Going to academic talks

I have started going to academic talks. I suppose it is never too late to take up skydiving and learn Chinese but these days History is all encompassing. Every second year student must take the ‘rethinking history’ unit, which challenges the mind with complexities which put the basic sentiments expressed in one’s personal statement to shame. Last week my confrontation with post-modern theories on whether the past is real or not naturally lead to nostalgia of simpler times. I looked back on A level past papers which ask the reader ‘which source is most useful to the historian’, only to wish my teachers had imparted the wisdom that they are all as facile and inane as each other. Such illogical and impetuous thoughts are undoubtedly a product of spending my work hours in the computer centre, where day turns to night in the blink of an eye; 65 desktops but no windows. I am actually really enjoying the spectrum and totality of rethinking history and would highly recommend E.H Carr’s ‘What is History’ to any applicant, apply it to your A Levels, extremely useful.

The unit encouraged me to consider the impact of other disciplines on how we study the past, and I attended a brilliant talk from Professor Ronald Hutton hosted by the Anthropology and Archaeology society on Britain’s pagan past. Ronald’s interweaving of anecdotes in a lecture is delightful, and his tale of discovering a book on ‘Lindow Man’ in a Cotham charity shop, leading him to grapple with the British Museum over unproven narratives and Historical plurality was exhilarating. The professor won the day, and one of the Museum’s most popular exhibits now unashamedly proclaims that we don’t have a clue how Ancient Bog Man died. The presence of leading academics is extremely heartening and encourages great intellectual exploration and discussion. That said, stumbling upon the fact that your lecturer has authored a complete chapter pertaining to the essay question you chose two weeks ago is simultaneously motivational and terrifying.

Rethinking not only the past but the future, my career aspirations are as erratic as my 15 year old self’s Call of Duty dictated sleep schedule. A talk from the from the former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe of Nato, Richard Sherrif, inspired me to get involved in the government to help stop the impeding Armageddon. However, on the way home I realised vegetation will be recolonising the globe before I even make it through the application process if the General is right. Later this week I am going to Bristol basecamp’s networking drinks. Basecamp is a University lead initiative which encourages student enterprise, so maybe I’ll be able to afford an Anderson shelter by World War III. Finally a colleague in the SU office said I was “good at puns” when I misspelt ‘you’ll’ as ‘yule’ on a Christmas announcement post, maybe the saying ‘there is no wrong answer’ should be adjusted to ‘even wrong answers are right’. Interesting. this could be relevant to work and the future. I’ll stick it in the next essay and let you know how it goes.


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‘Down it fresher’

‘Down it fresher’ – the three famous words deeply embedded into the minds of us first years, thanks to sports socials and general exploration of Bristol’s vibrant nightlife. Not only have these past six weeks been exciting and eye-opening, but the fact that I have failed to have a dull moment since moving in in September leaves me without a doubt that choosing to read History at Bristol has been the best decision I have ever made.

This works in parallel with the academic work. Agreeably, there is a step up from A-Level in regards to the amount of reading expected from us. However, the reading is stimulating, unlike anything touched upon in school. A particular lecture that stuck with me was led by Dr. Victoria Bates, who used Google Docs during a lecture so that we could use our laptops to list typical characteristics of a Victorian man, versus a Victorian woman. Being able to interact with my year group in this way made me feel part of a really exciting community, and I am intrigued to see which other unique approaches our lecturers will take across this academic year. Also at the start of the year, I was petrified of seminars – as I am not the most outgoing person. However, my seminar tutors have made me feel at ease (without even knowing so), and I now find myself willingly contributing to group discussions and debates which is a big achievement for me.

And finally, thank you to the Arts and Social Sciences library for distributing blankets – writing an essay has never been so cosy.


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Progress in the first year

So first year is underway and we’re already one essay in with another due next week. Hopefully a lot of you achieved the grade you wanted, but if felt you could have done a bit better (like me), there’s no need to worry – I hope! We have three years to improve our grades, and remember what the lecturers told us at our welcome introductory lecture: first year is for us to experiment with our essays. Our group projects are also due in soon, however with the focus on essays it sounds like a lot of us are only just starting to meet up in order to collaborate our ideas. I’ve also found that a lot of the books we need for our project in the library have already been taken out – a reminder to take out the books I need, as soon as I know that I need them! Alongside this, applications to study abroad in our second year are also due in, and I’m working really hard to perfect my application as I think a few months abroad in Australia would definitely be an exciting change! In this first term I’ve definitely scoped out my favourite study place, I’m in Beacon House most days as there always seems to be space and there’s even ports to charge your phone and iPod downstairs! Other than that, I’ve become a huge fan of Boston tea party, especially before lectures when I go and get Breakfast and sit upstairs to work on seminar work.

