The End

So, this is it, the final post.

If this is your first time visiting the blog then I hope it serves as a helpful snapshot of one undergraduate’s experience of UEA, and if you have been here before then this post is a thank you for coming on this 3 year journey with me.

This blog has been many things; an outlet for my feelings on current events, a rather public diary of my time at university, and also a surprising way to find new people and opportunities. I’ve had the chance to speak to prospective undergraduates and current ones, answering their questions and hopefully allaying some of their fears. Although I (probably) won’t be adding to this blog it will remain up as a resource (and as a way for me to be occasionally nostalgic).

What’s the plan now?

Well, as of about 2 weeks ago I became a registered student at the University of Oxford and in October I will begin my MA in Medieval Literature, an undertaking I’m not sure I would have thought myself capable of this time last year.

Oxford will be a very different environment I’m sure, but I think having gone to UEA will keep it all (and by this I mean some of the slightly excessive traditions) in perspective. One of the things that I have always loved about UEA was that it didn’t stand on ceremony or labour over tradition, but rather aspires to always progress – the attitude it espouses in its motto, ‘Do Different’.

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After Oxford? Who knows. Maybe a PhD, maybe I’ll be doing something in the Heritage/Arts sector. But I’m not quite done with Norwich yet and I plan to visit when I can (luckily a fair few of my friends have stayed in the area).

When I think of UEA I think of its flying walkways, designed by Denys Lasdun so that students’ heads were almost literally up in the clouds and away from mundane realities of things such as cars. I think of the lake with its morning mists, dog walkers, and summer BBQs; the Sainsbury centre; morning coffees in Unio in the depths of winter; watching the changing colours of the trees whilst writing essays in the library. But most of all I will remember the kind and warm hearted people I met, who supported me, pushed me, and afforded me opportunities I couldn’t have imagined before I arrived.

I wouldn’t claim that my university experience was perfect but I’m so grateful to have had it and, in a small way, to have shared it here.

(If you’d like to contact me about UEA or more generally my experience as a student then you can still find me on twitter – the link is at the top of the page)

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Graduation

It’s been over a week since I graduated but until now I’ve still been somewhat reeling.

When dealing with a tough essay or an overwhelming reading list I used to imagine my graduation day and how amazing it would feel; I even used to picture standing with my friends in our robes, and it would give me an extra burst of motivation.

Then suddenly it was my graduation day and it all seemed to go by in a blur. To clarify, I had a great day but it was so surreal and overwhelming that I mostly remember it in snapshots: my friend and I first seeing ourselves in our robes; shaking the vice-chancellor’s hand; throwing our mortarboards.

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It’s a fun day but you do seem to spend your time running from one thing to another, anxious that you might miss something important with your friends whilst also balancing seeing your family.

The ceremony itself felt the most official and ‘proper’ bit of the day – standing around a campus you know very well in robes seems odd but the actual conferring of the degrees was the moment when I really felt, ‘ahh I’m graduating!’.

I’m pleased to say no one tripped over on the stairs, which was something we had all been very anxious about, although my new shoes did rip off a bit of skin the size of a 10p piece whilst I was walking across the stage – what glamour! (I don’t think anyone noticed as the adrenaline carried me through, but I might have a slight scar to always remind me of my UEA graduation).

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Fun fact: our robes were designed by the artist and costume designer Cecil Beaton

The people receiving honorary degrees during our ceremony were Peter Wilson and the poet and translator George Szirtes. Both gave interesting speeches which addressed the unique challenges our generation will be facing; what I remember most from Peter Wilson’s speech was the time he had to jump from a burning boat into shark infested waters, but Szirtes discussed issues such as our country’s response to the refugee crisis. The poet was himself a refugee at the age of 8, fleeing to Britain from Hungary. To a round of applause he reminded the audience of the gifts that refugees bring. Whilst refugees should never have to prove themselves worthy of saving, it was still a salient reminder that these people are our future artists and engineers. They bring immeasurable value to our country and culture.

I have a few posts about Grad Week and my MA plans still to publish but for now I’m off to North Wales for a week where I can indulge in reading books I’ve been putting off during term time!

School’s (not quite) out for summer

Summer breaks often feel a very unsettling time for me – I enjoy them of course but the stripping away of the structure that comes with an academic term, the daily jobs that need doing, the steadily approaching deadlines, can make me feel rather rudderless.

However, so far, I have been keeping myself very busy. I have just spent the last 2 weeks in London taking part in UCL’s Summer Classics School (aka a crash course in Latin).

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The Bloomsbury campus is gorgeous with a beautiful bookshop and a lovely union run café, it’s also within walking distance of places such as the British Museum and the daily food market on Tottenham Court Road. However, for all its beauty and the exciting places within reach I still don’t think I would have enjoyed going to university in London (the tube in all the recent hot weather was unbearable). Norwich is gorgeous and has quite enough going on for me.

