Two of our Level 2 undergraduates reflect on their second year at university
This interview was conducted and edited by Ellie Lowe and Abbie Arestis
Are there any general reflections you would like to make on second year as a whole?
Abbie: My second year at Lincoln has been a mixture of ups and downs. I have definitely enjoyed having more freedom with option choices, and having been here for nearly two years I feel a lot more comfortable and settled into university life. I have found that there has been more pressure and stressful moments this year. Knowing that grades can now count towards your final degree grade and having to make decisions for my dissertation have certainly made things feel a bit overwhelming at times. On the whole it has been a great experience and I look forward to going into my third year.
Willem: Second year has been similar to first year in many ways, but everything feels more serious as we are expected to do things to a higher standard and the grades now count. However, this year has been much better in terms of being given more freedom to study what you want.
What aspects have you enjoyed most?
Abbie: The freedom given to you in second year to choose your modules is certainly an improvement from first year. With some modules such as Accessing Ordinary Lives, I have found that I was able to make a lot of the choices on what I wanted to research and write essays on. I was able to decide the titles, what part of the twentieth century I focussed on, and the types of sources I used and the kind of people I examined – all of which I found really interesting.
Willem: There has been a lot more choice this year with assessments. In most modules you can create your own essay questions and you are asked to find sources independently for source analysis assessments. This gives you a lot more freedom and means that you talk to your lecturers more, because you usually need to check whether your chosen essay questions are good and how they might be improved.
What aspects have you struggled with most?
Abbie: As I think will be the case with most students, deadlines and the workload can be hard to stay ahead of and balance with everything else going on.
Willem: Deadlines. First year was a good representation of the amount of deadlines you can expect to have in second year, but they are a lot more stressful when you know that they have an effect on your final grade when you graduate. I have found that it has been really important to start big assignments as early as possible.
Is there anything you wish you had known at the start of the year?
Abbie: I don’t think there is anything too drastically different from first year except the fact that your grades now count. I think the main thing I would have perhaps benefitted from is being given more notice that we would have to make decisions on dissertation ideas and supervisors as soon as we started second semester.
Willem: Yes: how early you need to be developing a dissertation idea. It’s going to be a huge part of third year so it needs to be a good topic that you know you’ll enjoy researching so you need to spend time finding one that you will enjoy. There has been lots of support but I wish I’d have started thinking about it earlier.
Is there any advice you would give new second years?
Abbie: I would say that if you have any ideas at all for what you would like to write your dissertation on then it would be quite helpful to start thinking about it as soon as possible. Overall, just try not to stress too much because, although grades count, the university staff want you to get the best possible grades and they will offer you the support to ensure you get over the finishing line. It can take a bit of adjusting to get back into university life after being away for summer but you’ll be fine if you keep on top of things and just enjoy yourself as much as possible. Myself and other students I have talked to have found that the year goes by so quickly, so just make the most of it.
Willem: Make sure you’ve made the right choices for modules this year, as at the very beginning of the year it’s not too late to change your options. I’d recommend looking into exactly what the modules are teaching, as your interests might have changed slightly from when you made your choices in first year. Also, some modules might be quite different to how they were initially described. So I would suggest looking at the module handbook and learning materials for your modules, and speaking to your friends about their choices to see if they sound more suited to you. As well as this, if you’ve started to think about the general topic for your dissertation then it would be helpful to do modules that are related to that subject, because this will really help when you’re writing your proposal and looking for a supervisor. I’d also suggest taking the time to look into what you would like to do for your dissertation as early as possible, and email lecturers as they will usually be a great help with giving guidance and pinning down a specific research question.