My Geography field trip to Spain

20 Feb 2020
Students on a Field Trip in Barcelona

Without a doubt, one of the biggest highlights of my time as a BSc (Hons) Geography student was the course field trip to Spain. Not only was this a much-needed break from traditional, formal classroom learning, it was a memorable teaching moment for research.  

Heading off during the second semester of Year 2, we spent 5 days exploring Girona, Barcelona, and the amazing volcanic national parks in Catalonia. Whether you’re a physical geographer, or a human one, this trip offered plenty of opportunities for all. Our days were packed with activities and different research objectives, yet we still found time to sightsee and relax.  

Looking back on it now as a graduate, this trip offered a lot more than I first thought. What I first thought of as a purely single assignment-based trip turned into necessary preparation for my dissertation. From the human perspective, we covered the delicate issue of Catalan independence from Spain, whilst on the physical geography side, we explored the management of local volcanic parks and beaches.  

Whilst out in the field, we used our phones as the instruments of data collection and storage. As we had the advantage of technology, we were encouraged to use four different methods of collecting data, including photographs, notes, observations, and interviews with residents. The first undeniable skill that we learnt from this trip was how to conduct primary research, carried out in person, in the field of study. By far the most important skill for your dissertation, this trip acted as a practice run for the ‘real thing’ in 3rd year. With the guidance of our lecturers, Tom and Ashley, we were taken through each step of research, and taught how to conduct research as a professional, rather than just a student on a school trip.

Students looking at the scenery in Barcelona

With such a wide range of data collected, another important skill that you can carry on into your own research is the data analysis. For anyone conducting a research project, this is a crucial opportunity to practice a variety of different methods and start to think about the best data to collect for their project aim. I myself used only secondary data sources in my 3rd Year project, yet I still found the data analysis part of the whole module relevant and extremely useful. As all our individual data collected was compiled into one massive database accessible to every student, we had the task of shifting through hundreds of entries to find the best and most detailed ones. This helped in understanding how to find the most relevant information, and the level of detail you need in your data. As we collected virtually no numeric data, this was a great opportunity for learning to examine and analyse written and photographic sources, something that isn’t the easiest to do.  

Although this may seem like a separate 2nd Year module and just another assignment that you must complete, if you really apply yourself to the task, you will see the benefits of it in your final year. My advice is to truly put effort into it, listen to Tom and Ashley (may sound obvious), and to really practice your data collection skills, as you’ll get feedback on what you did well, and what you need to improve on.


About the blogger:

Liisa Sepping is a BSc (Hons) Geography alumnus. 

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