Getting Ready for WW: Some things I wish I knew heading into university.
Well, the circumstances are such that we tend to have a lot of free time on our hands (I actually don’t, because I have these things called deadlines, but we don’t talk about that here). Many of you among the OurWarwick community are gearing up to start at Warwick in the fall, and some of you (un)lucky souls are going to start as fellow PPEists! (Just kidding, don’t mind me; I have an awful sense of humour.)
As someone who joined the course coming from a radically different education system, it takes some time to get used to the structure and methods that are common in PPE. The Indian curriculum I studied was focused on objective answers and interpretation of problems, with minimal scope for analytical problem-solving. Furthermore, there was a set bank of knowledge that we were meant to refer to: nothing apart from the information in the textbook would be tested in an exam setting. At university, it became a whole different ballgame altogether. Firstly, there was no accountability to an external source of authority; there would be no teacher to deliver a (metaphorical) rap on my knuckles, pushing me to focus on the reams of text I’m meant to memorise in preparation. At university, there is no one to force you to do your essays; you are your own taskmaster. Secondly, the lack of a standardised source of information threw me off big-time; where am I meant to go if I need to know about the essay I’m writing? These, in combination with adjusting to life in the UK, came as a massive shocker to me as a fresher. Luckily for you, however, you guys have us to bounce information off of. Here are some tips I think I would have found helpful heading into PPE, especially as a student who had never studied Politics and Philosophy whatsoever. Here are some pro (lol not really) tips I can offer you. Read up.
The first thing I noticed about PPE was that I knew nothing about the Politics and Philosophy that is covered in most first-year modules. I was heading into lectures as a blank slate; too much of one, perhaps.
Lecturers would be name-dropping thinkers like Fukuyama, Foucalt, Kant and Hume in lectures, and it would all be akin to gibberish for me.
It really helps to know a bit about the subjects you’re going to be studying for the next three years. Some of you may have done Politics and Philosophy in your A-Levels, which is more than enough; for the rest of you guys, just get to know a bit more about either of the disciplines which interest you. Stanford Encyclopedia for Philosophy is a great resource; with regards to Politics, I personally found the tiny bit of Foucault I read very interesting. Find stuff that you like, and read up on it; trust me, you’ll miss the pleasure of reading books and papers for fun once deadlines start creeping up on you. Figure out what you want to do in your free time.
Now that you have ample time ahead of you, you have the opportunity to learn about the extra-curricular activities you can participate in while at university. This is not limited to just the societies and sports clubs, but also exploring the UK and its culture (this is more relevant if you’re an international student, like moi). I have spent a year and a half (would’ve been two years if not for this current predicament we all find ourselves in) in the UK; yet, I have not explored ANYTHING. I have not stepped outside of Coventry, Leamington Spa, Cardiff (briefly) and London, which is an absolute shame (trust me, I’ve beaten myself up enough about this already).
Please take the time to travel, make friends, travel with friends, enjoy life. You never know when you lose out on the things you take for granted.
Live in the moment, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. In first year, you have the leeway to experiment and explore; utilise that advantage. Do the thing you want to do, not what everyone says you should do. I have touched on this in an earlier post as well, but I think it deserves another mention. Stepping into university, students are bombarded with this common expectation and perception of what the ‘ideal’ Warwick student should be; bagging a Society Exec position in first year (as a fresher’s representative, most likely), also securing a Spring Insight Week placement (commonly known as ’Spring Weeks’), and over-working yourself to make your CV look better are some of the common features. In Term 1 of first year, I thought that the only credible career path for a PPE student was that of corporate finance (a field just loosely connected to one of the three disciplines I study). That is NOT the case; you do not need to score a Spring Week in first-year, or over-work yourself to exhaustion in order to prove your worth to your peers.
Each individual has different likes, dislikes, goals and aspirations for the future; it is irrational to try and fit yourself into the most prominent mould that you see at university.
Having fallen into this trap myself (I have found that corporate finance is definitely not for me), I can say that it is a huge blow to your morale; even though the placement may not even be the role you thrive in, you lose motivation when the rejections pour in.
Distance yourself from the clamour, and take the time to find out what you enjoy doing.
You may find your niche in something completely different, like social work, writing or the like; don’t shut out the options that are available to you by doggedly focusing on something else. It is not the end of the world if you don’t get to work at one of the Big Four; maybe you fit in much better somewhere else in the first place! In my opinion, these are the top three things that I wish I knew abut university when I headed in for my first year at Warwick. Hopefully they will help you prep for your first year at Warwick, too! I know that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding what state of affairs will prevail after we exit our current situation, but have faith in the fact that you will get to enjoy your first year! Take care, stay home and stay safe; further, don’t hesitate to contact me in case you’re looking for some more tips on university life! I will be there to answer your questions at the University Offer Holder Open Day to be held virtually on Wednesday, so I look forward to speaking to you then, too!