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GSD: Four Years, Five Lessons (and a thank you)
Well, August 18th 2020 has provided a stark contrast to the same date in 2016. A stressful results day ended in smiles as I confirmed my place at Warwick for Global Sustainable Development and Sociology, and started to look forward to the next 3 years – or 4 as it turns out. I wanted to share a few of the key things I’ve enjoyed, learnt, and been thankful for over the time I’ve been at Warwick. It’s been a packed four years and this is reflected by how long this is – but I hope you enjoy reading it!
- Don’t stay within your degree
This sounds counter-intuitive, after all you’ve applied for the course you want to study so surely that is what you should do? The very nature of the degree, however, pushed me to learn that interdisciplinary study is so beneficial not just for personal growth, but academia and the future. In the “real world” (so to speak), you don’t find problems that purely involve one discipline. Life is multi-faceted, and the problems that the world faces span disciplines – take climate change as but one example. Science and engineering through to languages, economics, social science and more all play a part in solving the problems found here. Being able to apply different views and ways of working has been so beneficial at university, and in my year abroad I spread the topics I took out to reflect this and really enrich my subject. Without planning, I found that my subjects overlapped from environmental science to politics, and I was able to gain a much deeper understanding and even do much better in my assignments when I returned (not that that is the be all and end all!). I can’t recommend taking a module in another department enough, especially to challenge yourself.
Recommendations: Try looking at IATL modules if you aren’t sure where to start – they have a great selection but if not there’s more that you can look at if you talk to your department.
On Interdisciplinarity (in the sciences)….
“[I saw] the distinctions between the sciences as largely artificial and wanted to explore how the approach from one discipline could be applied in another”
2. Make connections – especially within your department
The GSD department when I joined was just my year, meaning that there were plenty of opportunities to get to know staff members, each other, and then grow with the department as new people joined. Chatting during office hours, in the corridors, and even with the Liberal Arts staff (friendly faces down all the hallways!) made the department feel familiar and welcoming. Not only in the future, for references or research, for example, will this be useful but throughout the years you’re in the department it’s so reassuring to know that someone is there to talk and be on your side. Whether this is your personal tutor, a lecturer from the first or fourth year, or someone you know through spurious other connections it’s a great way to get involved and make the most of the time. Some of my favourite memories are staying around in the common room and catching up with students and staff, talking about ice hockey after coming back from Canada (thanks Gavin!), or going to office hours with a question that was rather silly and talking about dogs and life for the rest of the time (including MANY dog photos – thanks Jess!).
3. The degree isn’t just it
Earning a degree from Warwick is a fantastic achievement but there are so many more opportunities available outside of this. Part-time work, societies and conferences, and research are just several of the past times students may choose and they span so many interests they’re unlistable. Anything from being a GSD ambassador or joining the GSD society, through to other extra-curriculars that aren’t directly sustainability-related.
If you have an interest outside of your degree, that’s great – follow it! If you want to focus on GSD, you can do that! Sports are more of your thing? There’s something for you! I’ve shared a lot of my experiences in societies and sports over my four years and I can’t recommend it enough. Even after the first year, everyone is so welcoming to new people so if you find something interesting or want to try something new you are more than able to!
4. Personal tutors and Academic Preparation
On the final lesson and piece of advice, I’ve tied two together. Based in the department you will have a personal tutor who is assigned to you at the start of your first year as someone to go for check-ins, advice, and signposting. I’ve had three personal tutors over my time at Warwick (which is unusual but not unheard of as people may go on sabbatical, take time off, or otherwise move!) but all have been so incredibly helpful. In my first year I needed help with navigating university mental health services and David was there to support and show where to go. Leon over the next 2.5 years was someone I felt comfortable going to for discussions around academics, general wrong-doings in the world (and with that world politics!), and was a familiar and supportive face during my year abroad and a regular contact at Warwick when it was desperately needed! Finally as I left uni Gioia was able to provide support and references as COVID became more disruptive to uni life and after graduation which has been very appreciated and a reassurance of the support the department has available.
Not only this but using resources available to you whilst you’re at uni is key. Personal tutors are one such resource, but everthing else from the library, sports facilities, through to the incredible careers service. I wish I had used this more as I was going through university and would recommend others to do so! These are both within and outside the GSD department, which is especially great when you need that extra-support from someone knowledgable in a specific sector.
5. Finally, some appreciation and thanks
Overall, I’ve absolutely loved my time in the GSD department and don’t have anywhere near enough words to express this to all of the staff members whether they were mentioned above or not! Whether I’ve been in a lecture, just stopped by the office to chat, or worked with you in some other way I’m so appreciative of everything that you do for the department. It’s been 4 fantastic years, including 4 years of being the GSD department blogger, and I hope in that time I’ve been able to share a little about my life and hopefully inspired a few readers to consider this degree among life at Warwick in general!
From being inspired to apply by Cathia at a roundtable event not long before the UCAS deadline to leaving with a degree and so much experience in and out of sustainability, a dissertation that I am incredibly proud of, and so much more, it’s certainly been a ride.
With this being my (probable) last post, I would really recommend following Joe, who is the next GSD blogger (and former flatmate from this year!), as he goes through his third year at Warwick after an unfortunately short time in Malaysia this year. He will have some great insight into what it’s like to take the integrated year abroad and more experiences of the department as each student does something so different!
Finally, thank you for reading and following along for the time I’ve been here, it’s been an honour to share this experience and I hope your time at Warwick, if you do study here, is a great one – or good luck with your applications!