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What's it like at Warwick Uni? Savannah Hersov, Sociology

Savannah (Savvy) Hersov, Sociology

Published August 2014

What do inspiring academics, in-depth essays and working at the Warwick Welcome Service have in common? They are all second year Sociology student Savvy’s favourite things about studying at Warwick University.

Warwick Welcome ServiceName: Savannah (Savvy) Hersov
Degree: Sociology (Hons)
Home town: London
A-levels studied: Politics, Religious Studies and Economics (and History AS Level)

Where were you before you came to Warwick?

South Hampstead High School for seven years. An all-girls private school.

How long have you been at Warwick?

Two years

How did you apply to Warwick?

I applied through UCAS. Warwick was the first open day I went to and I absolutely loved the day I spent here. For some reason I was taken aback by the fact that there was a post office and hairdressers on campus, despite the fact I rarely cut my hair, don’t dye it and rarely send letters. As a Londoner I wanted to try to attend a university that had a different atmosphere to a city but still met my needs. Warwick has a very multi-cultural student body and has fantastic transport links which definitely appealed. Whilst some people may see the campus and assume we’re in the middle of nowhere, we’re actually, based on our geographical location, in the middle of everywhere. I got back to London on the train the other day for just £3.95 with a railcard!

I didn’t really have a strong first choice uni when I was applying; I just picked the 5 I liked most. I had preferred Warwick and that hadn’t changed much when I visited other universities. It was easy to pick Warwick as my first choice; it was picking my second choice that was harder.

What’s it like to study at Warwick?

Lots of fun, tiring, interesting, challenging, enjoyable (boring if I don’t like the readings I’ve been assigned in a specific week). Studying at Warwick is quite enjoyable in Term 1 especially when there aren’t really any significant looming deadlines. I’ve found that instead of thinking about the ‘bigger picture’ i.e. exams and assessed essays, I’m able to spend this time focusing more on the weekly readings individually, delving into the topics that particularly intrigue me. Term 2 is still enjoyable but with more work as this is when preparation for assessed essays (and sometimes submission) occurs. Term 3 is intense with the majority of our deadlines and all of our exams in Term 3. In some ways it’s similar to school in that respect, the end of the year requires you to go over what you’ve learned and do more of your own work and thinking and then apply that to a specific essay or exam topic. Personally, I’d prefer if the work was more evenly spread across the year. As a result next year I will choose to do more assessed essays than exams, which will allow me to spread the bulk of my work over a longer period.

I like being able to look at a specific topic in more depth and really focus on a specific question.

I personally find essays more interesting and enjoyable to work on than revision. I like being able to look at a specific topic in more depth and really focus on a specific question. The essays I most enjoyed working on this year were for my Race module and my Transformations (Gender) module. The first one was on the experiences of Ethiopian Jews in Israel post-migration and the second was on Pregnancy and Disability focusing on popular culture and quantitative and qualitative sources. My research skills and my interest in writing these essays has definitely developed since first year, probably just from having more exposure to essay writing and journal articles. When I applied for Sociology and even up until a few weeks ago I dreaded the idea of a compulsory dissertation (only compulsory for single honours students). But after the enjoyment of some of my essays I’m actually beginning to look forward to the whole dissertation process. Provided I can pick exactly what I want to research and write about!

What was it like going from studying at A-level to studying for a degree?

Weird. I took a gap year so at first being back in an academic environment felt strange. I felt like I couldn’t remember how to study at all! That went away quickly but wasn’t comforting. In some ways I prefer the structure of A-Levels. We had a strict syllabus with past paper questions AND a mark scheme (at uni we only get past paper questions). It was difficult at school to not prepare yourself well for exams. Provided I knew topics inside out and revised from mark schemes it was relatively straightforward, or, at least with hindsight I feel that it was more straightforward than university-level study. I didn’t have to do any coursework for my A Levels which at the time I was happy about.

