Sarah Garnham

Sarah Garnham
Third Year English Student
I'm a third year English student at Queen Mary University of London, meaning that this is my final year. I'm also this year's Film Society Co-President and an editor for the university newspaper, The Print. Me and my house mates also have a cooking-themed radio show on the university radio station, Quest Radio. Apart from that I'm also a member of Harry Potter Society (and their Quidditch team), Knitting Society, Chess Society, Rock and Metal Society and Archery. After university I hope to become a journalist or an editor for a publishing company.

Creative Assignments

I might have mentioned before that on my course we only have exams in first year, and then usually (there are modules that do have exams) it’s 100% coursework. Therefore, we end up with quite a lot of coursework to work through in the year, which might sound scary, but don’t worry, it’s not too bad! I’ve mentioned that one of the fun parts of my course was that we got to go on quite a few trips, but another fun part is the creative assignments we get to do.

In the past I’ve done scrapbooks, written a 3000 word creative article and even created my own Google Map. Recently I had an assignment due where I had to create a number of portfolio pieces, and there was the possibility for a creative element. Seeing as it was for my British Culture in the 1950s module, I decided the best way for me to do mine was by typing out each assignment on my typewriter. I wanted to make it look like a war file, like in the films, so I also bought a plain, brown cardboard folder.

My workspace

My workspace

I typed out all the pieces and also printed a few black-and-white photographs to stick in. It might sound like it took a while to create them all, but the assignment was actually fairly manageable. We had to do six pieces, around 400-600 words each, and one 1000 word essay piece. We were told at the start of the year though, so could do them one-by-one, each week. One of the weeks we also had to do a presentation, and we could use our notes and handouts as a piece. As each week was themed, we could divide up the pieces that way. I’d already typed them up on my laptop in advance, it was the physical typing on the typewriter that took up the majority of my time.

My pieces included a historical research piece, a personal story, a review, the obligatory 1000 word essay, a poem and my presentation notes. The variety was nice, and each piece involved a different element of challenge.

However, I have to say that I spent a lot longer on it than any other assignment I’ve done at uni. It took a very long time to individually type each one out, but really it was fairly enjoyable. It’s nice to get to do something different, especially when it’s an assignment that is worth a fairly large chunk of my final grade.

My typewriter, mid-assignment

My typewriter, mid-assignment

The chance to do a piece of creative writing is also fairly unusual in terms of university English courses. Not many universities offer a creative writing element, and it can be fairly encouraging when you’re assigned one. It breaks up the fairly standard, long essays and I tend to find I put a lot more thought into exactly what I’m writing, how it’s laid out, and what the idea behind it is.

The finished assignment

The finished assignment

Overall, it turned into a bit of a nightmare, I’ll admit. I ended up putting in so much effort, and spending so much time on it that I got very, very stressed. However, as soon as I realised that I was going to get it in on time, and everything was going to be fine, I was genuinely proud with what I’d produced. I had hand-typed every single piece, 16 A4 sheets, and put real effort into its presentation. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to do these creative pieces, they’ve been really fun but I wasn’t even aware they offered the opportunity when I came to Queen Mary.

One piece of advice I’d offer is that after first year, when you get to begin to choose your modules, ask at the module fair about whether there is the opportunity to do something creative. I wish I’d looked into it more, and it wasn’t until third year that I really began to check what sort of assignments each module offered.

Course Opportunities

I wrote a little before about some of the opportunities my course had offered me. Whether this was visiting The Globe or museums, there have been plenty of opportunities for a different learning experience.

Last week however, my Writing Modern London module offered a pretty unique and exciting opportunity to have our usual two hour seminar replaced with a one hour talk with the author of the reading for that week, where we would get the opportunity to ask her questions about the novel and our course.

At the start of the week I began reading the novel, and found that I could hardly put it down. It was ‘A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers’ by Xiaolu Guo. It had a really interesting and different form as throughout the novel, the narrator is learning English. It starts off fairly broken, but as it goes on it gets more coherent. I really enjoyed it and finished it over the space of about twenty four hours, plus it was a bit different to a lot of the texts we had read.

