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HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR FIRST UNIVERSITY YEAR
Andrew England offers a simple guide
As universities sparkle back into life, an influx of naive new students eagerly awaits the boozing partying good times that are expected to go hand in hand with the three or four years of study that lie ahead.
«The best years of your life,» so the worn-out сliche would have you believe, and after my expensive first year, I tend to agree. But and it is a big but – it is far too easy to fall into the trap of believing that the first year, often a foundation year, and not part of the degree, is going to be a breeze. This perception, buoyed by boastful tales from postgraduates about how little work they did, can easily lead to a too relaxed approach, poor attendance and finally panic. The realisation that failure could be imminent and the awful prospect of retakes can make the final weeks a harrowing period.
Even if you are not complacent, there are numerous reasons for missing the occasional lecture or seminar. The hangover is the classic. After a night in some grotty night-club which charitably allows you to drink to excess at knockdown student prices, a hot stuffy lecture theatre can appear a daunting prospect in the early afternoon.
Embarrassing memories of the nignt before, which vaguely filter through a thumping head, can also act as a deterrent. How do you face that poor girl who suffered at the hands of your slobbering sweaty drunken advances?
Boredom studying modules that appear to have no relevance to your eventual degree can also create problems of motivation. On my course, it was methodology which was quite simply а nightmare. My friends and I still have little understanding of it. Unfortunately, it still has to be passed and to those who failed, methodology, with its boring lectures, was the greatest stumbling block.
The thing to remember is that when exams eventually come around you do need notes to revise from. Other people's notes are notoriously hard to make sense of, and suddenly you have huge regrets about missing that vital lecture.
It is also important not to forget that in certain subjects you are awarded a mark towards your final assessment for seminar performances, it means that just by having a reasonable attendance record you can gain a crucial percentage that may make the difference between success and failure.
Attendance can be invaluable. A friend of mine, who is studying engineering at the University of the West of England, has a weakness with maths and, consequently, just failed a retake. However, as a result of his good participation during the course, he was given another chance and allowed to continue. He is no boring bookworm and thoroughly enjoyed his first taste of university life.
He went on to complete his second year and is now working for the Vauxhall touring car team in his placement year, The hard work paid off and an ambition to work for a top motor-racing team is being realised.
At the other end of the scale, another friend who took a very relaxed approach to his first year failed and had to pay his own fees to be able to retake the year. Leopards don't often change their spots. He failed the year again and is prematurely confronting the job market fully aware that he is solely responsible for his predicament.
First-year failure leads to the indignity of having to go through the whole induction course again with those «annoying school leavers» you should have left behind. An extra year's debt, and an extra year's study while your friends are enjoying graduation. It is something to be avoided.
You must and will enjoy your time at university and remember extracurricular activities on your CV are as important to an employer as the degree you leave with. Achieving the compromise between work and play is the successful rout to take.
2. Answer the questions. Write down numbers that show your fear ( 1 – no fear at all… 10 – total panic), count up your total score ( the lowest total – the highest fear). Can you say why you are frightened? Think of a few steps to help people with their problems.
Are you afraid of …
1) Problems with doing homework/laboratory work?
2) Worries about the exams?
3) Low level of your knowledge?
4) Lack of progress?
7) Problems with learning English?
3. Read the text given below and answer the questions. Speak on the differences in the systems of higher education at British universities and at universities of our country.
LECTURING AND ASSESSMENT IN HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY (EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND)
All of the courses given in the University at undergraduate level rely on lectures given in fifty-minutes periods throughout the three terms in the early years of the courses. Each subject will normally have at least two lecture hours per week with an additional tutorial hour. The latter can consist of small groups with one tutor, or larger groups with several tutors, for example, in mathematics tutorials.
Additionally for many of the science and engineering subjects one or more afternoons per week may be devoted to laboratory work, at which experiments are conducted to back up lectures.
Most subjects are assessed at the end of each term in the first year of a course although the end of session examination contributes most to final achievement. Final examinations are normally held in May of the final year.
It should be noted that each student has a mentor or a tutor who keeps an eye on his progress throughout his university career. He is available to advise the student who experiences difficulties with his academic studies.
1) How many terms does the academic year at Heriot-Watt consist of?
2) How long does a lecture last?
3) What other classes do University students have in each subject besides lectures?
4) How and when are many of the subjects assessed?
5) When are final examinations normally held?
6) What are the duties of a tutor?
7) What is the difference between the systems of lecturing and assessment at Heriot-Watt University and at yours?
4. Read the text “Oxford”. Find out the answers to the questions:
1) On what basis are Oxford students selected and why is it said that teaching at Oxford is “pleasantly informal and personal”?
2) What is so dreadful about “Finals”?
3) How is the research done by Oxford post-graduates?
What is it like, being a student at Oxford? Like all British universities, Oxford is a state university, not private one. Students are selected on the basis of their results in the national examinations or the special Oxford entrance examination. There are many applicants, and nobody can get a place by paying a fee. Successful candidates are admitted to a specified college of the university: that will be their home for the next three years (the normal period for an undergraduate degree), and for longer if they are admitted to study for a post-graduate degree. They will be mostly taught by tutors from their own college.
Teaching is pleasantly informal and personal; a typical under-graduate (apart from those in the natural sciences who spend all day in the laboratories) will spend an hour a week with his or her “tutor”, perhaps in the company of one other student. Each of them will have written an essay for the tutor, which serves as the basis-for discussion, argument, the exposition of ideas and academic methods. At the end of the hour the students go away with new essay title and a list of books that might be helpful in preparing for the essay.
Other kinds of teaching such as lectures and seminars are normally optional: popular lecturers can attract audiences from several faculties, while others may find themselves speaking to two or three loyal students, or maybe to none at all. So in theory, if you are good at reading, thinking and writing quickly, you can spend five days out of seven being idle: sleeping, taking part in sports, in student clubs, in acting and singing, in arguing, drinking, having parties. In practice, most students at Oxford are enthusiastic about the academic life, and many of the more conscientious ones work for days at each essay, sometimes sitting up through the night with a wet towel round their heads.
At the end of three years, all students face a dreadful ordeal, “Finals”, the final examinations. The victims are obliged to dress up for the occasion in black and white, an old-fashioned ritual that may help to calm the nerves. They crowd into the huge, bleak examination building and sit for three hours writing what they hope is beautiful prose on half-remembered or strangely forgotten subjects. In the afternoon they assembly for another three hours of writing. After four or five days of this torture they emerge, blinking, into the sunlight, and stagger off for the biggest party of them all.
Postgraduates (often just called graduates) are mostly busy with research for their dissertations, and they spend days in their college libraries or in the richly endowed, fourth hundred-year-old Bodleian library.
5. Match the definitions below with one of the words given
1) Someone in charge of a school.
2) Someone who is still at university studying
for their first degree.
3) Someone who has successfully completed their first degree.
4) Someone responsible for courses in a private school.
5) Someone in the same class as you at school.
6) Someone who teaches at a collegeor university.
7) Someone responsible for teaching a small group of students.
8) Someone with the highest academic position in a university.
6. Read the following text and find English equivalents of the following words and word combinations in it: радиотехника; преподавательский состав; лабораторное оборудование; жизненная необходимость; возможности; стипендия; курс обучения; изучение иностранных языков; большое внимание; степень; выполнять исследования, в заключение, семестр, общежитие.
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