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

End of Autumn Semester

Goodness gracious, it’s almost Christmas!

The last few weeks of term disappeared so quickly that I’ve barely had a chance to breathe; Drama Society has been very busy picking our first show of next semester as well as casting our upcoming musical, ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’.

On top of that I’ve been working on my final essay for The Gothic – I’m very sad to be finishing the module as it’s been one of my favourites at uni. It was also doubly sad because this was the last year the module was going to be running so it wasn’t just the final seminar for us but also for my tutor who has been running the course for the past 8 years.

My final Gothic lecture was also, in all likelihood, my final undergraduate lecture as all of the modules I’m taking next semester are seminar taught only. Graduation suddenly feels a lot more pressing.

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I won this lil book for coming second in the Gothic module pop quiz

Over Christmas I am working on my dissertation which I *think* is coming on well… it’s nice at least to spend so much time working on something that I’m really interested in. I’m also trying to write my first personal statement for one of my post grad applications – like I said, graduation is suddenly a pressing issue.

Coming home from uni I’ve had the chance to chat to my friends and siblings about their time at uni, and I’ve been shocked at some of their stories (and not just the Freshers’ week ones). Quite a few people I’ve spoken to say that they have one or two professors who are unhelpful or won’t make time to explain things when asked. It’s made me realise that the brilliant university experience that I’m having isn’t necessarily the same for everyone. Perhaps I’ve just got lucky with the tutors I’ve had or maybe it’s something about UEA’s outlook, I really can’t say. But I know that whenever I have had problems I’ve always felt that I had someone to turn to, whether that person was my academic advisor, staff at Student Support or a representative at the union.

Maybe I’m just getting nostalgic before I’ve even graduated, but as my final few months at UEA approach I find I’m falling more in love with it than ever.

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Open Days…Again?

As we hurtle towards the end of the autumn semester I am reminded just how quickly my final year at UEA is passing. What particularly drove this home was a visit to another university this week to hear about their Medieval Studies MA.

I made the decision last year not to stay on at UEA for my MA partly because there isn’t a specialist in Norse literature here but also because I don’t think I would like to be here after all of my friends have graduated. However, looking around another university – even the University of York which is essentially UEA’s twin – felt a bit like a betrayal.

I travelled up to York last Wednesday (having to catch a train before 7 in the morning!) with a friend to attend an open day at the University of York. Walking around the city I was struck by its similarities to Norwich, the old alleys and wonderful independent shops, but it was when I reached the university campus that it began to feel uncanny. York and UEA were set up roughly around the same time and shared a taste for brutalist architecture. We both have lakes with iconic buildings on their banks and flying walk ways that create a feeling of having stepped out of the ordinary into something new and perhaps a little futuristic.

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York’s Central Hall

York and UEA do have many differences however, whilst UEA forged ahead determined to live up to its motto Do Different, York chose to mimic older institutions and became a collegiate university (I don’t mean this is a pejorative sense) . Walking through the campus felt rather like seeing someone’s doppelgänger – you could see the differences but the similarities were striking.

I had a wonderful day up north. I love York for all the same reasons I love Norwich and if I got onto the MA there it would feel like a natural progression. I come from a medieval city, I’ve studied in a medieval city for my BA, so it would be great to continue that tradition during post-grad.

(If you happen to find yourself in York, after checking out the Minster and all of the amazing museums, make sure you stop by the Fudge Kitchen – it’s expensive but it will blow your mind!)

Obviously, I’m in the middle of it all at the moment but I hope to talk about my MA application process on here in the future as it seems to me that there are far fewer resources for post grad applications than there are for undergraduate.

As always feel free to message me with any questions you may have and if you would like a glimpse of life at UEA then you can check out my Instagram hjp_armstrong.

Not the post I was hoping to write:

I had hoped to be writing a post today about some of my favourite places in Norwich – it’s been awhile since I did anything like that – but unfortunately it’s been bucketing it down all day and I really don’t fancy standing in the rain taking pictures (especially as I’ve currently got the sniffles).

So, instead I thought I would just do a little update on where I am and what I’m doing.

Of course, the elephant in the room is the election of Donald Trump. I didn’t stay up all night in the student union bar as a lot of people did because I had an essay to write the next day, but UEA TV have done a lot of very good coverage of it.

It is of course a blow to all of us who thought that the US couldn’t possibly look past such racism and bigotry and I think it will make us think of our own politics rather differently. There was a generally muted feeling on campus the following day, everyone seemed to understand that something momentous yet terrible had happened. However, Trump’s election isn’t considered a reasonable excuse for turning in an essay late so life somehow ticks on.

On this greyest of Saturdays I am staying in, drinking tea and planning my MA application. It’s quite complicated and unlike undergrad applications there isn’t anyone holding your hand along the way. But, it’s also very exciting and it inspires me to work harder when I’m feeling that I’d rather stay in bed than go to the library. My modules are still going well and I am utterly in love with the Gothic. It’s really made me realise how lucky I am that I can spend all day reading something I love and call it work!

As for Drama Society, we currently have on a production of ‘King Lear’ in the UEA Drama Studio and as a committee we are busy organising this year’s Winter Ball. Today is the last day to buy tickets and we have already sold nearly 100! It’s very exciting to get to put on events like these but it’s also a massive amount of responsibility – perhaps it’s slightly machiavellian but I often find myself thinking how great this going to look on my CV…

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Hopefully I will soon have a ‘Best of Norwich’ post to share with you – so keep an eye out!

