Your Guide to First Year History
When I was looking around universities, I’d always wonder what the life of a history student was actually like. I’d been told there would be lots of reading and not many hours, but not an awful lot about the day to day life, so here are some things to expect from your first year of History at Warwick.
When you arrive at Warwick one of the first things to do will be to choose your modules if you’re studying straight History. One of my favourite things looking round Warwick was that the History course is mainly modern history, from 1600 ish onwards, although there are medieval options open too. I have two core modules, called Making of the Modern World, which is pretty self-explanatory and learning about how the modern world came to be from the Enlightenment onwards, and Making History which looks at different ways to study and present history. I then had an option to pick two other History modules out of around ten spanning the globe and the centuries (some people opted onto the Venice scheme where your modules are chosen for you and you take Italian, or to do a module from another subject). I chose North America: Themes and Problems as I have always been interested in American History and this module basically gives a whistle stop tour of the continent. The other module I chose was Politics and Society in Africa from 1800. This is my most challenging module as it’s so different to anything I’ve studied before and some of the concepts (and African words) can be tricky but it’s one of my favourites. Some of your options may be slightly different to mine, but whatever your interests I would strongly recommend trying out new topics and places in your first year as after first year the modules tend to become more specialised.
Lectures and Seminars
Doing four modules means I have 6 hours of lectures and 4 seminars – only 10 hours a week! This doesn’t mean I can waste the rest of my time (I’m working Mum, I promise). Lectures provide an overview and the facts of a topic and then your seminars are discussions or presentations on those topics in smaller groups. Each module has an online reading list for that week’s topic that is humanly impossible to complete fully but these readings tend to be the main point of discussion in my seminars, although it depends on the seminar tutor. I was really scared of seminars at the start, but tutors are there to prompt you and ask questions, and it’s good to listen to what other students think about a topic. Warwick are quite hot on attendance so there are certain monitoring points in a term where I’m marked for attendance, and I shouldn’t miss more than three seminars a term. With so few hours a week any I don’t find it difficult to make seminars, but if I can’t quite face getting out of bed for that 9 am, most lectures are recorded online anyway!
All of my modules require three assessments in throughout the year, and then the two highest scoring will be chosen to make up my year grade, and I only have one exam in summer. The essays I’ve handed in so far haven’t been as scary as I would have thought, and my tutors have given me plenty of feedback to improve for the next lot. The whole point of first year is to prepare you for the rest of the degree, so although I only really need a pass (40%) to get through to second year, everyone I’ve spoken to have still been trying their hardest to get the best out of the essays.
I know those headings make the course sound super boring and tedious, but trust me, it’s anything but! You’re pushed to think about history in ways you never have before, exploring new concepts and interpretations as well as some familiar time periods and episodes in history. If you enjoy history at A Level, you will love it here at Warwick.