Advice to freshers… Academia edition

Amy Nugent

Do I need to do pre-reading?

This definitely depends on the course and modules you have chosen – for some modules, you may find staff getting in touch with their students to ask them to complete some activities before term starts. This will hopefully not be an immense amount of work! For example, for one of my modules, I was notified that I had a little bit I needed to prepare as the module was delivered in a seminar style that required lots of participation – but, that wasn’t the case for all of my modules.

I would also suggest checking to see the amount of recommended reading your modules have, especially ‘essential’ reading. If your modules seem to have a lot, it is 100% worth taking a look at if you have the time in summer. Whilst it is not necessary to complete every piece of reading before term starts, if you are going to be studying a book which will be talked about in the lectures in your first couple of weeks, then having the reading done in advance of the start of term will take a weight off your shoulders! Settling into your new routine (whether you are living out of college or living in) will take time and energy, so it makes such a difference if you don’t feel academic pressure alongside that change. 

How can I find my reading list?

Reading lists are available on Durham’s Sharepoint site, as well as on Durham Talis. Though the module handbooks will likely show a list of authors or focuses for the reading, if you take a look at either of these other sites you will hopefully be able to see everything you need to know about your reading for next year! 

Do I need to buy all my books and bring them to Durham when I start uni?

This is up to individual opinion, but in my case, I have not usually been a huge fan of bulk buying all of my reading. When you start at Durham as an undergraduate, you will find so many second years who will have studied your modules and bought books that they are now hoping to clear off their shelves. This is the perfect way to not only get your academic materials at a lower cost, but also make a connection with someone who was in your position and who could potentially be a person to whom you can ask questions about that module. 

Libraries such as the Bill Bryson or your own college library is another fantastic way to pick up your reading, with both physical and online options available. This way, you can have a look at a resource, and if you find that it is really helpful, you can then purchase a copy. 

Plus, with many charity shops and booksellers in Durham, you will not find yourself struggling to buy copies of your books if you didn’t bring them from home. 

Bill Bryson Library

Does first year matter academically?

Whilst first year grades won’t contribute towards your final undergraduate degree mark, the year is still important as a part of your academic journey. It is vital to dedicate time and energy to supporting the big life change that is starting at university, whether you do so by socialising with friends, getting stuck into college life, or taking time to relax and recharge by yourself. However, ultimately, you have come to Durham to study the subject you are passionate about, so you need to also prioritise your studies and your working routine as part of your day to day. So, build your positive working habits, visit a library, suggest study sessions with your friends, and find out how you can learn best at Durham. Making the effort early on will help you so much when it comes to continuing your good work ethic, even though it might take a few weeks (if not all of first term) to figure out your preferred way to balance your lifestyle. 

Quick top tips

  • Make a list of your deadlines as soon as you can see when they are! Generate reminders for them in the way that helps you, such as sticky notes, digital reminders, or a calendar.
  • Keep a note of your lecturer/seminar leader’s email address, and get in touch with them if you have any questions! Many of them will be able to either email you back, or see you during office hours.
  • Ask your department about their preferred style of referencing. Then, practice it through your own note taking. If you have queries, ask your department for their advice rather than letting yourself get stressed out!

If you want, check out Durham Talis to see your reading list:

Good luck!

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Amy Nugent

Hi, I’m Amy and here at Durham I study Liberal Arts at Grey College. In my spare time I can be found dancing like there’s nobody watching, getting stuck into my latest art project, or writing kooky stories in one of Durham's many beautiful spots.

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