First year psychology undergraduates have 30 unrestricted credits as part of our course structure, allowing us to pick up any modules across the university as long as we meet the requirements. The trend among my course mates is to take up modules which are complementary to our degree, such as sociology and biology modules. Alternatively, it’s always useful to learn a new language, which I did during the autumn semester (Japanese!). I would love to improve my Japanese language even more, but I’m 10 credits away from being able to do so. (But see Languages for All)
Hence the rather arbitrary decision of this East Asian Social Science module. Also, wouldn’t it be interesting to view China, an economic superpower in the East, with its 5000-year-long history and cultural heritage from the perspective of Western scholars?
The module consists of weekly lectures and fortnightly movie viewing and seminar. Structured around 5 central themes, this module aims to allow us to have a general understanding of Chinese society on various aspects, as well as allowing us to discuss our ideas and debates during the seminars, which I think is the most interesting and beneficial part of the module.
Articulate ideas and opinions
Opinions and perspectives are always valued, as long as they are backed up with sufficient evidence. Since psychology is an essay-based subject, I find little difficulty achieving so through writing. However, it is entirely a different story during seminar, where the flow of discussion can be unpredictable at times and to fully participate in it we really need to think on our feet. Initially I had trouble communicating my ideas to the whole class, resulting in a lot of stammerings or unconvincing arguments whenever I speak. Thankfully the lecturer and classmates are very supportive and as time passed by I gained more confidence in voicing out my opinions.
Applying and understanding various perspectives
The module attracts students from various disciplines, ranging from music to history to East Asian studies. During discussion various viewpoints will be offered with regards to the same issue. For example, whilst discussing a movie which we had previously viewed, a music student had offered perspective on how the movie was filmed and whether the plot is coherent or not. Meanwhile, a history student might provide some background underlying a certain political concept. As for a psychology student, most of the time I offer methodological issues and limitations underlying a certain piece of research. All in all, the input from students of different degree subjects really allows everyone to have an integrative view surrounding a certain topic of discussion.
Appreciate and accept individual differences
Continuing from the previous point, students of this module also originate from different cultural backgrounds. Occasionally there’s conflict in opinions during discussion, therefore having an open mind and accepting attitude are important. This very much resembles real life situations, where people adopt different world views and although we don’t necessarily have to accept their views, being flexible and not overly rigid around various people are part and parcel of life.
Unrestricted modules are one of the many opportunities offered by the University to allow students to explore subjects outside their degree area. Whichever module is it that you take, there’s always something to learn from it. On a final note, I now know more about the Chinese society and I hope to be able to go there and immerse in their diverse and rich culture first hand! One more destination to add in my travelling list!