Third year review: horror, dinosaurs and Peter Andre
By Lois Looker,
The third year at university. The dreaded year. The one where you need to knuckle down and finally do some good work or, you know, just work. Just like in school, whatever you are doing is always overshadowed with what people in years above you are doing and I think this is where the fear factor comes into. You’re always made to feel like the worst is yet to come even though you might find what you’re doing at that moment pretty difficult already.
But you shouldn’t worry, like I did. Starting my third year seemed like this really daunting thing where I thought I would really be put to the test in terms of what I could do. Instead, it really taught me the things that I really like learning about and also the things I really dislike. During the second semester of third year I took a class for English on Modern Gothic. I really thought I would hate it as I have never watched a single horror film (two nights ago I watched ‘Panic Room’ on my own and thought I was being really brave..) and books under the horror genre didn’t appeal to me either. So studying ten or so horror books for a semester seemed like a pretty bad choice. After just one book and one class, I realised that this was already my favourite class and that the teaching was some of the best I had experienced in my whole time at university. (The best was from the philosophy lecturer who would make up diagrams with dinosaurs and Peter Andre to help us understand philosophical ideas. It was pretty great.)
In another class which I quickly realised I hated and didn’t understand, I received, very unsurprisingly, one of the worst marks I had ever received for an essay. In the comments my tutor asked me to go along to speak to her. When I did so, she asked me what had gone wrong. Unfortunately, the second semester of university had been a pretty tough time. I had lost someone very close to me not long before my twenty first birthday and so the whole month was a complete whirlwind of sorting things out, plans and in the end, not very much time left to study or even read most of the books I was supposed to be looking at. Really I should have contacted my tutor and let her know this before I submitted my coursework and it’s really important that if you ever go through something such as the loss of a loved one that you tell someone. Such an emotional time will most likely have a strong effect on your work. In my case I just avoided coursework at all costs and ended up in a very stressful situation of dealing with that grief in the middle of writing three essays which were all due in the same week. Not advisable at all. Of course, these stresses can happen at any time – theunipod’s guide to first year panics will lend you some tips too.
However, getting the bad grade really gave me a fright. I thought considering everything that was going on I had still done an alright job. I definitely hadn’t. When my next piece of coursework was due, I put a bit more research into it and picked my question very carefully to make sure that I knew what I was talking about this time. When my grades were finally put up, I had to get a friend to check online for me because I was away from home. When she told me my grade for that class I had to ask her to re-check three or four times because I had actually done quite well. The preparation had paid off. I had passed all three of my classes with no resits. It felt like a miracle considering the kind of semester it had been and now I know I have a summer where I don’t have to worry about anymore coursework or exams for a couple of months.
My third year was the difficult year I had been told to expect, but not in the way I had imagined. The coursework wasn’t unbearably difficult and I wasn’t left to get on with it by myself. Instead I found out that I really enjoyed some of the coursework and might actually go on to use it for my dissertation next year. I had tutors constantly emailing our classes to tell us when they were available for us to go and speak to them and get any help that we required.
What had made it a difficult year was really down to me. I hadn’t planned well enough, I wasn’t keeping up with my reading properly and on time and when something pretty major happened, I didn’t get the help that I could have and should have. Really it’s been a useful lesson for me to learn at this stage with a dissertation to write next year and extra classes on top of that, I needed to learn that letting things get to be too much will always be my downfall. There’s only so much we can deal with and just deciding to ‘get through it’ will never be the right attitude or one that will give you the kind of grades that you deserve.
I’ve decided I will be much more prepared this year and start reading my books during summer and look at the kind of coursework I’m going to have to do and maybe even start it (or maybe not..), but really what I learned over everything else is that the third year isn’t really so bad.
What were your experiences of your third year like?