It feels crazy to even write the words I’ve finished my second year of Staffs. The cliché saying that University really does fly by is so true, but I think that only becomes apparent at this stage of an undergraduate course. I wouldn’t have said first year went by particularly quickly because everything was still new and a bit scary (I didn’t go into the library once because it intimidated me…which now seems like that was another person), but my second year has flown by. I have enjoyed every moment of it, even the times when I was working for days on end to meet deadlines, because in the end you always got that unique feeling of accomplishment that just can’t be matched.
So what has second year taught me, and what will I take through with me to my final year of my degree? (eeeeek – how has that come about already!?)
If you push yourself once, it’s so much easier next time
Regardless of the fact your tutors may tell you to in your feedback, it isn’t easy to push yourself out of your comfort zone to improve your work. I pretty much breezed my way through first year as I was still learning the basics of photography, so I managed to get through it all without being very adventurous. Second year, however…well, let’s just say I had a true awakening. But it certainly paid off! I finished all of my core modules this year with a First, and I couldn’t be prouder of myself for pushing through that first time when it all seemed so terrifying. There are now things I don’t think twice about doing that I never would have a year ago, like calling strangers for interviews or help with an assignment. To me, this is what makes University such a unique and rewarding place to go, with so much control over your own life and your own experience.
The library isn’t scary…it’s a place to procrastinate
As I mentioned before, I was extremely intimidated by the library in first year and didn’t choose to do my private study there. And as I’ve learnt this year, that may have been a good thing! Although the library has fantastic resources and space to get on with your work, I’ve noticed this year that not much study happens if you go there with your friends or coursemates. The only time I have ever gotten anything done is when I’ve gone to the library completely alone and purposefully sat on my own if I met my coursemates/friends in there. It is the only way! So although the library itself couldn’t be much better, I now know that if I really want to knuckle down, ‘group study’ in the library is not the best idea.
Your tutors are there for you as a student, so it’s okay to ask for help
One thing I can’t stress enough is how incredible my tutors have been this year, particularly one that will sadly not be at Staffs for my final year. I’m sure they would have been just as fantastic in first year, had I asked for their help! This time around, I didn’t hesitate before going to them with all my little ideas and problems I’d encountered, and although that racked up quite a lot of time spent in their office, they made time to help me on every single occasion. I’m not sure my work would have been anywhere near as good this year without them constantly pushing me to achieve my potential, and for that reason, I am already planning a very challenging major project for my final year. So if anything, the main lesson I have learnt is that asking for help when you need it is always okay, and your tutors will be there for you whenever they can be. They want you to pass with flying colours just as much as you do!
It’s okay to have only just decided what you want to do post-graduation, and changing your mind
I can’t remember the first time I was asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, but I can safely guess that it was a long time ago. Now, I am a year away from graduation, so for once, the answer to that question is probably at its most accurate. But it is okay to have not had that answer up until now, or even have one that isn’t 100% certain. Life does change the path you go down as you go through it, so if you knew when you were 5 years old what you wanted to do post-graduation, that would be fairly unique. As I’ve gone through my second year, it has shaped my ideas about my future, so I feel now that the goal I am going to work towards post-graduation is both realistic and right for me. But I’m also open to changing my mind should my final year present me with a new opportunity. The bottom line is, I have learnt that there is nothing to panic about if you have no clue what you want to do, as there is still plenty of time to explore it.
The friends you make in first year are not necessarily the friends you will end up with
I was always told before starting University that the friends you make in Fresher’s Week are unlikely to be the friends you keep. I believed that, and as it happens, I have only stayed close friends with two that I made in first year. But one thing that surprised me was that people I met in first year but not necessarily clicked with are suddenly some of the closest friends I have! I would put this down to circumstance, as second year projects have brought us together in some cases, but it was entirely unexpected, and in fact, I think they will last far beyond circumstance. This was perhaps one of the most important lessons I learnt, as it’s so easy to get caught up in the idea that it’s sad when you lose touch with people and your friend count goes down, but really, the people you are destined to stay with always find you in the end.
So there we go! Those are the main lessons I learnt from my second year of undergraduate study and things that will definitely help me come September when I start my final year of my degree! Did you learn anything that I haven’t included in this list? Let me know below!