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Starting University

Adam Chaffer | 01.07.2009

Adam Chaffer, a second year law student at Northumbria University gives some advice to students who stammer and are starting university.

Freshers' week

The university year starts with Freshers' Week which is without a doubt a highlight of any first year student. It really is your first big opportunity to meet loads of new friends before the academic work starts. During the week, or in some very lucky cases two weeks, you will meet hundreds of new people. Don't let this put you off though. Everybody is in the same boat, everybody is new, and everybody is a little nervous

During the week there are basically three questions you will spend the week asking people: "What is your name?", "What course are you doing?" and "Where are you from?". It is a little bit like being a judge on a talent show asking the opening questions to each candidate, but believe me by the end of the first few weeks you will be sick of asking those questions. Some people you will only meet once, others you will meet and become friends for life.

I was always very nervous at saying my first name, which worried me especially before freshers' week. To overcome this I used to build up to saying my name by putting a few words in front of it - such as, "My name is Adam". It was a very simple technique but it did help me.

Lectures and seminars

University education is radically different to sixth form education in the sense that it is twofold. The first side is lectures, which are very passive. They normally last an hour on each subject and will involve taking in a large body of information. The majority of the time it is a one way process whereby you take in the information as the lecturer speaks. Different lecturers have different styles though - some prefer a free style approach whereby students ask questions throughout, others prefer questions at the end. You will find out pretty quickly which style your lecturers adopt.

The second process of learning is through seminars where the information you gained from the lectures is moulded into understandable areas. They are normally very small groups of people. At first I was very daunted by the idea of seminars, having to talk out loud about legal issues. However I soon got over the initial worry of speaking and started to contribute as much as I could. I now I have no hesitation to talk in seminars, with or without a stammer.

my last piece of advice is to enjoy yourself at university and take part in as much as possible

The best pieces of advice I can give for seminars is prepare thoroughly for them so that you have the confidence to talk about the issues the seminar raises, and don't be afraid to make mistakes or ask questions if you are unsure - it is the best time to correct any errors or misconceptions.

Societies and activities

During Freshers' Week there is a Freshers' Fair where all the societies and sports activities at the university advertise their events. There are dozens of different societies, ranging from the traditional sports like rugby and hockey to the break dancing society and real ale appreciation society.

Join as many clubs and societies as you can - they are a fantastic opportunity to meet new friends and have fun. Alternatively if there isn't a society that takes your fancy, then you can create your own society. At Northumbria University there was no debating society so with another student I founded one. It is a very easy process to do, though different university have different start up processes. I founded it in part because I wanted to practise my hand at public speaking.

Finally my last piece of advice is to enjoy yourself at university and take part in as much as possible, because the more you put in the more you will get out of it.

July 2009