A couple of weeks ago I wrote the first entry of this two part series about the undergraduate degree I studied here at Plymouth University, BSc (Hons) Geography. So without further ado, here is the concluding half of my reflection on some of the best bits about studying Geography here in Plymouth.
What are the facilities like for studying?
Beyond the more generic facilities all students at the University can make use of, such as the 24/7 library, geographers and other earth sciences students are able to make use of Lab Plus, a tailor made, open access suite on the seventh floor of the Davy Building, with a range of facilities including cartographic resources (maps and aerial photographs), laptops, and samples of past dissertations which are all helpful for course work. Amongst all this it also offers a pretty great view of the surrounding city which is cool if somewhat distracting.
What sort of field trips do you get to go on?
There’s a range of field trips that you’ll go on as you’d expect from any self-respecting geography course. In the first year we spent a week in Bath, Bristol and surrounding Somerset putting into practice some of the fundamental research methods skills we would need throughout the rest of the degree. In the second year I had a choice of spending a week in Brittany in France, or Ireland, (I chose Brittany). Whilst in final year you have the opportunity to go much further afield to one of a variety of countries (the options change year on year so the places I could have chosen from in my year will be different should you come to study in your third year), these included Iceland, America and Malaysia.
Beyond these larger multi-day field trips, a great thing I found about the degree was that for most individual modules there would usually be an element of teaching out in the field, even if that was just a day trip out onto the moors or into the city. It’s a great chance to set what you are learning into context and to put research skills into practice before you do so on your own, as part of your final year dissertation.
What is expected of you in terms of that dissertation?
I could write an entire blog post about this subject, but I just wanted to touch on the dissertation too, as all in all (now that I look back on it from a distance of a couple of years), this was not just a really important and valuable part of the degree, but probably one of the aspects I’m most proud of. It was the chance to undertake a totally individual piece of research, in an area that really interested me, and completely under my own direction (with advice from an assigned academic, who gives support through the process).
Whilst the word dissertation inspires dread in a good many students (including myself at the time), if you prepare in good time, choose something that truly interests you and is manageable in scope, there’s no reason why this research project shouldn’t be anything too terrible for you. The geography course also really gives you the opportunity to conduct some research in a wide variety of areas, be it human or physical; focused on the coast, or the countryside; involving primary or secondary data; you can really tailor it to what you care about. Finishing it and handing it in is probably one of the most satisfying experiences you’ll ever get…!