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?’.

Whatever Happens in Norwich?

There is an old stereotype about Norwich that nothing ever really happens here; I remember when I told my Dad that I wanted to go to UEA he was delighted because, being such an out of the way place, it was one of the safest cities in the country.

Now it’s true that due to our location in the odd bump of the east of England that very few people ever just happen to be passing through Norwich, but we’re far from a provincial backwater.

In the last month, I have met not one but two of my personal heroes at events in Norwich. A couple of weeks ago I attended one of the Dragon Hall debates (regular open to the public discussions on varying topics hosted by the Norwich Writers’ Centre in their medieval Dragon Hall) and had the excellent fortune to have a chance to chat with Cambridge Classicist and TV historian Mary Beard.

The event had been a discussion on the topic of internet censorship and how we can protect those targeted by internet trolls. Dr. Beard has talked extensively about women and their treatment in social media and it was amazing to get the chance to speak to her about it in person. Luckily this was one of those instances where meeting people you admire doesn’t diminish your opinion of them.

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This week I then had the opportunity of attending the launch of the poet Simon Armitage’s new collection. Anyone who has done English GCSE’s will have come across Armitage’s work but what really got me hooked on his poetry were his translations of Medieval texts such as ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’.

It’s a mark of just how well regarded Norwich is in literary circles that a poet as famous and celebrated as Armitage chose to launch his new collection here with a local Norwich printing press rather than in Oxford for example, where he currently works at the university.

I was perhaps slightly less eloquent when I had the chance to meet him at the end of the event but he was still very kind and I came away happy with my signed book.

Now, I realise that a classicist and a poet are perhaps slightly niche interests but they demonstrate that Norwich is a place where great thinkers and artists want to come to discuss their works – but they are by no means the only people either. The music scene in Norwich is also flourishing; Laura Marling performed at the Waterfront this week and Little Mix will be here later in the year.

Norwich is a safe city, but we’re by no means a sleepy one.

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The wonderful Book Hive which published Simon Armitage’s new collection (the Michael Gove quote is my favourite)

Showing Norwich off to the Parents

As November draws to a close we are now entering what I shall call ‘Peak Parental Visit’ season. Drawn by the lights of Norwich, or the need to give students a lift home, over the next three weeks hundreds of parents will be descending on the city.

As lovely as it is to see you parents, and to get a free lift home, this can pose a few problems. When they ask you to show them your favourite Norwich spots the UEA SU bar probably isn’t going to cut it.

Fear not however, I have compiled a list of places in Norwich sure to charm any parent and assure them that you absolutely have visited Norwich beyond Prince of Wales Street.

#1 Norwich Lights

This is by far the easiest win.

This year especially Norwich seems to have gone all out on the Christmas lights. Take your parents for a stroll through the market after dark and admire the lit up mistletoe, the projections on Norwich Castle, and the famous Jarrolds Department Store Christmas lights.

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And of course, don’t miss the tunnel of light which recreates the effect of the Northern Lights – and all for free!

#2 Norwich Lanes

Wander through Norwich Lanes and support all of the fabulous independent shops. Whilst you’re at it, why not also enjoy one of the many wonderful cafes that operate down there?

My favourites are Biddy’s Tea Room (make sure to book in advance!) and Roots Café.

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You can also check out this wonderful tea and coffee shop and buy some of their winter warmers.

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#3 Norwich Ice Rink

Returning soon, Norwich Ice rink is a seasonal attraction which runs from mid-December to mid-January. This one is a bit more spenny, but if you don’t mind the cost or the chance of getting a bruised bum then this is a great way to spend the day, plus show your parents Chapelfield Gardens.

#4 Sainsbury Arts Centre

If, however, the winter has been getting into your bones (or you’d just rather stay on campus) then there is the Sainsbury Arts Centre. At the moment they have fascinating exhibition entitled ‘FIJI: ART & LIFE IN THE PACIFIC’, which will take you far away from the Norwich winds.

It’s also a chance to show off the on campus architecture that was used in Avengers Assemble and Black Mirror.

#5 Tombland

Fantastic name right? This is the area around Norwich Cathedral; there are all sorts of interesting pubs, restaurants, antiquarian bookshops, and of course the cathedral itself which is beautiful (if chilly) to see this time of year.

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Hopefully you will find these places as loveable as I do, let me know if there’s anywhere is Norwich which you think is a must see!

From Syria With Love – Art Exhibition

A few days ago I had the privilege of seeing From Syria With Love’s touring art exhibition.

All of the artwork in it was done by Syrian children in refugee camps in Lebannon and, as you might expect, it was a deeply moving experience.

