Interviewers: Joint Project – Aleya Arziz Marzuki, Lydia Yeomans and Christos Ioannidis (Bugle Team)

Welcome to the Tricks of the Trade series, a project meant to bridge the gap between students! This interview scheme, brought to you by the Bugle team, is meant to bridge the gap between students of different years and help younglings learn from old-timers! Join us as fellow students share their thoughts about their uni experience, look into what this year has taught them, and give a tip or two about how to get through life at Bedford Way!

We’ve dedicated this week to first and second years alike, and so we are happy to have three third years to talk to us about all the things younger fellas should know. Please give it up for Jake, Julia and Lauren!

How did you decide you wanted to study psychology in the first place?

Jake: I had always had an interest in Psychology. I mean it sounded so cool, a chance to understand why people behave the way they do. So, when I got a chance to study it for IB (an A-level equivalent), I took it and I really enjoyed it – especially hearing about all these studies from the 60s when no one cared about ethics and they were allowed to shove participants into a make-shift prison. But it is more than that – Psychology seemed to me to be such a broad subject, with neuroscience looking at brain regions and single cells and their influence on behaviour, then social psychology which looks into the effects of huge groups on behaviour… This amazing breadth of subject matter really interested me.

Julia: At first I thought I wanted to do medicine or chemistry, though I was also very much torn between sciences and English. Since I never did Psychology at A-levels, it was at a talk about experimental psychology at an Oxbridge open-day that I found out Psychology was the perfect course for me to marry true science with the writing elements I liked in English. So I sort of found psychology by chance yet I always had a penchant for psychiatry even when I contemplated doing medicine.

Lauren: I first decided I wanted to do a degree in psychology after taking the subject at A Level. I found it really interesting to learn how people behave and the mechanisms behind such behaviours. I also felt that a degree in psychology would be good for developing transferable skills that are relevant for many different career paths as it has both quantitative and qualitative aspects.

What is the one thing you wish you had known in previous years that you know now?

Jake: Firstly, that everything will be fine! Second year is really tough and what is good to know is that even if you really think you’re failing or anything like that – you’re not. I mean, I made it through to third year and so have many other people. We all get through it eventually, so if you’re a second year, then it gets better and you will be fine! My advice to first year me (and all first years) is not to worry so much! First year is important and it counts for a fraction of your degree, but don’t let that fact stop you from making the most of your time at UCL. This is probably the first time away from home for most first years and I guess that the most important part of the UCL experience isn’t all academic, it’s also about what you gain as a person – so my advice is to make the most of all the opportunities you get (especially PsychSoc events!).

Julia: How much work we were going to have in 2nd year! In comparison to third year I feel second year was crazy busy and I usually think having done more lecture readings throughout the year would have helped my exam revision. But with that in mind, I wish I would have known that since it is busy during the year (constantly doing lab reports/essays/elective modules) that I should not panic over not getting all the readings done during the year. Any amount you manage to do is better than nothing. I also wish I had been involved with societies more like I am in 3rd year: they help you relax from work all while keeping a focused mind without panic, which helps for working better later on.

Lauren: I wish I had know just how research-oriented this degree was going to be. This is something that came as a bit of a shock in first year having to write 8 lab reports. However I see now why this is necessary as it makes writing your third year projects much easier after having so much practice.

What is the best study technique/resource you have found? Anything else younger students should note it comes to revising?

Jake: I think revision is a very individual process, everyone does it differently and this is probably good because people often know (or come to know) the strategy that works best for them. I like to read lectures and then readings, and summarise them into notes I can learn for an exam, particularly as you’re not going to be able to recall everything from a lecture in an exam situation! My advice is: look at previous exams and work out which topics are definitely going to come up (this is quite easy to do for second year) and focus your revision on those topics and the topics you most enjoy. Also, it worries some people to do this but it is impossible to do all the topics, yet equally don’t be stupid and only revise 3 topics – I would say 10-15 topics from a module would cover you, but it can depend on the module. Secondly, I recommend reading the abstracts for research papers that you want to use. At the end of the day, the amount of information you will retain from an article will likely amount to a similar level as the abstract, so if you have a long list of readings, just focus on the abstracts. Note however that reviews and chapters from books often give a lot of information that will be useful, so try and balance your readings.

