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University Life: Year Two

a chalkboard in a classroom. On the chalkboard are the words 'year two' in white chalk

This is the second post in my three-part series all about university life. If you haven't already viewed my first post all about year one of university, you can do so here.

This post is all about what it's like in your second year of university. My experience was a bit different to other people's as it was during my second year of university that the Coronavirus pandemic hit and everything was shut down, including universities. However, I am going to try my best to give a general overview of what it's like to be a second year university student without giving any mention to Covid-19, as hopefully this shouldn't be around forever and if you are going into your second year as you're reading this, hopefully you shouldn't have to experience too much (or any) of the disruptions I and many others did.

Second year is a little tougher than first year. I guess this is because for the majority of courses, this is the first year that actually counts towards your final grade. This means there can be a bit of added pressure as you no longer have that safety net of not having to worry about the individual grades you get. For me, my second year grades counted for 40% of my overall grade, which is quite a lot when you think about it. Even though your third year grades will often make up the vast majority of your overall grade, it's still important that you work as hard as you can in second year as this means you should have a little less pressure on you in third year to make up the difference for whatever grade you want to get. It's never easy, but it's important to remember that you CAN do it. Even if it doesn't work out, your grade doesn't define you as a person and just use your second year grade, whatever it is, to spur you on to work harder to getting the grade you want in third year.

If you are living away from home in second year, this is often the year where you will have moved out of halls and into a student house. This is often with the people who you chose to live with and will have already been decided at some point in first year. I never lived away from home in my second year and decided to commute instead, so don't really have any experience of living with friends in a student house. However, I know many people who did live in student housing, so I am going to try and give you some sort of advice based on that. First of all, it is more than likely that even if you were friends before, you may find you don't get on with each other by living with each other as there are suddenly a number of different elements you have to factor into your friendship; such as sharing the cost of bills, cleaning up mess, being in each other's space all the time, etc.. You may well decide by the end of the year that you no longer want to live with each other and may all go your separate ways and live with other people. You may completely enjoy it and go on to live with one another again through your third year. Just be aware of each other's boundaries and learn to respect those boundaries. If you are someone who lived in student housing in second year (or any year, for that matter) please feel free to leave any of your tips in the comments below.

Don't be afraid to join any societies or make new friends in second year, either. So many people think that you have to have joined any societies you want to in first year and that you can only remain friends with the friends you made in first year and can't make any new ones in second year. This couldn't be further from the truth and is an opportunity I wish I had taken up on. You can do any of these things in any year of university and you shouldn't be afraid to do so either. If you want to join a new society, do so. If you want to make some new friends, then do that too. These are two of the biggest things about university, as it is about so much more than just studying and attending lectures, and you really should be making the most of it.

One thing I would recommend you do during second year as a MUST (and possibly first year as well), is to get some experience within your field of study if your course doesn't already give you the opportunity to do so. I was very fortunate that my course allowed me to go on placement in both first and second year and this gave me the ability to gain a better understanding of everything I had been taught so far. You don't have to do this during term-time and can do it during the summer holidays as that is when you have the most time off; or you can do it any time you like, it's your choice. Networking, in any field of work, is incredibly important as it is through networking that you can get the jobs you want; as well as gaining helpful tips from those who have been in the industry for many years. Volunteering, placements, and internships are the perfect way to start networking with companies and individuals and can give you a head-start when it comes to applying for grad jobs (or any job, for that matter) once you leave university. I would take the time during second year to start emailing companies and see if they have any opportunities lined up for you to gain some experience with them when you are able to. Do some background research about the company first and maybe include a bit of this in your email, such as if there is something they do that you find particularly interesting and mention this in your email. Include a bit of information about yourself, particularly the university you're studying at, your course, and if you already have any relevant experience of working within that field. Keep the email as light and pleasant as possible, but be prepared for the fact they may well not respond. When I was applying for placements in my second year, I emailed at least ten nursery settings (for context, I was doing an Early Childhood Studies degree), and only heard back from four or five. You could even ask your tutors if they have any contacts to companies you are interested in gaining some experience with and seeing if they could put in a good word for you. One of the best things about university tutors is that they will have previously (and possibly currently) worked within the industry you are studying towards working in and this means that they will have many contacts that they should be able to recommend you to. The only reason I say to do this in first and second year is because third year can be quite intense and it is best if you have as much time as possible to keep to your studies. For most grad jobs, you will probably have to apply for them during the first semester of your final year, which is why it is best to get this experience before then so you are able to tell those companies about this experience as this should make you more appealing to them.

I hope none of this has put you off second year. One of the best parts of this year is that you've already done one year, so you're already familiar with your university campus, the people on your course, and your university town/city. Second year can still be lots of fun. Yes, you may notice that you are going out a lot less, but there are still plenty of opportunities for you to enjoy the university lifestyle and do well in your degree.

If you have any questions about anything I have mentioned in this post, or have any questions about second year, please do not hesitate to either comment them down below, send me an email, or send me a DM on Twitter or Instagram.

Just remember to make the most of your years at university because they don't last forever. Work hard, but also remember to have fun at the same time.

Love Beth xx

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