Friday, 22 July 2016

What To Expect Studying Sociology at Durham University

I was going to save this post until next year when I'll have finished university. However, as I'll probably be too busy drowning under the fresh burden of £40,000 ish of student debt, here it is. *Edit* I've now graduated and returned to add my 3rd year experiences!

  • It changes your world view. My favourite parts of sociology are the 'real life' visible issues such as sexism, racism, homophobia etc. These issues are massive on social media right now, so it's interesting to be able to engage further with my degree in a less academic way. Some people think sociology is just 'common sense' and don't even get me started on people who think "The University of LifeTM" teaches you more. Please, as a middle class white man, tell me more about your personal experiences with police racism.
  • You can write your dissertation on literally anything. Mine is about the role of social media in slut shaming girls. A lot of subjects have a short list of topics to choose from, whereas we can do anything as long as it relates somehow to social issues, aka everything. I'm actually kind of looking forward to starting it because it's a real life issue that I'm super interested in. A girl in the year above did hers on the Kardashians, although national media really slammed her for it. (They live to bitch about Kim's body every day but when a student critically analyses the effect of a social phenomenon, it's suddenly a mindless waste of time???) 
  • Working from home. The majority of the course is basically self taught from 'independent reading' and essays. While my housemates are heading off into the sunrise for a 9am class test, I can have a lie in and work during the hours that better suit my concentration span. Although some sociology students work in the library, you definitely don't need to. I much prefer curling up to read online copies with my slippers, a cup of tea and central heating. Alternatively, the abundance of cute cafes in town are great if you work better in a busier environment.

  • You get very little for your money. For most of this year, I had only THREE hours of lectures per week. Alongside three hours of seminars per week, this works out at around £100 per hour. For this hefty price, some BSc students get 25 hours a week, laboratories, equipment and fancy ass buildings. We get lecturers chatting through a powerpoint, in rooms that don't even have windows. We even had to buy the essential computer software ourselves! 
  • Many people think you're doing an "easy", "Mickey Mouse" subject. Along with the other social sciences and possibly education studies, we're pretty much bottom of the academic pile. (Prepare for mocking from a "rah" whose mum still buys his trousers). The entry requirements for sociology at Durham are AAB, the lowest accepted. Next to A*AA for subjects such as economics, it's hard not to feel inferior (read: completely stupid) in comparison to most other students.
  • This one probably goes for most subjects, but it's a massive change from the cushy A Level life. For A Level sociology, I literally had to memorise a stack of sheets. I was told what sort of questions to expect and how to go about answering them, and 100% was a realistic exam goal for me. At uni you're pretty much left to it. Exam questions could be about anything at all within sociology, and example answers from past papers do not exist. You have to research everything before even starting to revise it. You can expect to get around 65% (2:1) with a fair amount of effort, but over 80% is almost unheard of. I'm still finding this difficult to adjust to.
  • Sociology doesn't lead directly into a job, unless you want to be a sociology professor but even that requires additional training and studying. A degree of any kind is supposedly an advantage in the job market, but admittedly, sociology seems to be bottom of the employment pile. *Update: 6 months on, I'm STILL searching for a grad job. It's really tough and honestly I think sociology is holding me back as I'm not specifically trained for any industry. Sigh.*
Overall, I would recommend studying sociology at Durham if you're really in it for the education. If it's genuinely your passion and you're considering a masters/research career afterwards then go for it. It's a truly interesting, enlightening course to study and I did enjoy it. However, as a struggling graduate, I do regret my choice and wish I'd pursued a more industry relevant subject.