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Surviving University as a 17 Year Old - Academic inexperience

Ah Scotland, I love you. For those of you who are not from the promise land of haggis and alcholism, the Scottish school system is made up of 7 years of primary school and 6 of senoir (high) school. However, the sixth year is optional and therefore some pupils choose to leave at 16 or 17 and pursue apprenticeships, employment, or in my case, university.

While it is more difficult to gain a place at university at 16/17 due to your lack of advance highers (the qualification most pupils will aim for in 6th year), but it's possible with all Scottish universities only requiring highers (the 5th year qualification, roughly equivalent to A-levels). I knew in my gut that leaving was the best option for me, but virtually everyone around me advised me otherwise. Whether it was concerns over my academic experience and the probability of me struggling with the step up from higher to university level work, or the limitations on my social life, or even just 'losing' a year of the security and luxuries of childhood. One of my teachers even got involved advising both myself and my mum that he thought it was a poor idea, my mum sharing this sentiment. I ignored them of course and went into my UCAS application with blind faith in my abilities, and here we are.

So, enough background, what's life like. I started writing this expecting to fit everything from my social life to my experience in exams in this post but jesus is it a long read already so instead I'll split it up - this blog post will focus on the worst (but also sometimes not the worst) bit - academics.

So, Edinburgh requires students to take 120 credits worth of courses per year, for me that means 3 courses each semester each worth 20 credits. I've forgotten to even mention my degree! I'm doing an joint MA in Geography,... and politics. The three courses for the first semester were Human Geography, essentially an introduction to the subject with a broad study of the subject ranging from the social construction of nature and borders to studies on the geographies of race, overall this has been by far my favourite course, I've even enjoyed the reading! As for the examinations, essays have gone very well, so very pleased with that. I did however get lucky with the essay questions they provided, as i doubt I'd be able to write an essay on some of the topics we covered, but hey sometimes we all need a little bit of luck.

Onto the next one, Politics and International Relations 1A: Concepts and Debates, a very catchy title. This one has been very hit and miss, I enjoyed the first half of the course alot, with discussions on subjects such as the importance of the state and whether or not the power of the state is reducing, to the need for 'classical' ideologies like conservatism, liveralism and socialism in the modern political sphere which has seen the growth of 'modern' ideologies like populism. As you can probably tell, that was my favourite and the subject i wrote my essay on. The second half of the course kind of lost me, with lots of focus on data analysis this was the moment where I started to doubt my decision, thinking that maybe I should have stayed for 6th year because all this new information was just going straight through and I wasn't grasping it, I thought maybe an extra year of school may have taught me some of the stuff covered. So after a few hours of self pity and tears I asked some of my friends from the course how they found the lectures and readings, and they all said they had no idea what was going on! So hey atleast I wasn't alone and for anyone else thinking about going to uni at the end of 5th year, that's what you should take away from this, if you don't get something, trust me most people probably wont.

And finally.... Fundamental Methods in Geography.... This god damn course has brought me some of the best memories from the last 3 months while also bringing the absolute worst. Let's start with the best - included in this course is a field trip. It changes location each year i believe and this year we went up North to Loch Insh, the actual coursework part of this was average at best but we found ways to have a laugh. Whether it was the mass exodus of 40 students wandering down the country lanes to find a local pub 2 miles away, and then being met with the villages' halloween party filled with pensioners having the time of their lives, or our group's decision to ditch the work we were tasked with to rent a pedalo and go out on the loch for half an hour. So the best bits were not the academic bits, predictably. So, the academics... well let's just say that this is the only course that I'm genuinely worried about failing, and failing both the exam and the research project at that. You're going to see a patern here, I CAN'T DO DATA ANYLSIS, and yet I chose to do data analysis for my project. Do I just hate myself? Yeah, probably, I didnt pay attention in the lectures or practicals for the other possible methods you could apply to make a project so it was my only feasible option by the end, and I still left it till the last minute to complete. It was a mess. I'm praying that I pass, 40% is all I need hey!

If you're reading this and have a fundamental methods course coming up listen to me - PAY ATTENTION TO THE GOD DAMN PRACTICALS.

So - in conclusions, leaving school a year early hasn't had too much of an impact on my studies at university - I have excelled in essay writing and despite some hitches, I do not believe they are caused by my lack of experience as virtually everyone I asked about both the second half of the politics course and the fundamental methods course have said that they struggled, and many struggled more than me. So, if you're leaving at the end of s5, don't worry! You will more than likely be absolutely fine, and if you're not, then you wont be alone!

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