Returning to a Degree in English (and Juggling…)

Two weeks in and uni life is already jam-packed! (In a good way I have to add). Being Vice-President of a society means Fresher’s Week was crammed full of emailing, organising and painting signs – because who doesn’t love a bit of colouring in! Stepping back into Bristol after a summer of sun and sea (or in my case mountains and wellies…) came with so much comfort and excitement – I just wanted it to begin. This time last year I was so nervous about who I was living with, moving from a tiny village into a city and going through the transition from dependence to independence.

If I was allowed to go back in time and give ‘Victoria the Fresher’ one piece of advice it would be to throw herself into everything! This is the mistake I made and it didn’t help that I became a little bit of a hermit. When I realised that my flatmates weren’t scary and I could knock on the door opposite for a chat, I instantly felt happier and like I was settling in. You have to remember, everyone is in the same boat – different people have different ways of showing it – but everyone is nervous and everyone wants to make friends.

This year, I am living in the Redland/Cotham area with my new flatmate and just round the corner from some of my best friends I’ve made here – perfect distance for cups of tea and pancakes! Redland and Cotham are great areas to live! Just off the famous Whiteladies road which hosts a whole manner of shops and cafes (Boston Tea Party would be my recommendation), a short walk from both the Downs and Clifton Suspension Bridge and of course, you are near the biggest Sainsbury’s in the city… I have already been venturing out and exploring my new home – take a picnic to Leigh Woods, you won’t regret it!

Within English this year, the variety in unit choice has expanded compared to first year. I have currently just started Science and Literature looking at how each one interacts with the other and I am already considering this path for a dissertation topic. While next term, I am being set free and going to work with the Drama department for a unit outside of English (don’t worry, I’ll leave a trail of breadcrumbs so I can find my way back!) Along with this, I am going to be a mum! No, no need to hang up the bunting just yet – I am a faculty mum with my “wife” to 4 freshers who we are eagerly waiting to meet. (We proposed to each other with a ring emoji over Facebook – who said romance was dead!)

There really is so much planned for this year and since starting second year I’ve suddenly realised how short my time at university is! I’ve always been someone to cram as much in as possible and this year certainly won’t be any different! I’m aiming to progress and push myself further academically. I am also going to make a point of seeing my tutors in their office hours more and reach out for help (I am far too proud and stubborn sometimes and think I can do everything on my own…)  With everything I am doing at uni, I am also juggling training and trials for Team GBs Olympic Development Programme. Although some people may think I’m absolutely crazy, I want to be able to show that it is possible to pursue everything you love and not feel that you have to choose – and having an athlete’s mindset – I am very determined in both pursuits!

 

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Returning for my third year!

Looming over this summer has been those big two words – Third Year. Capital T, capital Y. It’s the one everyone talks about, fears, fixates on. And then all of a sudden it kicks off and you realise it’s actually not that different to every other year. We create our own levels of pressure and importance which is of course a good thing because in terms of grades and weightings this year is the most significant, it’s worth 60% of our final mark. But there is no need for the stress levels and panic to suddenly drastically sky-rocket just because of this. It is simply a case of finding the fun and the interest in the work and this immediately takes away that fear factor and sense of being overwhelmed. For me personally the start to this year has been a little crazy because I was overjoyed last year to be made President of Spotlights Theatre society which has meant a lot of extra work taken on. In freshers week I organised a whole bunch of events to get new students involved and am now helping direct and write a huge showcase engaging with new and old theatre kids who get involved with the society, it’s a pretty full on role but so much fun. The balance between this and degree is crucial but I am used to juggling all these things so it hasn’t been overwhelming or affected my course at all. What I have noticed most starkly this year is that, in terms of content and the work being set, this is my favourite year so far. I imagine it’s a combination of the last two years of learning paying off and the work being more selected and tailored to individual students but suddenly the reading feels challenging but accessible, I’m managing to tackle and unpack the concepts we encounter and getting real pleasure out of it! Not to say this didn’t happen in first and second year, but by now it comes much more naturally and is something that feels less and less like work. For my Special Subject, which is a unit we are allowed to choose from a HUGE long list of specialisms, I am studying Contemporary British Theatre (you’re getting the idea that I’m quite into my drama from this post I’m guessing!) which is fantastic and really different to anything I’ve studied before. Alongside this very modern, contemporary work I am doing Literature 3 which is the literature from 1700-1850. So a total contrast created there which is what makes the work feel so different and interesting when studied alongside each other. It’s brilliant to have a sense of autonomy and choice in your third year, when you’re finally trained and educated enough to make those decisions over what you study yourself! The year has certainly kicked off with a bang, from organising freshers events so they get involved with Spotlights, putting on three different shows within the same few weeks, going and seeing post-modern theatre as part of my course and discussing the works of female poets in the 18th century it couldn’t be a more diverse, fascinating and ram-packed term if it tried. Which, if you hadn’t already figured out, is just the way I like it!

