Third year university student: Sociology
University of Hull course: Sociology (in my third year)
Courses studied at Wilberforce: A level Psychology, English Language, Preparing for Teaching and Sociology.
What was your experience like at Wilberforce College?
My experience at Wilberforce was overall a positive one. My teachers were all really supportive and whilst I found the curriculum difficult whilst I was there, I received lots of help and advice from them. This meant I passed all of my A levels. My teachers went above and beyond to aid me through my studies, often using up their own time so that I could receive additional support. College allowed me to develop my academic abilities in preparation for university, whilst making lots of friends in a welcoming environment in the process. I still keep in contact with a lot of the friends I made, and often saw them on campus at university prior to COVID.
What was your journey to university like? For example: Did you always know you wanted to go to university, or was it a last-minute decision, or did you apply through Clearing?
I always knew from a young age that I wanted to go to university, as I always knew what I wanted to do as a career. Fortunately, this made the process to getting to university very straight forward as I knew what courses I needed to take, what grades I needed to achieve, and what the extra steps were in order to get me where I wanted to be. I applied for Sheffield, York and Hull for Sociology, then I also applied for Philosophy and Creative Writing at Hull. To do this I had to put together a UCAS application and personal statement, as well as visit the open days and speak to course leaders for each course. Thankfully I received a lot of support from my teachers with regards to my statement, as the requirements for this are very specific, usually expecting you to express why you would like to study that particular course, what you want to get out of it, what you can bring to the university, and any interests you have which may compliment the degree. This meant it took a couple of attempts to get my statement right. However, after submitting I received an unconditional offer from York and Hull, then an unconditional offer from Sheffield.
Why did you choose your subject and why did you want to study that subject at Hull?
In all honestly, I chose to pursue Sociology on a whim. I really enjoyed Philosophy and Ethics in school and achieved a high grade in it at GCSE. I knew I wanted to do a similar topic at college. Knowing I wanted to study Philosophy and Creative Writing at university, I applied for Religious Studies at A level. Although, I found out on the day of submitting my choices that the course was not going to go ahead the year I was due to attend. This meant I had to pick my A level course on the spot. I chose Sociology as it sounded similar to what I had studied in Philosophy and Ethics and from what I’d heard, looked really interesting. I found out after my first class that my gut instinct was right, as I really enjoyed it, and knew straight away that it was something I was going to continue doing.
I chose to study Sociology at Hull as the actual content of the course was similar to what I had studied at A level, just a lot more in-depth, with further opportunities to develop your learning. The curriculum involved lots of areas of Sociology I found interesting. It’s really important to check the curriculum and what you will be studying before you apply to a course. It can help you be prepared for future classes, but can also help you decide if the content is something you are going to find interesting. Lots of universities offer Sociology, but many of the curriculums are different, and this will be the case for many other courses. Furthermore, the lecturers for Sociology at Hull are all active researchers and many are activists for some of the topics which we study. I found this encouraging as not only are they educated on the matter, but have experienced a lot of the issues first at hand.
Please give us an insight into your typical day and tell us what you like the most about your course.
All my lectures and seminars are online at the moment, and I’m currently working a part time job too, this means working from home can sometimes be a bit of a struggle. I think its very easy to get overwhelmed when there is a lot on your plate and no structure to your day. Because of this, I like to plan my week on a Monday, so that I know what I’m doing for each day. I do this by writing a list of everything I need to do for the week, then write down what days I am going to complete each task. By doing this, I spend an equal amount of time on each thing I need to do, without it being too stressful. For example, I usually spend Monday mornings going over my recommended reading material for the week now that semester 2 has started, then I usually spend the afternoon revising for my exam. I normally dedicate Wednesday and Thursdays to my dissertation, then Tuesdays and Fridays are the days I use to work on assignments and prepare for my poster presentation. Because I’m in my final year, I do have a lot more work on than usual. Now that lectures have begun again I have all of the reading to do for each module (there are 3 in each semester), I have lectures and meetings to attend, a dissertation to write, a poster presentation for my dissertation, an entry exam and interview to revise for, as well as my module assignments. I usually have 6 assignments for each semester. This sounds like a lot but with regular breaks, and structuring your days at the beginning of the week, it keeps stress to a minimum and I know in advance what tasks I need to be doing for that day.