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Whilst in London I also took the chance to see some theatre – I would have been an embarrassment to the Drama Society otherwise. I was fortunately able to get a £25 ticket, only booking the day before, to see Robert Icke’s production of Hamlet at the Harold Pinter Theatre. If you’re in London and get a chance it’s a simply stunning production that’s kept me thinking about it for days afterwards (Here’s a review which I think really captures my feelings towards it). I was also tickled that during the show I kept remembering snippets of my second year Shakespeare module – clearly some of it went in and stuck!

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I’m now back from London but am turning straight around and heading off to Norwich because tomorrow I’m graduating! I will of course make a post soon about what I get up to during Grad Week, so watch this space.

5 Highlights of my time at UEA

Whilst having coffee with a friend recently I was asked what the highlights of my time at UEA were. I can’t entirely remember what I replied in the moment, but I thought it might make for an interesting post here.

Having been given a bit more time to think it over, here are my 5 highlights of my time at UEA in chronological order*:

(*Given another week to ponder on it the list may change again but this is a snapshot of my current thinking)

  1. The Medieval Graffiti Field Trip

This trip was organised by a couple of LDC and History school tutors in collaboration with the Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey (a project by local archaeologist and UEA alumnus, Matthew Champion).

The survey aims to document as many instances as it can of medieval graffiti in the Norfolk area.

Aside from appealing to the history nerd in me, what I loved about the day was that it presented the kind of opportunities that are casually offered at universities. I was only in my first semester but I got to spend the day roaming around Norfolk learning fascinating stuff, having my perceptions of the Middle Ages thoroughly challenged, all whilst being taken seriously and listened to by lecturers I would perhaps on other occasions have been intimidated by.

 

  1. Sunrise over Colman Hill

After the Drama department’s end of year party, which I ended up attending three years running even though I technically left the department at the end of my first semester (which is quite another story) my friends and I formed a tradition of staying up to see the sunrise from Colman Hill – a spot on campus that overlooks both the lake and the more modern accommodation blocks.

Those early dawns all have a surreal misty glow to them and in my memory they are each pink and hazy, but they were very happy times for me. I don’t know if there are such opportunities to tipsily lie on hillsides with your friends, knowing you have nothing to worry about the next day but your hangover, in the world beyond graduation.

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A blurred photo, however I think it captures the vibe of those mornings very well

 

  1. First Year Conference Party

Although the event is designed for first years this memory is from my second year at UEA.

At the end of their first year English Literature students at UEA run a conference called ‘Reading Matters’. Myself and two friends in second year were asked to run the social media campaign for it that year and afterwards were invited to the department’s post conference drinks and nibbles.

It was frightfully warm and the wine perhaps went to our heads a little too easily, but as we chatted happily with PhD students and lecturers alike I realised just how far we had come since first year, and how much more confident we were in our intellectual pursuits.

 

  1. Being Accepted onto all the MA’s I applied for

Although leaving UEA is certainly not a highlight, being accepted onto all of the MA’s was final proof of just how much my teachers had brought me on. I couldn’t have been accepted into either of my dream schools without the unwavering support of my supervisors in the LDC department and their belief in me even when I doubted.

 

  1. The 2017 General Election

A month ago I certainly wouldn’t have expected to be counting the most recent GE as a highlight. But after the last two votes which occurred during my time at uni (the 2015 GE and the Brexit referendum) and having spent 8 hours on polling day knocking doors for our local MP, Clive Lewis, it was a happy miracle to be in the SU bar when the exit poll came out and we realised that it wasn’t going to be a tory landslide.

I had intended to go to bed early but instead stayed in the bar until about 5 in the morning watching the results come in. In comparison to the end of my first year I can now leave UEA with a sense of hope about this country’s political future.

I haven’t written much about my interactions with the UEA Labour society, but over the last year they have been a great bunch of people to get to know.

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Watching the results come in…

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Obviously, this list is very personal but I think it demonstrates the range of opportunity and experience that I have gained at UEA. All that’s left now is to graduate!

Cambridge Revisited

The joy of being free from coursework and deadlines lasted for about 3 days and now I’m ready to be studying again. I just have too much free time so I’m trying to find all of things in Norwich and East Anglia that I’ve wanted to do over the past 3 years but never gotten around to.

This week that included going to Cambridge.

Since living in Norwich I have often had cause to pass through Cambridge and have even stayed there with a friend but I’ve just never had the time to explore it. So, I made a spur of the moment decision on Monday night and booked myself a morning train.

I will admit now that I went with full intentions of being the most stereotypical of tourists and chose the places I wishes to see from the top ratings on Trip Advisor. The day therefore included a trip to Fitzbillies, a famous Cambridge restaurant and bakery, where I sampled their renowned Chelsea buns, a leisurely exploration of the Fitzwilliam Museum, a stroll through the college quarter, a quick crash course in Cambridge history at the Norman Round Church, and then a brief read of my book in the park.

