Things I wish I knew Before I started International Studies: Warsha Autar

In this series, the senior members of BAISmag reflect on their experiences in studying IS and provide advice for the incoming first-year students. This week, Editor-in-Chief Warsha Autar shares her memories of Configuring the World and also shares some tips and tricks on how to study for courses you’ve never had before.

So there I was, sat between my new friends, praying that I wouldn’t look stupid if I were to ask them questions about the lecture. I was about to receive my first lecture of a course called Configuring the World*. Although I was grateful for our study coordinators open-mindedness, I never quite understood why they would give this course such a flowery name. After all, it was an economics course. Economics, BLEGH. In high school, I always avoided courses with maths and statistics. I much preferred art and history. Graphs and numbers had nothing to do with eloquent language.….. Or so I thought. In actuality, Configuring the World would come to be one of my favourite courses. The lecturer always made an effort to spark our interest, my new friends and tutors were super helpful if I didn’t understand something, and in the end; my grades weren’t even half bad. (* =They later renamed the course Principles of economics.)

Throughout your university career, you will undoubtedly have to take courses about subjects you’ve never treated in high school. In my case, I didn’t do a lot of maths, but I still had to take economics. But, there were also other cases of students never having taken history courses, or students who’ve never had to learn foreign languages, and so on and so forth. 

I wanted to give all International Studies newbies three tips that might help them when they’re taking new and unfamiliar courses.

  1. Go to your lectures

Or at the very least, rewatch the videos. In these lectures, the professor will discuss all of the complex terminology and theories in detail. It might be tempting to play hooky and skip the lecture, but you’d be missing out on a valuable opportunity to have an expert explain the material that will be on your exam. Not to mention that you’re paying more than 2000 euros to be in that (virtual) room to hear them speak! Please attend, or rewatch your lectures, trust me it’ll really boost your academic performance.

  1. Re-read your readings after your lecture

Don’t be mistaken, it’ll be really important to read the readings before you go to your lectures. These long academic texts are used to introduce a new topic in the course, meaning that reading them beforehand will help you understand what the professor is going to be discussing in the upcoming lecture. However, when you first read them, they may just look like academic word soup. Although the texts are chosen to be “suited for first year students”, they will undoubtedly still be difficult to understand right away. Don’t feel bad about it. Instead, go to the lecture (I know this sounds repetitive, but bear with me) and read through the material once more AFTER the lecture. More often than not, the professor will have explained the reading so thoroughly that you will know exactly what messages and knowledge the academic text was trying to convey. Skimming through all that overly complicated terminology will be a piece of cake. In addition to this, it’ll be easier to memorise the texts for your exams later on, as you have already read it multiple times.

  1. Ask for help

This might seem obvious, but I’d still like to add it to this list. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a room with people I barely know; I’m often too afraid to ask questions. In other settings such as a boring dinner party, staying quiet and keeping to myself is fine. However, it’s a different story if I’m in a class for a course which I have to earn good grades for. During your adventures in International Studies you will sometimes end up having tutorials with people you’ve never met before. Sometimes these people will understand the class material better than you. You can feel incredibly self-conscious when everybody around you seems to understand the tutor, and you’re still lost on what exactly is being taught. Take it from a socially awkward penguin like me; ASK FOR HELP! Your tutor’s job is to teach you, so they’ll help you out if you’re struggling to understand something. Don’t worry about looking dumb in front of your classmates. In most cases, people will actually appreciate you asking the question, because they tend to have the same questions and concerns. You’re all there to learn, so instead of worrying what people will think of you or judging others, worry about what you’re studying and try to learn these things together.

And that pretty much sums up all the advice I have for you. I am so excited to see what you’re going to do in this upcoming year. Despite all the madness, I hope you’ll have fun. Feel free to share your stories with us here at BAISmag – we’d be more than happy to publish them!

Good luck (although I doubt you’ll need it 😉 )

Warsha Autar

Editor-in-Chief

We have more articles coming up in this series, so keep an eye out for more advice from your seniors! 

(Image from Unsplash)

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