What I would tell my second-year self? Reflections of a third year undergraduate

life begins at the end of your comfort zoneI often talk to people about what I would do differently during my time at uni! Most of these things lecturers have repeatedly said since first year, but who listens?! As a third year student I will share with you my top five tips for making a success of yourself, I hope you find it helpful.

Take responsibility for your own learning

News Flash! We are no longer in school, where you get detentions for not doing your homework, although sometimes I wish we were! I can’t be the only one who struggles with motivation from time to time. At uni, most of the learning happens outside of the lectures with further reading and this is something I’ve always fought with. For 2 years I thought that all I needed to know was taught in lectures. To some degree it is, however, it is so important to go away and read more into certain topics, so you have a greater understanding of the topic. Looking back on those assessments I didn’t do so well in, I can take responsibility and say I didn’t put in the work. This was a turning point for me. I am paying £9k per year to do a degree I WANTED to do, so WHY am I not taking responsibility for my learning?! Seems crazy now. Every assessment or exam you do, you should be proud of it or be happy with the amount of time you’ve spent on it. Grades aren’t everything- but how you feel about the finished product is. BE PROUD OF YOUR WORK. The magic happens outside of your comfort zone.

Some people are very lucky to be self-motivated and able to push themselves out of their comfort zones, for others it’s not so easy. Some of us need a gentle push to get out there. The main reason I’ve written about this, is peoples fear of the Sports Injury Clinic. I think I only went in the clinic a handful of times my first and second year, because quite honestly, it scared me. I never thought I knew enough, I thought the third years were scary, I just really did not want to be in there.

 The reality is, we are all learning:

  • The clients coming in know that we are learning and are patient!
  • The clinical manager and interns are there to help and they do a great job of it!
  • Until you’re a third year you’ll be shadowing and if in third year you’re still not confident, there are opportunities to pair up.

It’s not scary at all. I live in the clinic now, it’s probably my favourite aspect of third year. I wish I had tried harder to get out my comfort zone in first year as I know it would’ve made those years easier. It’s never too late-just bite the bullet and come in! If you are nervous email the clinic or your lecturer and tell them. You will learn so much seeing real clients  and I can’t stress that enough!

There’s no such thing as a stupid question

If your lectures are anything like ours, sometimes they can be pretty one sided and quiet. Usually because people are scared of getting the answer to a question wrong. Lecturers are there so that you can engage and ask questions. Guaranteed there’s half the class who are thinking the same thing as you! Lecturers are busy people, so it’s sometimes easier/quicker if you ask the questions in a lecture rather than emailing them after the lecture to ask. Its comes back to that comfort zone again… push yourself and take control of your learning!

Got an issue? Talk about it

You’ve got three years at uni, gossiping about problems really doesn’t resolve anything (other than getting it off your chest). If something is bothering you – talk to someone who can make a difference! The tutorial system is there so that any issues can be raised. This tutorial system allows students to have one on one time with their lecturers and build a positive relationship where you feel comfortable confiding in them will only make your university experience easier. We are fortunate to be at a small university where they actively are trying to make the student experience great. In my years here, myself and others have mentioned things we think could be improved and changes have been made! Take control, if you’re not happy, help change it. Another little point referring to tutorials and personal development tutors is that these guys will be the ones writing references for you at the end of university! Go see them and give them a chance to get to know you, that way they can rave about you in those references!

Don’t leave things until the last minute

Most stresses students have are unnecessary! Bold statement I know, but many of us, myself included, will wait to start an essay or piece of work until close to the hand in date. I used to tell myself ‘I work better under pressure’ but the reality is I end up rushing. Also, starting early means you have time to come across any issues you may have and have time to book tutorials to go through them. Coming from a third year keeping on top of things is super important, you’ve got hours in the clinic to get, placement hours, dissertation testing, reflections on top of the other modules. I can say this year I have been more organised and it feels great. It means you get closer to exam period and actually have time revise!

The Value of Reflections

I’m sure you’ve all heard of Reflections and I’m sure you’ve all heard lecturers ranting on about Reflections. The truth is, Reflections have been INVALUABLE tool for learning and growing as a sport therapist and rehabilitator. Reflections allow you to reflect (obviously) on parts of treatments that went well and things you need to work on. From this information you can formulate action plans as to how you are going to work on those areas. Then when returning to them at a later date, it allows you to see how you’re improving through the course of the degree. If you are unsure with what to do with your action plan and how to improve, discuss it during a tutorial with your personal development tutor. I’m sure they’d love to see students taking control of their learning and wanting to improve.

My final point in this section is a little bit about staying up-to-date and doing further reading around topics. Referencing your reflections to back up what you did during a session is an amazing way of doing further reading. Say you did a post-match massage. Why did you do it? Does the literature say its beneficial? Is there anything you’d change next time? (massage for longer or actually you found out that stretching helps more etc…). I’d say a good chunk of my learning in third year has come from me doing further reading for my Reflections- I’d recommend getting into the hang of it early!

Remember, it is YOUR degree so ultimately it is YOUR responsibility to create your pathway for successful learning and a great career!

These tips correspond to the BSc (Hons) Sports Therapy or BSc (Hons) Rehabilitation in Sport and Exercise courses at Plymouth Marjon University.

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