Quick Life Update

There’s been an awful lot going on lately so I thought it was probably time for a brief update on what I’m doing and what my plans are post-graduation.

Without wishing to blow my own trumpet I am delighted to say that I got a high first (which is the highest grade band for university work) for my dissertation. Obviously, this is a massive relief anyway but I am particularly delighted that I did well because I had been worrying that perhaps I hadn’t worked hard enough on it.

Now, before you think I slacked off for a semester and got lucky I should just clarify – one of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn at uni is when to stop pushing myself. I used to feel that if I wasn’t panicking and working all hours on an essay then I wasn’t working hard enough; if I didn’t feel like crying after finishing it had I really given it my all?

This kind of attitude can wrongly be celebrated at uni sometimes. People compete to complain about how many hours they spent in the library, how many coffees they had to drink to make it through. Of course, I don’t wish to suggest that you shouldn’t give an essay your best, but we need to be careful that we don’t regard burning yourself out as a sign of success.

Thanks to the amazing advice and support of my supervisor, Dr. Rebecca Pinner, writing my dissertation was a far less stressful and more enjoyable experience than I imagined it could be. (I could probably write a whole post on the importance of finding the right supervisor for you, but don’t worry I won’t) And at the end of the day, although uni is meant to be hard work it’s also supposed to be working hard at something you love and are interested in.

Lastly, I have applied to two Master’s degree programmes; one at York University and one at Oxford University. I’m still waiting to hear back from York but I was delighted (and very shocked) to receive an offer from Oxford for a place on their Mst. English Literature (650-1550) degree.

I’m still not a hundred percent certain which uni I will go to yet, and I’m still waiting to hear back from York, but it’s good to know that I will still be studying next year.

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Photos I took on my Applicant Day at Oxford

With Easter coming up hopefully I will have time to do a few more posts about Norwich before I graduate and leave this fine city.

Do Something Different Week: ‘The Art and Science of Murder’

If you are a UEA student then you will be very aware that we are currently in the midst of ‘Do Something Different Week’ – a campus wide off timetable week in which students are encouraged to, as the name suggests, do something different.

A variety of different taster sessions have been on offer from cookery classes to Introduction to Arabic, but perhaps the most well-known event is the week long interactive murder mystery: ‘The Art and Science of Murder’.

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The event was planned and written by crime fiction author Ian Rankin along with a cohort of UEA Creative Writing students. It runs across the week and follows the investigation into the (fictional) murder of UEA academic, Dr. Bland.

The first event of the week was an intro into crime scene investigation. Students who had booked onto the course were invited to come and examine the site where Dr. Bland’s ‘body’ was found, to look for DNA samples and to speak to an ‘eye witness’. It was also a good opportunity to talk to professionals who actually do these kinds of investigations for a living and they were very keen to dispel some of the fictions created by tv crime dramas (apparently detectives rarely get to see the body as it was found which ruins most detective shows I know!). I also learned that to examine a mobile the police have to isolate it in a Faraday Cage (aka, a metal bag) until the battery runs dead so that they can be sure that it remains exactly as they found it. A solution to a problem I didn’t even know existed.

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The following day included a trip to the Pathology lab where we were shown what kinds of evidence the pathologists looked for on a murder victim and were shown x-rays which helped us to identify the cause of death. The key question of the investigation is; did Dr. Bland fall from the walkway or was he pushed? Blood which had run down his face suggested that he had been upright when a blow was struck proving that he had been attacked before falling… in short, it was almost certainly homicide!

The most recent event was a dramatization of the police interviews with the one eye witness and then two suspects who were known to have seen the victim on the night of his death. This was where the event began to combine narrative along with actual science – and it was also very odd for me as I happen to know the ‘suspects’  through Drama Society. But I still very much enjoyed it and look forward to the Police Press Conference tomorrow.

The event will eventually culminate in a full trial on Friday which will be hosted by UEA Law School.

Whilst it is a bit of fun it has also been amazing to see the kind of work that people from other schools are involved in at UEA. It can be easy to get blinkered to anything beyond your own school (in my case Literature, Drama and Creative Writing) but it’s a great reminder that so much else does go on here.

I will let you know more about the investigation as it unfurls, but if you would like more immediate updates be sure to check the #somethingdifferent tag on twitter (Concrete and UEA TV will also be covering it extensively.)

