Transitioning to engineering at uni – an insight
I’ve been thinking back through my university journey recently (I’m in second year), and I’ve especially been thinking about that initial transition to university life, and mostly the transition to engineering in university life. So if you’re going to be an engineering student – hopefully this post will help you in understanding what to expect.
‘Wow, that’s a lot of engineering people!’ – yes that’s right, lots of students on the course. Big lecture theatres, sometimes enormous labs with about 100 people (before Covid of course), and an active WhatsApp group chat for the entire course. Don’t think that there’s no personal level of interaction though – that’s what seminars and tutor groups are for.
‘Where are the girls?’ – I’m right here (*frantic waving*)!! Jokes aside, there are actually loads of girls in engineering. More than just a handful – I certainly don’t know all the girls in my year, not even by face, because there are so many. There are still noticeably more guys, though.
‘That’s a lot of lectures’ – other courses usually have less lectures and labs than engineering does. I quite like this – in a way it makes me feel like I’m getting more for the money. The more contact hours, the better, right?
‘I don’t have to hand in any homework!’ – correct – you will find that you are not checked up on like you were in sixth form or school. If you get behind, no one will know, or care, actually. It’s entirely up to you to be proactive. You’ll also find that you are just assessed on bigger pieces of work that you hand in, or exams that you do in January and in term 3. It’s these that allow the university to see how well you are doing.
Just general impressions:
‘Okay, this is really cool’ – it sure is! From taking apart an engine with your hands and cadding it up, to spending free time making whatever you want in the engineering Build Space. I massively love the lectures and content – and in first year, there’s such a massive range because it’s general engineering. You get a good taste for lots of the different subject areas, and this is great for being sure what stream to pick later on.
‘Oh, I’m… behind?’ – :(. It happens, and it happens fast. You get behind a few days, and then you turn up to lectures (or due to Covid, you stream them online) and have no idea what’s going on, and all the while you can just see the people at the front of the lecture theatre nodding enthusiastically (or if online, the group chat is full of confusing jargon). My advice – get out of the rut as quick as possible!
‘I’m stuck. But I can’t ask for help – the lecturer will think I’m stupid!’ – no they won’t! Get rid of this mentality now, and go ask for help the second you need it. Lecturers love their subject – they’re experts, so actually they will have no problem talking to you about something they’re passionate about. They’re also often impressed when students bother to come for help.
‘Why are lectures only half full?’ – this is related to the last two points. When everyone suddenly gets behind, they don’t turn up but instead use Lecture Capture to view the recordings later (with online lectures, seeing how many people have viewed the video you are on is a similar thing). It’s a good gauge to see how many people are on track compared to you, actually. It can also make you a bit smug, if you’re on track but most other people clearly aren’t.
‘Labs are sometimes so hard helppppp’ – yeah. Well, preparation helps! As much as you possibly can, prep, prep, prep for labs! Some labs are going to be difficult, and others will be a breeze. Some are long (4 hours), some are short (1 hour). Some have a lab report (*science mode initiated*), and some have a quiz at the end. Some require lab safety equipment, and some are in computer rooms.
‘Um, January exams??’ – yes. Engineering does exams after Christmas, and then after they’re done, you start a whole new set of modules that will be examined in the summer term. I really like this; it means you don’t have to worry about revising all of your modules in the summer, although it can make the Christmas holiday a little stressful.
Hopefully a few of these thoughts are helpful in getting you to gauge what engineering is like when you first join uni. If you have any questions, feel free to send a message or leave a comment!