“Students have two different sides to them; the sociable element when it comes to nights out on the town and the speech disorder when its time for lectures and tutorials.

I had a rather peculiar outlook on universities before commencing my course. Attending various university open-days throughout the country made me realise what a varied world of academia exists. The University of Wales Swansea seemed the obvious choice with its location being right on the seafront and the weather being sunny on both the occasions I visited, those probably being the only two occasions it had ever not rained.

Looking back now I’m over half way through my first year I cannot believe how wrong my perception was. Yes, those from my stereotypical world of academia do exist. However my appetite for my modules has changed regularly depending on the member of teaching staff. For example, I could never fully appreciate differential calculus until one lecturer contrasted it as easier and more interesting than baking a carrot cake. I have never looked at a carrot cake in the same way since. And then there was one lecturer who was obsessed by Saint Augustine’s quotes; the one thing praying on my mind was “Dear Lord, please make this lecture finish!”.

When I first started on the course I thought it was fabulous having so much free time during the day; I was used to working full-time prior to university and had done so for three years. Again, how wrong could I be? Following the January examinations I was greeted by a collection of assignments to keep me out of trouble for ever, allowing those text books to gather a layer of dust. Gone were the days where I could catch that latest movie at the cinema during the day. Needless to say the assignments have made the weeks fly by. I now find myself working a normal forty hour week. The challenge of reading up before lectures and managing to make progress on assignments, fitting it all in every week, can be extremely rewarding. And the reading has started to grow on me and become more tolerable. But I’ve vowed to write my own text books after graduation and include some pictures; schedules of this and curves of that simply don’t do the same job!

Something which hit on me after the first few months was how students have two different sides to them; the sociable element when it comes to nights out on the town and the speech disorder when it’s time for lectures and tutorials. There is always deadly silence when a lecturer asks a question. One particular lecturer made an announcement during his economics of terrorism lecture that he wouldn’t ask us any questions as he knew we could only murmur to one another and weren’t able to speak! And then there are tutorials; one avoids eye contact and looks out of the window hoping someone will fall victim to that brutal question. This brings me around to the social element. The sociable element of economics students is easily identifiable in the lecture theatre the following morning after a big night out in town. I have spoken to more fellow economics students in nightclubs than in actual lectures. This demonstrates that economics students have personal skills; another aspect employers look for!

When I first looked at the university I was amazed at the huge intake of economics students, in the region of three hundred students. My other alternative was a university with an average intake of thirty students. I thought how on earth can a university offer a personal service with such a large intake of three hundred students? I thought I’d just be another number. However, I decided to gamble. And that gamble was the best decision ever. I have got to know certain tutors well and despite the department being relatively large you are constantly reminded that doors are open should you want help or want to discuss something.

Economics at university has no doubt opened my mind into different areas of thinking and new topics. For example, before university I can’t say that I’d ever thought about the economics of terrorism despite working in Whitehall during the July bombing. I have also developed my political thinking about certain economic issues. I have genuinely enjoyed the course so much that I sometimes find myself looking at postgraduate course prospectuses on the Internet. Economics allows you to go into so many different areas. Our Head of Department constantly reminds us of the skills an economics degree equips you with. These skills, in addition to the social ‘personable skills’ mentioned earlier, will no doubt pay off in years to come.

Ian is studying Economics at the University of Wales, Swansea.