Julia: I know everyone has their own way of studying but for those who are more visual like I am, mind-maps with distinctive colours and locations on the page for the key topics are very helpful. I also find that using the researchers’ names helps trigger my memory of the content of each lecture so I make cue cards with names and dates and test myself. Studying in groups can be very helpful too: talking about things can help ensure you understand it and can strengthen memory through rehearsal. But the most important thing ever is to find time for something relaxing that stops you from worrying about work, be it a thing, event or a simple chat.

Lauren: I have found that doing silent group study sessions on Skype (or ooVoo which is similar but allows up to 12 people to join the chat) is really useful way to stay motivated when studying at home. It also means that if anyone in the group has a question about the study material everyone can chip in and you can all help each other.

Any lesser known tips about how to survive psychology at UCL?

Jake: My top tips would be to:
– Start lab reports early even if that means doing a section every couple of days. Anything that stops that frantic deadline-day writing will be a blessing.
– In second year, pick a lab group of people who you know will work (these people might not be your friends), or you might end up with a lot to do on your own (plus its a great way to meet new people on your course).
– Don’t stress out too much – I often see so many people on the Facebook groups for Psychology writing panicky messages and saying they are going to fail. This doesn’t help anyone. So just stay calm and remember that you got to UCL, so you must be pretty smart anyway.
– Final piece of advice: go to Psychology Society events (of course, this is not in any way related to my being the vice President)!,PsychSoc is an amazing opportunity to meet people in your year and those in upper years, who can help you out if you need it. Plus they’re always great fun and a nice break from the course.

Julia: Use any feedback given to you, it can be varied but it does help a lot. But at the same time don’t let bad grades put you down. Everyone gets them and UCL psychology is a tough course compared to other psychology courses. Also speak up: the psych department is very good at receiving student feedback and they seek to change things so students are happier. Not to mention that the psych Christmas party is probably the best department party ever!

Lauren: Try and get a group of good friends within the department so you can all help each other out and support each other (particularly during exam times). It can also be useful to share your notes to lessen the work load.

How about general tips regarding accommodation, food, and leisure around UCL?

Jake: The only tip I can offer to survive at UCL is to try and find a balance in your life – of work and socialising, of spending and saving, of everything. Its important to remember that university is not all about work, so there’s no need to spend 24/7 in the library, but equally bear in mind that effort is needed to succeed, so don’t go out every night and miss every lecture. As long as you have a good balance of setting aside some time for work and some time for fun (unless work is fun for you…) then you should succeed at UCL (or at least its worked for me for the past 2 years!).

Julia: Ifor Evans Halls…where shall I begin! I made the best of friends there but you have to accept that you are paying (a hefty amount) for facilities from the 1970s, that the food isn’t always the best, and that you have to cater for yourself on weekends. But the important part of university is to go out and enjoy yourself so bad accommodation for a year is not a big deal. For 2nd year accommodation, most people find their flats/houses quite late (some just weeks before term starts) which is just how London works with accomodation going on the market and being gone in a day, so don’t panic. On another note, the IT Service Desk are the most helpful people, so don’t hesitate to go ask for help if you have IT trouble.

Lauren: At least once while you are here go check our the Bloomsbury farmers market which is on every Thursday. They sell some really good food!

Do you have any plans for after university?

Jake: This is a question that is constantly on one’s mind in third year. It’s the question everyone wants to know, your friends, family, lecturers and even yourself! Currently I have no idea what I’m going to do, I have ideas, but what I’m coming to realise is that a degree from UCL in Psychology will be useful for a number of future prospects and that even if I don’t know now I will find something that I am happy with. So I guess don’t worry too much about the end of your degree (well maybe a little) and just focus on what is happening now!

Julia: Yes and no. I would like to one day be a clinical neuropsychologist but that’s a far away dream really. Immediately after university I will either do a Masters (if I get accepted) or do some volunteer work which I can then apply as experience for a Clinical Doctorate.

Lauren: I am currently applying for graduate programmes in Human Resources and also considering doing a masters.

Many thanks to our three interviewees!

Much like Harry Potter or the Hunger Games, our last instalment will be broken down into smaller parts, since we will be interviewing three postgraduate students from different areas.

Be with us in two weeks time, when we’ll be interviewing a postgraduate student from the field of Cognitive Neuroscience!