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.

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!

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)

Reading ‘the right stuff’

Hello All!

Goodness, August has been a busy month. I’ve been the literal length and breadth of the country over the last two weeks and am now quite exhausted.

However, during that time I have received a few interesting emails from readers (all soon to be Literature students) asking about how best to prepare for uni. One question that particularly struck me was from a UEA fresher who was worried that they hadn’t read ‘the right sorts of books’ before coming to uni.

This question particularly stayed with me because it made me realise that before coming to university I was one of those people who might be perceived to have not read, ‘the right sorts of books’. It had never really occurred to me before that that was something I could have been potentially worried about when I arrived as a fresher.

It’s probably worth outlining now what people usually think of as the right kind of books for literature students to be reading; Classics such as those of Dickens, Eliot, the Bronte sisters… you get the gist.

Now, I have always been a book worm. As a child my teachers used to complain to my parents that I read too much and wasn’t playing with other children enough. I used to get in trouble for staying up past my bed time reading, and right up until sixth form I was happily getting through at least one book a week (then A-Levels and being able to go out at weekends began to take up my time a lot more). But at no point during that did I worry I was reading the right stuff.

Since I was very little I knew that I wanted to study English Literature at uni and so I always supposed that I would get around to reading the classics then, when I was older, wiser, and would understand them better. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t read classics when you’re young, just that you shouldn’t feel like you must or that otherwise you’ll not be qualified to be a literature student.

I read handful of classics before starting uni but they were all ones I was interested in. Other than that I read what I liked, and I am pleased to say that it has not hindered me at university at all.

We study literature at university because we enjoy it and because it interests us, so there’s no point slogging through something in your free time just because you feel you have to.

Every literature student arrives at uni with a different reading history behind them and it is meeting all these different people who have been exposed to different kinds of books (don’t even get me started on how a lot of the books we’re told we’re supposed to have read were written by dead white men) that makes it an exciting and interesting environment to be in.

Long story short, read what you want and enjoy it to the max.

To any UEA LGBT+ freshers

I know that the events of the last few days have been heart-breaking and scary, I know that for young people wanting to come out it might seem more impossible than ever, but I want to tell you now that at UEA there is a community ready and waiting to welcome you with open arms.

Over the last year I have been too caught up with my work on the Drama Society committee to be involved in many of the Pride (our LGBT+ society) events, but as a fresher they were somewhere I knew I could go and make friends and feel safe. It is an incredibly open and supportive community and I would really recommend you coming along to at least the welcome social at the beginning of the year.

This week their commitment to solidarity and activism was sorely needed following the events in Orlando, and a vigil was held in the campus square to remember the victims.

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Photo: Eastern Daily Press

Things seem awful at the moment but I just want you to know that uni can be the time when you learn to express yourself, your identity and your truth in the most supportive and loving environment imaginable. So please don’t feel when you arrive in September that you need to hide anything about who you are or who you love.

Enough words have been said by more eloquent people than me, trying to describe a tragedy for which there are no words, and therefore I would like to leave this post with a poem which I came across recently and which has stuck with me:

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Derby Day 2016

Just a quick post on the biggest sporting event of the year.

Yesterday (20/04/16) was Derby Day, the day of the year in which the greatest varsity rivalry in the country is fought out.

UEA vs Essex Uni.

Never before has there been such a fierce rivalry as this.

Last year UEA hosted and it seemed the whole campus got involved. Even someone such as myself who has barely even looked at a sports pitch since leaving school found myself surprisingly caught up in the team spirit. And of course, the day was made all the sweeter by UEA’s victory for the third year in a row.

Well I am pleased to say that for yet another year UEA have been able to hold onto their crown!

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Despite it being hosted down in Colchester this year there was still a great buzz around campus, and by all accounts celebrations continued well into the night.

As I said, I’m not a particularly sporty person myself, but it’s fantastic to see just how many sports teams we support here at UEA. The teams which made the journey from Norwich to Colchester included everything from archery to pole dancing, and from rugby to ultimate Frisbee (although I’ve never been sure what the ultimate bit meant…).

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I look forward to seeing Derby Day come home again next year, and just maybe I’ll be able to get through my whole degree at UEA without us having to hand the cup to Essex…