Antony Small

Antony Small
2nd Year, History and Politics
Hi, my name is Antony Small. I am 19 and currently in my second year studying History and Politics at Queen Mary. I particularly enjoy International Relations and Twentieth Century History. Originally from Barnet, North London, I now live in Bow, East London, so the vibrant city of London has been an ever-present part of my life. When I’m not studying, I am usually with friends or pursuing my interests in writing, fencing and motorsport.

Year in Review: Second Year

Now that, for me, exam season is over for my second year, it is a good time to review my module choices for this year and how they will help me as I enter my final year at university.

 

Each year I need to take 120 credits worth of modules to complete my course. As a History and Politics student, I take 60 credits from each discipline per year. This year, on the History side of my course, I took one year long module (30 credits), which spans two terms – A Century of Extremes (20th Century Germany).

 

From its inception to its reunification in 1991 and everything in between. In this module I studied the ways in which Germany changed for better and for worse over the last 100 years, its involvement in triggering the First and Second World Wars and the pivotal role both East and West Germany played, as the battleground of the Cold War.

 

Meanwhile, I took two single semester modules (15 credits each) for my other history module. In the first term of History I studied Anglo-American Relations.

 

Here I set about understanding the complexities, fluctuations and peculiarities of the ‘special’ relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. As well as seeing how different presidential personalities, events and threats have altered the dynamics of the relationship over time, with periods of real closeness between the two nations followed by times of distance and distrust.

 

In term two I took the London and its Museums, my only non-exam based, module. Over the semester, my class and I visited numerous different museums in London each week, critically analysing their contents, focusing on particular controversies and historical debates regarding certain artifacts and galleries. This was a particularly interactive and fun module; indeed, we often presented our findings in groups to the class, with curious members of the public watching on.

 

Picture 1: Week 1: The British Museum

 

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Picture 2: Not your average coursework – Gallery Analysis in Greenwich

 

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For Politics, both my modules were yearlong (30 credits). The first, War and Security, looked at the academic controversies regarding the different aspects of war; its nature, causes and consequences. Whilst also analysing the various different threats to our security, how governments combat both war and security and the extent to which the strategies they have implemented have been successful.

 

Finally, my other politics module was Modern Political Thought. From Machiavelli to Marx I explored many of the major, particularly western, political philosophers since the Renaissance, challenging and dissecting their ideas. I also discovered how their ideas are still heavily influential in politics today, providing the bedrock for our current political ideologies and parties.

 

All the modules combined for my second year make up 30% of my overall grade for university. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed studying these modules this year and I will be able to transfer many of the aspects of what I have learned this year to my modules next year and my final year dissertation on The War on Terror.

Smells Like Team Spirit

Queen Mary has a wide range of societies on offer. With over 200 societies, whether you are interested in politics, gaming, sport or something in between Queen Mary has a society for you. This year I made it my goal to join a sports society. After much deliberation, I chose fencing, as it looked very fast and exciting when I watched it at the Olympics a couple of years ago. It’s always been something I have been interested in from afar, but I have never had the opportunity to participate in it prior to coming to university.

 

The novice sessions are held on a Wednesday afternoon, and are led by a friendly coach, who is a former commonwealth games athlete. Each week, after an intense warmup, we learn different techniques, skills and actions. Along with the other fantastic novices, the improvement in the quality of our fencing has been great. By the end of the tenth and final week of the novice session our fencing was almost unrecognisable compared to our first week.

 

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Picture 1 – All the gear and no idea – me during my first novice session

 

Also, over time, the comradery between the novices has developed and there has been a seamless integration and acceptance into the main, more experienced, Queen Mary fencers club. Now, like many of the many other novices, I take part in the ten-week intermediate fencing sessions with the same coach on Wednesdays, as well as the main club training on Saturdays. The experienced fencers are very kind and helpful, providing insightful tips and a tough challenge to fence against. As we improve further, our minds start turning to more competitive fencing and competitions.

 

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Picture 2 – Smells like team spirit – the fencing novices at the team fencing competition

 

Incidentally, on the 18th March I took part in my first novice fencing competition at the University of London. Two teams of three represented Queen Mary: ‘the Beekeepers’ and ‘We are the fencing Queens,’ I was in the latter. After the round robin group stage, the knockout tournament began. In the quarter finals, my team had an intense, narrow and hard-fought victory, winning 45-43 against the Oxford team. Meanwhile, after a valiant effort, the beekeepers were stung by their opponents in their match. While, in the semi-final we narrowly lost to St. George’s University, we still achieved a bronze medal.

