Looking Back to Look Forward: How to reflect on your University experience

Now we’ve all got the first term of the 2021/2022 academic year under our belts, nobody is a newbie anymore. Even the freshers have had their fair share of failures, successes, and how-did-I-pull-that-off moments. As we steam ahead through term two, blogger Hannah invites everyone to take a look back over their academic experiences and consider how they might use them to journey forward.

By Hannah Filer.

As a third year and a finalist, I might have a few more years under my belt to look back on than some! But from the keenest fresher to the most jaded finalist, looking back can help us decide what to leave behind and what to take forward into the future.

Picture of an open book with a blurred background
Image Credit: Aaron Burden

Learning

Ever over-prepared for a seminar, and been frustrated at the lack of reading you actually needed to do? Ever under-prepared for a seminar, and been delighted at the lucky escape you had from any particularly harsh questioning? Only experience can teach you what approach to readings, seminars, and lectures work for you. Try to reflect on that as soon as you can, so you can formulate and implement your own methods of preparation. Match your own expectations of yourself to these reflections – beating yourself up for struggling with a batch of reading does not help you to efficiently prepare in the ways that work for you. One reflection I would share is to try and make the most of whatever approach you decide to take. Remember you are paying for your university education, and although it’s tough to be 100% prepared for every seminar, showing up at least means you’ve got what you’re paying for!

Assessment

By now, it’s likely you’ve submitted your first assessment or are preparing for exams. Although it’s tempting to just rest after you’ve completed a particularly tough assignment, it can be very useful for your next assessment to consider what worked about your approach – and what didn’t work! Use your experience to think about the time you allowed yourself to work on the project, and what your time was allocated to – whether it was research, writing, or revision. Perhaps you particularly struggled to focus on your project – was it your environment? The time of day you worked? Who you worked with? Or the length of your study sessions? Furthermore, reflect on your own emotions during the work. How could you make changes to create a more positive approach? Use your answers to these questions to adjust your own study processes for the future – then reflect and adjust again at the end of your next assessment!

A group of people studying around a table in a kitchen
Image credit: cottonbro

Connection

This is perhaps the vaguest of my categories, but what I really mean is how you connect with other individuals in your university life – from tutors you love to coursemates you hate, from your most irritating flatmates to the new best friends you met on a night out. University is such a crucible of personalities, experiences, and perceptions of the world. You will never experience such a highly concentrated collection of people all going through the same learning experience again! Really consider who in your university life is uplifting you and whose company you enjoy. In contrast, also have a think about who at university is particularly draining, or who doesn’t treat you well. This particularly applies to first years – so often the first term of university can be fuelled by a pressure to make lots of friends very quickly, and you may not actually like many of them. Use this new term to reflect on who is a positive influence in your life, and who is perhaps more negative than you would like. If you’ve gone home for this winter break, or even just spent less time on campus, you’re sure to have a refreshed perspective when connecting to people in the new term. Sometimes an encounter with the ‘real world’ outside of university can remind you of what a unique experience a degree can provide!


If you want to read more reflections, have a look at Settling Into a Postgraduate Degree or read Reflections of a Graduate.

Have you reflected on your university experience so far? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below, tweeting us @warwicklibrary or emailing us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk

Header Image: Serrah Galos

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