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)

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016

This summer, the theatre company I work with, aka my housemates, took a show up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a week.

If you’ve ever been to the Fringe then you will know that no matter how small the show or how simple the set, this is a serious undertaking.

To cut costs we decided to do the show, ‘Death and the Data Processor’, as part of the Edinburgh Free Fringe. This meant that we paid only a very small amount in space hire and in exchange we asked the audience to donate what they liked, rather than charging a flat rate.

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Overall, this worked well as a system and we were lucky to play to large and generous audiences. However, when it’s a free show the stakes go down somewhat for the venue. This meant that when they lost our posters which we had pre-ordered, their response was to shrug their shoulders and say that it wasn’t their responsibility. So if you’re thinking of taking a show to the Fringe, the Free Fringe is good and it does make it a lot more accessible for a student theatre company such as ourselves, however you have to be entirely self-sufficient and not expect any help from the organisers.

Doing the show was great and stressful in equal parts, and having done the lighting tech (basically me just hitting a button or a slider three or four times a show) I now know the whole thing off by heart and am probably quite ready to give it a break.

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What was really wonderful was just being up in Edinburgh and seeing the wealth of theatrical talent (and to be fair, also a lot of rubbish) that was there.

Two of my particular favourites were ‘Infinity Pool’ which bills itself as a modern retelling of Madam Bouvary and Walrus Theatre’s ‘Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons’. The first is entirely unspoken with the dialogue delivered through projectors and computer screens. When it was described to me I admit that I was initially dubious, but it was in fact utterly captivating. ‘Lemons’ on the other hand is all about words and speech. Set in a Black Mirror-esque universe in which the government has implemented a ‘Hush’ law that prevents you from speaking more than 140 words a day, a young couple have to find new ways to connect and communicate. Their only pieces of set were two microphones, proving just how effective a tight script is in carrying a play.

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This was the Fringe mascot this year…um, yeah

Overall, I had a great time at this year’s festival and would love to go back again next year if I can find a job at one of the venues – that or my housemates decide to write another show. Although I think I will need the year to recover.

Days Out in Norwich: The Castle

It has been a point of embarrassment for some time now that as someone who claims to have a particular interest in the Middle Ages, I had yet to visit Norwich Castle.

Thankfully, this wrong has finally been righted.

I had hoped to go to Cromer last weekend but sadly a storm rolled in from the North Sea, as they are want to do around our exposed bit of coastline, and we had to call the day off. However, Norwich Castle turned out to be a far larger complex than expected, and rather than just filling an hour or two, my family and I spent almost our entire day there.

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Initially as you approach the castle it seems very squat and unimpressive compared to the later medieval castles you may have seen. Built initially around 1067, the castle has overlooked Norwich’s market area, known as Tombland, for almost a millennia. However, once you have entered via the bridge which crosses what remains of the moat, you will be astounded to see just how extensive the complex is.

Besides the castle keep, which contains the exhibits about medieval life in Norwich, there are a warren of other galleries ranging in focus from the history of the Iceni tribe in East Anglia to Ancient Egypt. There is also a natural history museum area in which the taxidermy collections of eccentric Victorians are kept – they even have a stuffed polar bear.

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Getting into the castle may seem a bit expensive at first but there is so much to do that it is a whole day’s worth of entertainment, and for younger family members there are often activities and special events to keep them amused; my visit happened to coincide with a workshop run by UEA Drama students in which they dressed up and re-enacted Viking life in Norwich.

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Overall, I would thoroughly recommend checking out this piece of Norwich history during your time here – but maybe wait until your parents visit and can buy the tickets…

Always thinking about the next step…

One of the strange quirks of the academic year, especially the university system, is that by February of one year you are already planning for the start of the next.

This Wednesday I’m going to a lecture on picking my third year modules, which seems absurdly early and yet we are less than two week away from the Easter holidays!

