Part One - Why I studied my undergraduate degree

Today is the first of two blogs I wanted to write as part of some reflection upon the undergraduate degree I studied at Plymouth, BSc Geography, which was ultimately the gateway which lead me to the MSc Planning programme I am studying at present.

Why did I choose to study geography?

A lot of people will ask you why you chose to do your degree, for me, geography was the thing I was most interested in, it was the course that really connected with my passions and interests. I think whatever you choose to study at university, this needs to be the primary motivator for you, after all most courses last three to four years and how can you spend that long doing something that doesn’t spark some kind of curiosity in you to begin with?

What is so special about Geography as a degree?

Frankly I’ve never understood people who say that they aren’t interested in Geography… I mean it pretty much covers everything, it’s about the world we all live on and just as importantly, it’s about the way we interact with and are affected by that world. At Plymouth you have a range of core modules but also the chance to choose from a range of optional modules to best suit your interests, these might be about the physical world (think glacial environments, biodiversity, climate change) or those focusing on the human elements (such as urbanisation and planning). As you progress through your degree the distinction between physical and human becomes a lot less clear; I studied coastal zone management (how do coastal processes affect coastal settlements) and natural hazards (how do people live in alongside hazards such as volcanoes, earthquakes, forest fires or tsunami waves) which are arguably a mix of human and physical. There’s something for everyone and I really appreciated being able to tailor my degree to what really interested me as a student.

What makes Geography at Plymouth unique?

The setting of the city allows the degree content to draw upon a range of environments which act as natural laboratories for you to study in. First of all the city itself was massively bombed during WW2 with extensive rebuilding in the subsequent decades serving as a unique example of city planning and urban development history all around you. Furthermore with the coastline to the south and Dartmoor to the north, set amongst some of the most scenic rural countryside in the South West, you’ve got a multitude of natural environments to draw upon for study too. Field trips make good use of all these locations which are invaluable opportunities to put into practice the theory that you’ve been covering in lectures.

Can I get more out of the course, beyond the academic side of things?

There’s also the option to embark on a year in industry placement, which means an optional year out between your second and final years of study for you to get some practical work experience to put on your C.V. This was probably the most valuable part of my undergraduate course and although it meant extending my degree from three years in duration to four, I really believe that the benefits I got from getting some real work experience set me up for everything I’ve done since. My yearlong placement was in sustainable procurement which wasn’t particularly geography related I’ll admit, however the time I spent in a professional office, leading on a number or projects, engaging with the public and others in the workplace and even completing regular administrative tasks, really enhanced my employability skills in a way that my studies alone could not. It’s great that the course affords you this opportunity and I would strongly recommend you take it if you have the chance.

Make sure to check back in a couple of weeks for part two of my look back on my undergraduate degree. I’ll be talking about the facilities available to Geographers at Plymouth and some of the field trips that I had the opportunity to go on amongst other things!