As a postgraduate student undertaking their Masters, there is a growing list of advice I wish I had implemented into my undergraduate experience. For clarification purposes, I do not regret the way I went about my undergraduate years, however there are always improvements to be made, and below are things I wish I had known when I was applying to study engineering.
Like any aspects of engineering, the objective is to be aware of your goal and then devise the most efficient way of achieving said goal. Therefore, I think it is only sincere as well as good practice to implement the same approach towards life at university as an engineering student. I will outline these points in chronological order from the moment you decide to apply for any engineering aspect to the formative years you will spend as a student at Swansea University.
Firstly, deciding which aspect of engineering you would like to study. Often, I saw course mates lacking in motivation because they had found themselves studying modules focused in engineering aspects they rarely found stimulating. This can have a profound effect on your performance, as you will likely struggle to engage or motivate yourself, and a result negatively impact your performance across the respective engineering discipline. Therefore, I consider it of paramount importance to be fully informed with regards to what you will be studying. It would not be fair of me to not outline a suggestion in terms of how to tackle this dilemma – after all I hope I have got you thinking. Firstly, contact the respective institution you would like to study at, notifying them of your interests and enquire as to whether they align with their curriculum. It is not worth incurring the amount of expenses university will impose on you both financially and mentally without knowing whether you have a vested interest in a majority of the modules. The university does offer options to switch courses but going in with an idea of what to expect has always been a positive boost for new students, or at least in my experience it was.
It is also important that you consider life and prospects after your undergraduate tenure of university studies. Do not worry if you had not spared this a thought – there are facilities at university that will help you prepare for life beyond graduation. However, I found it of utmost importance to not wait for someone to come enquiring about your ambitions beyond university. Having aspirations beyond graduation can help serve as a compass, i.e. being aware the classification required to attain such opportunities always serves as an external motivator, allowing you to tailor your experience in order to make you a desirable individual for any particular field. This includes placements either over summer or during studies (obviously making sure they do not hinder your academic progress). These shared experiences, coupled with attending university events like talks and networking events, will help shape your idea of where you would like to end up beyond your graduation. There is a strong chance you might even find other prospects albeit diverse, more appealing than your initial ambitions. Attending these talks will allow you to meet individuals in positions you aspire to be in, and please do not be afraid to ask questions. After all, being at university is all about learning and as one of my favourite lecturers Prof. Antonio Gil would say, ‘The best way to learn is by asking questions’.
When you begin university, you will hopefully have gone out to the numerous Freshers events and made new friends irrespective of the course you are studying. However, you might find yourself potentially struggling to settle in as well as you had imagined, and in turn negatively influencing your performance academically. This is where my most important advice applies. I highly advise everyone to use the facilities provided by their Colleges – in this case College of Engineering. Do not suffer in silence, no matter what obstacle you might face, or how unique it may seem. The wonderful team at Engineering Central reception will get you in touch with wonderful individuals who will assist you to resolve whatever issue you might have. Unfortunately, I personally did not muster the confidence to present other people with my problems as I had always previously coped as an individual.
University is a new experience in a new community. It is only natural that you encounter a host of unique problems as one would find wherever they wander a bit further from ‘home’. However, the wonderful communities created at university are aware of these challenges faced by students and it is only right that no individual suffers in silence and feels alone when they are of an organisation with as many individuals, many looking to cater to such issues.
Now that you have settled into your course surrounded by a close network of supporting staff, studies are progressing well, there is one more piece of advice I would like to give you. Help shape the community around you during your time at university. Give feedback whenever there is something you really enjoyed, be it from lectures or other services provided by the university, for all you know it could be widely adopted across campus to the benefit of you and the rest of the student body. Every idea you see at university is a collaborative effort between the staff and the student union, so it is imperative that you voice your opinion and help shape this university for the better. Be engaged. I am certain the staff would appreciate it.
Overall, given the scope and sheer volume of services offered by the university upon enrolment, there are likely to be things I have overlooked. Therefore, I would like to end with one final piece of advice. Be adventurous at University, explore the different societies, buildings and other services to find your own niche experiences. University is a place that encourages open-mindedness and a willingness to learn – i.e. embarking on as many experiences as you can, making mistakes and learning from them.
Written by Edward Tinashe Simbanegavi, MSc Materials Engineering,
24th November 2019