It's been a very quick four months for me since I started at the University of Leeds this year. Everything has gone by in a blur of meeting new people, learning new things, and having new experience after new experience.
I think the most important thing is that I'm really enjoying it. It's probably difficult to judge whether you're happy or not at a certain time in your life, because there's always something that could bring you down, so it's easier to think about happiness in retrospect. But whenever I've taken a step back from everything, I've realised that I am very happy at University.
It could have gone either way, but I was so lucky with my flatmates, coursemates and lecturers/ teachers, that I enjoy every day there.
I started my Christmas holiday on 12th December, and Semester Two starts on 26th January. But there is a two-week exam period that I have to go back to Leeds for starting on 12th January.
I have four exams, one each in English and Japanese, and then the other two are my elective modules. This means that, just like in the A-level years, the Christmas holiday is not a time for resting!
I made a revision timetable and I'm trying to stick to it. It's difficult though, with relaxing with my family over Christmas, celebrating New Year, and the extreme cold! After a warm spell before Christmas, where it was nearly 10C every day, the temperature has plummeted to -4 or -5 at night, and -2 during the day. I can't remember a winter as cold as this in my life. Snow started as early as November and we've had several snowy days so far. I'm hoping that, as the last two summers in Britain have been pretty dire, the arrival of a freezing winter means that next summer will be steamy and hot. Fingers crossed!
Anyway, too much about weather perhaps! The exams are causing me stress, because I need to pass all my compulsory modules to go to Japan next year. But the pass boundary is 40% so it's quite low. I was surprised.
For anyone who doesn't know how University marking systems work, this is my understanding of it:
0-39% - fail
40-49% - third
50-59% - 2:2
60-69% - 2:1
70%+ - first.
To get the credits for a module, you simply need to pass with 40% or more, and I need at least 100 credits from the available 125 for Year 1 to go to Japan.
About two weeks before we broke up for the holiday, we had two meetings about the year abroad in Japan. I was surprised to find out that we have to do a lot of the organisation ourselves. We book, and pay for, our own flights to Japan, and have to arrange our own travel this side and in Japan. But what is good is that the University sorts out our Japanese University applications and student visas.
Also, our choice of Universities in Japan is limited because it is one of our teachers that decides where we'll go. We were given a questionnaire asking for our preferences in relation to where we want to go next academic year, although there was no space to actually write the name of the University, leaving the result very open!
I am very keen to go back to Tokyo because I enjoyed it so much last time, but I wouldn't mind if I was placed elsewhere as there might be less English and more opportunities to see new parts of Japan.
In Tokyo, there are four Universities we can be placed in; Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS), International Christian University (ICU), Hosei University (法政大学) and Gakushuin Women's University (学習院大学).
Being a male, Gakushuin is out of the equation, and the TUFS and ICU campuses are quite far out of the main city area in West Tokyo. However, the Hosei campus is near Shinjuku (新宿), in the dead centre of the metropolitan area.
But, I have given in the questionnaire, and should find out where I'll be going some time in February, well into Semester 2.
In Semester 1, I had to give in two assessed essays, one for South-East Asian Studies, and another for English. The English one was more important, as SE Asian Studies is an elective module, so I spent 30 hours on in. In hindsight, this wasn't necessary, but I was very worried that I had forgotten how to write an essay over my gap year so I wanted it to be good. I had to use IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet), which I only knew a bit about from one of my Chinese housemates who used it to study for his English exams, but it was actually a very interesting essay to write. I will find out the marks for those essays sometime at the beginning of Semester Two.
Overall, my first semester of University has been incredible. I've made lots of new friends and learned so many new things, it's hard for me to write everything down. All I know is that I hope Semester 2 is as successful and enjoyable as the first.
This will be the last post of 2008, as it's New Year's Eve, and I will definitely be celebrating the most important year of my life so far as best I can this evening! So much has happened, I'm glad I have this blog to look back over it, because otherwise I'm sure I'd forget a lot!
Have a very happy New Year!!