by Helen Siegieda
In first year you may not be spending a huge amount of time in the library, but make sure you do enable yourself to become familiar with how to locate and take out a book, how to operate the printers and scanners and how to find out where there are free computers. I did this in my first year and it helps you jump straight into your studies in second year as you know what you’re doing! Rather than spending months trying to figure everything out.
THE GEOGRAPHY DEPARTMENT
All the staff are really friendly in Geography and are willing to help out if you are struggling with anything. Personally I was struggling with settling in at university and went to speak to my personal tutor, Kevin Grove, who helped me keep my motivation and discouraged me from leaving. He offered his own experiences about moving miles away from home and how it is difficult at first. Kim Peters is also a brilliant academic tutor and I know she has been approached on multiple occasions by my fellow students who have been unsure how to complete an assignment; keep a note of staff office hours or feel free to email them! All of their details are on the Aberystwyth University website.
Personally I found this one of the most difficult aspects of university life. With being a new student, unfamiliar to the town, eager to socialise and make new friends as well as balance the Taekwondo Club and the Hiking Club, I became a little overwhelmed with everything I had to do. Don’t let things get on top of you! Keep a diary and write down all the things you have to do that week. Don’t pile too much into one day as you may overload yourself; spread it out throughout the week and don’t forget to leave a few evenings for some you time that you can spend with friends or just chilling out.
Aberystwyth University is unique in that it assesses its students in a multitude of different ways; it isn’t just about essays, but reports, literature reviews, group presentations, individual presentations, interviews, questionnaires and more. Being a geography student gives you a huge variety of professional skills that you can take into the workplace. Don’t worry if you lack confidence in presenting or your essays aren’t up to scratch, that’s what first year is for, to hone in on your weaknesses and work on them to become better. Personally at secondary school my teachers would deliberately not pick me to do a presentation because I would be overcome with nerves and be unable to talk in front of a small group of people. After a few presentations at University I am now able to present in front of two hundred people confidently, and I don’t even get nervous. It is statistically proven that after 5-10 presentations you become a lot more confident and used to the activity. Practice makes perfect.
I always find that the more you read, the easier an essay becomes to write. Start by having a look in the library and taking out books that have relevant titles/chapters to your assignment. Start by getting some background information around the topic, then you can use Google Scholar or Primo to hone in on specific areas. I would recommend about 7-10 sources for a decent essay. Make sure you write down the references as you go along, there is nothing worse than finishing an essay and getting to the bibliography to realise you have no idea where a particular quote or piece of information comes from. Lastly, I’d say take your time. Spread the essay process over 4-5 days; spend 3 days reading and making notes, then the next two days planning and writing.
Group work is a really enjoyable part of university, and can actually make you some good friends as you are put into groups that you wouldn’t usually socialise with. Be polite and get to know the other members in your group before starting the work. I’ve found that creating a Facebook page is a really easy way to keep other group members updated and make sure you are all on track. Make sure to meet more than once in your group. You will separate and do individual pieces of research but this has to come together, so meet afterwards to put it into one presentation/report and then practice it a couple of times to make sure it flows. A common misconception is that group work does not require reading like an essay. That is wrong; lecturers all like to see reading in a piece of work so do a couple of readings each and throw in a quote here and there to make it clear that you have read, and make sure it relates to your topic.