My favourite thing about Sociology is that the course provides us with a lot of freedom to express our beliefs on the topics we are studying. We essentially put the world to rights a lot of the time, and our lecturers really encourage this. Our course involves a lot of discussion around difficult, but relevant topics such as Brexit, Racism, Sexism, Asylum Seekers and Modern Slavery. Everyone on the course is keen to get stuck in and the lecturers, as previously mentioned, always have a story to tell as a result of their research or experiences with the topics we study.
How have you found studying during the pandemic?
For me, studying from home has become easier over time. Me and my partner were self-isolating in a one bedroom student flat this time last year and we could not go out even for a walk due to us both being high risk. My family all work for the NHS and despite being high risk, were still going into work. All of these factors made working from home incredibly difficult and stressful. However, we bought our first house last year and we are now moved in. I have my own home office meaning working is now much easier, and can close the door on my work at the end of the day and not worry about it. In situations like the one we are all in, I think you are a product of your environment and so for the best experience working from home, I believe you need to get the right working environment and the ability to focus in a potentially busy atmosphere, which comes with time. I think it’s important to be able to walk away from work if you don’t have the drive to be able to complete it at that time. There is no point sitting in front of your laptop in attempt to produce work if the mindset is not right. Not only are you wasting your time when you could be doing something else, but the quality of the work produced will not be of the same standard as work you did in the right headspace. It is refreshing for me to have a part time job which is completely different to the degree that I’m studying, because I am still making use of my time in a practical way, but its nice to take a break from one or the other when they begin to get tedious.
Do you have a future career in mind?
My career plans changed as of last year. From being very young I knew I wanted to become a teacher. As my love for Sociology developed, I knew I wanted to teach Sociology in a College or lecture at a university. However, after passing my driving test and owning a car, buying our first home and getting our own dog, I realised the likelihood of me finding this job straight after doing my degree and PGCE was very unlikely. This was an issue because I wanted to teach, but I also needed to pay bills and make ends meet. I soon started thinking about other jobs which were similar to what I already had in mind. My mum is a safeguarding practitioner, and she always speaks so highly of her job, and how much she enjoys making a difference to people’s lives. I started to look into this, and eventually concluded that Social Work would be best for me. Its centred round the area of Sociology which I most enjoy, and it means I am able to help people and the community, which is my goal overall. Because of this, I have an interview and entry exam to study Social Work at Masters degree level in September. Then, hopefully, by the time I am qualified and had a few years in the field, I will be able to return to university to teach undergraduates to qualify in Social Work.
Why did you choose to come to Hull?
My mum, dad, step dad and brother all studied – and still study at the University of Hull. This meant I already knew how great it was. They all work for the NHS however, so I knew very little about the social sciences sector. Because of this, I went to an open day, and was overwhelmed by the size of the campus and how nice it looked. The library was huge with 7 floors and a lovey view, with plenty of areas where you could go and study. There were coffee shops, a Café and an on campus night club and pub, which made me realise how the social experience of university was just as important as the academic experience. I was also really impressed with the social sciences sector, and how much support and resources would be available to me should I need it. This open day was my ‘yes’ moment, and made me feel at ease, as opposed to feeling like I had been thrown in at the deep end.
What do you wish you knew before going to university?
One of the things I wish I knew prior to university, is the importance of referencing and knowing where you have gotten your information from. This is a huge part of writing assignments, as being an undergraduate is all about learning how to write and think like an academic. You need to cite whatever sources you use, because you were not the first person to say it. It’s not too difficult to do once you have gotten used to it, however it can be quite tricky and fiddly to start with, if you have never done it before. There are plenty of resources available at University, but had I been prepared prior, I think I could probably have achieved better grades on my work, and completed them quicker. I feel like everybody talks about the jump from GCSE to A level, but nobody talks about the jump from A level to degree, and it think its really important because there is a completely different writing style that you need to become familiar with at university.
Independent and self-directed study is also really important because nobody is there to tell you to do your work or attend your lectures, or what things you need to research, you have to do that on your own. There is help available if you need it but that often means booking a meeting with your lecturer, as they are equally as busy as us. We don’t see our lecturers as much as I saw my teachers in college and it has not done me any harm as I had to learn how to be more independent and resilient, however I could have been better prepared for this prior to beginning my first year.