 

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Picture 3 – “We are the Fencing Queens” – My team for the ULU Team Fencing competition in action

 

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Picture 4 – Can’t Touché Us – The Medallists’ Group photo at the social after the tournament

 

After my fantastic first tournament experience I have officially caught the fencing bug. I’m looking forward to future competitions I may do in the future, as I continue this fast paced, high adrenaline hobby for a second year.

Why I chose to study History and Politics

Today I thought I’d answer a question I am often asked by my friends and family, namely: why did I choose to study History and Politics at Queen Mary?

 

I chose to study History at Queen Mary as, for as long as I can remember, I have been in love with it. From being asked to dress as Henry VIII in Year 4 (thankfully no pictures survive of that event), due to my knowledge of the Monarchy, to winning a two-minute talk competition for a presentation on the history of the London Underground (hence my childhood deficiency in vitamin D), History has been a constant favourite subject of mine. However, my interest in politics developed later, particularly during my A-Level years, culminating in my participation in my secondary schools’ mock election in 2015, running parallel with the real general election, where I was given the candidateship of the Liberal Democrats. Below is one of my election posters (warning: it is eye-wateringly cheesy, and the writing is painfully off centre).

 

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I chose Queen Mary, in particular, as it is a Russell Group University, meaning it is one of the leading research universities in the country, located in the heart of London, with achievable entry grades and a unique, welcoming campus atmosphere. On the open day the staff were very friendly, and the course contained exciting modules which caught my attention. My course had a good mix of lectures and seminars. Lectures are large talks on a given subject, I currently have 3 hours of lectures per week, but this varies depending on the modules you take, as certain modules require more/less hours of lectures per week. Seminars are smaller classes where you discuss the lecture topic and the relevant course readings, at the moment I have 5 hours of seminars per week. The course readings are engaging and manageable, as I only have 8 contact hours with an academic per week, independent reading makes up most of the time I spend on a given topic. You put in what you want out, thus the amount of time spent reading around the subject varies from person to person.

 

The study of politics is intrinsically linked to history, especially my preferred twentieth century and Cold War aspects of history, and visa versa. I found studying one enhanced my understanding of the other, hence my desire to develop my knowledge of both subjects further at university level.

Moving into the Real World

After a fantastic first year living in student accommodation, for my second year studying at Queen Mary I have moved off campus and into private accommodation. The residential block I live in is clean and modern, with easy access to local shops and amenities. I share my flat with one of the many friends I made on my course last year, he’s friendly, reliable and clean, so that’s the major boxes ticked. My flat is a convenient 20-minute walk from campus and only 5 minutes from the nearest railway station. Dealing with landlords and estate agents, living off campus and managing bills myself, means I have some more responsibilities than I had living on campus in the first year; where most of my bills were incorporated into the cost of rent. As I no longer have the comforts of student living, most notably a cleaner, and my neighbours are not students who go to Queen Mary, for the first time, I feel like I am living in the real world. Here’s a look at some of my flat’s highlights:

Living Room (Image 1):

 

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First stop on the tour is the living room. This is the main communal space and social hub of the flat, hence my flatmate and I spend most of our time here. In the room we’ve got a television and sofa, whilst the adjacent balcony offers views of the main road below. Most importantly, the living room has witnessed a great many victories from myself on Mario Kart.

 

Bedroom (Image 2):

 

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Next stop on the tour is my bedroom; I definitely did not just clean my room before taking this photo. Otherwise known as the essay factory, my bedroom is where most of my work gets done, but, equally, it is a place of rest and relaxation after a long day’s work. That bed looks very tempting!

 

Kitchen (Image 3) and Bathroom (Image 4):

 

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I hope these next two rooms are self-explanatory.

 

Rooftop terrace (Image 5):

 

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The aspect of my flat that drew my flatmate and I to it when we were initially shown the property was the access we had to the communal rooftop terrace, which, on a good day, offers some really nice views of London.

Living at University

New responsibilities

When I arrived on campus for my first year in student housing, I did not know what to expect from university life. I knew I was going to be living on the same site as my lecture buildings, which would come in handy. But this was the first time I was going to be fully responsible for myself,  previously I had only ever lived with my parents.

At first my new responsibilities, like cooking, cleaning and money management, seemed daunting, but with the passage of time these became part of my everyday routine; they were nothing to get too stressed over. I nervously anticipated the start of my time at university, wondering if my flatmates would be friendly, but most importantly how clean they were, as, after all, I would have to spend a year living with them.

