Starting a new academic year (I have no idea what I’m doing…)

It’s the end of the academic year – you’ve finished your last exam. September is ages away, and the whole summer is ahead! So you begin to forget everything you worked so hard to remember. This happens quickly at first (unfortunately the bulk of revision knowledge only sticks with you short-term!) and over the summer, you lose more and more precious nuggets of information about your degree. All of a sudden, it’s September!

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The start of any new academic year can be tough. Whilst it is exciting to get your teeth into more advanced topics, first you need to get yourself back to the level of knowledge you had at that last exam, all those months ago. This thought always haunts my Septembers, and if I’m honest, the feeling of inadequate knowledge stays with me throughout the year.

For any first year undergraduates reading this, welcome to university education. At this stage in my education, I was realising that my A-levels hadn’t fully prepared me for a degree. Academically, my knowledge wasn’t bad, but I had a lot to learn, and I had become an adult, fully responsible for my own education. This terrified me. In each subsequent year, I had a summer of forgetfulness, followed by a September (and beyond) of making up lost ground. Again, this terrified me.

Then I finally did it after four years, I got my degree, and then I got a place as a PhD student! I had a blissfully happy summer, and relaxed after my efforts paid off. Then September came…

To say I had forgotten everything was an understatement. The confidence I had in my Biology undergraduate research project had evaporated in the summer heat (or washed away in the summer rain?!). I met with my supervisor, and realised my knowledge had also somewhat diminished. In October, I began working in the laboratory which I will call home for the next three years. I struggled, made mistakes, and after each day I went home disheartened. At the end of the week, I was furious with myself. How could I do this? Was I wasting an amazing opportunity?

That was five weeks ago. Was I being too hard on myself? Yes and no. To be blunt I should have prepared more. But each week that passes, my confidence grows. I am getting my practical skills back, and my knowledge is now exceeding its previous level.

Enjoy your long summers – they are few before you enter the world of full-time work. Travel, spend time with friends and family, or take up a hobby! But at least keep your toe in the academic waters. When September arrives, don’t beat yourself up if your knowledge isn’t what it was. It’s OK sometimes to not have a clue…

One thought on “Starting a new academic year (I have no idea what I’m doing…)

  1. Pingback: The Academic Nightmare – Imposter syndrome | We Are Sheffield Students

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