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I hadn’t realised just how many museums there were in Cambridge so I would love to go back at some point and see more of them. It was also a great experience in travelling by myself, something I have done before but it’s been a while. I’d forgotten how nice it is to explore somewhere entirely based on your whims.

I don’t think I need to convince anybody of what a wonderful place Cambridge is to visit, but I would like to encourage UEA students to consider getting out of the Norwich bubble and exploring our corner of England a little better. A last minute train from Norwich to Cambridge (incl. the return) cost me only £11.60, so it’s quite doable to a student budget.

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It’s not long now until I move home so the race is on to see everything I want to see in Norwich before it’s too late.

Degree = Done!

Hello!

I’ve been gone for a while because there’s been some pretty important stuff happening lately. Most importantly, I HAVE FINISHED MY DEGREE!

Yesterday I handed in my final essay and just like that my time as a UEA student is done. The night before I was in bed and I suddenly had a flashback to my first night at uni – lying in bed thinking about how this new important step of my life was just beginning. I can’t really quite believe that it’s over already!

To celebrate, my friends and I congregated in the square outside the SU and sunbathed, drank pimms, and generally enjoyed not having any deadlines to worry about.

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Because I’ve been working pretty hard over the past few weeks I’ve had to miss out on things like this year’s ‘Pimp My Barrow’ (see here for more info if you hadn’t heard of PMB before) but I was still able to swing by and see it for 10 minutes or so on my way to the library.

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This was from ‘early’ in the day!

The next few weeks are going to be a race to do everything in Norwich that I’ve wanted to see/try but never gotten around to, such as the Plantation Gardens. It also alarms me how many of my Norwich Bucket List items involve trying different food establishments.

My tenancy ends in mid-June so I’ll be moving back home before graduation and then coming back for Grad Week; hopefully staying on the floor of a friend’s place as quite a few of them are staying in Norwich.

I’m a strange mixture of devastated to be leaving Norwich but also ready to go – and I’m still trying to understand how I can be both simultaneously. But this fine city has been very good to me so I am glad that with my friends staying here I will have good cause to return.

5 Reasons to Choose UEA

 

Today I booked my Graduation ceremony which feels like a pretty large milestone on the way to finishing my time at UEA. To mis-quote Jane Eyre, ‘I love this university, I grieve to leave it’, but before I move on to pastures new I want to make a brief list of the 5 things that have made UEA so brilliant for me.

  1. Its Academic Excellence

A degree is an investment of time, money and love, so you want to make sure you’re putting it somewhere worth it. Lots of universities boast about their research excellence (which is very important) but it doesn’t mean much for a potential undergraduate if they never get to see or have time with the experts in their field. UEA balances this need for high research standards with a commitment to fantastic teaching. My tutors have been so supportive, especially this last year when I was applying for Masters degrees, and I couldn’t have achieved the grades and MA offers I have without them.

(Also worth noting: UEA is currently ranked 14th in the UK by the Complete University guide!)

  1. Its location in a UNESCO City of Literature

Perhaps more of interest to those pursuing literature related degrees, but the rich culture of Norwich is available to all students. I’ve met some of my childhood heroes (Stephen Fry, Mary Beard, Simon Armitage) and had the opportunity to be in an environment where the production of award winning literature is considered the norm. The city is constantly buzzing with arts and heritage events, and you can’t walk through UEA without tripping over an up-and-coming poet. All of this makes UEA and Norwich an exciting place to be.

  1. The beauty of Norwich and the campus

Norwich is a beautiful medieval city where you can see wall paintings from the middle ages next to modern installations such as The Tunnel of Light.

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We have a colourful market and cobbled streets full of independent shops and boutiques. But if city life isn’t your thing then we have the stunning UEA grounds including our award-winning architecture (although admittedly it’s architecture of the marmite variety – you’ll love it or you’ll hate it). What I may miss more than anything is looking out across the lake, which is captivating in every season, when I should be studying.

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  1. The Student Union + opportunities

What you do outside of your classes at uni is almost as important as your degree, and at UEA there is just so much to do. We have over 200 societies and clubs, so whether you’re into football or theatre you’ll find the people for you.

  1. UEA’s ‘Do Different’ attitude

But most of all it’s the fact that we take pride in doing things a bit differently which makes UEA so special. Our motto is ‘Do Different’ and that’s what we’re encouraged to do. We’re a university of innovation rather than tradition so you’re never held back by attitudes of ‘well, this is how we’ve always done it’.

I once saw a piece of footage in which Denys Lasdun, the architect who designed the original campus, said that he had built UEA with students’ happiness in mind. What he said stuck with me and, all these years later, I think his vision is still being honoured today.

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If you’d like to hear more about why UEA is so loved by its students please also have a read of Anne-Sophie’s fab piece ‘Why UEA?’.