Quick Life Update

There’s been an awful lot going on lately so I thought it was probably time for a brief update on what I’m doing and what my plans are post-graduation.

Without wishing to blow my own trumpet I am delighted to say that I got a high first (which is the highest grade band for university work) for my dissertation. Obviously, this is a massive relief anyway but I am particularly delighted that I did well because I had been worrying that perhaps I hadn’t worked hard enough on it.

Now, before you think I slacked off for a semester and got lucky I should just clarify – one of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn at uni is when to stop pushing myself. I used to feel that if I wasn’t panicking and working all hours on an essay then I wasn’t working hard enough; if I didn’t feel like crying after finishing it had I really given it my all?

This kind of attitude can wrongly be celebrated at uni sometimes. People compete to complain about how many hours they spent in the library, how many coffees they had to drink to make it through. Of course, I don’t wish to suggest that you shouldn’t give an essay your best, but we need to be careful that we don’t regard burning yourself out as a sign of success.

Thanks to the amazing advice and support of my supervisor, Dr. Rebecca Pinner, writing my dissertation was a far less stressful and more enjoyable experience than I imagined it could be. (I could probably write a whole post on the importance of finding the right supervisor for you, but don’t worry I won’t) And at the end of the day, although uni is meant to be hard work it’s also supposed to be working hard at something you love and are interested in.

Lastly, I have applied to two Master’s degree programmes; one at York University and one at Oxford University. I’m still waiting to hear back from York but I was delighted (and very shocked) to receive an offer from Oxford for a place on their Mst. English Literature (650-1550) degree.

I’m still not a hundred percent certain which uni I will go to yet, and I’m still waiting to hear back from York, but it’s good to know that I will still be studying next year.

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Photos I took on my Applicant Day at Oxford

With Easter coming up hopefully I will have time to do a few more posts about Norwich before I graduate and leave this fine city.

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!

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

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.

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

Let’s Talk: Sometimes University is Hard

Something I have noticed that many student bloggers do, and I am very much including myself in this, is to write short and snappy articles outlining how you solve ‘x’ problem; ’10 Tips for X’ etc etc.

Now, I’m certainly not about to advocate the doing away with such content. It’s quick and easy to read, digest, and from personal experience I know that it can often be quite helpful – before starting university I read a lot of ‘Top Tips for Freshers’ guides and they helped me feel a little less nervous.

However, today I want to address something which can’t be solved in a round 400 words, something which I wish people had said to me before I started uni.

And that is that university is hard. Like, really hard sometimes.

Perhaps you think this shouldn’t come as a surprise, we all know that universities are places of academic rigor (or at least they should be) and so we can’t expect it to be plain sailing all the time. However, the problem is that we are sold an image of university which is something like this:

[Picture] “A sunny field under a blue sky, groups of students laughing and carefree – more often than not, not looking at the books which lie open in middle of their circle of friends.”

Or perhaps:

[Picture again if you will] “A serious looking student sitting in a well-lit library. They are clearly working hard but their face is a picture of health – no bags under the eyes here”.

And sometimes university is like this. Often it is fun and you are surrounded by your friends for much of the time, and studying a subject you love is fulfilling.

But-

Sometimes it is stressful and can feel like you’re knocking your head against a wall. Sometimes despite your hard work you don’t do as well as you wanted to in a class. Sometimes things going on at home or in your social life can take over and distract you from your goals.

I’m writing this because this is what happened to me last year. There were things going on at home, one of my parents was very ill, I was making poor decisions when trying to balance my social life and studies – all of which was compounded by the fact that I had high academic expectations of myself and felt that others did too.

This is not to say that I didn’t have any good times second year. I had some really amazing experiences and memories I will treasure for a life time, but I was also stressed and unhappy for a lot of it. Being home for the summer has allowed me to take a step back, catch my breath and reflect on what went on.

I can see now that a lot of the time I was making myself stressed… because I was stressed? Whenever anything became difficult or didn’t turn out as I hoped, I turned it into a reason that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t a good student, rather than just seeing it as a natural setback that happens to everyone.

Talking to other people I have heard lots of similar stories. We all imagine that everyone else is finding things easier than us. That we are somehow uniquely deficient when it comes to the things that we want to be good at.

So, in summary, there is no easy answer to this. I’m still working it out for myself. But I think it’s good for students to know that it’s ok for things to not always be ok. Sometimes uni will be difficult and you will be stressed, but everyone else is feeling the same.

University is hard sometimes, but also, sometimes it’s bloomin’ amazing – and at the end of the day I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

(Here’s a really great video by the vlogger, Lucy Moon, addressing similar issues)

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.