– By Joanna
Being a third year Philosophy undergraduate means that most of the classes I’ve had have been online and in the midst of a pandemic. I was lucky enough to experience a blissful first semester as a fresher back in 2019, but not long after that, the pandemic changed everything. Lectures and seminars moved online, the campus shut down completely, and any expectations of living a normal student life were taken away. After the initial adjustment period, I started to adapt to the online learning system at the end of first year, which then extended all throughout second year.
Here are the top 3 most important lessons I’ve learned from this experience:
Choose the modules you are interested in!
The second semester of first year was all a blur – having to fly back home just before the UK went into a lockdown and taking classes in the middle of the night due to time zone differences. Amidst that blur was the daunting task of choosing my modules for the next academic year. The level of exposure I received to the band of philosophical topics as a first-year student lacked highly due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic. I was at a loss about how to choose my subjects. I made the mistake of choosing modules I thought would be easy, or more practical. When teaching moved online in second year, I was stuck with these modules that I did not enjoy, which led me to change most of my modules in the second semester.
No matter how easy a module may seem, there is no changing the level of interest you have for it. If you are genuinely interested in a topic, or specific issue discussed in the module, engaging with the readings will be much easier. This will benefit you during assessment season as philosophy is all about what you think, which leads to my next lesson.
One of the greatest downsides of online learning was the lack of interaction. Reminiscing on my first-year lectures, I remember the quiet whispers and succinct notes exchanged between me and my friends while topics were being discussed. Additionally, there was an opportunity available for students to directly ask questions during the lectures. Having moved online, there was less of an opportunity to do so since lectures were now recorded, and the possibility of a conversation was no longer possible as it was in person. Hence, the importance of discoursing about what you learnt was realised by me like never before. Whether you choose to talk to your parents, flatmates, or classmates during seminars and tutorials, it will be highly beneficial to you.
Philosophy is all about your thoughts and how you can defend your arguments. There is no right or wrong idea, just ways in which you present and argue it. Not only will speaking about these topics help you understand them in more depth, but it will also allow you to test your views through conversations with others. Oftentimes, this will allow you exposure to different perspectives which you may not have considered before. Don’t be worried about sounding silly, or wrong. Your views are just as valid as the next person’s and expressing them would help immensely in the long run.
At the start of my course, I would remember our lecturers encouraging us to use their office hours to drop by for a chat. Although seemingly daunting, I cannot stress enough on just how useful attending office hours could be for you. Being somewhat isolated from the university during the pandemic, I found myself struggling to engage or even understand the topics discussed. Attending office hours helped me immensely and was not the daunting experience I pictured it to be in my head.
The lecturers I have had here at King’s are all deeply passionate about philosophy and enjoy talking about what they teach. If you’re ever unclear about something mentioned in the lecture, or at a loss on how to write your essay, they will be glad to help. Having an opportunity to go through your issues and concerns on a one-to-one basis with your lecturer helps you gain the confidence to truly engage with the most complex parts of your course effectively.
I hope this helps to kick-start your studies as a philosophy undergraduate!