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Sarah Redman on Interdisciplinary Studies and Making the Most of First Year

As a Flexible Combined Honours student and Editor-In-Chief of the student-run newspaper The Falmouth Anchor, Sarah has been a busy first year student. It's one thing to start a new life in a new area, but taking so many opportunities and still going strong is something we can all learn a lot from!

Sarah takes History, Geography and Politics, and is thinking of picking up Maths next year, showing just how much Flexible Combined Honours (FCH) has to offer. As a course which boasts its ability to take 120 credits of modules from Humanities, Social Sciences, Geography, Business and Maths, on top of some brand new FCH 'pathway' modules, FCH is a course for students looking for more flexibility in their degree, and the ability to choose based on themes and ideas, rather than specifc subjects. You can create your own degree title, and don't have to do a dissertation (if you so choose), instead you get the option of taking up an Independent Research Project, or nothing at all!

The subject is constantly being developed, and whilst Sarah says she ended up here by accident, she tells us she wouldn't change it for the world:

"I’ve always loved Cornwall so getting the opportunity to study here was amazing, and I couldn’t ask for a better course"

Sarah gives some great insight on the benefits of interdisciplinary studies:

"Studying an interdisciplinary course is brilliant because you gain insights into loads of different things. The world isn’t divided into neat little compartments and its far more exciting and realistic to study a concept from loads of different angles. I like to think of interdisciplinary studies as giving you the ability to learn as though you are one big spider diagram as opposed to being on a linear path of knowledge. You also get a lot more control over what to study as you don’t necessarily have to follow the typical course structures and it gives you the freedom to dip in and out of subjects and ideas. I think it makes you a more flexible and rounded person just because you are exposed to more people and concepts than a single honours student."

However, being a Flexible Combined Honours student takes some getting used to, and can be more challenging than a more conventional degree - but for some this is a welcome challenge. Sarah gives us the low-down on what you can expect in your first year of FCH:

"Being a FCH student is really, really exciting but there are drawbacks. Socialising and making friendships is a completely different ball park from that of a single honours student. For instance, I am never in a subject for more than half the lectures so forming strong relationships with coursemates can be really tricky. Having said that, I do cross paths with loads of different people which is really lovely as you have the opportunity to mix with a wider group and establishing those links is really enjoyable. On the academic side of things, there can be difficulties understanding how lecturers want assessment to be written. It can be easy to miss out on the higher grades just because different subjects prefer different approaches to an essay. Referencing can also be a pain as you may have to familiarise yourself with multiple styles. For instance, I’ve used Chicago, Harvard and the History Department’s own style this year alone."

As Editor-In-Chief of The Falmouth Anchor, we asked Sarah what advice she had for people wanting to get experience in editing, and working with a large team of writers:

"My advice would be to jump into any opportunities you have on offer, no matter how unachievable or trivial they may seem. I got into editing and writing by seizing an opportunity in my penultimate year at school to work on the school magazine and from there all kinds of opportunities sprung up! Start off by talking to the student media that’s available, be it radio, digital media, newspapers or magazines and get the ball rolling. I know that we at the Falmouth Anchor are constantly on the look out for new writers and editors, so just sending that initial email can open up a whole world of possibilities!"

As exams are (mostly) over, it's time to reflect on the past academic year and what the coming year has to offer. We asked Sarah what she's found most interesting about her first year at university:

"This year has been a massive learning curve for me as I’ve got to grips with all kinds of situations and had so many new experiences. I guess the most important thing that I’ve learnt is how to deal with things not going to plan as well as how to be flexible, which is just as well given my course!"

Finally, her (very exciting!) aspirations for second year:

"I’m planning on starting a new interdisciplinary academic journal on the Penryn campus where students can submit their academic work. I want it to encourage synoptic thinking as well celebrate the huge variety of skills and intellects that the University of Exeter and Falmouth University have to offer."

Read more about Flexible Combined Honours here, and more about The Falmouth Anchor here.

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Emma Pocock

Exeter Cornwall

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