It’s been a while since I finished my undergrad degree and that’s given me some time to reflect on my experience. I graduated from university in October with a 2:1 BA History degree with Honours. I started my degree in September 2016 after I finished my A-Levels and finished my course at the end of May 2019.
I started university at the age of 18 as I didn’t go on a gap year and if I’m honest, I did wonder if I’d made the right choice in going to uni and doing a History course. I loved my course and the people on it but I questioned what my employment prospects would be like. However, I’d wanted to study History at university for years, History has always been my favourite subject to study and has always been a passion for me. I also didn’t have a great home life growing up and so decided that even if I struggled to get a “good” job after uni (I have aha) that I wanted to be selfish for once and study something I loved. I don’t regret my degree at all and I loved every moment of it, even the not so good ones!
It felt quite daunting moving into uni halls in first year as it was my first time living away from home. I did get homesick, however, I am quite an independent person so soon got used to it and I was also with other flatmates who were in the same boat so we all supported each other. I also made best friends with two of the girls I lived with. There were 8 people in total in my flat including me. For the first year I was friends with 3 of my housemates, friendly with the other 3 and then there was one boy that nobody ever really saw. However, everyone was nice even if we sometimes had disputes over noise or whose turn it was to take the rubbish out or who was next to wash up. I also made friends with a few of the girls on my course and everyone on my course seemed friendly enough. I did make more friends in second and third year as my confidence grew and I felt more comfortable in myself.
In terms of the workload, the work definitely got harder and more intense as my time at university went on. In first year I felt intimidated by the work as I didn’t know what to expect and what sort of grades I would get, but I consistently got 2:1s and even some firsts. In second year my grades actually counted towards my degree and my assignments were more about developing my understanding and analysis of each module. Third year was definitely the hardest as not only did I have lots of assignments but I also had to research and write my dissertation. This wasn’t so bad in the first semester as my assignment deadlines were spreadout and I was ahead of my schedule for my dissertation. Unfortunately for me, in second semster my assignments were in consecutive weeks and were all due in before my dissertation, so I didn’t balance my time very well. I did get my work done though and got decent grades on my assignments and a solid 2:1 for my dissertation.
In terms of the modules that I did, I got to pick most of what I did in second and third year and for the most part I enjoyed my modules. I had a lot of mandatory modules in first year but these decreased in second and third year. In my first year my modules were: Historical Landmarks, The Shaping of the Past, Reading and Writing History, Creating and Consuming History, Europe in the Long Nineteenth Century, English History 1272 – 1500, The United States 1763 – 1920, and The United Kingdom in the Twentieth Century. In my Second year my modules were: Reading History, Practicising History, Victorian Culture and Society, Nazism and the Holocaust, Food and Drink in Medieval and Early Modern England, Gender in Europe and North America 1500-1914, Dreams and Nightmares – Britain in Twentieth Century Europe, and a field trip to Spain. In my final year, my modules included: Writing History, History and the Public Sphere, Minorities in the Past, The British and French Empires, The Post-war Teenager 1945-1979, and my dissertation. If I’m honest, I enjoyed every single module that I took as I love learning about history, and always found something interesting! I think it also helps that a lot of my lecturers were friendly and approachable so were always happy to chat if you were struggling, and also had a clear passion for what they were teaching!
My housing situation changed every year and so I also spent each first semester getting used to that change. In my first year I was in university halls on campus. I got to know some of my housemates and made friends for life with two of the girls I lived with. I’m glad that I chose to stay in halls in my first year as it meant that I got to meet people I otherwise probaly wouldn’t have met as it gave me the opportunity to meet people not on my course. I liked living on campus as it was convienient and gave me the opportunity to walk back to halls with friends. However, there were also some cons as people could be quite loud which wasn’t ideal if you went to your 9am lectures (I did!).
Then in second and third year I moved into privately rented houses with friends. In Second year I rented a house a 5 minute walk away from uni with 3 girls I lived with in halls. We enjoyed living close to univeristy but off campus as it made us feel like proper adults but we were close enough that we didn’t have to leave too early for lectures. We were also lucky as our house was quite nice, didn’t cost too much, and we had nice landlords. When it came to third year, I rented another house from the same landlords with two of the girls from my previous house and one other friend. I think this house was my favourite as although it was further away from uni, it meant we could explore and get to know a new part of the city. Our rent was also cheaper so we had more money to do things and had a better selection of local shops. However, it was in more of a family area rather than student area so none of our friends lived near us. However, as it was third year we often spent more time in the uni library with our friends.
In terms of money, I was able to budget quite well so I never ran out of money and I was also lucky in regards to the amount of student finance I recieved. Despite being given a decent amount of student finance, I did still have to keep an eye on my outgoings as it would have been easy to over spend and then struggle for the rest of the semester. To keep an eye on this, my housemate and I created an excel spreadsheet that told us how much money had to spend on groceries, travel and socialising after rent and bills had been accounted for.
In terms of my social life at uni, I didn’t have the typical social life that you’d expect. I went out a few times but I definitly did not go out all the time like you see in movies and tv shows. In fact, I didn’t go out much at all, I can count on one hand the amount that I went out at night each year. I’m shy and not really a party animal so I’m not the type of person that wanted to go out to the student union and night clubs every week. I’d rather stay home or have a chilled evening in a pub with friends than go partying. I also didn’t really stick to any society’s either. I joined a few society’s in my first year at uni but after the first semester I stopped going as I either ended up too busy doing things with my housemates or decided that I didn’t really want to go anymore. Instead of going clubbing or doing society’s, I hung out with a few friends from my course and my housemates. We’d have game nights or plan to watch a movie together or go out for a meal and drink together.
Overall I really enjoying my time at university and wish I could do it all over again!