Why I chose to change my degree subject

Siobhan Gardiner

When I joined Durham University as a student (all the way back in 2018!), I enrolled onto the Engineering course. At secondary school I had always loved maths and physics, and had got A-Levels in Maths, Further Maths and Physics. I wasn’t always too keen on the theoretical side of physics, however, and much preferred its practical applications. I chose to do an Engineering degree, eventually deciding on doing one at Durham due to my love for the University as a whole, especially the collegiate system, and the ability to partake in a General Engineering degree. Many other universities require you to choose a strain of engineering when you apply, however, Durham allows you to start off in a general course, where you learn about all types of engineering, before specialising in Electric, Civil or Mechanical once you got to third year.

Engineering: year one

My first year at Durham went really well! I got on well with people in my college and course, I did lots of extra-curricular activities and was doing well within my degree. However, when exam season of year one came around, I began to have doubts. I found that I wasn’t enjoying engineering the way I hoped I would and it became an arduous task to revise for exams and submit summatives (essays that count towards your degree). I wasn’t enjoying my lectures and I didn’t find that I really had any interest in looking for experience within the field or even that I felt that keen about getting a job in it after university. However, I soldiered through, got a good mark in my year one exams and moved on to the second year of the course. Over the summer, I floated the idea of doing a master’s degree in another subject. I was planning on doing a four-year integrated masters in Engineering, however, I could swap to the three-year course and receive a Bachelor’s instead and then move to something I found more interesting and more aligned with a career path I was hoping for. Over my first year, I gained experience in doing marketing and publicity for different societies and realised I had much more passion and interest there than I did in my degree, so I placated my worries by imagining that instead.

However, by the start of November in the second year, I realised I could not go on like this with my degree. I wasn’t turning up to lectures – and if I did I wasn’t paying much attention – and all of the work I’d put in around contact hours last year was non-existent. And so one morning in the back of a Maths lecture, I started the process to change to a business degree.

Beginning the process

My first port of call in changing course was contacting my academic advisor. Luckily, my advisor was excellent in discussing this change with me and immediately got me in contact with the Business School to discuss my options. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline to swap courses at the start of the year, as this is really close to the beginning of lectures so that students don’t miss too much content. This meant I was going to have to take the rest of the year out and re-enrol the next September to start the first year of my degree. Although this was a dampener, I decided I was happy to do this, and in the meantime take a full-time job in Durham in order to continue living in the area with my friends. In a turn of events, a global pandemic skewered these plans and I ended up having to move back home anyway!

Aside from this, I also chose to go and talk to my Student Support Officer within Hild Bede. I cannot sing her praises enough, and genuinely recommend any person who has had any trouble at University to go and seek out their officer as she was instrumental in helping me move and keeping me calm while it happened, whilst also explaining all my options to me along the way,

Regarding the actual process, I submitted a new personal statement to the Business school along with my A-Level grades and was accepted to the course! Starting in September 2020, in the middle of COVID-19, I became a fresher again.

My new degree!

From the instant I started my new degree, I cannot express my change in attitude. Of course, I had many worries along the way – I was to stay in Durham for another 3 years, whilst all of my friends were embarking on their final years! I felt so much older than everyone else in my course and struggled to make friends with the pandemic forcing all of our contact hours online. However, the decision had been made and I was determined to stick with it, and as I write this in the Epiphany term of my final year, I can happily proclaim that changing my degree was the best choice I made at Durham. Even if it was absolutely terrifying at times and I have heard every joke about my age and how long I’ve been at Durham, I know I wouldn’t have been happy continuing down my previous path.

My advice

If you have read this blog and identified with my feelings, I implore you to begin asking around now – particularly your student support officer and academic advisor. Asking about the possibility doesn’t mean you have committed to doing it, but by getting as much information as soon as possible, you put yourself in the best position to be able to make the best choice for yourself. If I could do it again, I would’ve pushed myself to explore it as an option earlier as it could’ve shaved a year off my time at university! Although it was maybe the scariest thing I’ve ever done, listening to yourself and making sure your making the right choices is really important, and I’m so glad I did.

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Siobhan Gardiner

Hi! I’m Siobhan, a recent graduate who studied Management and Marketing at Hild Bede. During my time at Durham, I've took part in Durham Student Theatre and Durham University Blood Donation Society whilst also enjoying being part of my college cheer and dance teams.

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