When we arrived in the small exhibition space off Magdalen Street in Norwich, my friend and I were just in time to see the screening of a short documentary about the children living in the refugee camps. Whilst rough and ready, it was one of those rare pieces of footage which can put an entire room on pause. In this small room in Norwich, a truth which I have known for a long time but not wanted to think about too hard was held up to my face.

It is one thing to know that there are millions of Syrian refugees but it’s another to listen to them articulately describe that which for us is unimaginable.

After the film, I looked around the exhibition. It’s small and unpolished, but to present it in any other way would have been disingenuous to what it was trying to convey.

All of the artwork is by children but much of it depicts things no child, no person, should have to see. The ones which have stayed with me afterwards include a depiction of the bombing of a hospital and another showed ‘War’ arriving at Syria’s door after leaving a trail of blood through Iraq and Afghanistan.

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All of the money raised by From Syria With Love goes towards helping Syrian children in refugee camps, helping them get access to an education and to emergency support. They have no managerial costs and provide a breakdown of how they spend every pound of their money on their website.

Afterwards, my friend and I walked away, deeply affected but unsure as to what we can do to help. It’s still a question I am asking myself, but I do know that if this exhibition comes to a venue near you then you must make the time to see it.

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There is no greater cure for compassion fatigue than to hear of the horrific experiences of Syrian refugees in their own words and images.

You can find out more about From Syria With Love at their website.

UEA United – Solidarity in the face of Brexit

Following last month’s disastrous referendum results (and no I won’t be pretending to be non-partisan about it) there has been a well-documented backlash against immigrants and anyone who doesn’t look quite British enough for the UKIP/Britain First brigade.

The awfulness of the referendum result and the resultant rise in hate crime is unfathomably horrific. If the UK is allowed to isolate itself and become the purely inward looking, bigoted nation that many Leave voters support the fallout will be manifold.

Not only does this new wave of racism harm many people, including UK citizens whose only crime is to not be ‘English’ enough, but also the country which the bigots claim to love.

From the point of view of the higher education sector, Brexit is disastrous. Large amounts of university funding come from the EU and it seems highly unlikely that the money gap will be filled by the current UK government. On top of this, UK universities’ reputations as being some of the best in the world attract bright minds from around the globe. When we pull up the drawbridge we close doors not only on funding but also the very people who are likely to be making the next great research breakthroughs. Already Cancer Research UK has warned that Brexit could cause a significant delay in the development of new cancer treatments.

Slightly closer to home for me is the knowledge that large chunks of the UEA student population are made up of international students, from the EU and beyond – including many of my friends.

The current cohort of international students, whether they are EU citizens or not, are being made to feel unwelcome in the country that they have chosen to study in and make their home. Future students will have to contend with not only the xenophobia licensed by Brexit but also the likely rise in tuition fees and a new need for visas. Not being able to afford studying in the UK will be a disappointment for many EU students but it will be a greater disaster for Britain which could see a considerable brain drain as young academics either don’t come here or are drawn away by the promise of better funding opportunities abroad.

Norwich voted to Remain, something that UEA and its students are immensely proud of.

When a local business owned by a Romanian family was attacked by arsonists following the Brexit vote, Norwich locals raised £24,000 to help the family repair their shop. Norwich is a designated city of refuge with a proud history of welcoming foreigners and those fleeing conflict elsewhere (please see this previous post for more on Norwich’s radical/ pro-refugee history) – most recently, the Norfolk council voted to offer homes to 50 Syrian families.

UEA continues this proud history of welcoming people from around the world by creating the UEA United campaign;

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“UEA welcomes students and staff from around the world. Whatever happens with Brexit our outlook remains global. EU and international students and staff will always be part of our family of nations. UEA is united.”

The staff and students wish all current and new international students to know that they are valued, they are welcome, and they are wanted.

At such a dark time in our country’s history it is a comfort to be a part of an institution which is unashamedly open and welcoming to all. We really are proud to ‘Do Different’.

So You’re About to Become a UEA Fresher?

It’s not that long until the dreaded results day now and I know that on top of worrying whether or not they’ve got the grades to get in a lot of students will be worried about moving to uni. Never fear, I am here to demystify the whole thing. So settle back, have a cup of tea, and I will tell you my top freshers’ tips.

1. What (Not) to Pack: If you are moving into student accommodation for your first year then you may be worrying about what you need to bring with you. My first piece of advice for all UEA freshers is COATHANGERS. I can’t speak for all the residences but they definitely aren’t included in Norfolk Terrace and you don’t want to be piling your clothes on the floor of your cupboard.

