By Tom Lord, 1st Year BA Geography Student
Going to university may be the next big step in your life and is a decision that requires a lot of serious consideration and investigation, but it’s really exciting too. In this blog I hope to provide you with a few simple tips to finding the right degree and the right university for you. However, I really like geography and feel that choosing Liverpool was definitely the right decision for me!
Why I picked Geography!
Deciding what subject you would like to study at university can be quite a daunting task, especially when you are prompted to think how it might lead to future career prospects. This decision shouldn’t be taken lightly but neither should it be stressful or overwhelming. Take some time to think… ‘What do I enjoy learning about, what interests me and what am I good at?’ Ultimately it’s got to be your choice, but take all the advice you can get whether that be from parents, teachers or friends. There is no point choosing a subject just because it looks good on a CV, after all you are the one who has to spend the next 3 years at university.
Hopefully in reading this blog you are at least considering Geography as a degree option. Literally defined as “earth study,” for me Geography is a subject that poses questions about why our world is changing and how we influence and are impacted by these transformations. By exploring the changing world, geography opens up a wide array of research areas and interacts with many other disciplines. Therefore it is far from limited in terms of moulding a degree program suited to your own interests. This broad spectrum of exploration, is for me what makes Geography exciting, allowing interaction with the physical and social sciences to gain a rounded understanding of the world. Investigating and influencing the future of our world through research into climate change, global development, ethnic inequality, political dimensions, growing populations and much more is a hugely exciting prospect. As Michael Palin put it, “Geography is a subject which holds the key to our future.”
By developing analytical understanding and various research skills Geography is a highly favoured degree by many employers. The diversity of research areas opens up a vast spectrum of career paths which is particularly relevant to those like myself who don’t have a set career in mind. In choosing Geography I wasn’t only selecting a subject I enjoy but one which allows me to keep my options broad following graduation.
Why I picked Liverpool!
Choosing a university can be heavily influenced by entrance grade requirements, but there’s loads of other stuff to consider when making your final decision. It’s important to consider how far from home you would like to go and whether you want a city-based or self-contained campus. Researching the university is key here, look at websites and prospectuses to see what the uni offers in terms of course type, module flexibility, facilities, opportunities for travel and see which most appeal to you. Booking onto open days at the earliest opportunity is really very important; getting to look around a uni and interacting with staff and students on open days is the best way to get a feel for a place. Don’t just look at one place though, see as many as you can (I looked at 6), this will help you to refine your choice and can give you a good overview of what you want from a university. Look at city-based and self-contained campuses to get a feel for which you prefer. Many universities offer a guided tour around the city in which they are located, I found this really useful; after all you will have to live there as well as study.
So why Liverpool? It’s a truly amazing city with a really vibrant atmosphere! Liverpool was the first university I visited during my search, a cold and rainy day in June 2013! Despite the weather the atmosphere was still buzzing and I had a feeling that this was the place for me within a very short time. The fantastic facilities and staff gave a really positive impression that lasted throughout my search. Every time I went to another uni I compared all the options and Liverpool continued to come out on top for me. Speaking to the students and their openly positive responses about living in the city were another great indicator of how good the university is. Their comments about the approachability of the staff, the fantastic facilities and the endless number of activities going on in the city really added to the attraction of Liverpool and at the end of semester one I can confirm they were not wrong!
Aside from the scheduled open day, together with a group of friends, I visited Liverpool for an informal day out to get a feel for the city and have a more relaxed look around. Doing this helped to confirm my feeling that Liverpool was going to be my first choice, visiting with friends from home enabled me to see the city from a different perspective.
EPQ helped me!
As part of my A-level study I completed an Extended Project Qualification. An EPQ involves researching a topic that really interests you or has strong links to the subject you hope to study at university and composing a report based on your findings.
Knowing that I wanted to study Geography and with the issue of energy security being a prominent topic in current debate, I choose to research Hydraulic Fracturing. At the start of Year 13 I began to research ‘fracking,’ keeping a constant eye on the news whilst regularly discovering relevant academic papers online. Aside from using the web for research, I also attended a Manchester Geographical Association lecture at Manchester University, which was presented by a representative of Cuadrilla Resources (a large energy firm). This was another great chance to get a feel for life as a uni student! I later managed to contact the Cuadrilla representative and the opportunity to discuss my project with him not only allowed me to get an expert opinion, but also provided a contact for future projects and possibly work experience. Having compiled a very detailed ‘research summary,’ including an array of references, and developed a strong opinion of my own, I was now ready to write my report. Regular discussions with my project supervisor helped me to develop a well-structured, methodical & evaluative research paper.
By completing this project I feel I gained an advantage when starting to produce reports and essays at uni, particularly having experience in researching and looking for relevant information. The project also helped me to develop my appraisal and evaluation skills which has already been useful, but will be invaluable throughout my time at uni.
My First Semester @ Liverpool!
Starting with a super fresher’s week in September filled with exciting activities and the chance to meet a great bunch of new friends, my first semester at Liverpool has been incredible and seems to have flown by! Everybody is in the same boat when they arrive and that makes it a lot easier to get to know people.
Flat mates at the Guild of Students, Welcome Week
The first week of lectures is focused on introducing modules and departmental operating procedures but is as much about getting to know people and making friends. This continues on the Wales field trip to Trawsfynydd which is a great chance to mix with others on the course, working in groups to produce a presentation and to interact on a more relaxed level with the lecturers.
Energy Group, Trawsfynydd field trip 2014
Lectures and seminars aren’t as scary as they may first appear and you soon realise that the staff are very approachable. Key to making sure you are on top of the work is reading around the topic, which is assisted by recommended reading lists and a highly accessible library. Lab work is another opportunity to meet new people but also to get stuck into physical geography research, which is really interesting even for the more human-inclined geographers like me. With two modules assessed purely on exams in January, the volume of work during the first semester is far from overwhelming. Preparation and a methodical approach to your research are key and making yourself a plan helps a lot too!
Aside from the academic life of uni, the social side and going out with friends is really important. Liverpool has so much to offer in terms of night life, music, sport and entertainment. Concert square is home to many amazing bars and nightclubs and has played host to many a memorable night! It is easy walking distance for those who live on campus and only a short bus ride for those out at Carnatic. Liverpool One and the Albert Docks are great for a little retail therapy and good for eating out too (maybe not often on a student budget though). Events at the Guild of Students (and the burrito lunches) have been fantastic and the Christmas Ball was a great way to round off a super first term.
A little bit of crazyness…
Gentleman Geographers @ the Christmas Ball, 13th December 2014
This blog has hopefully given you an outline why I feel Geography is such as great subject and why Liverpool is a fantastic city to study in. However it is based purely on my own experience and I highly recommend you have a look at all the available information about going to university before you make a final decision. Deciding what and where I wanted to study now seems like a distant memory but if I could give one piece of advice then it would be to go with your instinct and choose the place you have got the best feeling about. But you can only know if Liverpool or any other university for that matter is for you by getting out there and having a good look around. I wish you the best of luck in your search and for the future!