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.

So You’re About to Become a UEA Fresher?

It’s not that long until the dreaded results day now and I know that on top of worrying whether or not they’ve got the grades to get in a lot of students will be worried about moving to uni. Never fear, I am here to demystify the whole thing. So settle back, have a cup of tea, and I will tell you my top freshers’ tips.

1. What (Not) to Pack: If you are moving into student accommodation for your first year then you may be worrying about what you need to bring with you. My first piece of advice for all UEA freshers is COATHANGERS. I can’t speak for all the residences but they definitely aren’t included in Norfolk Terrace and you don’t want to be piling your clothes on the floor of your cupboard.

It’s also important to PACK FOR ALL SEASONS. When you depart for uni it might be autumnal sunshine but remember that you may not be going home before winter and Norfolk can get very chilly. If you’re a tea and coffee fanatic like myself then it’s a good idea to bring a KETTLE as not all of the flats have them and the queue at the campus shop is very long on the first day if you try to buy one when you get there. You don’t need to worry about bringing things like toasters, we have industrial size ones in the kitchens and you aren’t allowed them in your rooms.

Bring things that remind you of home and fill your room with your favourite things. Bring those books that you can read again and again, the DVDs that you watch when you’re feeling down, even your teddy bear if you still have one. These will all help you feel comfortable in your new home and will cheer you up if you get a spot of the freshers’ blues.

2. Decorate Your Room: When you first arrive your room will probably look a little sad and bare, but please don’t be put off. Once you’ve put your bedding on, added some books to the shelves and posters to the wall it will look completely different. It’s a good idea to pack some photos of your friends from home and bring knickknacks to put on the desk. It’s a great chance to really create your own space.

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The poster board in my Norfolk Terrace room

3. Arriving at Uni: Your arrival at uni can be a very chaotic affair with a dozen other people trying to move their large suitcases through a small flat at the same time as you, but this is your first opportunity to meet your new flatmates so try and conquer any potential nerves and say hi. Once you’re in your room and unpacking, prop your door open so people can pop their heads in and introduce themselves as they pass. Everyone else is new and wants to make friends too so make it as easy as possible for yourselves.

4. Which Freshers’ Events to go to: Firstly, be aware that lots of clubs will be trying to take advantage of Freshers’ week and they know that the incoming students don’t want to miss out on ‘Official’ freshers’ events – therefore be wary of people trying to sell you club wristbands and know that only tickets sold through the UEA Union website are genuinely official events. Personally, I’d only recommend bothering with the first week tickets but if clubbing is something you really enjoy then you can still buy tickets for the second week events once you arrive and find other people to go with.

Don’t forget to go to the Freshers’ fairs, you can get great coupons to use with local businesses and sign up to over 200 hundred societies (although I would not recommend signing up to all 200). I’ll be at the Societies Fair this year representing the Drama Society, so please come and say hi if you’re interested in the society or have any questions.

5. And Lastly: If you’re unsure about something ASK FOR HELP. There are lots of people on campus who would be happy to help you however you need it. There’s the Students Union who have a drop in service, the Dean of Students, your academic advisors, and older students who have been trained to mentor younger students. We’ve all be freshers once so we know how scary it can be, but we’re here to make your transition to uni as easy and enjoyable as possible.

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If you have any more questions (or your own freshers’ tips) then please feel free to ask here or contact me at h.armstrong@uea.ac.uk

I am also now on Instagram so (once September comes around) if you’d like a glimpse of what life for a UEA student is like then you can have a look at hjp_armstrong.

Best of luck to all the A Level students (including my little brother which makes me feel very old)!

Brexit: A Disaster for Higher Education

Brexit – almost two months to go until the referendum but already the public are getting sick of the word, and rightly so. Neither side of the argument seems to have been able to tap into the public interest as of yet. For most of us it remains a distant but aggressive buzz, like a particularly annoying housefly.

However, when we take the time to stop and consider what is actually at stake it becomes clear that this is a historic vote.

The EU is the legacy of the terrible conflicts of the 20th century. It is a flawed, bureaucratic, administrative mess – but honestly, I believe that it’s the best that we can do.

We live in a world which is growing smaller by the day. Social media and better access to phone lines are bringing people across the world together like never before. It is now as easy to contact someone in Lisbon as it is London, and so it seem to me that attempts to distance ourselves from imperfect international communities are as reductive as Donald Trump’s suggestion that the answer to immigration problems is to build a wall.

Of course, I am coming at this referendum from the perspective of a student in Higher Education. Every day I meet and work with people from across the globe, from within the EU and beyond, and these people are an intrinsic part of what makes UK universities some of the best in the world. There are 125,000 EU students currently studying in the UK, and not only are they bringing important money into our HE sector but they are part of the vital networking groups that we need to help resolve the global problems we currently face.

Problems such as Global Warming and the clean energy crisis aren’t going to be resolved by a small handful of experts in one university, in one country – they can only be faced by a global co-ordinated effort. When we try to isolate ourselves from Europe we cut ourselves off not only from the EU market, but from the very people who can work with us to find solutions that benefit us all.

And it’s not just the people but the EU funding which is vital to our universities. Funding from Brussels is worth around £1bn a year. How can UK universities hope to continue generating world leading research when we turn our backs on the very organisations which make this possible?

I can’t hope to cover every aspect of the Brexit question in one short blog post. What you see here is merely a fragment from the tip of the iceberg. But what I do hope I can convey in some way, is that for all its flaws the EU is an opportunity to come together and work to solve the problems which affect us all. It’s not perfect, in fact it’s very problematic. But I truly believe that leaving will not solve any of our problems, but like the many headed Hydra, will only produce a dozen more.

But don’t just take my word for it. Whatever your opinion is, make sure it’s an informed one.