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)

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.

Do Something Different Week: ‘The Art and Science of Murder’

If you are a UEA student then you will be very aware that we are currently in the midst of ‘Do Something Different Week’ – a campus wide off timetable week in which students are encouraged to, as the name suggests, do something different.

A variety of different taster sessions have been on offer from cookery classes to Introduction to Arabic, but perhaps the most well-known event is the week long interactive murder mystery: ‘The Art and Science of Murder’.

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The event was planned and written by crime fiction author Ian Rankin along with a cohort of UEA Creative Writing students. It runs across the week and follows the investigation into the (fictional) murder of UEA academic, Dr. Bland.

The first event of the week was an intro into crime scene investigation. Students who had booked onto the course were invited to come and examine the site where Dr. Bland’s ‘body’ was found, to look for DNA samples and to speak to an ‘eye witness’. It was also a good opportunity to talk to professionals who actually do these kinds of investigations for a living and they were very keen to dispel some of the fictions created by tv crime dramas (apparently detectives rarely get to see the body as it was found which ruins most detective shows I know!). I also learned that to examine a mobile the police have to isolate it in a Faraday Cage (aka, a metal bag) until the battery runs dead so that they can be sure that it remains exactly as they found it. A solution to a problem I didn’t even know existed.

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The following day included a trip to the Pathology lab where we were shown what kinds of evidence the pathologists looked for on a murder victim and were shown x-rays which helped us to identify the cause of death. The key question of the investigation is; did Dr. Bland fall from the walkway or was he pushed? Blood which had run down his face suggested that he had been upright when a blow was struck proving that he had been attacked before falling… in short, it was almost certainly homicide!

The most recent event was a dramatization of the police interviews with the one eye witness and then two suspects who were known to have seen the victim on the night of his death. This was where the event began to combine narrative along with actual science – and it was also very odd for me as I happen to know the ‘suspects’  through Drama Society. But I still very much enjoyed it and look forward to the Police Press Conference tomorrow.

The event will eventually culminate in a full trial on Friday which will be hosted by UEA Law School.

Whilst it is a bit of fun it has also been amazing to see the kind of work that people from other schools are involved in at UEA. It can be easy to get blinkered to anything beyond your own school (in my case Literature, Drama and Creative Writing) but it’s a great reminder that so much else does go on here.

I will let you know more about the investigation as it unfurls, but if you would like more immediate updates be sure to check the #somethingdifferent tag on twitter (Concrete and UEA TV will also be covering it extensively.)

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