 

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Image 1: The view from my flat window

My Flat:

My apartment was modern and came with all the essentials for student living. It was an en-suite, with a personal fridge in my room, eliminating the confusion caused by shared fridges. There was something going on most nights; the kitchen became the main social area of the flat. It came with the essential facilities, including multiple ovens, and was cleaned weekly as part of the cost of rent, but, as you can imagine with nine people sharing one communal area, it got messy quickly. As I am relatively low maintenance, a weekly shop of around £20 covered my shopping for essentials. It also had to budget for travel, because I was living away from my family, and I still wanted to go home and see them from time to time.

 

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Image 2: My kitchen, which, thankfully, was regularly cleaned by the university’s cleaning staff.

 

Fantastic Flatmates:

I lived in Pooley House with eight other people, four were exchange students from America and Australia and four were home students (from the UK). Thankfully, my initial anxieties were quickly extinguished by my new fantastic flatmates, who were all very kind and welcoming. With them I have made friends for life. Over the course of the year we bonded as a flat and had a lot of fun, making my time at Queen Mary particularly enjoyable. What’s more, the experiences I’ve had with them has enabled my social life to flourish, in a way that it had not done so previously. Indeed, the bustling university night life, in the heart of London, is something I wouldn’t have been able to fully experience, had I stayed relatively isolated from it all at home. Since moving out, I have enjoyed more freedom than I would have at home, I can now choose when to go to bed and what I want to eat.

My first year flew past. I am now in my second year and have moved into private accommodation, ready to do it all again with new flatmates.

 

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Image 3: A birthday surprise from my flatmates. One of the highlights of my year was the birthday party my flatmates threw for me, it was also lovely to receive the card signed by everyone and the presents they bought me.

 

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Image 4: Another great part of living in student accommodation were the themed nights we had, these included: burrito, curry and movie nights. This picture was taken on one of the burrito nights we had, and, as you can see, my flatmate approves.

A Day in My Life: Wednesday 27th September 2017

Summer is over but a new chapter of my life is beginning, I have just started my second-year reading History and Politics at Queen Mary. As I am no longer new to the university, finding my way around campus and adjusting to my new timetable is easier. The campus at Queen Mary includes the teaching buildings and accommodation on one site. Below is an outline of how I spent my first Wednesday in second year – an example of a day in my life:

8:00 am: My alarm goes off, but it’s bit early for me, so, with time on my side, I stay in bed a little longer.

9:00 am: Finally, having mustered up the energy, I wake up and get ready to go.

10 am: To shake the cobwebs away and prepare myself for the day ahead, I did a quick session in the gym. Queen Mary has its own gym, the Qmotion sport and Fitness Centre, and I used this last year when living in university accommodation (halls). However, now that I have moved into private accommodation, a rented flat a short distance from campus, my new, local gym is more practical to get to, but has equally good facilities and customer service.

 

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Image 1: Me on the roof of my flat, just before heading to the gym.

Midday: After walking to campus, I arrive at my History lecture. A lecture is a talk by an academic on a given subject, where students are expected to take notes. Class sizes are a lot larger than in secondary school, with potentially over 100 students attending. Today’s focus was early German history, from its formation to World War 2. I’ll spare you the specific details today, but (spoiler alert) it didn’t end well.

1pm: Straight after this I went to a free taster session for Fencing, one of Queen Mary’s 60 sports teams, having signed up at the Welcome Fair. During the 2-day event the full range of Queen Mary’s 200 plus societies are showcased and students can sign up to the societies they are interested in. It was a quick and fun introduction to Fencing’s basic techniques aimed at novices, like myself, of any academic year, who wanted to try out a new sport before fully committing to it (I have since signed up for the full year).

2.30 pm: I then went to Queen Mary’s Mild End Library, where I printed off, read and made notes on my lecture readings. As part of my degree I am expected to read around my subject independently to supplement the lecture so that I can participate in in-depth discussion, in much smaller groups, during the seminar tomorrow.

5.45 pm: Finally, time for dinner! I usually make my own meals, as it is cheaper and healthier than ready meals or take aways, today I had Chicken in a satay sauce and noodles (image 2).

 

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7 pm: Over the course of my first year, I made many new friends for life; some were people who I lived with and others I made through my course. A few of them have become my new flatmates for this year. With my work finished for today I could enjoy some downtime with them. It wasn’t all relaxing though, as our game of Mario Kart Wii got very intense (image 3), although I’m pleased to say that I eventually won the race. Afterwards, we went out socialising.

 

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11.30 pm: Exhausted, we returned home and swiftly went to bed (image 4).

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