UCL Anthropology


My First Year Experience - Mariyam Giash

In this blog post, Mariyam Giash, second year Anthropology BSc student, covers the topics of studying during a pandemic, choosing a broad-based Anthropology degree and tips for first-year students.

Person writing on papers on a wooden table with a cup

4 October 2021

Spending my first year during a pandemic

My first year at UCL will most definitely be a year to remember. At some point in our lives, we have all come across a form of remote learning, but little did I know that my first year at university would consist of me sitting at home every day in front of a laptop, having constant zoom calls, and about 50 time-out sessions of me laughing at Instagram memes before getting back to work. No doubt, this has been a hard year and a new experience for everyone, but for me it has also been interesting.

Coming fresh into student life, I was one of those students who couldn’t wait to meet new faces, join societies, and live the life of a young student who has fun and studies (yes, just like we see in the movies), so I was in complete shock when we were all hit with a full year of remote learning due to the pandemic. What a time to be alive! However, I cannot deny that my first year at UCL was still an amazing one. Although I was at home, I was still able to contact staff efficiently through zoom calls and email, as well as get to meet some of the other students studying the same course. It was basically like living the student life as I saw in the movies, but online!

Studying a broad-based Anthropology degree

When applying to universities through UCAS, I would say the one thing that drew me closer to applying for an anthropology degree at UCL was the fact that they provided a broad range of topics in the first year, compared to other universities teaching modules that focused mostly on social anthropology.

I was introduced to perspectives and topics that I never knew existed, expanding my knowledge of the world even more. For example, through learning about material and visual culture, I can now see and understand how space, architecture and objects can influence or be influenced by people’s social relations to one another. How interesting!

Not only this, but I think UCL has really been smart about making all these first-year modules compulsory. This is because, as a first-year student, you are made to learn a bit about all these different aspects in Anthropology, which will ultimately help you decide which aspects of the course you enjoy most. This will then help you with your second and third year, when you start picking optional modules.

I did not realise how much I would end up enjoying a module such as Material and Visual Culture during my degree. So, for those of you who are stressed or confused as to what kind of field you want to specialise in after the first year, my advice would be not to worry just yet! Get through the first year and give all the modules your 100% effort. You never know, your interests within the degree might change.

First year workload and tips

When I was first hit with the news that the pandemic will force us all into remote learning for the first year of university, I tried looking at the bright side of things. For me, it was the idea of being able to work in my comfort zone.

Over time, I became comfy and satisfied with the idea of getting up in the morning, turning on my laptop, taking a 5 second trip to my living room and beginning my lessons for the day. It was so convenient! I started to see the bright side of things, such as not having to travel much (which saved so much time and money), being able to contact others for help with a click of a button and best of all, tuning into my daily seminars with messy hair because I had just gotten out of bed.

I thought this would allow me to have more time for myself and leisure activities during lockdown, but I did not expect to still have a huge amount of workload! I unfortunately ended up spending my days constantly on my laptop working, eating, sleeping, and repeating, which isn’t the best of habits during a lockdown.

With government guidelines allowing restrictions to slowly ease, I can only imagine travel and university workload taking over my life. Luckily for me, I have tackled the workload issue during my first year of remote learning, so here are some tips and habits I have gotten into to help deal with the workload:

  • Plan your days – for me, buying a planner helped a lot with scheduling activities during the day and I found it to be a great way of balancing out work and some time to myself.
  • Start your days early – research shows that people work best in the morning and have higher concentration. Also, if you are getting your days’ work completed in the morning, you are left with a stress-free day ahead of you.
  • Don’t overdo it! – it is ok to have some days where the whole day is dedicated to studying, but it is just as ok to have days off from studying completely! Just try to find your balance.
  • Explore and find activities/hobbies that help relieve stress – when I finally had time to myself, I was often lost on that to do, but after a while I found that going to see friends (when allowed to) and even colouring and painting helped take my mind of things for a while.
  • Find what works best for you – everyone works differently, so while it’s useful to draw inspiration from the daily routine of others, it is just as important to find that balance for yourself. After all, you know yourself best.

Thoughts on blended learning for this year

Whilst the idea of staying at home to study was starting to look ideal to me, I am very excited to be coming back on campus this year and getting to experience university life as a student, finally.

For myself, the idea of blended learning seems very convenient especially during this time of coming out of a pandemic. We have all had a long year and need time to enjoy the upcoming years, and with blended learning, finding that balance might just make life even easier, giving us more time to enjoy our lives as students!