Carly in an international student from Hong Kong blogging about her experience and adventures as a final year BSc Environmental Science student.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Carly and I am a third-year Environmental Science student. After I finished school in Hong Kong, I decided to come to the University of Sheffield in 2012 and am now beginning my final year here- time has flown!
I am an International Student Ambassador for the department, and I am looking forward to blogging about life as a Sheffield Student over the coming year. Today, I will tell you a little bit about why I chose to study Environment Science here and about some of the unique experiences I have had so far.
Being an Environmental Scientist
In this globalised world, Geography and Environmental Science are interdisciplinary degrees that can definitely increase your competiveness in the global graduate job market. Environmental Science is so relevant – covering anything from climate change research in the Arctic to environmental design strategies in India!
It’s not just learning about the world, but seeing it too. Recently my course friend went to Norway to carry out fieldwork, collecting data for her dissertation on climate change. It may sound unbelievable that you could do something this big, but the first two years of our degree equipped us with the skills we needed to carry out fieldwork, learning from experts on fieldtrips in the Peak District (just on our doorstep!), Scarborough, North Yorkshire Moors and Western Ireland!
The field course in Western Ireland was organised by the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, where we had to apply our geology knowledge acquired in Geography modules. Professor Jonathan Leake lectured on the history of Ireland and agricultural implications while Professor Duncan Cameron taught us about parasitic plants. They always welcomed us to ask questions, no matter how unfamiliar we were!
We did a whole range of activities from identifying soil horizons and geological features to investigating water qualities in lakes. As the trip approached the end we spent the evening in an Irish pub to socialise and discuss our final projects! Field trips allow you to get to know your lecturers and I never thought I would be talking to them about my project ideas over a pint of beer. We were also surprised to discover that Dr Gunnar Mallon is a Regional Champion for Chess after he had a game with one of us!
The fieldtrips also helped us to get to know our course mates better. For a group presentation, Ashleigh and I were responsible for species identification while Abi was running statistic tests for our presentations. We also looked after each other because it was cold and wet and some of us felt poorly. I remember we spared a few minutes to see if we were all okay in our rooms between our chemical analysis!
Unlike the Scarborough trip in first year where we could hand in our assessments after an Easter holiday, the fieldtrip in Western Ireland was more demanding. Since every bit of work counted toward the final grade of the module, we had to hand in work by the end of the trip itself! Despite it being hard we all got pretty good grades. After that we all went to Dublin to reward ourselves and have some fun.
More than lectures!
Doing Environmental Science at Sheffield University is not as intensive as it would be in other countries such as China and the US. All the modules I have done so far are coursework or exam-based. My Biologist friend told me that she had to do assessments every week in the US that she found that too stressful. Secondly, the UK education systems have been well-known for emphasising self-study. We only have two to three compulsory hours of classes every day. For the first two years of the degree we had compulsory biology laboratory practical and statistics sessions weekly. And of course, there are always research seminars, guest lectures and staff office hours to attend.
After revising after lectures, I would attend ‘Give it a go’ sessions during my free evenings. ‘Give it a go’ allows you to try a new activity for free at the Students’ Union. I tried mooting and Muay Thai that I had been longing to learn and I have met most of my Uni friends there. I also do language exchanges each week, and have been able to learn two new languages since I got into Uni in a free and fun way. With friends, I like eating out on West Street or watching films in the SU auditorium at the cheapest prices ever.
Being a committee member of a society is a must for University student. I have been the Event Coordinator and Treasurer for Sheffield University Conservation Volunteers. I have also spent some time helping to source local organic produce for Sheffield Student Market, a student entrepreneurial project. All you need is initiative! I would not have achieved this much and met so many people if I did my degree in Hong Kong where intensive lectures take up too much time.
So far, I have mostly discussed how I spend my time when I am not at ‘home’. Now I shall tell you about my accommodation. I lived in student residences in the first year. Living in a student hall can be a bit daunting for most people as we move out of our homes for the first time and live with new people. Problems may arise when everyone has their own habits. However, there were residential mentors who helped discuss issues among flatmates if needed. For example, if it is hard to ask your flatmate to lower his/her music volumes or you are desperately waiting for them to clean their stacked dishes in the sinks, residential mentors are there to help initiate the talks.
Time to get the academic year started
At the beginning of semester, we all have to register for the modules we want to take. Students can tailor timetables according to the workload they have. Freshers can usually manage to get a day off or two during the week if their lecture schedules allow. Some may need the time for a part-time job or some may need to look after families. In contrast, my friends in Hong Kong needed to wake up in the early morning to fight for the limited spaces of some modules online. One even had to urgently look for internet connection during his diving holiday!
Bye for now!