Best wishes to you all and be excellent to one another!

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.

‘Looking Beyond: Conversations between John Berger and John Christie’

It’s been a busy few weeks indeed!

Second year is officially over, all essays are handed in and formal teaching has stopped until the autumn… and yet there is no rest for the wicked.

As the new President of the Drama Society, there is an awful lot to organise – the final show of the year, our end of year party, and the selection of the first show of next year! But with persistence it is all slowly coming together.

Even with all this going on there is still time, now that essays are over, to enjoy the UEA campus. It’s never more wonderful to be a UEA student than when the sun is out and you can sit with your friends down by the lake.

I’ve also taken the opportunity to get to know the Sainsbury’s Art Centre a little better as well.

Currently, there is an exhibition curated by the MA Museum Studies students called, ‘Looking Beyond: Conversations between John Berger and John Christie’. A friend and I stopped by one sunny afternoon, knowing nothing about either of the aforementioned Johns, and spent a wonderful hour reading and poking around.

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It is a curious exhibition because it is so site specific. John Berger, the novelist, painter, poet and Booker Prize winner, and his friend, the artist John Christie, both visited the Sainsbury Art Centre together and it is mentioned in the beginning of the book they penned together, ‘Lapwing and Fox’.

It was this book which sparked the idea for the exhibition, encouraging as it does visitors to try and look at the galleries in new ways.

The whole exhibition is built from this ethos and as a visitor you are made to feel that your interpretation of the art is just as important as what the artist or the gallery curator wanted you to take from it. Some of the gallery is taken up by the works of Berger and Christie, but interspersed with them are works from the museum’s permanent collection – often pieces that Berger or Christie mention in their correspondence.

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The exhibition is fairly small but I would highly encourage people to give it a visit, especially if they are someone who has been to the centre before as this collection offers so many interesting thoughts and ideas on what else is there. Because of this, although the display is small in comparison to the permanent collection, its influence can be felt throughout the building, no matter which piece of art you may be looking at.

‘Looking Beyond: Conversations between John Berger and John Christie’, is on until the 27th November, so you have plenty of time, but I would encourage you to go when it is sunny so you can truly appreciate both the UEA campus and the Sainsbury Centre’s fantastic setting and views of the broads.

More info may be found here (x)

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Student Night at Norwich Cathedral

At first glance you may now be thinking that the rumours about Norwich’s nightlife are true and that the students of this fine city are so deprived of club nights that they are reduced to partying in the cathedral…

Well, not quite.

With looming deadlines nights out have become a bit of a rarity for me, but a chance to wander around the cathedral at dusk (for free! – a student’s favourite two words) was too good to miss.

As you may or may not be aware, Norwich is home to a very fine Romanesque cathedral. Although it’s at the heart of the city it’s not an obvious destination for students unless they happen to be historians, and so sadly many students will go their entire time at UEA without enjoying one of the city’s architectural treasures – it’s almost on a par with the ziggurats.

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One of the UEA windows in the cathedral

To help remedy this issue the Dean of the cathedral opened their doors to the city’s students for a night, giving us the chance to explore the amazing building before moving to the refectory for wine and nibbles (and a rather wonderful jazz band).

It was a lovely evening, although unfortunately as my friends and I arrived a little late we didn’t have long to explore before we were ushered on to the nibbles and music part of the evening.

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The turnout was high which was probably due in part to the offer of a free glass of wine but it also proves that students are interested in getting to know their city better. I’m all for any event which helps people connect with the fascinating past of this city and look forward to any further events the cathedral may put on.

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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…

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.

New Year, New Post…

Happy New Year! (and a very belated Merry Christmas)

You may have noticed that this blog was particularly quiet recently. This was in part due to a few weeks of very stressful essay writing, but also because shortly after submitting my final essay my laptop suffered a catastrophic encounter with a cup of tea. But thankfully all has been repaired and now I’m back at uni and ready for term two to begin!

It has been pointed out to me that, by some measurements at least, I am now half way through my degree – a truly terrifying thought. Luckily for me I do have some idea of what I want to do once my BA is finished so it’s a bit less like staring into oblivion.

However, if I really want to get onto an MA, as I hope to do, I need to knuckle down and get more work done this term. Last semester was difficult for a number of reasons, but I think it wasn’t helped by the fact that I was putting in less hours than last year but being set more work. This is probably the result of living with friends; watching a film with your flatmates is far more appealing than doing extra reading unfortunately.

I’ve been back in Norwich for a few days now and the newness of being away from home is already fading. I’ve just about remembered how the cooker and washing machine work, although my use of these utilities is still a little sporadic.

Having had the time to settle back in, I’m now a lot more excited about getting started with this term’s work. This semester I’m taking Romanticism, Austen and the Brontës, and Shakespeare. My first week’s reading is fairly gentle; Jane Eyre, Henry V, Pride and Prejudice, are all texts I have read before so the only new piece of reading is William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.

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Some of my reading…

 

This first week of term is always the calm before the storm, but I promise I’ll do a better job than I have recently of keeping you up to date with student life in Norwich.

As always, if anybody has any questions about UEA, feel free to email me.

Until then.