Since beginning this year I’ve joined many new societies, including Fencing, Kayaking, the Welsh society and the History society (obviously!) I’ll admit it’s been extremely difficult balancing my time between my course and societies but they really are a great way to get out there and make friends with people who aren’t on your course, especially if like me – you don’t live in halls. Fencing is really fun and the Score social for Halloween was incredible, although the queue for Prysm was insane as every sports club in the University was invited. I’m also planning on going to the beginners Kayaking trip in December which I’ll definitely find daunting, going away with an entirely new group of people, but I think it’s important to remember that everyone else who’s new is in the same boat as you are and are looking to make new friends and try new things just like you.

I’ve also managed to get a job waitressing in Pie Minister at the bottom of Park Street with a manager who completely understands my needs as a student to have time off during exam periods and to not work too much each week which I would really stress as important if you’re looking to get a job whilst you’re in Bristol. Other than that though, if your timetable allows and you feel like you can balance the workload, I would completely recommend getting a job. I have already made friends outside of University which is great when you want to explore the city past the ‘Clifton Bubble’ as I call it! And if you get a job waitressing, tips are a great way to keep you going and preventing you from dipping into your student loan too much!

I’m really looking forward to Christmas in Bristol and can’t wait for the German Market to go up in Broadmead. It’s a great night out with a group of friends and the amaretto hot chocolate really does taste amazing. The food is also incredible too and the shops are great for buying mums presents (the usual candles and nice smelling things). I would definitely recommend visiting it before you go home for Christmas this year!

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Classes, social life, societies etc.

We are a month or so into term now and student life is in full swing!
It’s been a busy few weeks for me, having to balance lectures, assignments, editing for Epigram as well as Co-directing a full-length theatre production.
With the array of subjects I’m lucky to study with Liberal Arts, it’s fulfilling to counter this with a varied extra-curricular life; I find it makes me work more efficiently to ensure everything gets done and completed to its utmost potential.
I am covering a whole range of topics at University at the moment. I am majoring in English Literature, studying a module on Critical Writing in the Humanities and undertaking my mandatory numeracy module – so quite a variety!
One lecture, I will be whisked back to the 1300s studying the role of women in the times of Chaucer, then brought back again, looking at the significance of rhetoric in the modern and ancient day. Then that leaves just enough time to study how we use and abuse statistics in society. It’s a lot to get my head around, but I’m never bored with such a range of thoughts and ideas in my wake.
Whenever my timetable is filling to the brim, I always try and take some time for myself to go to the gym or meet a friend for coffee. The time we dedicate to relaxing, socialising and celebrating student life is as valuable as the time which we spend working hard at University.
Some great places to go when you want to clear your head (which I fully recommend) include the Downs, Brandon Hill and even just sitting by the Harbour-side!
It’s a very long term, especially with the anticipation of Christmas around the corner to greet us with endless cheer, mulled wine, markets and mince pies.
In the meantime, I’ve managed to sneak in a weekend at home during reading week.
I’ll miss my mum’s cooking, but I’m ready and roaring for the remainder of term to come my way.
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First term seems to be flying by and already it is Reading Week!

It’s a very welcome opportunity to catch up on work, do some extra reading and visit home for a few days. I’ve booked tickets to see the Abstract Expressionism exhibition at the Royal Academy which I’m very excited for, particularly as I really enjoyed learning about the topic last year as part of the Introduction to Modern Art unit.

Reading week is also a time to relax, especially following the essay deadline of last week. I chose to write my essay on how modern women artist’s use their bodies to interrogate identity, a subject I find fascinating. I did feel more pressure to write a great essay, especially as second year counts towards my degree, but I think it went okay!

A highlight of this term so far has been the course trip to see the Georgia O’Keefe exhibition at the Tate Modern. Having only ever seen printed reproductions of O’Keefe’s work prior to this, I was amazed by how vibrant and emotive her use of colour is when viewed in the flesh.