Normally I don’t purchase a lot of the books on my course. They can be pretty expensive, particularly if we’re reading three novels a week, sometimes four in previous years. I have a lot of friends who get the reading on e-readers as a lot of the texts are free. Usually we get the reading lists far enough in advance to order any key texts, but the library usually stocks most of the reading too. We can also check Senate House library, as we have access to that because we’re part of the University of London. Plus, you can always check charity shops or contacts students selling their books online. In this case though, I wanted to buy the book in case I could get a chance to get it signed.

My signed copy!

My signed copy!

Overall, the talk was really enjoyable. Our seminar leader ran it and aimed most of the questions she asked at topics to do with our course. It was also a really helpful session because we also got to ask questions aimed at our final essays. Xiaolu Guo was so nice, and answered all of them really well. She gave us some really helpful insight and we learned a lot more than we might have done just from our own readings. After the lecture I told her how much I had enjoyed reading the book and how it had made me cry at the end. She was incredibly lovely and signed my copy. Then in the seminar we used some of the things she had talked about to frame our discussions.

It was a really different way of learning and we got to discuss the module in a whole new way. My course has allowed so many of these interesting and unique opportunities and I’m upset the whole thing is nearly over!

Student Media

I kick myself every time I think back to some of the experiences I missed out on in first year – in particular the ones to do with student media. I found myself intimidated at the meetings because I was too scared to talk about my own ideas and the thought of anyone reading my writing almost nauseated me.

I had this idea of writing an article about YouTubers on campus and had it all planned out. (It wasn’t until third year that I finally ended up writing it.)

My YouTube article, FINALLY written

My YouTube article, FINALLY written!

It wasn’t until the summer holidays, when I was approaching my second year, that I saw an advertisement for open positions on the editing team for QMessenger, the name of the university newspaper at the time. I applied for the Features Editor position because these were the sort of articles that I enjoyed reading and writing about the most. To be honest, I didn’t really think I’d get the position and was so surprised when I did. But I was also pleased. I’d done a lot of writing for my parish magazine back at home and I really relished the chance of writing for something again and seeing my articles in print.

When I got the job, the editor changed the name of the paper to The Print, gave the paper a fresh new look and changed a lot about it. It felt more inclusive now I was on the inside, and though I was still anxious about people I knew reading my work, I was ready to get something into print. I came forward with a lot of ideas and I got to do my first article with the editor. He wanted something on life on the canals, and the people who live on the boats opposite the uni. It was a great experience – we interviewed loads of interesting people, had the photographer take a lot of great pictures, and we even got showed how the canal locks worked. I got pretty carried away with writing the whole article and sent him a 2000 word draft. He came back, simply telling me ‘no’. It was way too long. After a big panic and a lot of collaboration in cutting it down, the article turned out really well and I’m still really proud of it.

After that I wrote a lot more articles for The Print and edited articles that other people sent in too. I then also started looking at doing other things for student media. The university also has a magazine, called CUB and I ended up doing a couple of articles for their final issue of the year. Me and my two house mates also started our own radio show called What’s Cooking on our student radio station, Quest. We run a weekly radio show (Mondays 8pm-9pm if you’re interested) and I also interviewed the musician Robbie Boyd for them. The culmination of all of this was the student media awards where I was nominated for CUB contributor of the year, and The Print’s own awards. I loved it and met so many interesting people as part of it.

Me and my friends at the Student Media Awards after party

Me and my friends at the Student Media Awards after party

In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I continued doing everything over into my third year too. I reapplied for my position as Features Editor and got it again, I even applied for a position with CUB and although I didn’t get it, I still contributed a number of articles. One of the highlights of this year was interviewing Newton Faulkner (!!!) for Quest Radio too. Despite this, there were opportunities I also missed out on last year. This year I finally attended the Student Media Conference and got to listen to industry professionals and alumni in media jobs talk about how to get into media. It was such an invaluable experience and I learnt so much.

Myself and Newton Faulkner after my interview

Myself and Newton Faulkner after my interview

I’ve loved doing so much stuff for student media and only wish I’d started earlier. I’d really recommend just going for it when you get to uni and taking all the opportunities you can get. You never know who you’ll meet or what opportunities you’ll get!

Choosing to go to university

Last week I watched a video starring some of my student ambassador friends, talking about their decision to go to university, and I realised I had never shared mine. There are lots of different choices that go into making that big decision, because generally, you’ll be spending three years or more studying just one subject, so you really need to make the right decision. Other factors include whether or not you want to stay at home, move away, live in a city, live on campus…there’s so much to think about. Just by watching the video, you’ll see what sort of different decisions everyone has to make – each story is different.

