Bea, who started her BA Geography with Professional Placement in 2019, gives an insight into her first year and how she has adapted from on-campus to online learning.
On my campus learning experience
I joined The University of Manchester in September 2019, so I am able to provide you with a bit of insight into learning under both the 'normal' and 'new normal' circumstances.
In semester one, I had a real mix of learning.
The majority of my time on campus was in lecture halls with about 100-120 of my peers, but I also had a few hours a week in lab practicals and an allocated time for tutorials.
The majority of the content for the course is delivered in lectures and other methods of learning are there to develop your understanding or put it into practice.
I really valued tutorial sessions as these were with only a small group of peers and focused on skills like writing essays and what to do with your feedback.
Another really helpful resource was the Peer Assisted Study Support (PASS) sessions - a more informal study session led by geography students in the year above, which were on for an hour a week.
For me, having contact with older students was invaluable not only academically but also as a space to ask questions about housing, study abroad, and just broader university life.
We also had a drink in the students union from time to time!
I would say I spent anywhere from 10-16 hours a week on campus and then a few hours of independent study each day.
Admittedly, I didn’t make the most of the independent study facilities on campus (like the library and Alan Gilbert Learning Commons) but I would definitely recommend doing this and treating yourself to a coffee.
On my extracurricular activities
After trials in freshers' week, I was able to join the UoM Netball Club, and being a part of the Athletics Union (AU) was probably the best decision I have made at university.
I would really recommend joining a few societies as my training and matches really broke up the week and extended my social circle as, as everyone says, it really is the best way to meet like-minded people.
On adapting to online learning
In semester two, I had a few weeks of 'normal' learning, and then inevitably came the transition to online.
In general, I would say the week’s timetable remained fairly similar.
As a predominantly human geographer, very little of my time in semester two was scheduled to be in labs so I wasn’t too affected by this.
Unfortunately, my netball training was unable to carry on and so my friends and I made sure we were still doing our exercise and getting outside.
In March, we had to leave our university accommodation and return home.
This made online learning that bit more challenging, particularly around exam season.
On my tips for coping with learning online
My advice for online learning is nothing that you haven’t heard before - make sure to get away from your desk for a bit, talk to friends and get a good night's sleep, but I think the most important thing is to not put pressure on yourself.
It is okay not to be productive constantly and remember that everyone is in the same storm.
Also, make sure to reach out to the university if you are having problems with computer access or WiFi connection.
Geography is a really sociable course and many geographers, including myself, chose to live together in the second year.
Put yourself out there and talk in virtual classes because it makes online learning a lot more enjoyable.
My final piece of advice would be to make sure you have a Facebook account when you get to university as everything is on there for societies, course group chats, and the UoMLove page which is a must-follow!