works differently and so you will need to find what works for you but hopefully this might be a starting point.
Good luck – you will succeed!!