Subject: English Literature
Student status: Home, Graduate
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I think my approach to study did change through my degree in that I feel like I was coasting a little aimlessly in my first year. I was just getting through it, I was doing what I thought was expected of me at school level, which was learning the basics and repeating the basics, not doing anything creative or critical.

Towards the end of my first year I think I got a sense that university is asking you to do something different, so I was learning to think for myself. That was a big eye-opener to me, I think that was when my passion for learning really kicked in because I was allowed to learn for myself rather than simply regurgitate what I'd been told and memorise something and produce it in the exam.

When I really got interested at the end of my first year I think my second year was … I went into it with a lot of enthusiasm but I was still quite confused as to what was expected of me. I was definitely still learning what university was about. Towards the end of the second year I started to realise that, 'Maybe I'm actually quite good at this. Not only do I actually enjoy it but I'm quite good at it.' I started to think, 'I really enjoy it.'

My third year I worked incredibly hard with a view to doing … I wanted to do well. I probably worked a little too hard, I think. There was a pressure on me, I was a borderline 2:1 – First at the end of my second year and I decided that I was really going to push myself to get that First in the third year. I worked incredibly hard, but with passion, so I did have the drive in me. I don't think I could have worked as hard if I were doing a subject that I didn't really enjoy.

You talked about what university is for, can you say in your view what university is about?

It was a big eye-opener to me to realise that university is not exactly the same as school where you're expected to just pass exams and demonstrate knowledge. University teaching and knowledge is a lot more than demonstrating knowledge, it's about learning to think critically, and that's something I definitely did not know coming to university.

The university experience of seminars where you get to really take part in your teaching and learning I think was an eye-opener to me in that I realised I was starting to think for myself. Moreover, I was encouraged to think for myself and encouraged to criticise any assumptions or views that leading authorities might have, whereas at school you simply learn the views of the leading authorities.

At university you get to think what assumptions lie behind them, what are the implications of these leading authorities. You're encouraged to display independence of thought and critical thought. In that way, it was very, very different to me, from what I expected university was about, but it's something I've certainly come to think about and realise more as I got through my degree.