Working With Words

It’s taken three years but finally I made it to UEA’s ‘Working With Words’!

Every year Careers Central (UEA’s careers advice service) organises a day of workshops and panels run by (mostly) recent UEA graduates. All of them work in the Arts sector in different guises, some as producers, some as journalists or Arts administrators etc, and the aim of the day is to give current students an insight into those fields.

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The event has been running for four years now but for various reasons this has been the first year that I’ve been able to attend.

The panels I went to included one on working in Media Production, another on how to ‘make ideas happen’, and a third on working in Arts Administration.

All of the speakers were interesting and the event gave me the opportunity to talk to people in professions that are relevant to me. However, I did feel that a lot of the stuff discussed were things I had picked up doing work experience over the last few years so as an event I think that it might work best for first or second year students. Although it was reassuring to hear that I was doing the right sorts of things for a person interested in Arts and Heritage Administration.

The event took place all in one large building on campus (the Julian Study Centre) and so was also a good opportunity to run into every person I have ever met through literature at UEA – which when talking to third years mostly consisted of panicking about graduation. I’m still waiting to hear back about MA’s, but if I am thrust into the cold world of work next year I feel a lot happier about knowing where to start looking than I did this time last year.

‘Working With Words’ was organised by UEA’s career service who are a wonderful team of people. If you’re at UEA and worrying about what comes next I can’t recommend contacting them enough.

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A bit of light reading for the gaps between panels (plus the amazing coffee they sell in the JSC)

First Careers Event of Third Year

Although I’m still waiting to hear back about my MA applications I’ve decided that it’s probably a good idea to start going to more career events – just in case.

To this end I attended the ‘Influencing for a Living – Working in Politics and for NGO’s’ event last weekend. Early start aside, it was a great day and was hosted by ex-Norwich South MP and former Home and Education Secretary, Charles Clarke.

There were three parts to the day; first thing there was a series of small talks from former UEA students who now work for NGO’s (e.g. charities) and for local government services such as the council. I found this particularly helpful as most of them were fairly recent graduates so their accounts of their experiences felt a lot more relatable than when you hear from people who have been in the industry for decades.

Then we heard from two local MPs, one Labour and one Lib Dem. They, along with Charles Clarke, spoke about their experiences of working in government but particularly their early failures to get elected which I found interesting. I’m not sure whether politics is something I would want to do career wise but it’s certainly something I’m intrigued by and the careers event made me feel as though I understood how a career in that area might be possible.

The last part of the afternoon was devoted to CV workshopping. As I’m hoping to be studying next year I didn’t stick around for this bit, but I know people who did found it really helpful to look at their cv’s with professionals.

The event was a taster session for me but I really enjoyed it and it gave me a lot to think about – although as I said, really hoping to be on an MA next year!

Dissertations: How to choose a topic

It’s been a little while now since I handed in my dissertation so I’ve had a bit of room to think about the process and evaluate what I got from it. Whilst it’s still fairly fresh in my mind I want to write a little about my experience of the process and in doing so I hope to reassure and help other students approaching their final year projects.

Having asked around on a few of my social media accounts the most common question that has come up is ‘How to choose a topic?’ so that is what I will focus on for this post. If after reading you have any more queries do feel free to ask.

Looking back I can remember how daunting it seemed at the beginning of the autumn semester – I had to write 8000 words on a topic that was completely unspecified. There were no instructions, no models, just ‘go!’ (like the final Great British Bake Off challenge when they were asked to ‘make a Victoria sponge’ without a recipe).

When I opted to do a dissertation I had no idea what I was going to write on, I just knew that I wanted the experience of doing one and the independence and research skills that I knew it would bring.

The best advice I was given on choosing a topic was to look at the modules that I wished I could have taken but couldn’t fit into my timetable or weren’t on offer this year.

In essence: what would your dream module be?

I took this one step further and started looking at the course catalogues of other universities and seeing what they offered. It was whilst browsing the website of King’s College London that I came across a module about Medievalism. As the start of a dissertation topic it was perfect for me; it allowed me to combine my two favourite modules: Romanticism and Medieval Writing.

I then began reading general texts around the area until I began to get a feel for the field. I noticed what ideas kept reoccurring, what was treated as gospel, and which writers/texts were most closely associated with it.

