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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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!

Open Days…Again?

As we hurtle towards the end of the autumn semester I am reminded just how quickly my final year at UEA is passing. What particularly drove this home was a visit to another university this week to hear about their Medieval Studies MA.

I made the decision last year not to stay on at UEA for my MA partly because there isn’t a specialist in Norse literature here but also because I don’t think I would like to be here after all of my friends have graduated. However, looking around another university – even the University of York which is essentially UEA’s twin – felt a bit like a betrayal.

I travelled up to York last Wednesday (having to catch a train before 7 in the morning!) with a friend to attend an open day at the University of York. Walking around the city I was struck by its similarities to Norwich, the old alleys and wonderful independent shops, but it was when I reached the university campus that it began to feel uncanny. York and UEA were set up roughly around the same time and shared a taste for brutalist architecture. We both have lakes with iconic buildings on their banks and flying walk ways that create a feeling of having stepped out of the ordinary into something new and perhaps a little futuristic.

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York’s Central Hall

York and UEA do have many differences however, whilst UEA forged ahead determined to live up to its motto Do Different, York chose to mimic older institutions and became a collegiate university (I don’t mean this is a pejorative sense) . Walking through the campus felt rather like seeing someone’s doppelgänger – you could see the differences but the similarities were striking.

I had a wonderful day up north. I love York for all the same reasons I love Norwich and if I got onto the MA there it would feel like a natural progression. I come from a medieval city, I’ve studied in a medieval city for my BA, so it would be great to continue that tradition during post-grad.

(If you happen to find yourself in York, after checking out the Minster and all of the amazing museums, make sure you stop by the Fudge Kitchen – it’s expensive but it will blow your mind!)

Obviously, I’m in the middle of it all at the moment but I hope to talk about my MA application process on here in the future as it seems to me that there are far fewer resources for post grad applications than there are for undergraduate.

As always feel free to message me with any questions you may have and if you would like a glimpse of life at UEA then you can check out my Instagram hjp_armstrong.