University of Portsmouth's History Blog

What to expect in your first year as a History student

Are you just about to start your first year as a History student? Starting to wonder what it will be like? Then read this blog written by one of last year’s ‘freshers’, Eleanor Doyle. In the blog Eleanor reflects on her experience when starting this whole new chapter in her life, from induction week worries to enjoying life both inside and outside the lecture room. Eleanor is just about to start her second year of studies.

When you start at university it can be difficult to know what to expect. For most people, it’s their first time away from home and there is a lot more independence than at school or college. It can take a while to get to grips with your new lifestyle but I loved the first year of my degree and I’m sure you will too!

Image courtesy of history student Dominic Coombs

I enrolled at Portsmouth only a few days before induction week and so my nerves were at an all-time high. Although I’m a commuting student and I know Portsmouth well, I can vividly remember feeling completely lost on my first day and arriving almost an hour before I needed to – just to be sure. Luckily, I am very pleased to say that I now realise I didn’t need to be so worried – and probably could have caught the later bus! The most important thing I have learnt this year is that however you feel, it will be ok and you are definitely not the only one who feels that way.

It is easy to look back at things and see them with rose-tinted glasses (as you’re doing a history degree it’s important you don’t do this too often) but I can confidently say that my first year was amazing. It certainly wasn’t easy, and you’ll start to realise that once deadlines roll in, but it is worth it. You might become best friends with the people you meet in Freshers’ Week but you might not. There isn’t a right way to go about it but you will meet people that help make any 9am lectures a little brighter!

As obvious as it sounds, your first year gives you an opportunity to learn new things. One of the most helpful things you learn is how you work best. The sooner you can decide whether 11am or 9pm is the perfect time for you to study, the easier everything else becomes. You have the chance to be flexible with your time too. Although it can feel like lectures, seminars and deadlines have you constantly busy, they won’t take up your whole day and while you need to make sure you can put in the work to prepare yourself (because they’re useless if you show up completely blank), there are loads of other things you can get involved with outside of your studies. I was already working at the Mary Rose Museum in the Historic Dockyard when I started first year and I am so glad I kept it up. Not everyone likes to work at university but lots of us want or need to have a job to fit around our studies. Sometimes it can take a bit of time to reach a healthy balance but I loved having a place to completely switch off from uni.

Societies are another great way to do something other than academic work at university. I joined the History Society (obvious choice, I know) and I’m now the secretary. I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I joined but it gave me the chance to have fun with new people and try things I hadn’t done before. If you’re interested in History (and, if you’re studying History, I would hope that you are) come and see us at Freshers’ Fayre and have a chat about what we do. If you don’t like partying and drinking, we do plenty of relaxed events like visits to local museums, and if you do want to get a taste for the nightlife here, we’re happy to oblige too!

As I said earlier, the most important things I learnt in my first year is that however you feel there will always be someone who feels the same or can help you. I had some strange worries about all manner of things but, with the help of my friends and lecturers, I made it through my first year and I’m just about to start the whirlwind that is second year!

Good luck to you all and enjoy your first year!

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