This eventually led me to choose Keats and his vision of the medieval as the topic for my research. He was a well-known figure who I loved but whose medievalism hadn’t been fully explored (in my opinion at least).

Throughout this process I was in continual discussion with my supervisor. Along with being a fantastic champion and all round morale booster my dissertation supervisor was able to help me get a feel of what was the right size for the range of my work. 8000 words seems a lot at the start but as I soon found out you run out of space very quickly. So rather than trying to cover ALL of Keats’s poems which utilised medieval aesthetics I instead chose just two texts – and even then I struggled to keep myself under the word limit.

Although committing to a dissertation topic is daunting it should also be exciting. It’s a chance to spend a term researching something you love. And remember, however overwhelming it may feel at the start, you will be fine. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually you’ll look back to see you have climbed a mountain – or written a 8000 word dissertation at least!

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Everyone needs a photo of them posing with their diss before handing it in

I’m back!

Hello Everyone! (Belated) Happy New Year!

I realise that it’s been a bit of a while since I last posted – long enough for us to have a new US president and even a new year – however, in my defence I had not only a dissertation to submit but also my first postgrad application.

Before I write about that though I wanted to quickly talk to you about my New Year’s Eve.

This year I was very lucky to be in Marrakech, a beautiful and complex city where great wealth sits next to extreme poverty. Without wishing to sound cliché, it’s the kind of place that makes you stop and consider what you have and how easily it can all melt away (sorry if this gets a bit dark).

But my actual new year’s was spent in a small riad on the outskirts of the Medina, in a room full of people from around the world. I spoke to people from Ireland, Germany, France, and Russia as well as of course from Morocco.

Nothing that profound happened; we spoke, we danced, we ate lots of lovely Moroccan food – it was just a good night in general. But at the stroke of midnight I did consider for a second how privileged I was to have this experience – not only to travel but to meet people from all over the globe (although admittedly it was a bit Eurocentric). Over the next year as Brexit really takes off and Trump wreaks havoc across the pond, fear and hatred of foreigners will be stronger than ever. So I made a promise to myself in Marrakech: that I would continue this year as I started it, embracing people from around the world.

I don’t know how we can turn the tide on right wing populism, I have zero answers as to how the UK brings itself together again; I don’t really even know how best I can do my part to help the world. But I hope that remaining open to it, maintaining communications with people from beyond my small corner of the country, and refusing to ever accept that we should be building walls rather than bridges will in some small way make a difference.

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In my next post, which I shall endeavour to put up shortly, I will discuss the process of writing a dissertation. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments or email me – I know when I was first setting out on mine I wanted to talk to lots of people that had already done them.

Until then x

End of Autumn Semester

Goodness gracious, it’s almost Christmas!

The last few weeks of term disappeared so quickly that I’ve barely had a chance to breathe; Drama Society has been very busy picking our first show of next semester as well as casting our upcoming musical, ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’.

On top of that I’ve been working on my final essay for The Gothic – I’m very sad to be finishing the module as it’s been one of my favourites at uni. It was also doubly sad because this was the last year the module was going to be running so it wasn’t just the final seminar for us but also for my tutor who has been running the course for the past 8 years.

My final Gothic lecture was also, in all likelihood, my final undergraduate lecture as all of the modules I’m taking next semester are seminar taught only. Graduation suddenly feels a lot more pressing.

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I won this lil book for coming second in the Gothic module pop quiz

Over Christmas I am working on my dissertation which I *think* is coming on well… it’s nice at least to spend so much time working on something that I’m really interested in. I’m also trying to write my first personal statement for one of my post grad applications – like I said, graduation is suddenly a pressing issue.

Coming home from uni I’ve had the chance to chat to my friends and siblings about their time at uni, and I’ve been shocked at some of their stories (and not just the Freshers’ week ones). Quite a few people I’ve spoken to say that they have one or two professors who are unhelpful or won’t make time to explain things when asked. It’s made me realise that the brilliant university experience that I’m having isn’t necessarily the same for everyone. Perhaps I’ve just got lucky with the tutors I’ve had or maybe it’s something about UEA’s outlook, I really can’t say. But I know that whenever I have had problems I’ve always felt that I had someone to turn to, whether that person was my academic advisor, staff at Student Support or a representative at the union.

Maybe I’m just getting nostalgic before I’ve even graduated, but as my final few months at UEA approach I find I’m falling more in love with it than ever.

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