Returning for your third year as a History undergraduate? This blog was written by former History student Taché Smith, and in it she reflects back on her final year of study and offers tips on how to work through it. Taché graduated in July 2017 with a 2.1 and is now looking for museum work in her home country of Bermuda.
There’s a lot of things said about the third year, most of it revolving around how easy or how hard it is; however, it just isn’t that simple. The third year of university is one of the most satisfying and frustrating experiences you will ever have. It will challenge you in ways you never expected. The good news is that the first and second year have already prepared you for the third year, and if ever you feel like it’s getting overwhelming, the University has a host of people willing to help, like the learning development tutors, the library staff, and the well-being counselors.
Better still though, we have our tutors within the History Department. You’ll have met most if not all of them throughout your time at Portsmouth. You have your dissertation supervisor, your personal tutor from previous years, and that tutor who you just clicked and feel comfortable with. It doesn’t matter if you have classes with them this term or even this year. Reach out to them and they will absolutely be willing to help you with any questions you have.
For some generalized advice regarding maintaining some level of sanity this year, I recommend if you haven’t already invested in a portable flash drive that you do so. It may seem basic, or unnecessary, but it will become a life saver at the weirdest time. Your dissertation is slowly going to become your life this year, and having it somewhere safe outside of the library network and your personal computer will give you an extra level of comfort, especially if you still have travel to do for further research for your dissertation. You are going to want, and need your dissertation on as many devices, clouds, and in as many email inboxes as you can manage.
Another piece of advice for you. Don’t delete! It might sound crazy, but seriously don’t delete, have multiple documents, have one be the “final copy” of your draft chapters. In the meantime, though, don’t be afraid to have extra files, this is going to be a long, time-consuming piece of work. Just because something doesn’t work in one area of your dissertation doesn’t mean it won’t work in another, or at least inform it. Seriously, while everything you write won’t be academic gold it can at least inform your future research. When you are writing if something seems a little off just cut it and paste it into a new document.
The third year is the year where there is a lot more freedoms and responsibility academically. The tutors are still there, so don’t forget about them. Beyond that though, schedule your time. You have a lot of ‘free’ time (when you’re not in class), which is good news. It gives you all the time you need to work on your dissertation, your special subjects, and group research. More importantly, though, it gives you enough time for you, and your social life. The third year is not the beginning of the end of having fun at university. In fact, if you do it right it can be the best year overall.
Take advantage of the amount of time you have and remember you must not only work hard academically but socially. Now is the time if you haven’t done so already to join a society or sport. Might I give a heavy-handed suggestion that you join the History Society? It’s really cool, a mixture of fun and academic events, and most importantly organizes a careers’ event geared towards us specifically. Seriously though, it doesn’t matter if you do join a society or you don’t but try to strike a balance between coursework and social life. Both are necessary for a fun and successful year.
Take the time out to explore a bit more locally if you haven’t. Winter will be right around the corner, and with it, the weather will be turning. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of the seafront and the commons. Remember to get out of the house, the library, and enjoy any good weather while you can. Hangout with your mates a bit more outside of a night out. Movie and Games nights with some good food and better company can do wonders for your state of mind. Most importantly though take time for yourself, without any outside pressure of academics or socialization, to wind down.
The third year is the best year of University you can have if you handle it correctly. Manage your time, and you’ll be as comfortable as one can be with a dissertation deadline looming, and far more relaxed than you ever thought you could be at the end of the year. After all that, I’ll end by wishing you all good luck in the upcoming year, it’ll be over sooner than you think, and when you look back you will be astonished to see how much you managed to accomplish.