This post has been contributed by Sarah Fortin Espigares, Undergraduate Laws Student.
I had the opportunity to fly to London this past March for the revision courses. Since this was my first year taking exams and it was only a 2 and half hour flight from where I live, I thought I should give it a go and see if I could take anything away from them. Here’s what I learned aside from the fact that contract law case books weigh two kilos (I had to shuffle my luggage around a bit).
I am not alone
I learned that I was not alone in the challenges of balancing life and studying. I was pleasantly surprised to meet so many other students that were roughing it like me; trying to squeeze in study time around life. Many were parents. Many were working to pay the bills. More than I expected were doing both, like me.
For those that were working; it was interesting to see how the LLB was an opportunity for career progression into law. Overall, it was clear that everyone there was serious about their studies and had a unique and legitimate desire to be there. These were serious people with serious aspirations. I was in good company and it made me realise that I was on the right road and at the right school. It’s not easy to see that when you are miles away from everyone else and studying on your own.
I am on the right track
I also learned that I was not as far behind as I thought I was. Going through the material on your own doesn’t necessarily allow for the larger picture so that you can gauge where exactly you are in your understanding of it. This is one of the things that I think International students really lose over those that attend classes. Law is a monster of a topic. It’s difficult to know where to focus your time and energy. Being in the revision courses allowed me to see where I needed more work and where I was okay, but on top of that it also showed me that I was doing okay overall in my learning of the subjects. That gave me a confidence that I carried through my revision time and right into exams.
The University staff actually want you to pass
While taking part in the revision courses, I was introduced to a fantastic support system of University staff and the professors behind the study guides and even some of the textbooks that we often tend to spend all our time staring at. It was really helpful knowing that they were very understanding of the challenges of being an international student. It was reiterated many times that they were aware of the fact that many of us were juggling regular life along with studying. The professors were all very good in telling us what topics to focus on. Common sense was the returning theme throughout the courses with things like telling us what not to do on exams which often seemed like ludicrous advice, except that people actually do these things. In fact, I caught myself several times during exams almost falling into several traps I had been warned about. These were all things that you cannot take away from the textbooks. I think the most important thing I learned is that they all really do want you to pass and knowing that goes a long way in building the confidence needed to get through an exam.
What would I change?
So all in all, a lot of great benefits from attending the courses. Would I change anything? As the saying goes, there’s always room for improvement, and while I can offer a few suggestions, they were fairly minor in comparison to the benefits.
More interactive; less lecture
I found the interactive sessions very helpful; more so than the lectures. The University has been great in providing past lectures on the VLE and I had already gone through a lot of them as well as the audio sessions for chapters beforehand. I had come to the courses reasonably versed in the subject material. What I really craved was practice in applying the information I had learned. I had the opportunity to do this through Q&A sessions, group activities and pop quizzes, but I would have liked more.
More time to prepare
Another suggestion would be to have the revision course materials available earlier. Because I was so busy at work preparing before leaving for six days I didn’t have much time to go over the revision material beforehand. I had to stagger my time for each subject mainly because I was doing all four first year revision courses. I think if I had more time to prepare some of the exercises beforehand I would have been able to take away a bit more from each course.
In the end, I passed all four of my exams this past May. I would have liked better marks, but given the amount of stuff on my plate, being a mother of two and working full time, I’ll take it!
So was it worth it? Trekking myself all the way to London and living on flat whites and toasties for a week? I’m pretty sure that I could have passed several of my exams without the revision courses, but I know for certain that I would have failed at least two if I hadn’t done the revision courses. Overall, I know they made a big difference in the final stretch to the exam room. I’ll be going back for second year revision this year. That is a certainty.