It’s also important to PACK FOR ALL SEASONS. When you depart for uni it might be autumnal sunshine but remember that you may not be going home before winter and Norfolk can get very chilly. If you’re a tea and coffee fanatic like myself then it’s a good idea to bring a KETTLE as not all of the flats have them and the queue at the campus shop is very long on the first day if you try to buy one when you get there. You don’t need to worry about bringing things like toasters, we have industrial size ones in the kitchens and you aren’t allowed them in your rooms.

Bring things that remind you of home and fill your room with your favourite things. Bring those books that you can read again and again, the DVDs that you watch when you’re feeling down, even your teddy bear if you still have one. These will all help you feel comfortable in your new home and will cheer you up if you get a spot of the freshers’ blues.

2. Decorate Your Room: When you first arrive your room will probably look a little sad and bare, but please don’t be put off. Once you’ve put your bedding on, added some books to the shelves and posters to the wall it will look completely different. It’s a good idea to pack some photos of your friends from home and bring knickknacks to put on the desk. It’s a great chance to really create your own space.

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The poster board in my Norfolk Terrace room

3. Arriving at Uni: Your arrival at uni can be a very chaotic affair with a dozen other people trying to move their large suitcases through a small flat at the same time as you, but this is your first opportunity to meet your new flatmates so try and conquer any potential nerves and say hi. Once you’re in your room and unpacking, prop your door open so people can pop their heads in and introduce themselves as they pass. Everyone else is new and wants to make friends too so make it as easy as possible for yourselves.

4. Which Freshers’ Events to go to: Firstly, be aware that lots of clubs will be trying to take advantage of Freshers’ week and they know that the incoming students don’t want to miss out on ‘Official’ freshers’ events – therefore be wary of people trying to sell you club wristbands and know that only tickets sold through the UEA Union website are genuinely official events. Personally, I’d only recommend bothering with the first week tickets but if clubbing is something you really enjoy then you can still buy tickets for the second week events once you arrive and find other people to go with.

Don’t forget to go to the Freshers’ fairs, you can get great coupons to use with local businesses and sign up to over 200 hundred societies (although I would not recommend signing up to all 200). I’ll be at the Societies Fair this year representing the Drama Society, so please come and say hi if you’re interested in the society or have any questions.

5. And Lastly: If you’re unsure about something ASK FOR HELP. There are lots of people on campus who would be happy to help you however you need it. There’s the Students Union who have a drop in service, the Dean of Students, your academic advisors, and older students who have been trained to mentor younger students. We’ve all be freshers once so we know how scary it can be, but we’re here to make your transition to uni as easy and enjoyable as possible.

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If you have any more questions (or your own freshers’ tips) then please feel free to ask here or contact me at h.armstrong@uea.ac.uk

I am also now on Instagram so (once September comes around) if you’d like a glimpse of what life for a UEA student is like then you can have a look at hjp_armstrong.

Best of luck to all the A Level students (including my little brother which makes me feel very old)!

Pimp My Barrow – 2k16

Last weekend saw the tenth anniversary of the one true UEA tradition – ‘Pimp My Barrow’.

‘Pimp My Barrow’ is an event really unlike any other and until you have seen it with your own eyes it is hard to really convey just how ridiculous and beloved it is.

However, I shall try and give a rough guide to the day’s proceedings:

It all begins with thousands of students in fancy dress, sporting decorated wheelbarrows, descending on the UEA campus square. The students are usually in teams of around 6 people and each team will pick a theme for their costumes and their wheelbarrow. Recent great designs have included ‘Only Fools and Horses’ and ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ teams.

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They even had smoke pellets to put in his funnel!

Somehow every year the weather is beautiful and this first part of the event is a chance to party in the sun with your friends and celebrate the end of another academic year.

The teams are then set off on their journeys in three separate waves to take part in a wheelbarrow race across Earlham Park and then on to a pub crawl through Norwich. What the locals make of the sight of all the students in their costumes I don’t know, but it is certainly a very interesting and ‘unique’ parade.

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Whilst it is all lots of fun the main purpose of the event is to raise money for the local cancer charity, the Big C. This year ‘Pimp My Barrow’ raised over £9000 (or the cost of one year of university tuition) which I’m sure we can all agree is a fantastic achievement.

I had a great time again this year but it was strange to be doing it all again. Last year this was of course all new and exciting, now it feels like a strange count down to the inevitable day when I have to wave UEA goodbye. I suppose it just means we’ll have to put a special effort into ‘PMB 2K17’ and see it out in style.

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Side note: We bumped into campus celebrity, ‘Cloud Dog’ aka Beau

More thoughts on the end of second year to follow, until then enjoy the good weather whilst it lasts!