Third Week, Third Year

Although we are only in the third week of term third year feels well and truly underway – I’ve already had a summative (which means that the grade counts towards my degree) essay to hand in!

The first two weeks have been something of a blur and the various freshers events at which I was promoting Drama Society have all begun to blend in to one. I just really hope, as a soc, that we’ve managed to make at least a few nervous freshers feel a bit more settled and maybe even helped them meet their future friends.

This was also the first year in which I didn’t attend any fresher evening events, well aside from the one Drama Society organised, and although I was a bit envious of some of the cool stuff that was put on at the Freshers’ Ball, overall it was definitely the right decision not to go – I would have been exhausted!

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This term I’m doing two modules; The Gothic, and my dissertation.

I can’t really talk in too much depth about my dissertation because I’m still working it out for myself, but on the Gothic front I am having a great time. So far, this is probably one of my favourite modules at UEA, certainly up there with last year’s Medieval Writing module. I’m loving the reading, my seminar group, and the fact that our assessment is broken down into multiple essays over the term rather than one giant one at the end of the semester. I am also feeling a lot better at the moment than I did this time last year so ideas just seem to be coming to me more easily – which is one of the weird things about academia, in many ways it is just as creative as fiction/poetry writing etc, your brain makes leaps that you can’t always explain and you certainly can’t force. Looking back I would probably describe my first term of second year as being like having writer’s block.

I was speaking to one of my tutors recently and he said to me that I worried too much, that I thought too much about my grades when I should be enjoying studying. It reminded me of one of my favourite poems, ‘Ithaka’ by C.P. Cavafy which I may have talked about somewhere on this blog before. But the stanza it particularly recalled was this,

‘Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.’

So that is what I will try to do, to enjoy my time left at UEA and not see my degree as something to be got through or achieved as quickly as possible. Whilst receiving my degree at the end is important, it’s not the roll of paper which will make me ‘wealthy’, but the amazing experience that I have on the way.

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)!

Freshers’ Flashbacks (plus Global Goals)

Watching Freshers’ Week go by as a second year is a strange experience. I suppose it’s a living form of nostalgia, but, for me at least, it’s far more preferable than actually having to go through Freshers’ again. As a second year you can just go to the events that you know are good, and this time you can do it with a tight knit group of friends rather than a bunch of acquaintances (who may well go on to become your tight knit friends but that’s a different matter).

The other great bit about being a second year this September is that you can skip all of those awful welcome talks and get stuck straight into the business of studying the stuff you’re interested in. Although not being able to find where your lectures are does still occasionally happen.

Of course, first week is still super busy. Not only are you tackling the mountain of reading set for class, but as a second year you probably also have commitments to societies, and a group of friends who you’d like to see after having been scattered to the four winds during the summer.

This year I’m on the Drama Society Committee as their Union Liaison and Equality Officer, I’m in the choir, I’ve joined the UEA Student Labour party, and I need to keep up with this blog and other sites I write for. So it’s nose to the grind already, but I have a feeling that this year is going to be good.

You can find out more about Drama Society by going to ueadramasoc.com

You can find out more about Drama Society by going to ueadramasoc.com

On a completely separate note, I hope you’ll forgive me for writing just briefly about the new Global Goals.

So back in 2000 the UN developed a list of goals which were known as the Millennium Development Goals. The idea was to get countries around the world to sign up to a set of commitments which included reducing infant mortality rate, ending extreme poverty, ensuring universal primary education, etc. To find out how successful this was please watch this video (tldr: we did a pretty good job):

Now however, it is time to set a new list of Global Goals, and we need to each be a Global Citizen.

Please do check out this video and follow the links to the Global Goals website.

Without wishing to sound too preachy, I try to remember when a seminar seems dull or an essay not worth the effort, that a good quality education is a rare and precious thing. But, in time, it is possible that education could be available for everyone.

Global Goal 4

Welcome Week

As Welcome Week draws to a close it feels quite natural to reflect on what has been an exhausting few days for both body and spirit.

