From learning a new language to understanding mental health – On the flexibility of my Geography degree
This may sound like a no brainer, but geographers at The University of Manchester have the choice to do optional modules throughout their first two undergraduate years, and not just from within their discipline. Of course, there are plenty of options in Geography, but one could choose to do either a language, a module from the University College for Interdisciplinary Learning (UCIL), or a free choice module from another discipline.
To highlight my own experience, I chose to do Beginners’ German in first year just for fun (I am lowkey a languages freak!), and I studied it both semesters, as language courses are designed for a whole academic year to touch upon all essential grammar, vocabulary, and other language skills. Since I started university during the COVID-19 pandemic, I did German fully online, and while I still feel like I’ve missed the in-person experience of learning a language in a group with students, the module was very well designed for Zoom teaching. All components were kept in the online environment – from speaking to writing and more – with the help of functions such as share screen or breakout rooms. I am happy to say I can now engage in basic conversation in German, and who knows how much better I could have been after real life lessons, which are now back and running.
From UCIL, I did the famous Creating a Sustainable World (CaSW) module, which is designed around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our University has a vast experience with the SDGs, which means that if they interest you, you are in the right place to study them. Perhaps you can guess how this one is very much related to geography as I got to explore climate change issues, social inequalities and urban development plans. Just like CaSW, all UCIL modules are designed to incite your creativity, broaden your horizons and gain transferable skills. Also, no need to hide you need a break from your own course: it’s good to explore and keep your interests wide!
The last path you can go onto is choosing a free choice module from another course. In second year’s semester 2, I did Crisis of Nature – a module from the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, where you can explore and analyse modern environmental crises such as food security, the hidden side of IT and urban sprawl. I particularly liked this module because of the critical discussions in seminars and the opportunity to watch and speak about non-written materials, such as documentaries, paintings, and even Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax! Imagine myself on the sofa watching The Lorax on Netflix for academic purposes… pretty cool I guess.
You can tell my optional choices have got something in common, and that is the geographical nature they all share. Nevertheless, you can do something completely unrelated to geography, such as Understanding Mental Health or Are We Alone? (exploring extraterrestrial life). My point is don’t limit yourself and give a try to something fresh that maybe has always made you curious and eager for knowledge. And remember, you cannot do this in third year, as you need to focus on your degree wholly, with access to geography optionals only. Have I convinced you?