 

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I’m back for my second year

I’ve returned to my second year in Bristol after spending the summer in America as a camp counsellor. But now it’s great to be back in Bristol, this time I’m living in Clifton. I’ve moved in to a cosy little house with three other girls from halls, two of whom I lived with last year. It’s been fairly easy to settle back in; I’ve gone back to the part-time job I had last year, and I’m looking forward to my course this year. I’m a little nervous about second year as it counts towards the end result of my degree. But the course seems interesting and it’s nice to have had more choice than first year in the units I take. Fingers crossed all goes well!

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I’m back!

I’m back! I am just about starting my first week back at Bristol after a very long, relaxing, and busy summer holiday. I have moved out of my 2nd year house in Redland to a much smaller flat with three friends in Clifton. Despite having to move locations every year it seems to get easier and easier to make it feel like home in a very short space of time, and I am loving my new flat already.

After a week of settling back in and catching up with friends, lectures have now started and we are already into the flow of working. My two Lecture Response Units this teaching block are ‘The British World’ which looks at the British Empire in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as a module on ‘Death, Doctors and Disease’ in modern Britain. The first lectures have made me eager to learn more of both modules, and my first essay is due in a month so I can tell this year is going to be very fast paced and busy.

Alongside my two Lecture Response Units is the dissertation process. I never thought this time would actually come in my degree, but nevertheless it has, and I am finding myself frantically trying to hamper down all my interests in history into one solid area of research. Our first proposals are due in less than two weeks so I’m sure I will have a better idea of what my dissertation will look like!

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Bye for Now!

First year has been absolutely great; I’ve been very lucky with my flatmates and the friends I’ve made, the course has been interesting and enjoyable, and I’ve fallen in love with Bristol. I will miss it over the summer but I am off to the big ol’ US of A for my second summer working at a summer camp in Connecticut. My advice for those starting university would be not to stress, it will work out just fine! You will make good friends, and you will have an amazing time and you will love your new independence. Take advantage of what the university, and Bristol as a city, has to offer and you’ll love it!

– Georgia

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Exam Month

The month has been Exam Month. Capital E and a capital M. For an English student this can mean something slightly different than for a cellular and molecular scientist, a medic or a lawyer. At Bristol, exams are run very differently to any GCSE or A Level English exam I’ve ever sat. The emphasis is on an individual’s ability to immediately respond to and find your own critical interest in a piece of writing you’ve never seen before. The only question you get is ‘what’s interesting here?’. This might sound totally alien and very daunting but I actually think it’s one of the best ways to measure capabilities in the subject. No longer are exams simply a memory test of how many quotes you can reel off or what irrelevant context you can force into an essay. This exam is purely grounded in the text in front of you. It challenges you to develop and explore what you find interesting and figuring out how it operates in that text. This means revising becomes a whole different ballgame. You can’t really prepare for an unseen exam other than reading as much as you can and continually pushing yourself to dissect everything you read. Always actively read, don’t just finish a book and think ‘well I enjoyed that’ and put it back on the shelf. Pick apart what the narrative did, try to focus on a part of the text you think demonstrates that in action.

The only issue with this I’ve found is in my house-mates! Needless to say when my friend studying law is buried beneath piles of notes, case studies, practise papers and dates to memorise, looking over at me curled up in an armchair reading didn’t always induce the warmest of feelings! You’ve just got to embrace something of a support giver role. Especially with our exam being so early this year. Lots of baking, cooking proper meals for frazzled friends and delivering care packages of incense and bubble wrap (to pop when stressed!) is all necessary. It’s interesting being an observer on so many different styles of assessment; multiple choice, 24 hour exams, timed essays which you get the question for in advance. It makes me feel lucky that for my degree and style of examination I am well suited. I feel lucky that my exam style fits me and truly feels a measure of English critical ability.

