I was studying my dream course, veterinary medicine, at my dream college, the Royal Veterinary College – everything was falling into place… on my second try. I entered first year full of excitement, but there was always a part of me that felt out of place; I had to spend an extra year of hard work to achieve what a lot of people achieved without the extra time. Did I deserve my place here as much as them? Would more be expected of me? It’s natural to have insecurities when you join a new year, let alone a new institution and a new stage of your life, but my lack of confidence persisted.
Approaches to Learning
During lectures I struggled to find the best way to learn. Was it better to write down as much as I could whilst listening? Would this risk me not absorbing the information? Would listening carefully and waiting to write notes while re-watching the lecture be a better approach? When revising, I wouldn’t know whether to use flashcards, mind maps or memorise learning objectives by repeatedly writing them out.
By Easter, I felt that I had more or less kept up with lectures but was increasingly aware of the fact I probably couldn’t explain anything to anyone without my notes. This scared me as exams were approaching. I studied really hard for my first year exams and I passed! However, I was pretty surprised that it wasn’t a higher pass. After all, I worked hard, had a good routine every day and felt quietly confident coming out of my exams. The relief of passing my first year outweighed my exasperation at not getting a higher mark. However, when second year began, my first meeting with my tutor finished with me making an appointment with the university’s disabilities team and study skills advisor. It was disheartening and I felt slightly embarrassed to tell friends I was seeking help with my learning.
New ways of learning and a new confidence
It turned out I did not have a learning disability but was simply slower at processing the information given to me in lectures. Hearing that this was not uncommon and there were ways to succeed gave me a lot of hope. I was advised to be less influenced by my peers as everyone learns differently and starting revision earlier than them might give me more time to grasp concepts before exams. Along with the study skills advisor I explored new ways to study, for example, revising verbally (e.g. explaining concepts to someone else). First year held a valuable learning experience for me; my year out reapplying to vet school only built resilience and broadened my experience which was a strength I hadn’t appreciated. I learnt that it was okay to have a different learning approach from my peers. For anyone feeling less capable, you are not alone, there are people to talk to such as the study skills advisor and a personal tutor. If that imposter syndrome hits, remember that you've earnt your place as much as everyone else!
Written by: Dhanya Mahadevan
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