Graduation

It’s been over a week since I graduated but until now I’ve still been somewhat reeling.

When dealing with a tough essay or an overwhelming reading list I used to imagine my graduation day and how amazing it would feel; I even used to picture standing with my friends in our robes, and it would give me an extra burst of motivation.

Then suddenly it was my graduation day and it all seemed to go by in a blur. To clarify, I had a great day but it was so surreal and overwhelming that I mostly remember it in snapshots: my friend and I first seeing ourselves in our robes; shaking the vice-chancellor’s hand; throwing our mortarboards.

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It’s a fun day but you do seem to spend your time running from one thing to another, anxious that you might miss something important with your friends whilst also balancing seeing your family.

The ceremony itself felt the most official and ‘proper’ bit of the day – standing around a campus you know very well in robes seems odd but the actual conferring of the degrees was the moment when I really felt, ‘ahh I’m graduating!’.

I’m pleased to say no one tripped over on the stairs, which was something we had all been very anxious about, although my new shoes did rip off a bit of skin the size of a 10p piece whilst I was walking across the stage – what glamour! (I don’t think anyone noticed as the adrenaline carried me through, but I might have a slight scar to always remind me of my UEA graduation).

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Fun fact: our robes were designed by the artist and costume designer Cecil Beaton

The people receiving honorary degrees during our ceremony were Peter Wilson and the poet and translator George Szirtes. Both gave interesting speeches which addressed the unique challenges our generation will be facing; what I remember most from Peter Wilson’s speech was the time he had to jump from a burning boat into shark infested waters, but Szirtes discussed issues such as our country’s response to the refugee crisis. The poet was himself a refugee at the age of 8, fleeing to Britain from Hungary. To a round of applause he reminded the audience of the gifts that refugees bring. Whilst refugees should never have to prove themselves worthy of saving, it was still a salient reminder that these people are our future artists and engineers. They bring immeasurable value to our country and culture.

I have a few posts about Grad Week and my MA plans still to publish but for now I’m off to North Wales for a week where I can indulge in reading books I’ve been putting off during term time!

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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!

Cambridge Revisited

The joy of being free from coursework and deadlines lasted for about 3 days and now I’m ready to be studying again. I just have too much free time so I’m trying to find all of things in Norwich and East Anglia that I’ve wanted to do over the past 3 years but never gotten around to.

This week that included going to Cambridge.

Since living in Norwich I have often had cause to pass through Cambridge and have even stayed there with a friend but I’ve just never had the time to explore it. So, I made a spur of the moment decision on Monday night and booked myself a morning train.

I will admit now that I went with full intentions of being the most stereotypical of tourists and chose the places I wishes to see from the top ratings on Trip Advisor. The day therefore included a trip to Fitzbillies, a famous Cambridge restaurant and bakery, where I sampled their renowned Chelsea buns, a leisurely exploration of the Fitzwilliam Museum, a stroll through the college quarter, a quick crash course in Cambridge history at the Norman Round Church, and then a brief read of my book in the park.

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I hadn’t realised just how many museums there were in Cambridge so I would love to go back at some point and see more of them. It was also a great experience in travelling by myself, something I have done before but it’s been a while. I’d forgotten how nice it is to explore somewhere entirely based on your whims.

I don’t think I need to convince anybody of what a wonderful place Cambridge is to visit, but I would like to encourage UEA students to consider getting out of the Norwich bubble and exploring our corner of England a little better. A last minute train from Norwich to Cambridge (incl. the return) cost me only £11.60, so it’s quite doable to a student budget.

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It’s not long now until I move home so the race is on to see everything I want to see in Norwich before it’s too late.

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.