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Learning at University

- Sherine Bollarapu, September 2022

Transitioning from one environment to another isn’t easy and it differs for everyone. After having a nice, long break – the thought of getting back into studying can be daunting! In this blog I will be giving some tips that you can use to make your transition easier.

The jump from school to university

While many people might enjoy the prospect of more time to themselves, one of the things that I struggled with most regarding the jump from school to university was how much free time we had. Whilst at school, I used to spend spare time to watch YouTube videos or play cards with my friends but that meant I was always had work building up. At university I decided not to do this because there is always something else you can do in your free time. This could be doing the recommended reading, going over your notes or getting started on your assignments.

Spending some of my time off this way stopped me feeling like I was “behind” everyone else and reduced the amount of work that I had to do when I got home. But remember having a break is still important! Don't overwork yourself.

I also found that the textbooks and academic papers are much harder to read than the textbooks we had at school. But don’t be scared, that’s normal. Read at your own pace, search up jargon and annotate your notes - this helped ME to break down what they were saying in a way that made sense. And with time, reading academic journals will become natural to you! 

You watched the lecture – now what?

The most important thing to do right after your lecture is to go over it. It may sound pointless as you just learnt it but this is the most effective way to solidify what you’ve learnt. It also gives you the chance to resolve any confusion while the lecture is still fresh in your mind! Going through your notes is a good way to revise what you’ve learnt while making sure what you’ve written makes sense to you. And if there's anything you don't understand, don't be afraid to ask! Whether that's through getting yourself a Mentor, coming to BioCafe on a Monday night, or simply emailing the relevant lecturer, you'll always be able to find support.

I used to put question marks in my notes but when I came back to them later, I wouldn’t really understand why and it made revising so much more stressful. Make sure you try to come back to the lecture content in shorter intervals. This will help you to remember the content better since the longer you go without it, the more you forget! Don't leave your revision to the last minute. Overall, learn as much as you can after your lecture so later you are revising the content rather than relearning it.

Revision – trial and error are normal

The revision technique you use will depend on what works for you and what type of exam you are doing. Is it multiple choice or short questions/essay? Therefore, is it more factual or critical? In my first year, all my exams were multiple choice questions (open book and online), so I had all my notes online and pressed CTRL+F for help with the answers. However, second year was a lot more essay-based and involved critical thinking. This meant that I had to change my revision tactics by doing extra reading and essay questions – sometimes even making up my own essay questions.

Making my own revision timetable was helpful. Waking up every day and having my day already planned out meant that I had one less thing to worry about. Having the topics already picked out meant I wasted no time choosing what to revise. Just remember that what may have worked before might not anymore - don’t worry, you'll figure it out and just be ready to accept change.   

Finding the right balance

It can be hard to find the right work-life balance. Though you might want to do everything, to get that balance you will need to be you need to be honest with yourself and compromise. You need to know what your priorities and goals are, and how everything else fits alongside that. The reality is that sometimes you will have to say no and that’s okay. Understand what your limits are and what works for you. What times do you work best? How long would it take for you to finish the assignment? What is the weighting of the assignment? You’ll have to take multiple factors into consideration. I think time management is key here. By planning your week, and purposely including time for you to go out and relax, you can still have a first year that is fun! You don’t have to cram every society event in, that’s how you get overwhelmed! Even going every other week can help take off the load while still getting involved.  

If you do start to feel overwhelmed, reach out to your friends and family for support. Talk to people and don't bottle up stress! BioSoc has appointed a dedicated Wellbeing Officer, Manu, who is always available to give you advice for where to seek support.

Just keep swimming!

It’s all a learning curve. I changed how I took my notes three times before it felt right! You don’t need to have everything sorted out straight away. One thing that helped me cope with all the changes was my tutorial group and being able to talk to people who were going through the same challenges as I was. This really helped calm my nerves. You have the same tutor and tutorial group throughout your degree so there is always someone you can talk to and go to for academic and personal support. I would recommend that you get to know your tutor as they are there to help. Overall, take this year to get adjusted to your new surroundings, becoming independent, making friends, and getting to know yourself!

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