It all kicked off on the Sunday night with a performance by the Bavarian Stompers who are not even German, let alone from Bavaria – they are in truth a group of middle aged men from what sounded like Yorkshire… Anyway, we all eagerly collected our beer steins and attempted to sing along with the German Toast song, although a fair few freshers seemed to forget that the beer belonged in their steins and in their mouths, not on the SU audience and floor.

The rest of the week followed with various themed LCR nights and intro lectures from our Heads of Schools; whilst enormous fun it is exhausting both physically and emotionally. Spending day to day sleep deprived in a place you don’t know, surrounded by people you don’t know, can leave you feeling… well I wouldn’t go so far as to say upset or completely overwhelmed, but rather adrift. I kept expecting it all to end and for it to be time to go home; and to be frank I still don’t think it’s really sunk in yet that I’m going to be here for three years.

But still, I’ve tried to throw myself into all. I’ve applied for a job on campus, an internship in Norwich which I have subsequently been shortlisted for, and agreed to act as Production Manager on one of the plays in the Minotaur’s Shorts Season, I just hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.

In the flat the first grumbles have begun as washing begins to mount on the draining board; living with people is both rewarding and challenging and I fully expect there to be some hiccups along the way, but hopefully there won’t be any major fall outs. For now I am resisting leaving notes to remind people to clear away their debris – It’s not so much that I mind the mess, but that if the cleaner has to move lots of stuff so she can do her job then we can be fined and my student loan just won’t stretch that far!

My favourite thing so far about uni is how great it is for meeting a whole range of people, I’ve been invited around for dinner by postgrad Chinese students, and been cooked an “English Breakfast” by two Americans. There are people on my course from as far away as Belgium and Norway, the breadth of culture is truly astonishing, although I can’t help agreeing with the card given to me by a friend which said that 50% of uni is spent comparing regional accents – the North/South divide proving particularly divisive.

Welcome Week ended this year with the Welcome Prom, a night of music from bands such as PEACE (who were bloody fantastic if you want my opinion) and a free Funfair (well, the price was included in the ticket – when is anything truly free?). It was a great night to stop and take stock of the friend’s you’d made and how much we’d already achieved, and also a very good opportunity for selfies.

In conclusion, Welcome Week is something to be both enjoyed and got through; sometimes you might feel like you’re on cloud nine and other times you just have to grit your teeth and plough on, despite the near constant urge to just lie down.

The Shock of Capture

“The shock of capture”, is an army expression which is used to describe the experience of hostages or prisoners of war during a conflict – it is the mixture of emotions gone through as a person moves from the usual to the unusual, as they realise the reality of the situation they have gotten themselves into.

It is was in this glassy-eyed state that my mother found me when she got home from work the day before I arrived at UEA. I had meant to spend the day packing but instead found myself staring into space for minutes at a time, completely unable to be decisive in anyway, dithering about which bag I should put toiletries in.

After a year of day dreaming what uni life was going to be like I was suddenly confronted with the reality of having to live it. A thousand thoughts rushed through my head; everything from worrying if I would get on with my flatmates to wondering whether I would need to bring coat hangers (which I did), and to be quite frank it was almost completely overwhelming.

For the past few months I had been bombarded with emails and facebook notifications, each reminding me to join a page, sign up for something, or buy some sort of fresher’s ticket, and my constant fear was that somehow I was going to miss the really important stuff – that maybe the day they explained how to be a student was going to be the day I had a doctor’s appointment. So I caved and bought fresher’s wristbands and only time will tell of they were worth it.

Thankfully, upon arrival I discovered that everyone is equally adrift. As a student on a drama undergraduate course I was asked to arrive at the same time as the international students (moving into a nearly empty flat was a strange experience) and soon found that everyone was asking if anyone else had the answers; where were we meant to be? Which events were worth going to? And did anyone know where the Student Union bar was?

So whilst I still don’t think I can speak with any authority on the matter, it’s good to know that university is a foreign land to everyone, and we’re all equally lost.
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The new flatmates seem friendly enough