At university I get to study topics in much more detail, learning about academic debates, read journal articles and not do as much of a ‘broad-brush’ approach as I did at school. There are elements of both types of studying that I prefer and elements of both that I sometimes wish I didn’t have to do. If all goes to plan I’ll only have to do 1 exam in my final year of uni. But I’ll probably have to submit a total of around 35,000+words in assessed essays. That would have probably terrified me at the beginning of my degree, but now I’ve realised that my strengths are in planning and working on long pieces of work over a specific length of time, rather than bashing out some essays in exam conditions over a few hours.

Why Warwick?

The Open Day was definitely significant. I can barely believe that my open day was in May 2010, it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago, or that it should have been that long ago! The facilities at the university definitely surprised me. The geek in me loved the idea of the library and learning grid spaces. The neurotic in me was pleased there was a pharmacy, a GP and a 24 hour Tesco within walking distance. At that stage the idea of living in self-catered accommodation was a bit overwhelming but wasn’t a deal-breaker as I knew that I was eventually going to have to grow up and learn how to cook. The talk by the SU President in the Copper Rooms about the Students’ Union and all the societies on offer was definitely a significant part of the day. At my secondary school, clubs and societies pretty much solely revolved around music and sports, neither of which I was good at. But it became clear that at university societies could be about anything and that it would be pretty difficult for each student not to find their own particular niche and community within the larger community to be a part of.

Working as part of Warwick Welcome Service at the Open Days has enabled me to bring my love and enthusiasm for my uni to prospective students!

What have you found most challenging?

First year was tough. Academically it’s a different set-up, with different expectations and modes of learning. I didn’t understand how seminars and lectures worked and naively believed that lectures would know every student by name. In reality, lecturers know students’ names if students interact and engage with their lecturers. It’s not like school. Academics aren’t just teachers, they’re researchers with their own body of work to focus on, not just their teaching modules. Whilst the switch from being taught to attending a lecture and engaging with module reading can be uncomfortable, it can also be extremely rewarding once this has been made. I am able to engage with topics which my professors have researched or are currently researching. No teacher of mine at school would have been able teach me about survey design issues and the definition and construction of ethnicity with their own anecdotes from their experiences of designing the Census, but at university this is possible. At school topics are described and memorised; at university they are analysed and placed within a socio-cultural context, drawing parallels to other topics and issues and anchoring them in literature, data and theory.

Emotionally, living away from home and only having 9 hours of contact time is draining because of the lack of a set schedule and familial comforts. You have to make your own routine and find and create your own ‘university family’ and close support system.

Whilst I knew this prior to coming to university, I didn’t fully understand what this entailed until I went through it. I thought I was organised prior to coming to university, but I learned what organisation, time management and independence truly was through my own mistakes and successes in my first year.

What were your favourite memories of the past year?

Listening to my personal tutor Maria tell us that when she had studied our Transformations module as an Erasmus student 10 years previously it had changed her life. The way she said it seemed so genuine and I felt like I was about to study something that was going to have obvious relevance and an impact on my life. She was right. It was my favourite module of this year by far and has helped to push me to further question social norms and practices.

Getting my highest firsts on two essays that I’d loved researching and writing. It felt like my study methods were finally coming together and proving that when I set my mind to it and truly engaged with a topic I could get high grades and create a piece of work that felt meaningful.
Meeting friendly people who study a variety of different subjects through Warwick LINKS and getting to re-learn First Aid.

Working as part of Warwick Welcome Service at the Open Days, bringing my love and enthusiasm for my uni to prospective students. As a social sciences student it’s nice to sometimes get the opportunity to end the day feeling tired through being on my feet all day not through reading and straining my eyes on my laptop.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned this year?

That the creation and implementation of contraception continues to be affected with ideas associated with race, class, gender, disability, mothering, fathering etc. And that race is, within academia, considered a social construction albeit something which is treated popularly as if it is not.