No one in my family had ever gone to university, so I was what you call ‘first generation’. However it meant that I didn’t have anyone close to ask what university was like for them. No one could tell me what the university experience really was, and so I had to find out for myself. I had always been interested in English – I loved reading from a young age and it was easily my favourite subject at school. I decided from quite early on that I wanted to go to university, it was just the getting there that seemed to be the hard part.

I did detailed research on UCAS, by searching ‘English’ and looking through each of the universities that offered it. I then made an Excel spreadsheet, (embarrassing but practical!) categorising them first into whether the grades were achievable and then whether I wanted to go there. My mum then took me to look around all the campuses – on ‘Open Days’. It was at this point that I had decided I wanted to be in London, having grown up in fairly rural areas – Cornwall and the Isle of Wight, the city seemed interesting, exciting and had buses that ran more than once an hour!

I decided on my universities of choice and took these to my form tutor to check through, but I hit an issue. She wanted me to apply for places with much lower grade boundaries. Although I tended to do reasonably well in exams, she thought I was putting too much pressure on myself. I had to discuss her and my parents what she thought, but felt sure I could handle the pressure. I knew that I wanted to go to university, but not for the sake of it. I was going to go to one I actually wanted to or not at all. Although it was quite a stressful time, I’m glad I had faith in myself.

After waiting for what seemed like forever, I got offered conditional places at all of my choices. I attended my interview at Queen Mary and though it was scary, I loved the campus and the location. It was exactly what I had been looking for – somewhere exciting and interesting, plus the course involved a lot of choice, and wasn’t as traditionally strict as other universities. Queen Mary had the highest entry requirements of my choices so yet again my form tutor had her concerns. She didn’t seem to understand that I didn’t just want to go to any uni, I wanted to go to one I had really set my heart on. So I had to meet with her and let her know that it was Queen Mary or nothing. If I didn’t get in, I’d come back and re-take. And I was genuinely prepared to do this. I wouldn’t let my mum buy me anything for university until I knew for sure because I was also nervous I wouldn’t get the grades required.

All my stuff packed for university. I only finished packing ten minutes before we left!

All my stuff packed for university. I only finished packing ten minutes before we left!

After this, my form tutor was very supportive, as was my mum and all of the other teachers at my school. They really helped me in trying to get the best grades I could. When it came round to results day I got up as early as possible to check whether I had got into university, and after UCAS crashed about a million times, I found out that I had. I was incredibly relieved, as was my whole family because they knew how much I wanted it. I rushed into school as quickly as possible to find my teachers and thank them. I found out that they had been just as anxious as me and had already looked at my results!

After that it was a rather panicked time of buying pots and pans and bedding, and the first year flew by. At Christmas I went back to my high school for our sixth form award ceremony, and was awarded the prize for English and also for perseverance. I’m so glad I stuck to the choice I genuinely wanted and didn’t back down. At the end of the day, the choice can only be yours, and as long as you do the research, you’ll know you’re making the right choice.

My first day in student accommodation, all unpacked.

My first day in student accommodation, all unpacked.

Writing a Dissertation

Writing a dissertation can be a pretty daunting process. Like I’ve said in the past, I’m a third year English student, which means that by the end of this year I have to hand in an epic 10,000 word essay, on a topic of my choice (as long as it’s English Literature related!). The longest essay I’ve written so far for university ended up at just over 3000 words, so this is a lot longer. Plus I’ve got to work on it entirely on my own time, which is kind of hard when the deadline is so far away.

Luckily it’s not all as daunting as it seems, and the English department have given us plenty of help along the way. They started this year with six lectures, each covering a different section of the dissertation (question, introduction, bibliography etc.) to help us get started and also show us some examples of successful work. These helped us get ready to submit our proposals, which ran through what question we were doing and what we were going to write about. They helped the department assign us a relevant supervisor – someone who knows about the subject you’re writing on. Since then there have also been optional writing workshops for anyone who wants some motivation to get writing, with the addition of having someone there to ask questions.

