First Year Facts and Fictions

Being a new first year can be fun, exciting, with new experiences but also frustrating, confusing and intimidating. Just finding your classes can be a trauma-inducing experience, let alone understanding finite state grammar.

However, it’s nice to know that many have been through it before and that the survival ratio is higher than being a minor character in something like The Walking Dead!

In the spirit of sharing these highs and lows of first year life, we spoke to Ellie McHugh, now a second year undergraduate doing a BA (Hons) English and TESOL degree, about her first year experience:

Ellie McHugh 2nd year student BA(Hons) English Language and TESOL

What do you love about language?

I love the power that language possesses, that it is an intrinsic part of every big moment in our life from ‘I love you’ to ‘You’re cancer free!’. The magical way in which stories can transport us to imaginary lands when reality becomes a little too much.

What made you choose Swansea University for your degree?

I chose Swansea for a variety of reasons such as the opportunity to participate in the Cambridge CELTA course, the extremely high student satisfaction rating and of course, the stunning location.

Regarding the course, what were you most worried about before you came to Swansea?

As an A-level student, everybody warns you about the dreaded jump from A2s to first year and how the work load will overwhelm you but despite the expected level of independence, I found that most of my worries could be eased with a lot of preparation.

What expectations did you have about the degree?

I expected all of the modules to contain far more assessments than they actually did, which was a very pleasant surprise. I also expected the course to be a lot larger but with only 80 or so students enrolled on my module, I found that we all received more personal feedback and managed to feel more confident within a smaller group.

 What courses could you/did you take in your first year?

The six modules that I chose were Language Teaching Methodology, Sounds of English, Studying the English Language, Grammar and Meaning, Language of Everyday Life and A History of the English Language.

What did you enjoy the most in the courses you took?

Thankfully, I found aspects of each module really interesting as they all dove further into topics that I had only briefly encountered during sixth form such as Ferdinand Saussure’s Semiotics and the IPA. Another aspect of first year that I loved was the contrast of the scientific tone of the Sounds of English, with the study of phonology and the way in which our mouth produces sounds with the perspective changing etymology of English revealed in the History of the English Language.

What did you find difficult about the courses you took?

Similarly, to sixth form, I found it difficult to balance the work load such as preparing the reading on time but after the first month I found that I had a routine of studying which worked for me.

What would you advise prospective first years to do in preparation for their new life at Swansea University?

I would recommend that new first years pay attention to the repetitive mantra of “You need to complete the reading!” Not only did the assigned reading assist me in understanding topics but in order to achieve a first I needed to undertake my own research around the topics as well.

I also found that just reading the texts on PDFs on the way to class may feel like a time saver but in fact you will probably just end up re-reading the text in class and after class in order to retrieve the information.

It saves a lot more time to simply read the text once to get the gist of it and then scan it a second time whilst making key notes, these notes will be a godsend come revision time before exams and you can save yourself those Red Bull fueled all-nighters!!

What are some interesting first year myths that you found weren’t true in the end?

That everybody will be an alcoholic party animal

That first year is a doddle and you don’t have to work that hard

That grammar will only be a small part of your modules. Read up on your grammar!

 What did you learn about yourself in your first year?

I learnt the earlier the lecture the less I cared about my appearance and more about attendance. I also learnt that I could push myself further than my perceived potential.

If you could go back to your A-level self, what advice would you want to be given?

That the hard work and the long hours during A-levels will all be worth it once you’re settled at university

What’s your favourite word and why?

‘Cacophony’: because it amazes me how a word that describes a clash of sounds can be so elegant in pronunciation!