I’m only just half way through my degree but already I’m receiving emails from UEA’s careers centre to remind that I need to get thinking about what comes next. Hopefully it’ll be postgraduate study which is quite a comforting thought – there’s a clear structure and a series of targets that have to be met, but if I didn’t go down the postgrad route… well everything seems to drop away into a bit of an abyss. It’s hard to imagine finding a job I love and being able to afford straight away to live somewhere that wasn’t back with my parents. So you know, fingers crossed the MA plan works out.

Currently I’m focusing on which modules I want to be taking next year, whether I want to run to be on the Drama Society committee again, and helping plan a short theatre festival tour with some of my housemates (more updates on that as it develops).

Most of the time I don’t spend studying is currently being taken up with organising the Drama Society’s short plays festival ‘Spotlight’, which is a great opportunity to give as many students as possible the chance to get involved in theatre making. I’m also beginning to realise that I might prefer helping people put on plays than actually doing them myself – information which may prove useful next time I take myself down to a career development meeting…

I love studying and learning about literature, I mean I’m even considering staying an extra year in education I like it so much, but I think that what I’ll be remembering most from uni is the amazing extra-curricular things I’ve done – such as all my work with the Drama Society.

Well, that and Biddy’s Tea Rooms, which is still my favourite place in the whole of Norwich!

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Next weekend I’ll either be dropping by Norwich castle or Cromer, so hopefully I’ll have plenty of things to show and tell you about.

Norwich’s Vintage Market

Having lived in Norwich for almost a year and a half now, it is understandable that I might start to feel as though I have sampled everything the city has to offer which might be of interest to me. However, I am pleased to say that whenever I feel this way I almost invariably stumble across something new.

My most recent discovery is the Vintage Market. Tucked away as it is, with only a small door around the side of the large Iceland supermarket, I have been walking past it almost every day since I moved into my house last September and barely given it a thought.

Recently however, I was persuaded by a housemate that despite its unpromising frontage it was worth taking a peek inside.

And they were more than right.

 

Whilst I am not currently in the market for new clothes, the Vintage Market has everything you could hope for. From casual jackets to formal dresses to this… thing…

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Whilst I haven’t tried it myself, I have also been informed that the attached café is wonderful so I shall make a point of trying that out at some point.

That’s about all for this week – it’s hard to find time to explore this wonderful city when you’re also reading a Shakespeare play, an Austen novel, and a large collection of Romantic poetry weekly. But as and when I find new delights I shall of course share them on here.

How to House Hunt…

Now is the time of year when students across the country are scrabbling to secure their housing for next year. Some of them may be first years on the lookout for their first ever house, and some of them are second or third years who for whatever reason aren’t staying in their current accommodation.

Luckily for me, I’m staying right where I am. I lucked out both in terms of housing and housemates so aside from one change in the team line up, due to one of my housemates graduating this summer, we’re staying as we are.

However, one of my housemates and I were discussing just how unusual this is, to be happy with both your choice of housemates and your choice of accommodation one year on from that original contract signing.

I don’t pretend to have any particular wisdom on the subject, good fortune more than anything led to a situation where by the November of my first term at uni I had found who I was going to live with in second year (One of my housemates is the first person I met at the ice breaker on my first night at uni).

But I think there are a few pointers that I can give to help ease the house hunting horror.

  • Firstly, and this will seem like a very obvious one, work out what you can afford. You need to include not only the monthly rent but also the cost of bills if they are not included, the cost of transport if you are going to be travelling in every day, plus the basic costs of living such as food.
  • Decide how far you are happy to live from uni. I live right in the centre of the city and I love it. I’m very near the shops and clubs, and only a five minute walk from the main bus stop so I don’t have to worry about whether the next bus is a 25 or 26 (this is a problem all UEA students above second year will understand). Personally I think it’s best to either live very close to uni or to move right into town. A lot of student housing falls somewhere in between, leaving you too far away to walk to uni and too far away from town to walk home after a night out. Bite the bullet and pick a side.
  • When on the phone and looking around properties, remember to put your best foot forward. Nice houses go very quickly and the landlord will have plenty of offers to choose from, so make sure you’re the nice bunch who say things like, ‘we’re not much of a party house’, even if it’s not true…
  • Once you’ve found a place, don’t sign anything until a Student Union advisor has gone through the contract with you. This will protect you and the landlord from surprise costs or unreasonable demands. These things are legally binding, so make sure you fully understand what you’re getting in to.
  • And lastly, before looking around houses, have a discussion with your future flatmates about your expectations for the next year. Is one of you planning on bringing people round every weekend? Does one of you have a secret passion for the violin they’ve not mentioned before? These aren’t reasons not to live with someone, but they are things you should know about beforehand. It’s also worth checking whether any of you are very keen on having things like a bath or double beds which not all properties have.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to be thorough enough with your planning and house hunting that there no nasty surprises once you move in – or at least none that you can be held responsible for.

