Being a humanities student is definitely challenging. There are piles of reading to be done, essays to be written and exams to be crammed for. As a third year Journalism, Creative Writing and English student, I’ve definitely encountered my fair share of challenges during the years. Here’s what I think the hardest parts of my degree are.
It’s a common misconception that Humanities students have lots of free time because we don’t have a lot of contact hours. I have six contact hours a week, and the rest is independent study. People presume that we’re just spending our time idly scrolling through social media or watching Netflix in our pyjamas. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Of course, there’s a little bit of procrastination and downtime, but most of my free time is spent at my desk, surrounded by piles of books and lecture notes. Last semester, I had at least one thick novel to read every week, on top of my lecture reading and seminar preparation. The novels are complex, and sometimes very boring. I often had to pinch myself to stay awake. Keeping up with the reading is hard, but at the same time, it’s very rewarding to look back at all the texts I’ve read, even if I’ve not enjoyed them all.
The amount of work that goes into every assignment is often underestimated. Every journalism assignment needs you to show evidence that you’ve conducted at least two interviews. As well as thoroughly researching your topic, you also have to find experts in the field and send them interview requests. In the meantime, you’re carefully compiling a list of questions to ask your sources that will give you the best possible information for your assignment. Working journalists make this part look easy. You want to ask questions that will give you the interviewee’s opinion rather than facts to make your article unique. The wording also has to be spot on: one wrong word can change the entire meaning of your question. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way.
Next, you wait for a response. And wait. And wait. Hands sweating, you check your email for the millionth time. Nothing, except a spam email from some newsletter you don’t remember signing up to. The deadline looms over you like a ticking clock. You panic search for more sources, shooting off emails left, right and centre to anyone remotely connected to the field. Then finally, there’s an answer. Praise the journalism gods!
These situations are so frustrating. Immediately that internal voice inside my head launches into an unhelpful and very irritating monologue.
“What if they don’t answer? You won’t have a source. If you don’t have a source, you’ll fail. And if you fail, it will affect your overall mark and you’ll get chucked out of uni and you won’t have a degree and you’ll never find a job and-”
So far I’ve managed to pull through and find sources, even though a few times it has been very close. Waiting on replies from potential sources is definitely the most challenging thing about my degree.
I have also found the feedback process challenging. Journalism, Creative Writing and English Literature are such subjective subjects, and it’s very disheartening when you’ve tried your hardest and your grade doesn’t reflect it. With subjects like maths, there’s a right and a wrong answer. Although there’s technically no wrong answers in Humanities subjects, there’s definitely answers that tutors love, and ones they’re not too keen on. Growing a thick skin and learning how to turn negative feedback into a positive is also a tough skill that I’ve had to learn.
Despite the challenges, my degree has been a very rewarding experience. I’ve had the opportunity to read lots of amazing books and write articles about topics that really interest me. I’ve met successful authors and journalists and received invaluable advice from tutors that will really help me in the future. I wouldn’t change it for anything!
Written by Ellen Leslie.