Already chosen geography at university? Here are 12 tips to make the most of your geography degree.
Before you make your module choices each year, think carefully about potential careers you may want to pursue after university and consider choosing the most relevant courses. As well as playing to your strengths and skills, why not consider filling gaps in your knowledge too? Your tutors should be able to give you information about the options available to you. You may also be able to find module descriptions on your university’s website, although be aware that some modules may not run every year. The breadth of options available within geography is a key advantage of choosing the subject, but there may be other exciting options available on your course too, such as learning a new language. Why not speak to students a year ahead of you and find out some more about their experiences? You can also check out why some past students chose their modules.
Completing a dissertation is a significant achievement, and one which can show potential employers your ability to work independently on a large project. It also provides you with an opportunity to collect and analyse data before interpreting and presenting your findings. If your dissertation focusses on a topic relevant to the jobs you are hoping to apply for, your dissertation may bring extra benefits in job interviews and provide a good knowledge base as you begin your career. If you are hoping to go onto postgraduate study after graduation, the research skills honed during your work on your dissertation will also be very useful.
A number of organisations offer work experience or placements to undergraduate students outside of term time. Your course may also include a work placement module or sandwich year. In either case, gaining some work experience demonstrates to employers that you have experience of applying what you have learnt at university to the workplace. Placements can vary in length from a few days to several months.
Many students choose to work part-time during their studies to help with the cost of university. However, work during your studies may also provide useful experience which can help you after graduation. Volunteering with an organisation or charity based near your university can also be a rewarding experience.
Being a student representative for your course is a great way to raise any issues that might arise during your studies and help to improve your university experience. Your course will have a student/staff liaison committee which meets at least a few times a year. Getting involved in meetings and raising points on behalf of other students are good experiences to include on your CV. Your department may also provide opportunities for you to help out at open days or student inductions.
The Geography Ambassador scheme recruits, trains and supports undergraduate, postgraduate and graduate geographers from universities and businesses to act as ambassadors for geography in the classroom and beyond.
Some universities offer students (often final year students) the chance to be peer mentors to other students on their course (often first year students). Peer mentoring is a responsibility that you can include on your CV and, if you’ve just started university, talking to a student a year or two ahead of you can be a helpful experience. Why not also consider becoming a Geography Ambassador, demonstrating the benefits of studying geography to school pupils?
Your tutors will provide you a reading list for each of your courses. While most of your reading will probably take place when you are working on assignments, taking the time before or after lectures to do some extra reading about the topic can really help you to understand more about your areas of study – and save some time when deadlines are approaching! It may seem obvious, but if your course includes a reading week, this is the perfect opportunity to head to the library! This principle applies to other parts of your course too. For example, if you learnt a new GIS technique in class, why not head back to the computer lab out of hours and try it out on your own with some different data?
Joining your university’s geography society is a great way to meet other geography students, get involved in events and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the subject. Young Geographer membership of the Society is also an affordable way to access subject-specific resources, events and networks.
Being a responsible local, national and international citizen is a valuable attribute of geography graduates. Although your course will include opportunities to get out of the classroom and into the field, there may also be opportunities for you to spend a semester or a year at a university overseas. Although this isn’t for everyone, many students find studying abroad to be a very worthwhile (and fun!) experience.
Your university will provide a range of resources to help you explore and plan potential careers; from CV-writing workshops to employers’ fairs. Don’t forget to make the most of these opportunities while you’re still at uni.
Always keep an eye on the news throughout your studies. Applying geographical concepts you’ve learnt on your course to current affairs helps to solidify your understanding of them. It could also give you some up-to-date examples to include in your work; from humanitarian crises and climate change to social issues and the latest geopolitical developments.
Giving yourself regular breaks and keeping healthy will help you to get the most out of your course. University life can be stressful, but help is available should you need it. Contact your university’s student wellbeing team or ask your student union to find out the range of support on offer.
Featured image: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels
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