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!

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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!

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.

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.

Why you should join a (Drama) Society

[Forgive a President a brief plug of her own society]

Drama Society – we’re one of UEA’s biggest (and best) societies, as well as being one of its most active.

We are an entirely student run group who put on up to six shows a year, including a musical, plus a short plays festival in the spring. On top of this regular programming we also run workshops with some of the industry’s top professionals as well as our own socials – e.g. pub crawls, BBQ’s, and a Winter Ball.

Sound good?

Over the next few days we’ll be running various taster sessions so you can come and see what we’re about. This includes our Big Meet on Friday where your’s truly will be giving a presentation about what we have planned this term, as well as our first Give It A Go session which will consist of drama games (to help break the ice) and a discussion about audition technique.

There will also be a BBQ on Saturday afternoon and a Recovery Breakfast (for those who go to the LCR on Saturday) on the Sunday morning. If any of this sounds interesting to you please go to our Facebook page to find out more.

Auditions are also open for our first show of the year, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.

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On a slightly more personal note, I can still hardly believe that I’m the Drama Society President 2016/17. Had you asked me a year ago I would have told you absolutely not, I was petrified enough being the Equality and Diversity Officer on the previous committee.

However, I do remember wondering what it would be like to be president, and whether I could do it. I think it’s but one example of how much you grow at uni – I didn’t see myself as a leader or as someone who was qualified enough to run such a big and active society.

I love my degree so much, UEA is an extraordinary place to study and I have learned so much from my tutors – however, my greatest personal development has come from my extracurricular stuff, namely Drama Society. It’s shaped my social life, how I see myself as a person, and even my career goals.

Obviously Drama Society won’t be for everyone, but I would encourage all students to go out and find their Drama Society equivalent. Who knows where it could take you.

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The Drama Society committee 2015-16