Best of luck to everyone looking, and don’t forget that there’s loads more info on the HomeRun website!

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Last year’s booklet – How time flies…

New Year, New Post…

Happy New Year! (and a very belated Merry Christmas)

You may have noticed that this blog was particularly quiet recently. This was in part due to a few weeks of very stressful essay writing, but also because shortly after submitting my final essay my laptop suffered a catastrophic encounter with a cup of tea. But thankfully all has been repaired and now I’m back at uni and ready for term two to begin!

It has been pointed out to me that, by some measurements at least, I am now half way through my degree – a truly terrifying thought. Luckily for me I do have some idea of what I want to do once my BA is finished so it’s a bit less like staring into oblivion.

However, if I really want to get onto an MA, as I hope to do, I need to knuckle down and get more work done this term. Last semester was difficult for a number of reasons, but I think it wasn’t helped by the fact that I was putting in less hours than last year but being set more work. This is probably the result of living with friends; watching a film with your flatmates is far more appealing than doing extra reading unfortunately.

I’ve been back in Norwich for a few days now and the newness of being away from home is already fading. I’ve just about remembered how the cooker and washing machine work, although my use of these utilities is still a little sporadic.

Having had the time to settle back in, I’m now a lot more excited about getting started with this term’s work. This semester I’m taking Romanticism, Austen and the Brontës, and Shakespeare. My first week’s reading is fairly gentle; Jane Eyre, Henry V, Pride and Prejudice, are all texts I have read before so the only new piece of reading is William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.

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Some of my reading…

 

This first week of term is always the calm before the storm, but I promise I’ll do a better job than I have recently of keeping you up to date with student life in Norwich.

As always, if anybody has any questions about UEA, feel free to email me.

Until then.

What Sir Tim Hunt should do next…

Universities, especially campus universities, are their own little worlds. They are pockets of eccentricity in which it is perfectly acceptable to dedicate years of your life to the symbolic importance of birds in Macbeth (an extreme example, but a true one nonetheless).

It is therefore easy to forget that this is not how the rest of the world functions, indeed the uniqueness of each institution means that this is probably not even how other universities function.

It came as a surprise to me then when I first learned of the great inequalities in academia. In my department at UEA, LDC (Literature, Drama, and Creative Writing), there seems to me to be a fairly even gender divide. I have been taught by roughly an equal amount of men and women. However, this is by no means the norm. In the UK just 1 in 5 professors is female, with many top institutes having figures as low as 1 in 10. Perhaps it is the modernism of UEA and its concerted efforts to avoid the fustiness of older universities which contributes to the near equal number of male and female professors – but then it might just be my department.

I have been thinking about this topic over the last week due to the comments made by Sir Tim Hunt, and the media frenzy that has since followed.

Sir Tim Hunt is a Nobel Prize winning scientist who, if you haven’t already heard, had this to say at a conference in South Korea:  “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”

Hunt has since resigned from his posts at UCL and the Royal Society – although not before telling the BBC that, “I did mean the part about having trouble with girls”, and adding it was, “a very stupid thing to do in the presence of all those journalists”.

… One might feel this implies he doesn’t regret the comments he made but rather the fact that he’s (rightly) being challenged because of them.

My feelings on the matter are best expressed by Imran Khan, chief executive of the British Science Association; “Sadly, dealing with sexism and other forms of discrimination are a daily reality for many people, and I imagine it’s hard to find Sir Tim’s comments funny if you’ve been held back by systemic bias for years – whether those remarks were intended as a joke or not.”

