The First Year Experience with Unexpected Events

Kwan Yiu Charlie Sun

(Level 2 History)


On 15th September 2019, it was the start of my university life and leaving the comforts of home behind. There was definitely a mixture of emotions going to university, but I knew it was going to be an exciting part of my next chapter. Like the majority of people going to university, I was nervous about meeting my flatmates and course mates. But that soon changed, as the nervousness went away quickly, as two of my flatmates were already in the kitchen unpacking as well and we quickly got chatting.

The first few weeks of lectures and seminars were really enjoyable and had a mixture of different themes for specific weeks. At first, it was a bit difficult and confusing to navigate around Blackboard and it took me several days to figure out how to use it. Having said that, during the first two weeks of the semester, introductory lectures and PASS sessions (organised by second- and third-year students) explained how each module would work and gave us guidance on how to operate Blackboard efficiently. What’s great about having an online system is that resources, from lectures and seminar readings, are uploaded on Blackboard and other source materials are also accessible though the library’s database.

I wasn’t too worried about seminars at the start of term, since I knew they would be in a smaller setting and it was more discussion based, as I had a similar setting when I was at High School. Generally, I preferred seminars because we were able to discuss what we thought about the readings of the week and share our opinions on the theme of the week. As well, in my seminars there was always someone that I knew, which made the seminars more interesting and enjoyable. On the other hand with lectures, it did put me off in the beginning due to the large number of people in the lecture hall, but I was able to have a group of people to sit with that I met during freshers week, the history society and seminars. I also knew lectures were going to be long and the lecturer would talk about the main theme of the week for roughly an hour, yet lectures weren’t as daunting as I thought they would be, and I enjoy learning something new.

Something that worried me at the start of semester was the assessments and hearing most people say ‘it’s only first year,’ but at the back of my mind it was still important to have a solid foundation to prepare for second and third year, especially with the dissertation and finding sources for essays. For assessments in first year, we are given many choices on what to write about, based on the different seminar discussions covered, such as the fall of Rome to the Civil War Era in the United States. This is great because you are able to choose a topic that interests you, providing motivation to do well.

Something that none of us expected to happen was the shift to full online learning due to the coronavirus lockdown and the suspension of face to face teaching on campus. A lot of people including my flatmates started to move out of student accommodation and headed home. Within my group of friends, there was the sense of uncertainty of what would happen when we went home, because we were only halfway though the semester and we still had assessments to complete. Without the library to have access to physical books which could be useful for our assessments, it was slightly more difficult to engage with the seminar readings for the week.

Having online lectures was a benefit for myself, as I was able to listen to the lecturer speak at a pace that suited me, with the additional feature of pausing the pre-recorded lecture at any time to make notes, and do further background readings that could add to my notes. In addition, instead going into the lecture theatre, I would be in my room listening to the recording where I found I focused better.

That being said, one of my seminars was live over video conferencing, which was extremely useful, as we were still able to discuss our opinion on the theme of the week and it also helped with the normality of following our timetabled class. While in other seminars, we used a forum though Blackboard to discuss our ideas and opinions and work on the seminar task for the week, which was also useful since we could see the required readings in the background while engaging with the task on hand. Although the forum itself was useful, having the live seminar session felt it was still part of my timetabled class pre-covid and we were able to ask our tutors questions during the session.

As the semester is about to begin, I’m excited for the year coming ahead and looking forward heading back to Lincoln seeing my course mates and having a routine again, after being at home for a long period.