Joint Honours: how I balance two subjects

Sam Chikowore is studying both Business Management and Geology. Two separate subjects. Here, he explains what a Joint Honours degree means to him.

The power of two

Wait a minute, you do two subjects? How? That is how most people usually react when I tell them that I am studying two completely different subject areas. It is because I am part of a rare species of University students, I am a Joint Honours student.

In simple terms, a Joint Honours degree is simply a degree that covers two academic subjects, rather than one. With a Joint Honours degree, you can combine two different subject areas that appeal to you and study them alongside each other to create one degree.

My experience as a Joint Honours student so far has been a relatively smooth transition. I have been able to settle in well into my different subject areas, acquainting myself fully with the different expectations that are required of me.

Surreal experience

Being a Joint Honours student studying Business Management and Geology has been a surreal experience in many aspects. Firstly, I don’t fit the bill of being a normal, conventional university student. I go from studying volcanoes and rock formations on one day to trying to decipher business performance and stock markets on another. That’s the beauty I have found in being a Joint Honours student though. You can cross cut between two different academic worlds and find a midpoint where your two subject areas meet. This allows you to form a tailored degree that you can eventually use as a launch pad to elevate yourself in your career.

I have been exposed to two different teaching methods and ways of learning, which was quite daunting at first but I’m actually enjoying it now. I also get to meet plenty of new people between my two subjects, so making friends has been a much easier process for me.

How I split my time

All students complete a total of six modules per academic year. For a single honours student, this means completing their chosen six modules in one subject. However, for a Joint Honours student, this means completing three modules from each of my two subjects.

My timetable is relatively equal. I have an equal proportion of days dedicated to my two subjects. For example, this term, my Business Management and Geology modules were split up in a way that meant I had two dedicated days each for each subject. The way the timetables are drafted means that the hours are not as long and demanding during lecture times. This gives me time to do further research and read up on my subjects.

I feel that an equal allocation of time between my two subjects helps me to treat my subject areas equally and not think of one as more important than the other. However, if you find that you are inclined towards one subject over another, there is often the option to switch to a major/minor degree as your strengths and interests develop. This would mean that I would study about two-thirds of the year in my major subject and the remaining third in my minor subject. This may translate to majoring in four modules out of six.

Workload

The workload of being a Joint Honours student is not really so different to single honours students. There may be exceptions when deadlines may be closely lined up due to the deadline scheduling of the different modules. In my case, my subject areas are completely independent of each other and have their own scheduled dates. It is just a matter of good time management and being able to balance my efforts and time management well.

When I first enrolled on to my course, I had assumed that, because I was going to be studying two different subjects, this would inevitably lead to double the workload. This myth was debunked relatively quickly as I started to fully familiarise myself with how the Joint Honours system actually works. So, although I’m studying two different subject areas, the workload is still nearly just the same as it would be for a single honours degree. Attending the various interactive forums that were hosted by the Joint Honours department helped me to understand this more clearly.

Switching mindsets

I am constantly shape shifting between two different academic worlds as my subject areas are quite literally complete polar opposites of each other. I did find it relatively weird at first, having to switch between two different mindsets between my subjects.

On my Monday lecture at 5pm, I have to put my entrepreneurial cap on and find out ways to make a business more profitable. Meanwhile, in my 9am lecture on Tuesday, I have to switch to a much more practical mindset that helps me understand why rocks have formed the way they have and what makes volcanoes so explosive.

This kind of adaptability to new environments has definitely opened up my mind to being able to bend my brain to fit in with new teaching methods. I did find it relatively difficult at first, though, because I was new to university study so I already had to adapt to an entirely new education system and deadline structure. However, with time, as you start to familiarise yourself with the system and how things work, you end up being able to just go with the flow. Adaptability has certainly become my forte.

Expanding social horizons

There is always the social aspect of your subjects as well. As a Joint Honours student, you can sometimes feel like you’re stuck in the middle of two different social groups. You’re neither here nor there. You might feel more at home in one social group or in one subject area as compared to the other.  The one thing I would advise would be to just to make a conscious effort to be your best self in both social groups and just put yourself out there. You’ll feel a sense of belonging soon enough.

Being part of two subject groups does have its advantages though. I am able to interact with two completely different groups of people I wouldn’t otherwise have met, expanding my social horizons.  In my opinion, it’s OK to feel much more at home with one social group in one subject compared with the other. However, in my experience, I have found myself making loads of friends due to studying on two subjects and, quite honestly, I am not complaining!

Separate paths

The beauty of being a Joint Honours student is that your subjects don’t have to be directly relatable with one another. I find this experience is much more a time of realisation for myself and what I actually would want to do career wise. It is definitely a time of experimentation and finding out what module combinations I actually enjoy. This is specifically true for second-year and third-year students who have a much wider range of autonomy when it comes to picking the modules they may want to study. I have found that being a Joint Honours student provides me with the opportunity to create a niche for myself by the way I tailor my studies, working towards my career aspirations.

Bonus time

Joint Honours students are synonymous with having well rounded time-management skills. This tends to become second nature as you must deal with various deadlines that are part of your modules. Excellent time management skills are a definite bonus for succeeding in the future workplace, your current studies and life in general.

As a Joint Honours student, you also tend to develop adaptability. This largely stems from having to possibly cross between different teaching, assessment and research methods that may be part of the subject combination you have chosen. Your career options are also broadened extensively as a result of being knowledgeable in two subjects as opposed to just one subject. This may be a great unique selling point for you as a Joint Honours graduate to potential employers. I love being a Joint Honours student and would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of applying.

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