The rest of first term promises to be equally busy, with another essay due in within the month and preparations to begin for the 24-hour exam in December. I hope it doesn’t go by too fast!



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Has it only been 6 weeks?!

So far it seems to have been how much can you cram into a month and a half? The answer: more than you could imagine! Since my last post I have written coursework, celebrated my 21st birthday, organised society competitions, done so much sports training, completed the first phase of Team GB Olympic Development trials, started house hunting (again…), started looking at careers, pushing the society forward, and occasionally sitting down!

This first half of term has been difficult after a friend’s bereavement. I could say everything’s fine and uni didn’t suffer but I would be lying. I really wanted to shut down but I was so busy that I just couldn’t. But, I am not the first to experience such things during their degree and I won’t be the last. Reaching out to talk to my personal tutor let me get everything off my chest and I felt I could breathe again. She was there with her door open (metaphorically and physically), a cup of tea and the most supportive words. Never underestimate how wonderful your personal tutor is!

Reading week came at a perfect time. I was able to have a change of scenery, come to terms with everything that was going on, breathe and read in front of our open fire (because how perfectly autumnal does that sound). I came back refreshed, relaxed and ready to go. Diving back into Medieval and Middle English Literature might not seem like everyone’s cup of tea but trust me it is surprising more enjoyable than you would think! We began by studying the contextual history of the period, and if like me, you were torn whether or not to do English or History at uni you would find it so interesting. Seminars are of course engaging, however, when we have to read Old English aloud it does turn into – who’s got the better medieval accent!

My optional unit, Science and Literature, looks at the relationship between these two seeming polar areas of study. This is the unit I was really excited about and I am now looking at scientific cases very differently and know 10 times more about Sir Isaac Newton! It was a difficult start at the beginning and I did have a few moments in the first few seminars where I thought my brain was going to explode but I went to my seminar tutor in her office hours and she sat me down and worked through bits and pieces with me – Phew! (I’m even considering something similar for a dissertation topic).

Outside of studying, as you can probably guess, I’m dedicating my time to training. Early mornings, late evenings (watching the sunrise walking down St Michael’s Hill is 100% getting up for – even if it does mean you have 2 hours of anaerobic training to do once you reach the bottom…) However, I’m doing lots of things with the pole society too. We are currently right in the middle of auditions for next year’s competitions. This means I have been liaising with other universities about travel, money and entrants. Everyone’s having such a good time and we have already had more auditionees than ever before! I am also auditioning (don’t worry, I’m not judging myself) in the Advanced category, which seems crazy as I’ve only been doing pole for 10 months! I’m looking forward to seeing other peoples and also seeing people’s confidence build as they express their individuality and love of the sport!




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Returning as a third year!

Hi, I’m Lauren, a Religion and Theology third year student! During my first year I lived in accommodation in the City Centre, and I have lived on Whiteladies Road for the past two years.

I am a member of a few societies, including the Theology society and the Welsh society, which have helped me to make friends and have fun in Bristol! I also take part in a few keep-fit activities that the university runs on a weekly basis.

I think Bristol is a wonderful city; I love to go to Cabot Tower to see all of the sights properly!


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Back in Bristol

The first week of second year was so vastly different from that of first year that September 2015 almost seems like a different age.

Twelve months ago everything was new; I was living in a tower of two hundred strangers from across the world, had no sense of what the City was like, and was frantically scrolling through the Wikipedia  on ‘historiography’ before my first Seminar.

In hindsight, I wouldn’t trade this disorientation for familiarity as it was such an exciting adventure that has brought me to write this blog in my comfortable flat, shared with friends after a seminar where I knew (*most) of what was being discussed.

Maybe the move from the ever noisy City centre to the quiet, leafy Chertsey Road (opposite Clifton Down Station) has made first year appear more thrilling than it was. Certainly my targets for this year are more focussed on getting a first class degree than seeing how many consecutive nights I can go out, but this year I have learned to manage my time more efficiently.  As such in comparison to last year, all it took was a timetable to reveal to me, I have much fewer hours to mess around. The workload certainly has increased but I am finding the necessitated increased engagement with lecturers and Historians to be very rewarding in developing my skills as a Historian. This fuels a passion that provides a different motivation than just ‘doing well’.

