Rio Finch

Human Geography BSc (Hons)

Lecturers are so enthusiastic because they love what they teach. 

What attracted you to study your course at Kent?

I liked the idea of being able to tailor my studies to my interests and I was especially interested in  the opportunity to study elective modules outside my programme of study. This year for instance I’m doing a module on international relations from the School of Politics and International Relations.

The surrounding area is also really nice. You’re a short bus journey away from Canterbury and, compared with where I lived before, it’s breathtaking. Especially when you’re walking along the top of the campus at night and you look out into the city and see the Cathedral lit up. The city itself is so convenient and full of culture and it’s right on your doorstep.

So the location is perfect and the course is perfect!

Did you come to an Applicant Day before choosing to come to Kent?

Yes, it was really good. It’s different from an open day. An open day gives you a sense of the University. An applicant day gives you a sense of the School that you’ll potentially be studying in, and you get to meet the lecturers who might potentially be teaching you in the up-and-coming years. It’s almost an initial ice breaker before you start the course, so it makes starting studying less daunting and gives you an idea of what you’re going to get into.

How did you feel when you first arrived? Did you find it easy to settle in?

Before I arrived, I was a bit daunted with the thought of living on my own, cooking for myself, cleaning for myself, but settling in was easy enough for me.  My classmates were very nice and talkative, and so were my flatmates. The lecturers are very nice, too, and knowing that I’m in relaxed surroundings in my flat and in the School made everything a lot easier.

What’s your accommodation like?

I live in Turing, which is about five minutes’ walk from central campus. In the first week, we had a welcome event with a buffet and got to know everyone around the accommodation. The level of support, especially in my accommodation, is great. The support team actually came round to visit to say ‘This is what we do, if you need us please contact us'. Campus security are also always available no matter what, and that makes me feel comfortable knowing that they are watching and making sure that everything’s okay.

What’s been the best thing about your course so far?

Definitely the ability to tailor it to all my interests; it gives a personal feel and makes you more interested in what you’re going to study. Also, within the individual modules themselves you’ve got an element of tailoring to what you’re interested in through the essay choices. Lecturers always advise us to write about something we’re interested in, as it makes the essay more passionate. The course also challenges your perspective, in a good way.

How would you describe your lecturers?

The School as a whole is great, professional with an informal tone in the sense you can call lecturers by their first name, they want you to, so there’s a nice community feel no matter what discipline you’re in.

The best thing is that they’re all so enthusiastic, because they love what they teach and they research what they teach you, so it gives it a personal feel. They also like to make lots of topical jokes, to keep you laughing and having fun but also learning at the same time!

How is it being part of the first cohort of human geographers at the University?

The first cohort ...  to be the first year, it makes you feel special in many ways. As a course, Human Geography is everything I wanted, it’s such an amazing discipline to get into.

What have been your favourite modules so far, and why?

I’m really enjoying the module on contested environments – the lecturer is brilliant and he adds little topical comical anecdotes into his teaching. It keeps you on your toes. It’s a course that challenges your preconceptions of environments and makes you see an alternative perspective.

How would you describe your fellow students?

There’s lots of people from different cultural backgrounds, different personalities and attributes, and no one clashes. Everyone seems to be level-headed as well, so in seminar discussions it means people see both sides of the argument. For instance, one seminar debate was about industries destroying the environment – is it OK if they pay for the damage? I was on the side of ‘no’ because the environment is irreplaceable and you can’t put a value on it, but other people were on the side of ‘yes’, because the only value that people understand is, you know, money. So, you think about each others’ arguments and you work out a compromise. Having so many personalities gets the seminar rooms and discussions going!

Are you planning to take a year abroad as part of your studies?

Yes, if it becomes available. I’d  like to go to the [ University of Kent’s] Brussels campus and look at international relations and globalisation in a bit more depth, study abroad and experience the Belgian – or the Brussels – cultural scene a bit more, and live and learn there, and develop my mind ready for the last year of the course.

You went to Brussels on a field trip recently. How was that experience?

The Brussels field trip was impressive. There was a lot to do. We got to sit in on a policy-making decision within the European Union, and if it wasn’t for our lecturer’s connections there, we wouldn’t have been able to access this. We also got to visit the University of Kent’s Brussels campus, and they gave us a taster of what they do and how they can help us in the future. We got a mini lecture on Brussels as a whole and how it’s an example of a conflicted area.  It helped me build on pre-existing knowledge because before we went our lecturer set the scene of contested areas, and introduced Brussels. To then go there and experience what was going on first-hand, and hear people from Belgium explain what’s going on, gave me a real sense of understanding.

You mentioned that this was a good opportunity to bond with your fellow students?

Yes, we had the initial icebreaker in Whitstable in the first week of the first term, which was good, you got to know people. Then the overnight stay in Brussels really was the turning point. When you’re walking around with the same 17 people, your class, for two days, you do get to know everyone, you get to know your lecturers a bit more. It broke the ice with everyone, it helped a lot.

What are the facilities like on campus?

The library is open 22/7, so if you find you’re having a restless night, perhaps work feels daunting and you feel like you just want to do a few hours of study but you don’t find your room a good place to study in, the library’s open. You can sit in there peacefully, lights on, people around you and you can study.

When it comes to socialising, it’s extremely good. Turing has its own drinks and food area, it has table tennis and air hockey, and table football. Most of the accommodation has spaces like this. Woody’s [the student union hub] shows live football as well, which is great!

In the School itself, there’s a green living wall which is always nice to look at when you’re walking up and down the stairs: it makes you think about what you do and why you do it.

Even though it’s pretty early days, what kind of career do you hope to follow when you graduate?

I think the main thing about university as a whole is that it opens a lot of doors. I’m the first one in my family to go to university, and my Dad says that the best thing about university is the opportunities on offer. When you’re here you realise what this means.

Studying Human Geography could lead to a Master’s, or a PhD, or allow me to go into work on environmental sustainability. I’m also involved in InQuire [the student newspaper] and plan to write for them throughout my time here. I’ll be gaining experience, so there’s nothing stopping me from going into journalism – the options are there.

Have you got any advice for somebody thinking of coming to Kent?

Yes, don’t be afraid to jump in before you get there! Through Facebook groups and social media platforms you can find out information before.  So, going into the group chats and finding the people who will actually be in your flat and talking to them before you get there takes the edge off meeting them in person. Also, research the societies that are on offer before you join because societies fairs can be quite daunting, especially when you first join, and don’t be afraid to email anyone to find out more.

Going to university is a completely different atmosphere, a completely different mindset from school. Everyone’s more open, everyone’s more available and everyone’s more relaxed. It takes everyone into account, and it thinks about everyone. Just don’t be afraid to email or ask, or have a look around, before you come here.