– Harriet

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Back After Easter

After the Easter holidays, I greeted my return to Bristol with open arms (and a bag full of uneaten Easter eggs). This last term of first year has arrived extraordinarily quickly, leaving me and my friends wondering, where has the time has gone? I’d like to be able to claim that it has all been spent working hard, however this would be an appalling lie… While I have been keeping on top of lectures, seminars and the pending deadline of a 4,000-word essay, I do think it is essential to stress importance of exploring beyond the realms of your lecture theatre. Joining societies is a great way to meet people with similar interests. Just as an example, I am currently part of the History of Art Society, PhotoSoc, Fine Art Society, Fashion Federation and Combat Karate. Each society you join offers a new group of passionate people to meet, as well as a way of sharing something you enjoy with other people; and this is the time of year when societies are beginning to elect new committee members for next year!

By this time, it is also likely that most subjects have chosen units for next year – something I have been looking forward to choosing for a while. In the knowledge that I only have three weeks left of lectures, the prospect of being able to look forward to more next year is comforting. After much discussion with other members of my course, I chose my units with confidence; Sculpture and the Body, Architecture and Urbanism and Paris. It is fascinating to hear other people’s choices and to see individual interests developing from as early as first year. Although my first year in Bristol has been the most exciting time of my life so far, I am even more enthusiastic to see what next year had to offer.

– Ellie

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Time for exams!

The weather is improving and summer is approaching, which means it must be time for exams! I have a coursework deadline looming and an exam for my course as well as listening, oral and writing exams in Spanish which I take as an open unit. I am a little nervous for my Spanish oral exam with the memory of myself as a nervous wreck in Year 11 doing French GCSE in the back of mind. As for my English exam, this Unit is on Shakespeare so I’m spending my time reading and analysing his plays and poems. The excerpt of literature in the exam is unseen so this means that preparation for the exam involves practise of the skills learnt this term. Wish me luck!!

– Georgia

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New Year

It is not difficult at all to ease back into university life after the Christmas break. My flat-mates had not changed in the absence, as I had feared, and everything continues. The struggle to find a house for next year is a test of the friendship with people you’ve only known for a few months. Though, hopefully you realise that these are indeed people you can happily live with. My new house-mates are extremely laid-back which I found is both a blessing and a curse! Like everyone else, my New Year’s Resolution was the vague pledge ‘to be healthier’. However, I’ve found that with a gym only a ten-minute walk from my accommodation, and a free yoga class held once a week in my accommodation, this is a resolution I have somewhat stuck to so far. As a result, climbing Bristol’s hills feels marginally less of a trek this term.

– Georgia

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Easter

Term two of third year has been one of the busiest times of my life. Trying to balance everything has been a bit of a struggle, but I guess that is what third year is about. Over Christmas I decided that I wanted to go into law, so January after exams involved applying for Vacation schemes, and to do my graduate diploma in law. I am yet to hear back about the vacation schemes, but I have been successful and have been offered places at three different institutions to do my graduate diploma in law.

The next thing I have had on my plate is my dissertation, it seems to take over your life and 12,000 words is extreme – I am still scared about how I am going to write this much. As well as 12,000 words, we also have seminar reading and two essays due in. It is all very stressful, but my entire house is trying to relish the bad times, as next year we will really miss just being at uni and with each other.

There have also been very fun parts of this term, two of my best friends turned 21, and we dressed up and had a party. Which involved me baking two massive birthday cakes, which relieved stress and also made everyone very happy. What also has been great is my friend has decided to run for student officer next year; we are currently working on his campaign, which involves many videos – and more baking. I am hoping that he will be successful in his campaign.

There is only three weeks left of this term before Easter, which is scary with the amount of work that has to be done, and also that I am running a half marathon; but also scary because it will be getting closer toward the end of my time as an undergraduate and I really don’t want this to happen!

– Sarah

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