STEM careers are vital to the future of this country, and if 51% of the population is being discouraged from pursuing them because some of their colleagues can’t separate their personal and professional lives, then we’ve all got a problem.

And after the great pains over the last few years to encourage women into STEM careers, I find it deeply saddening that someone who the scientific community should be looking to as a role model could come out with such sexist statements.

In an interview with the Guardian, Tim Hunt’s wife recounts how her husband had cried following his forced resignation from UCL – although it’s unclear why they expect sympathy for their tears when Hunt himself complained about female scientists who cry when criticised.

A handful of eminent female scientists have come out in support of Hunt, saying that from their experiences of him they are assured that he isn’t sexist… I’m not convinced. However, if this was just a massive gaffe on Hunt’s part, and if he truly wished to make amends, then I believe his path forward is clear.

In his interview with the Guardian, Hunt is quoted as saying, “I am finished…I had hoped to do a lot more to help promote science in this country and in Europe, but I cannot see how that can happen. I have become toxic.” Indeed.

In my humble opinion, this is what Hunt needs to do now:

  1. Issue a proper apology. A PROPER one, in which he doesn’t claim he was, “just trying to be honest”.
  2. Use the considerable amount of influence and contacts he has, as a Nobel Prize winning scientist, to support the good work of organisations such as WISE (https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/) who aim to get more women in the UK into STEM careers.

A smart person can win a Nobel Prize, but a great one can come back from this and help remedy the damage they have done.

Decisions, Decisions….

Happy Easter to all who celebrate it!

Although it’s only April we’re already contemplating the end of the academic year. My regularly scheduled lectures are over until September and by the 17th I have to have selected my module choices for next year – it’s not an exaggeration when I say I feel like I only started uni a few weeks ago.

Many of my friends from back home are second year students and it’s sobering to realise that they’re about to start their final year at uni – makes you realise how short your time as an undergraduate actually is.

But to focus on the present; choosing modules is both fun and a right pain in the neck. To begin with you shortlist all the modules from the catalogue which sound exciting, then you have to check that you fulfil all of the prerequisites (e.g. so many credits must be taken from pre-1789 modules), then you have to see which ones clash, and make sure that you are taking an equal number of credits in each semester, you also need to have reserves for each of your choices etc. etc. …Stressful, but it’ll be worth it once it’s sorted.

Module selection also calls for a good long think about what it is that you are hoping to get from an English degree. Fulfilling the pre-1789 requisite wasn’t a problem for me as all but one of my first choice modules are pre-18th century literature, the connection between history and literature being what I most want to explore. However, I have friends who want to pursue critical theory and poetry, and they can craft their degree to such an extent that it will be almost unrecognisable to mine. Which I personally think is pretty cool, and one of the beauties of the UEA English Lit degree. But for now, fingers crossed that I get my first choices and don’t end up taking critical theory…

My work space has rather taken over the dining room...

My work space has rather taken over the dining room…

Easter break has a week left but mine seems to have been overtaken by my essays, which are taking longer than they usually do when I’m at uni. Something about being at home isn’t conducive to study, at least not for me.

Third semester is a distant dream at the moment. A time of freedom from essays and morning lectures. I keep agreeing to do things in third term, such as a day trip to the beach or visiting friends at other uni’s, but we’ll see how many of them actually come to fruition.

For now it’s noses to the grindstone to get everything handed in on time, then it’s full steam on to summer!

‘Who’d walk in this bleak place?…’

After three months of living at UEA, admiring almost daily the beauty of sunrise and sunset over the Broad, I finally went for a walk around our lovely lake. It was suitably cold, as you will notice from my heavy duty hat and scarf, but worth it to see the British winter up close and personal.

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20141214_135104On my wall I have pinned a poem by Sylvia Plath; like much of her work it is not of an overtly cheerful nature, but whenever I read it I think of autumnal mornings and of watching the orange mists over the water whilst I make tea. 

I thought you might enjoy it as well.

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During my walk around the lake ‘a single swan’ did me the poetic courtesy of floating past