I’m not going to lie – in my first year studying at Newcastle, it was an absolute chore going to seminars. Particularly on a Thursday morning at 9.00am! It’s safe to say, my attendance was not exemplary.
So why now, in second year, have I had a total change of heart? Seminars are the BEST. I’ve realised in first year I was doing it all wrong! I wish someone had told me how to make the most of seminars. So, to all you future Newcastle University politics students – let me save you a year of dread! I’m going to teach you to LOVE seminars like I do. You can thank me later.
Firstly, do at least SOME of the reading. We don’t have many contact hours – even just a quick skim read and you will be moderately prepared. If you can have one constructive thing to input to the session then the hour is worthwhile, there will still be time to nap later in the day!
SPEAK! Seminars are painfully awkward when they are spent in silence. It’s probably a blessing and a curse that the politics lecturers don’t pick on everybody in the room. This means that any input is welcomed, so don’t be shy and just get involved. There is always somebody in the room that is a little bit ‘in-your-face’ opinionated, challenge them! There is no better feeling than the smug satisfaction of coming out victorious from a heated mini-debate.
Be friendly and don’t be afraid to be yourself. Seminars are the perfect environment to meet people and chat more openly with your fellow students. I spent the whole of first year being too shy to introduce myself properly to people. If you force yourself through the initial discomfort of the ‘ice-breaker’ sessions, you’re guaranteed to relax a bit more, and start making conversation with familiar faces.
Don’t miss the opportunity to gain clarity on a certain issue. I can’t tell you how many times random comments within a seminar have ended up being central to one of my assignments.
Relax. After all, there is no wrong answer. You really do get out what you put in when it comes to seminars. Even when you think you totally understand something, somebody else will always have a different way of analysing the material. It’s perfectly okay to get the wrong end of the stick, and, by the end of the year, strange faces will become familiar friends.