Demystifying Geography at University: overcoming the phenomenon of the coloring pencils joke.
If you want to annoy a Geographer, make a joke about how geography is about colouring in. If you want to annoy a Geographer at University level, make an even funnier joke about how geography is just advanced colouring in; just learning to take extra care to not go outside the lines.
Time after time geographers are mimicked by those outside the discipline unable to grasp the complexity of the study and its importance in the twenty-first century. Michael Palin, television presenter and fellow of the Royal Geographical Society argued that geography students hold the key to the world’s problems. And he was right.
But what exactly is Geography? To put it neatly, Geography is the study of that relating to the earth, indicated by the prefix ‘geo.’ Geography explores the intricate relationship between humans and their environment understood as differentiating over time and space. Part of the reason for this myth of Geography comes in part from treacherous field trips to lesser known parts of the UK. Students armed with clip boards and dressed head to toe in waterproofs are found knee deep in rivers or awkwardly asking questions to passing strangers about transportation. But Geography at University is so more than this.
I studied Geography at the University of Cambridge where we entered into different realms of Geography that I never imagined existed. In my second year we took a paper on cities which explored the growth of cities from the Victorian age onwards looking closely at sexuality in the city and colonial cities. In my final year we did a paper on Postcolonial Geographies and the Geographies of Risk, drawing upon contemporary philosophers to understand the ways in which we construct other countries through our imaginative Geographies of far away places. Even more, the field trips were fabulous getting a university sponsored field trip to Morocco where we went off it groups to discuss gender issues in the Atlas Mountains.
I would recommend Geography to anyone who wishes to understand the problems of the twenty first century and to be an active citizen in our changing world All societies rely on relationships with each other and their physical environment. As the pressures of the twenty first century press on these fragile interdependences present huge challenges. Though geography is by no means a vocation, a degree in Geography tackles contemporary issues from a broad base.It is no wonder that Geography is regarded as the most employable degree and certainly not about colouring in!