Tuesday 3 February 2015
Advice for new cadets at Warsash
‘A change is as good as a rest’, they say, and it was with this in mind that I boarded the campus bus to Warsash Maritime Academy last Tuesday lunchtime.
Unfortunately I don’t travel well on buses so I felt decidedly unrested by the time I arrived, but the campus is in such a pleasant location on Southampton water that it didn’t take long for my equilibrium to re-establish itself.
A brief turn amongst the trees and a hello to the ducks, and I was ready to go!
I had come to Warsash to meet the new January intake of cadets and give a short induction talk to them about learning skills and all the support available to them. It is difficult for me to get to Warsash very often, and not just because I don’t like buses, so it’s important they are aware of all the help they can access online, not least our very own Succeed@Solent.
However, induction weeks being what they are, quite often cadets can suffer, if not death by PowerPoint, then certainly serious malaise, so I try to do something different.
I began by introducing myself and threw in the first of my nautical puns (all being in the same boat), warning them there’d be more. Then I asked all 70 of them to stand and close their eyes. It never fails to surprise me that everyone does this, but that’s my power trip for the term.
They all have to estimate when they think a minute has passed, the idea being that it can be a good indicator of how they sense time passing, and therefore whether deadlines will cause stress.
Obviously I don’t want them to get out of depth too early on in the course.
Next we discussed some of the features of academic writing, by summarising in 20 words or less exactly why their favourite film is their favourite. Try it yourself: it’s not as easy as you might think, although one chap succeeded admirably with his 3-word analysis of Game of Thrones (‘swords, dragons, girls’). Clearly he is not just treading water.
Finally we looked at critical analysis, and the importance of justifying your opinion – a crucial component of any academic work. To do this I set them all adrift in an imaginary life raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and allowed them to choose any five of 15 possible items to take with them, with reasons for their choice.
After much debate in their groups, I’m happy to say I wouldn’t worry about finding myself shipwrecked with any of them; although since they will be at sea themselves in less than three months, let’s hope that remains an academic exercise!
To close, I asked them about their first impressions of Warsash and their course. ‘It’s not just rum and the lash’, joked one.
I would take that as a good start!