Sunday, July 18, 2021

1st Year of University: My Experience

Hello my loves!

While I'm back home for a couple weeks I figured now would be a great time to write a lil' post about my first year at university! As you probably already know (or maybe don't) in September I began studying philosophy and German at the University of Edinburgh. Despite Covid making it a very different kind of first year at university, I had so so much fun and I'm looking forward to sharing my experiences with you 😊

How did Covid-19 affect my first year at uni?

Lets get the boring question out of the way first. I briefly touched on how the pandemic has impacted my studies in my December catch-up post, and the rest of the academic year was pretty much the same. After a brief attempt at in-person teaching in the first half of Semester 1, the remainder of the academic year was entirely online. Online teaching wasn't dreadful by any means, but I'm definitely looking forward to hopefully a bit of blended learning come September, though many elements of 2nd year will likely be online too. 

Covid will probably come up in every other part of this post so I won't elaborate any further here! 

Did I manage to make friends?

With no in-person teaching, freshers, or society meet-ups, I was so so worried I wouldn't be able to make friends. This was possibly my biggest anxiety about starting university, but I'm so glad to say that even with everything online I managed to make an amazing set of friends. The freshers/module group chats were honestly a life saver as they helped me socialise and find people who I had a lot in common with. From these chats I was added by a friend on my course to a group of other girls and we got on like a house on fire. 

Though next year I hope to meet even more people, especially people from my course, I'm so relieved I didn't spend first year alone, and hopefully have made some lifelong friends <3 

How did I find my studies?

I can honestly say I really enjoyed all of my modules this year, well, apart from Logic 1 (fuck Logic 1). While some modules were definitely a challenge, the content of all of them really interested me. I also loved the variety of what I got to study this year, especially getting a taster of studying law when I took international law for my semester 1 elective. Though the content of my German modules were fascinating, I actually had a lot of anxiety throughout the year about my German modules and not being good enough compared to a lot of really strong German speakers that were on the course.

Surprisingly, my German grades ended up being the strongest out of all of my modules! This was a needed confidence boost as my anxiety was starting to get the better of me after Semester 1. I was really unsure if I was good enough to study German, and even considered changing my degree to pure philosophy. I'm so glad I stuck with it and I'm really looking forward to the modules I've picked for second year.

If you are interested in how I did academically, I am incredibly excited and proud to say that for 1st year I averaged ... a 1st! Though I know I set high standards for myself, I genuinely didn't expect to finish this year with a 1st, especially with the challenges of distanced learning. 

Does getting a 1st mean I'm now going to set detrimentally high standards for myself for the next 3 years? Maybe, probably, most likely, anyway.

What was my favourite part about first year?

With covid getting in the way of most typical uni experiences, I guess I got to appreciate the little things this year. I loved visiting the library to study, getting to watch the gorgeous campus change throughout the seasons, appreciating the beautiful city I live in, and towards the end of the year finally getting to socialise, from browsing bookstores with friends or just heading out for coffee.

What was my mental health like during my first year of uni?

My mental health was certainly a bit of a rollercoaster this year. In semester 1 I received my bipolar type 2 diagnosis and started new medication. I definitely hit a few rough patches throughout the year, but I think my medication and therapy largely helped things from getting worse. The university disability service was also incredible at supporting me this year. I'm currently on the NHS waitlist for psychotherapy (which is around 18 months in my area) so fingers crossed I'll be starting that in 2nd year, and can continue to try support myself mentally while studying.

Did I get a job while at uni?

So money was always going to be a big issue for me while studying. I'm incredibly grateful that my parents can somewhat support me financially, but I know this is a big strain on them. Because of this I knew I needed to have a job secured for September. 

I did in fact manage to have a job waiting for me as a swim teacher by August, but due to Covid my start date was delayed until November, and then after Christmas we weren't able to go back to work until May. Hopefully come August I will be able to continue working without any issues (i.e another lockdown), but regardless, the swim school I work with are a really lovely lot and have been so supportive of me as an employee so far. All of my colleagues are really lovely which I'm so grateful for as it makes work even more enjoyable.

Did I do any additional experiences/extra-curriculars?

Yes! I got involved in a multitude of things this year. My biggest experience, and the one I'm most proud of, is starting a society! I decided to create a society all about giving students key skills and opportunities to be advocates for themselves and others. I was given the green light in January, and since then our Instagram has gained over 200 followers! It definitely wasn't an easy thing to do, and I know a lot of work needs to be done to keep it up and running in second year, but this is something I'm looking forward to regardless. 

In Semester 2 I also got involved in the student elections. I led a campaign for the position of NUS Delegate in March and was so lucky to have been voted in as one of five delegates! This meant I got to attend the National Union of Students 2021 Conference which was such an incredible experience. I'm currently unsure if I'm going to stand again in 2022 for either NUS Delegate or any other position, but I really enjoyed both the campaigning process and the conference.

The final experience I haven't actually finished! I'm currently in the final weeks of completing an independent research project offered by my university. If you have ever completed an EPQ it's pretty much a university version of that and is worth extra credits! I basically get to lead my own investigation into a chosen topic, document my progress and produce a report after 6 weeks. I've chosen to investigate the misuse of tear gas against protestors. It's definitely been a challenge at some points, but overall I've learned so much from it and had the chance to improve my academic research skills. If your university offers something like this I 100% recommend you give it a go! I'm hoping this experience will help me get a research internship on my year abroad that I really want to do.

What are my plans for second year?

I have so many exciting modules lined up for second year that I'm looking forward to studying! In addition, if covid cases die down (though I have a feeling the exact opposite will happen) I will also be able to start working my new venue at work. This will make a huge difference financially for me.

I'm also incredibly excited to say that staring September (assuming my training is not delayed again) I will be volunteering as a support worker for the local courts! My schedule next year will definitely be jam packed with society work, volunteering, working and studying, but I'm so excited for what's in store come September, which hopefully doesn't include another lockdown. 

That's about all I can think of writing right now, please feel free to drop me a comment or DM me on twitter if you have any questions about starting first year, or about Edinburgh Uni in particular!

Take care and stay safe lovelies x

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