2nd Year Experiences of GSD vs 1st Year
With only one assignment left due in week 8 of term 3, I can start to feel the excitement of Summer holidays kicking in. However, a part of me is still reluctant to see the end of term, because I know the next term will signal the beginning of the end once I enter my final year of this 3 year degree.
Despite my efforts to manage the ups and downs throughout my university journey, I can only say I failed miserably, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. In fact, I wouldn’t change a thing because it makes my university experience so much more memorable. Now, as I sit by my window with the smell of freshly mowed grass drifting by the summer breeze, it felt like a perfect time to reflect on my first 2 years as a GSD student in Warwick.
Looking back, it was obvious how differently structured the modules I took were taught and assessed. In my 1st year, many of the core modules I chose had pre-determined questions, essays, research projects centred around a fixed topic, and what I learnt from the lecture and seminars essentially translated directly into the assessments. In contrast, the assessments in my core modules this year were more flexible. They still centred around a topic of sustainability, however, I was allowed to investigate a specific area of focus within this wider topic, and set my research or essay around that. This allowed me to explore areas which I was more interested in, and I definitely noticed using the lecture and seminar readings less, and rather used those concepts I learnt to do wider independent research.
Beyond the course structure, I’ve also realised how important setting up a solid foundation for success is. In my previous blog for tips for 1st years (https://our.warwick.ac.uk/5-less-obvious-tips-i-wish-someone-told-me-before-uni/), I emphasised the importance of collecting assignment feedback and actually engaging with it to improve future work. I am still religiously updating my assignment feedback log, and this has helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses, which meant over time, I have improved my overall quality of work by eliminating my most common mistakes, whilst amplifying the qualities of my work. However, in my 2nd year, my progress has definitely not been as consistent as my 1st year, as the nature of work/ assessments were not as similar to each other compared to my 1st year. For example, in my 1st year I would have an essay due in term 1, term 2, and term 3. With the use of assignment feedbacks, I was able to see consistent progress in my essays throughout the 3 terms. Conversely, I experienced a lot more different assessment formats in my 2nd year, which included research projects, presentations, conferences, essays. This meant that I discovered a lot more strengths and weaknesses that I wouldn’t have realised had I continued to only focus on essay based assignments. Therefore, this year proved to be invaluable in helping me formulate a more concrete idea of what I want my final year dissertation to be like.
Finally, an obvious difference between my 1st and 2nd year was seeing my personal development and maturing process. Academically, I have learnt to be far more productive and focused on quality work without a set time, compared to my 1st year where I would fixate a time schedule (e.g 13:00-17:00) to do some work, but realise I spent half of the time looking forward to that arbitrary 17:00 time. On a personal development side, I also realised how valuable spending time with others and caring for those around you can actually be more beneficial than always focusing on investing on yourself. One example is even when facing the flurry of deadlines towards Easter, I still spent time to coordinate a donation event, and in the end, I found it to be incredibly beneficial for the positive energy generated not just for the community, but for my personal wellbeing and motivation to push through the end of term.
My experience as a GSD student in my first 2 years has been incredibly exciting, and I am certain the final year will be the toughest one yet, but I’m already excited to take on the challenge and can’t wait for whatever is about to unfold.