Roberta Damiani

Roberta Damiani
3rd Year, BSc Economics and Politics
My name is Roberta, and I come from Italy. I am currently in my final year of the joint degree course BSc Economics and Politics, which I am really enjoying because it allowed me to combine the two disciplines I am most interested in. I write for the magazine of the Economics Society, and I hope one day to become a professional journalist.

Looking forward to the final year

It is kind of scary to think that in one year I will be a graduate about to start a career in the real world. University so far has been so full of experiences that time has gone by really quickly, and I haven’t even fully realized it.

Still, I really am looking forward to starting my third year. So far I had only been able to choose my Politics modules, while all the Economics modules I had to take were compulsory (the technical term is “core”). This is because I am on a joint degree, but single honours Economics students have more choice also in their second year.

But now I have had the opportunity to choose all my modules for the next academic year. This is amazing, because it really allows us to pick the areas we are mostly interested in, and I really cannot wait to start. I chose mostly Macroeconomics subjects for what concerns Economics, as I am really passionate about governmental policy-making. For what concerns Politics, I am going to do Electoral Behaviour and Parliamentary Studies. The latter is a workshop-based course which will include a trip to the Houses of Parliament, and I am really, really excited.

In the final year we also have the possibility to write a dissertation on a topic of our choice. In my case, this was compulsory for Politics (but I would have done it anyway, I love the idea of working on my own project) and optional for Economics. Unfortunately, I find that one dissertation is challenging enough, so I will not be doing the Economics one. But the great thing about joint degrees is that they give you a more global view about several issues, and my knowledge of Economics will certainly be really useful in writing my Politics project.

It will be a hard, probably the hardest, year. But I am sure it will also be the best one!

Assessment and grades at Queen Mary

The way in which we get our grades at Queen Mary is not particularly different from what most of us were used to in high school. For every module we take, we get part of the grade during the academic year, and most of it at the end of the year with the massive “finals”.

The format of the assignments you are given during the year will  vary according to the course you choose. Generally speaking, for what concerns the School of Economics and Finance, the most common formats of in-year examinations are written tests (sometimes these can be multiple-choice quizzes, other times more open and problem solving questions), oral presentations (which can be either individual or as a group) and projects which you need to prepare before a certain deadline. Altogether, the assignments you carry out during the year are usually worth between 20- 30% of your total grade for that year.

The remaining 70- 80% is graded with final exams that take place during the last term (April-June). April is the so-called revision break: there are no classes, apart from the occasional revision session if a lecturer organises one, but do not mistake it for a long holiday! Any student will tell you that it is a very demanding month, during which you have to revise everything you have done in order to be prepared for the finals. These usually start at the end of April or the beginning of May, and are spread over a few weeks. For an Economics student who takes 8 modules per year, there will be 8 corresponding finals.

This is a challenging time (as you should expect at university), but don’t be scared: it is also extremely rewarding!

Time management, the greatest skill

There are several skills that a university student has to develop. I believe that the most important one is time management, because, once you know how to manage your time, everything else shortly follows. At the beginning, you might be pleasantly surprised to know that an Economics student only has twelve hours of taught classes per week: four lectures that last two hours each, and the four corresponding seminars that last one hour each. My hours are even shorter, since I am a joint degree student and, for what concerns Politics, the lectures last only one hour.  Furthermore, deadlines for exams or assignments are usually set weeks in advance.

These things combined can give us the impression that we have all the time in world, and many of us fall victims of procrastination. Until we realise that the deadlines are not so far, and that, above all, most deadlines tend to fall in the time lapse of one, maximum two weeks.

Time management is the only answer. I (slowly!) learned that there is no need to spend the night on your books right before the deadline: all you need to do is to start working on your assignments and studying for your tests as soon as possible, and to carefully plan your studies. That way, not only is your workload more evenly spread, but you will also be in a more relaxed state of mind.

Time management will also allow you to fit different extracurricular activities into your schedule, and this will definitely have a positive impact on your CV.

My first impressions of QM

My first days at Queen Mary, University of London, were literally dreamlike, dreamlike in a very positive way. I simply loved the campus, it felt like being in a movie about university life. And while those movies, more often than not, seem to forget about the actual study part, they can be quite accurate about the new challenges that a fresher has to face.

Above all, the biggest challenge for me was to make new friends. Since I am from Italy, I did not know anyone here. On top of the initial disorientation, I certainly was not helping myself by being really, really shy, especially since everyone spoke a language that I was only starting to master.

So, I went to my scheduled Induction week’s activities feeling hopeful but also a little anxious. And, I have to admit, I was surprised to find out that you spend most of Induction Week playing games. Well, let me tell you this: the teachers who make you play what can look like “silly games” are actually doing you a huge favour. Games are excellent ice-breakers and, before you realise it, you have introduced yourself to a bunch of new people and are sharing jokes with them. I am very grateful for those bonding moments, and I am still friends with many people I met in those occasions.

Thanks to that, I adapted to my new life quite quickly. I was somehow scared that I would be disadvantaged because English was not my first language, but what I found was an extremely welcoming and already international environment. Although I am not an English native speaker, I now write for the journal of the Economics Society. This is how many opportunities Queen Mary offers!

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