01 Tips and Tricks for Stage 1 Beginners: a guide on how to survive through your first week
You've made it!
You applied, got through the nightmare that is UCAS, successfully went through exams, managed to get proper sleep during your summer - and finally, you're at uni. It’s been a hell of a build up, we know. But you’re here. And honestly, there’s nothing more exciting than being a fresher.
We also realise that everything, absolutely everything is going to be busy, stressful, loud, confusing, and you're going to want to jump off a bridge at several points for the first couple weeks (where am I? Where on earth are the F rooms? What does contextual studies even mean? How am I supposed to hand draw perfectly straight lines? What is scale?). But worry not; we've been there before you, and we've got tips and tricks to help you survive the blur that is your first week of BA at CSM.
01 - Take your notebook out
This is key- make sure you write EVERYTHING. Write down the dates, times, even the smallest information that your stage leaders will give you. Your first few days will be packed with information and it’ll be easy to miss things. Your tutors and the admin will always be around to help out but they won’t appreciate you coming up to ask about something that was said 10 minutes ago. Once you’ve got everything in your book, you can take a few minutes at home to try to decipher your own handwriting and wrap your head around the course.
02 - Spend some time looking at Moodle
Moodle is hell on earth and everyone knows it- the University is currently looking at how to modernise this dinosaure of a platform and make it easier for us to figure things out. In the meantime: make sure you understand how it works. Moodle is basically the one platform that will help you find everything you need to know about your course: how to contact tutors, how to find your briefs, etc. Spend a couple hours getting lost and finding your way back; this way, you won't waste a day trying to find where your first project brief is.
But to make your life easier: this is basically everything you will need: as you log in, the first page will tell you lots of options. You only need to know two: your course's page (under "My course" at the top, or just the first link you get when you're logged in) and "My Assessment Feedback" (for later this year when you start getting graded).
Once you click on your course's page, you get the main info board, and on the left, all of your units split into folders. Everything you need is in there. We promise. This is where you will find your briefs for all of your projects, your templates etc.
03 - Try to map out your year, and understanding your units
Here's a tip for the Units, and we'll have told you today: they're everything that matters. Once you get the Unit system down, you'll be able to understand your course, the way you will be graded, how the year will be split up and most importantly, how you will manage your time.
We really really recommend that you print all of your briefs. This will allow you to have a clear view of your upcoming deadlines and roughly understand how things are categorised.
A quick crash course into the Unit System:
The year is split up between 4 Units (think of them as different subjects within the course)
UNIT 1: Reflection and Research
You’ll be reflecting on your experiences all through the year and the process of working in groups.
UNIT 2: Design Studio
The most important unit - it weights the most overall -: this is all of your design projects.
UNIT 3: Contextual Studies
You’ll learn about the history of architecture and its importance today.
UNIT 4: Professional and Technical Practices
Professional Practices: Get an understanding of the real world duties of an architect.
Technical Practices: Learn about engineering! Forces! The Sun!
Make sure you map out your deadlines as well. You have two types:
Formative (you’ll get feedback and a grade but it will NOT count towards your final grade. Think of it as a mock up exam, that still really matters.)
Summative: the real deal.
Here’s what I did last year during my first week when I was really really confused by all the numbers and names and projects:
You may not have the same projects as us, so make sure you don’t blindly copy this - but you can use it as a template.
04 - Join the online student group and the Architecture Society.
Trust us- this will save you from asking the same question a thousand times, and realize that you're not the only one who's confused as to what scale means or how to even do a portfolio sheet. Your peers will have the exact same questions, and, well: the group chat will help you solve all of this together. Join the Facebook group and the group chat for your year!
Join the Architecture Society, because not only will you get amazing insights like you are now /wink wink/ but you will also be able to take part in the culture of the architecture department and bond with the other students faster. This will make your experience much smoother, happier, and overall you'll feel like you truly belong.
The tutors KNOW that you will use the first few weeks to bond as a class - so use this as an opportunity. You will need your friends when it’s 2am and you’re ripping your hair out over your portfolio in a few months. Group work at the library changes the game.
Make sure you all go out together, get some drinks, come to all the first architecture society events, make sure you get to know the Stage 2 and Stage 3. They’ll help you out whenever you need them, and it’s a bit like having older siblings. Come grab us whenever, say hi, and don’t be shy.
05 - Just enjoy yourself
You’re going to be fine. Honestly. We’ve all been there and turned out fine (with I guess just a lot of scalpel scars on our fingers from dodgy modelmaking). As long as you’re keen, hard working and organised, you’ll do really well. This year will go by incredibly fast if you’re having a blast - and for that you need to let yourself enjoy everything. From the smelly clubs hosting freshers, the strange drunk debates over Peter Zumthor’s work or the all nighters at the library, take the most out of it and stay passionate. If you love what you’re doing, nothing will ever feel like hard work.