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Is University for me?

It would be a lie to state that university is a ‘walk in the park’. It’s easy to believe (and even I was guilty of this), that undergraduate studies would be easy in comparison to A Levels. Bluntly, it’s not. It’s incredibly reliant upon independent study, and your ability to analyse and select the most appropriate information for your work. There have been several times when a lecturer has said “Sean, we provide you with the skeleton, it is up to you to flesh it out to gain the meticulous understanding we are looking for.” Nevertheless, in my experience, lecturers have consistently gone above and beyond to provide help should you have those little panic moments where you doubt every aspect of your work - trust me, I have had, and continue to have plenty.

Unfortunately, the recent pandemic has prevented traditional learning in the way I would have hoped for, and so the majority of my defining moments occurred during my first year. The Geography and International Development (GID) department is well-known for their paid residentials, especially the one that occurs in first year in Wales. Whilst this is built around carrying out investigative research, it’s a perfect opportunity for students to create and strengthen connections with each other and lecturers; whether this was during the day in field research, on an evening during planned activities, or later on at the pub! It was this opportunity which remains my favourite as it gave me a chance to begin to understand investigation procedures and techniques, which I still use today for assignments, such as my dissertation. More importantly, it allowed me to reach my full potential and has given me an incredible group of friends and relationship with my lecturers. This extensive network will not only assist you in the future when looking for careers, but will also allow you to fully integrate yourself into the close knit community that is the GID department. Even now, they are pretty convinced I will say yes to helping with events that see internal and external visitors come in. If some of these reasons have not convinced you yet, we also have a sandbox, and unbelievably, it is incredibly distracting… but in a fun way.

Finding the light within the dark.

In the summer of 2019 (between my first and second year of study), I experienced what some would call mental exhaustion. This had built up from years of struggles before starting university, however as you can imagine, my mental health began to have an adverse effect on my university commitments, which therefore, presented an even greater challenge. I missed lectures, struggled to concentrate, and distanced myself from my peers; in short, I expected to fail and quit university. I expected perfection from myself, during a time where I could barely get out of bed, let alone attend lectures and do work. Fortunately, I received help through university support departments such as ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing’, as well as my discipline department, Geography and International Development. Within the darkness of these times, I found torchlight, and I cannot begin to appreciate the lengths that my lecturers such as Katharine Welsh and Daniel Bos went to, to ensure I felt comfortable and confident enough to continue my studies. I was supported and motivated by my lecturers, as well as my PAT and peers to complete these assignments to the best of my ability. Eventually, I became the light to my own darkness.

Look at how a candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

                        ~ Anne Frank ~

It is just the beginning.

This quaint city centre of Chester has given me a beautiful background to undertake my studies, and provided me an escape from the busy metropolis of which I am used to. The networks I have created with peers and lecturers gives me confidence in finding a suitable career in my field, or even undertaking further education. However, between us, I need a long break following this pandemic, so no doubt I will be travelling and expanding my understanding of different cultures. In some ways, that well-known Royal Navy slogan could not be more descriptive of my persona: I was born in Redditch, but made at the University of Chester. It’s important to remember that in order to succeed, you have to find a comfortable medium between education, your social life, as well as your personal downtime. One cannot succeed without the others. Remember that socialisation and regular breaks is proven to improve productivity. Oh, not forgetting caffeine; I am convinced I could keep Costa in business indefinitely with the amount I have spent to make it through - in a reusable mug of course! So as the Scouts say, “Be Prepared”, do not be so hard on yourself, take a break, and expect a couple of all-nighters. I shall leave you with my favourite quote on success and perfection:  

“Have no fear of perfection - you’ll never reach it.”

                                    ~ Salvador Dali ~


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