As the second year of my degree is fast approaching it is a good time to reflect on my first….
I arrived at Swansea to study Ancient History and Medieval studies, however straight away started doubting my decision. I had mainly chosen Ancient History so that I would be able to do Latin. It was becoming clear that I wasn’t overly keen on the other modules. Although I adore History I avoided taking it as my joint subject because I did not want to study modern history.
I attended the introductory talks for Ancient History/Classics and History/Medieval Studies; these left me feeling that perhaps Ancient History really wasn’t right for me, and I’d prefer History. I was able to discuss my predicament with one of the History lecturers and the Head of History and Classics. It was confirmed that I was still able to take Latin through my Medieval Studies, meaning I did not need to take Ancient History… however if I switched to History then I’d have to do modern history!
At this point I carefully looked at the first year modules, then the second and third year modules. I saw that although there was one first year History module I wasn’t keen on, there were plenty of second/third year ones that I would love to study. The same was not true for Ancient History – I would struggle to find full my module quota each year.
It was now obvious – I wanted to swap Ancient History for History.
I had to go back and fore the History department and the admissions office (and wait in a long queue of other ‘I’ve changed my mind’ students) but I was able to amend my degree programme before the first week of teaching.
Below is a summary of how I found my first year modules for History and Medieval Studies:-
- ‘Making History’ – a skills module accompanied by a specialist topic in seminars. I chose to study the French Revolution. Originally I wanted to study the Tudors but on discovering I had a clash I had to rethink my decision. My automatic move was the Stuarts however this had filled up and I considered ‘Medieval Religion’ but by this stage I had missed the first class. In the end after looking at the modern(ish) options available I decided to try the French Revolution [a) because I already had a lecture on it and it seemed similar to the English Civil War which I did at A Level and b) it was taught on a Friday so I hadn’t missed the first class]
After a questionable start I was so relived I had chosen this option as it was fascinating. I wrote my essay on the guillotine and did a presentation on the Terror.
- ‘Europe of Extremes: 1789-1989’ – Part of me was dreading this module as modern history is “not my area,” however it proved it be a nice oversight of a period that I did not know a lot about. It also extended my interests, previously stopping at the Stuarts, into the Georgian and Victorian Eras. As I doubted my ability in modern history I made the mistake of picking an essay question that sounded ‘easy.’ I ended up writing an essay on modern, Russian politics… something I am not at all interested in! I cannot stress enough when picking essay questions to pick an interesting one, not an ‘easy’ one. This module and I redeemed ourselves for the exam where I wrote about the Interwar years and Terrorism from 1880 to present; both were great topics.
- ‘Medieval Europe: an introduction’ – This was the module I was most excited about and it did not disappoint. It helped me recognise which areas of the medieval world I am interested in and put me in a good position for second year study of the Middle Ages. I wrote my essay on the Black Death and for the exam I covered the social problems of the fourteenth century and the rise of universities. I would now count all three of these topics as part of my research interests and look forward to exploring them more next year.
- ‘Literature and Society in Medieval Europe’ – I was excited about the ‘society’ part, not at all by literature! The optimistic hope that I could focus on the ‘society’ part was ruined upon finding out the module is run by the English department, not the History department. I’m not a “literature person”; if an author says someone is wearing red, to me, it means they are wearing read – not that they are passionate, angry, sexual or anything else. My essay question (about the medieval book compared to modern books) was purely an attempt to avoid any text analysis but ended up being really dry. For the exam we looked at Chaucer and ‘Amis and Amiloun.’ I really liked both when I could link in historical knowledge and talk about events at the time… but I did not like it when I had to deal with purely the fictional text. The module is great for English students, even History students with an interest in literature, unfortunately not one for me. On the plus side, it is further guidance towards what I enjoy studying and will shape my future module choices.
- ‘Beginners Latin I & II’ – my last two modules were both Latin. This is something I’d always wanted to study but at the same time wasn’t sure what it would be like. I did French and German A levels and had a love of language (until the end of Year 13 anyway) I hated speaking and listening to languages and much preferred the etymology of words and even the grammar – Latin turned out to suit my needs perfectly. It was nice to do a module that was completely different to my others – no ‘there is no right answer’, and discussing arguments. It was all black and white, this word means that and the grammar works like this. Obviously being an Arts student I do not want to operate in that world all the time. I love argument and ideas, but it was a nice change to have something concrete. That is not to say it wasn’t challenging, Latin is like a puzzle, you need to work it out (especially translation) but there is comfort in knowing it can be solved! The right/wrong nature of the module enabled me to score very highly and I will be continuing it next year.
I completely made the right decision to change to History and Medieval Studies; overall I have loved my first year. I want to thank the staff for the amazing teaching and those who were there to support my change of heart at the beginning.
I made a Wordle of everything I learnt in my first year and was shocked by how many things I listed. Some of which are things I will probably never deal with again, but others which have shaped my research interests and potentially my future career. I am very much looking forward to continuing my studies next year… in two weeks.