That is not to say that I haven’t found time to do fun things, and this year I have even found time to start swing dancing and have found a job at the SU. One of the roles was giving away freebies to freshers at a Pirate Themed night at the 02 Academy, this was certainly the culmination of my University career so far. Out of the blue, as I threw a treasure chest inflatable parrots and sharks from the stage to the mass of first years below, I had a moment of reflection. Everyone there in some respect was like me last year;  be it confused as to whether they will see tonight’s friends ever again, living away from home probably for the first time, or in the back of their mind wondering about how that 9am will go tomorrow. What united everyone however was the electricity in the air, the sense of anticipation that now was the time to disregard all these worries and make tonight that one unforgettable night you return to in memory. My perspective from the stage, as a second year was like the blow up creatures that night that everything falls into place.


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Returning for my third year

Returning to Bristol for my third and final year is a bittersweet experience. I love Bristol and I am excited to be back but the fact that this is my last year studying here is pretty sad. What’s most upsetting is how fast it’s all gone! I feel like I’ve only just found my footing in Bristol and it feels like yesterday when I moved into Churchill Hall. As my university career speeds by, I’ve taken it upon myself to grasp third year by the horns and do as much as possible. There are so many opportunities in Bristol, university ones and otherwise, and I want to feel like I’ve made the most of my time here.

Weirdly, I’ve decided to cram my final year with societies despite my workload. I’m on the committee for Classics and Ancient History Society and Pottery Society, as well as an Online Editor for Epigram’s Wellbeing section. Also, I’ve signed up for weekly BSL lessons with Sign Language Society as it is something I’ve always wanted to learn. Understandably, organising everything is a bit chaotic! I’ve had to make my schedule stricter than it was in my first two years as to fit everything in. However, it has been really enjoyable to be so involved in the many societies that the University of Bristol has to offer.

Also, excitingly, this year I have the chance to explore a new area in Bristol. For third year I am living in Redland, the student area of Bristol. I’m living with six other people so our house is massive! Most exciting about it all is the garden, something we didn’t have last year as we were in a flat, and I am looking forward to barbeques in the summer. As I lived in Clifton last year, I had never really explored Redland before but, already, I can tell it has lots to offer such as shops like the Wild Oats Natural Foods shop and the Rare Butchers of Redland. They’re both wonderful independent shops which I would highly recommend if you feel like treating yourself.

If I had one piece of advice to first years, it would be to get involved in activities outside of your studies. Try new things, don’t be afraid to give anything a go! For some strange reason, I’ve decided my final and busiest year is the time to take on a whole new set of hobbies and responsibilities. Perhaps unwise but, hey, meeting new people and learning new skills is always a fun break from essay writing!


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New year, new me

“New year, new me” was perhaps the most bandied about phrase as our classical studies class met for cocktails. People promised to work harder, go to the gym and to go to more societies. I myself fell under two of those categories (exercise has never been a pleasure for me and I marvel at those who enjoy it), and I’m looking forward to doing more in societies and to trying to work harder. Hopefully these resolutions will stick.

 This new year has found me living in the centre of Bristol, a street away from Waverley, Favell and the Rackhay, and sinfully close to Saint Nicks Market, which has the best food and is wonderfully affordable. Settling back into Bristol has never felt more natural, and this summer away from Bristol’s amenities, colours and vibrancy really made me miss it. I’ve already made the most of welcome week, having had two of the free burgers that Woodies (the church at the end of Woodland Road) gives out, and a free ice-cream too. I also went along to the Classics Symposium, hosted by the Classics Society, and enjoyed seeing all the years mixing and comparing summer stories.

 This new term will also see me embarking on learning greek from scratch, which is daunting as I learnt no language at school, and my experience with latin in first year, although fun, didn’t get me the highest grades. Nevertheless, I wanted to prove that my low scores in latin were due to the lack of work, and a flatmate who had always done the homework (read as: after week 2, I just copied the homework and did no work myself). Perhaps third year isn’t the time to be trying to challenge myself to unfamiliar territory that could have me scraping a pass, but as I proudly proclaimed at cocktails “new year, new me”, and this new me is a greek aficionado. Languages do take a different set of skills, for one thing learning declension tables seems to require ritual chanting, but I relish the idea that there can be a correct answer, and the reward of knowing it is enough to have me chanting on the way to uni.


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