Enrich Your Academic Life at Warwick by Living Up to Childhood Expectations of Being a Nerd: An Undergraduate Guide
This blog will be aimed specifically at students based in the statistics department, but I hope that the content inside will be adaptable to other degrees.
Your time at Warwick is what you make of it. I begin with the conclusion now because it really is the most important thing that you can be told while at university. If you want to be in 7 societies, and on the exec of 3 of them then go ahead, and on the flipside, if you just want to keep your head down in that regard then, if that suits you better, it’s a fine way to go through university. Speaking academically, some people try their hardest to pick “easy” modules and get very high grades, whereas others revel in the challenge of “harder” modules, or ones that they are personally interested in, no matter the difficulty. Everyone has their own reason for being at university. If you just want to get the paper that says you’re smart and get out, be my guest, it’s where I was during first and most of second year. With that said, there are few things that you can do at university to really get the most out of your education, if that is what you hope to achieve.
The first of these things is reading around the subject independently. Let’s say for example that you’re going into 2nd year and you’ve got a really hard module on the horizon, you’ve heard from your friends that it’s going to take a lot of cramming because there’s no way you’ll understand it first time around. A possible strategy, and one that I’m sure the lecturers would endorse is to actually do the recommended reading read about the subject as a whole: where is this going? Why are you going to be studying certain theorems, and sections? If you know why you’re doing something it’s easier to see how things link together, and links are a great way to not only engage your brain, but to remember things that you learn.
Secondly, a great way to progress your academic life is to do your own projects and record them somewhere. Be that in a blog, on a website, or on your CV where they belong. These could be completely independent, for example a common thing in data science is to just take interesting datasets and test a fun hypothesis like “which country has the latest trains?”. It makes a naturally interesting article, if you choose to write one, as you’ve already chosen an interesting question and it also teaches you a lot of things about data manipulation and statistical techniques. But of course, this applies to more than just data science, it just fits really well into this world. Currently I’m working on some microeconomic theory based problems because I feel like this is a topic that I could go into in the future. This technique is great for learning more about what it’s like to go in depth in a subject and encounter it in more of a “real world” situation.
Finally, talk to academics. Academics are humans, at least in the traditional sense of being sentient beings, despite how they may sometimes seem at least partly mechanical. Either way, within certain limits, they will generally respond to emails from curious students. They can provide you with resources, people to talk to, or even just guidance and encouragement which could be the difference for you to choose a certain path in life or another. Also in the realm of academics, there are often research experience opportunities sponsored by the University of Warwick for undergraduate students. Currently we have the URSS (Undergraduate Research Support Scheme) which offers up to £1000 funding (£1500 for research abroad) for students that have interesting research ideas backed by an academic at the university. It’s an amazing experience in many regards and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to give research a try.