To my shame, I have to admit that the only relevant reading I intentionally did before coming to university was the lengthy email suggesting possible preparatory readings. This email was sent out by the Head of School; recommending a list of three books that would provide me with a “sense of some of the main themes and issues” I would cover in the first term of studying International Relations. However, it also stated that The School of Global Studies did not “expect students to have read any particular texts in advance”.
I presumed that they would ease us into it, I presumed that they would not expect much of freshers and I trusted the rumours that you do not have to do much in first year. I was therefore horrified to be given work to do in freshers week and to actually be expected to have done readings in preparation for seminars in the second week with teachers who I had never before met.
To further disrupt the anticipated breeze of a freshers week, I had to tackle the Study Direct website which, at the time, seemed to exist solely to confuse anyone who does not regard themselves as being techy. Study Direct is the internal university website used by teachers to communicate to their classes’ course structures, weekly readings, timetables and other information relevant to your course. I am now, however, very well acquainted with Study Direct’s enigmatic ways and it is now fine, but it did take me a while. For one of my first seminars I found that I had done the readings for the wrong class, but that was about as bad as it got. Actually I did also once find myself sitting down in what I thought was my Spanish class and being greeted with a ‘buongiorno’; I promptly left.
I do not regret not reading the textbooks and books before arriving here because I think it is important to start the course in order to gauge where to focus your efforts. In my case I have found that I am at a huge disadvantage for not studying history at A-level, but I am catching up and it is easy to find helpful resources online. I made the BBC Radio 1 to BBC Radio 4 transition many years ago but I have had the radio on a lot more in the past couple of years, I am not sure whether it is due to what I am interested in or whether I use it more because I feel that it helps my course; possibly a combination of the two.
I feel that anyone studying International Relations would already have an interest of current affairs and history and would already have an adequate amount of knowledge to build upon. Despite the fact that attempting to read the suggested readings would have put me at an advantage, I also believe that it would have probably generated the feelings of confusion and dread rather than those of assurance and excitement.