I’ve decided to write about literature of the East End, as I have the added bonus of living here, which helps put everything in perspective. It’s a topic that really interests me, and a lot of the history of the area can still be seen. As I’m writing about it in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, it also means I get to do a lot of historical research, something I enjoyed but mainly left behind at A Level. It’s difficult, but I’m enjoying it so far. Picking a topic I love and am genuinely interested in researching has definitely helped though, so it’s always best to choose your topic really carefully.

My rather precariously stacked dissertation reading!

My rather precariously stacked dissertation reading!

Although I’m still a bit worried about the whole thing, I’ve been very lucky with how everything has worked out. My supervisor, who also teaches me for my module, Writing Modern London, has been very helpful and has set me a timetable to stick to. At first I freaked out when she told me the aim was to have an entire draft done by the end of this semester, but I’ve realised that this will actually be very helpful. I’ve already done a draft of the introduction and now have a week until a draft of my first chapter is due in. This means I’ll have plenty of time to edit the whole thing later, plus I’ll have final assignments due then too, so this takes a lot of the pressure off.

In any case, doing a dissertation is a great opportunity, especially if, like me, you want to be a writer in the future. For many (also like me), this will be the biggest piece of work they’ve ever had to do, and possibly ever will do. It hasn’t put me off though, because I’m applying to do a masters next year where the dissertation is 15,000 words, so it can’t be that bad! You’ve just got to stay motivated with it. I meet up with a small group of friends every Friday in the library, where we dedicate most of the day to shaming each other into doing our dissertation work. It’s good to have people there to motivate you, and for me it really helps. No matter how much work I have to do, Friday is always reserved for the dissertation.

Although it’s hard going now, I know that when it comes to handing it in, I’m going to wish I could do it all over again. It will be the last piece of work I have to do for my English degree, and I can’t believe it’s almost all over!

Back to reality

Over Christmas I had a really nice break, did a bit of reading, went on holiday and also had a couple assignments too. However, when I came back from Christmas, just like any time when you’re away from work for a while, things got a little bit crazy.

For my course, I had a module pack to pick up, which I needed to complete the first week of reading. I had already done a bit of pre-reading for the first week back – I had read two novels over Christmas, one for my Writing Modern London module and a brand new module for this semester, British Culture in the 1950s. In my blog about self study, I spoke a bit about how it’s wise to read ahead, especially if you know you’re going to have a lot of work to do or you have a lot of reading for that week.

Film Society’s 2 Co-Presidents. Myself (left) and Gemma (right)

I mentioned in another previous blog that I’m co-president of Film Society with my housemate and fellow film loving friend, Gemma. We also had a lot of work to do for film society, as we had the second round of welcome week for all the new students joining Queen Mary coming up. That was pretty hectic too, as we had leaflets to print out, and the fair ran from 2-6, on the day of our first screening. This involved a lot of dashing about and last minute changes, but we pulled it off okay in the end!

The somewhat chaotic Welcome Back Fair

The somewhat chaotic Welcome Back Fair

I also had to begin writing my dissertation, a scary prospect for most. In case you don’t know, a dissertation is a large piece of writing (mine has to be 10,000 words) on pretty much any topic (as long as it’s to do with English!) of my choice. My supervisor, who is someone who helps me through the process, is trying to get me to write it as soon as possible, so I have plenty of time to edit it and look it over. I had to write a first draft of my introduction over the Christmas break too, to hand in when I got back. Although it took me a week longer than I said, I also got that done and now have the next chapter to begin. I’m feeling more confident about the project as a whole now, and am not freaking out too much about the fact it’s due in May!

On top of all of this, there was also the next issue of The Print due, and trying to settle back into a life where my mum doesn’t cook all of my meals and wash all my clothes.

Overall, although there was a lot to do, the work is manageable. I like to make lists of all the things I have to do so I have things to tick off. I feel more productive and this helps me complete all of my other tasks. Other things I’ve found that work are breaking up larger tasks with smaller ones or doing something fun in between, like organising my notes whilst watching a TV show I enjoy. Sometimes things can feel overwhelming but everyone else is in the same boat, and all my housemates have as much work to do as I do. Luckily we own a VHS player and about thirty classic Disney movies so we can all unwind together.

I’m getting back into the swing of university now, so I’m getting back into a regular work schedule again. Plus, even though sometimes work can be hard, I’m really going to miss it. I’m seriously considering the masters degree I wrote about in my previous post. I’ve been doing a bit more research, which shows you that work is never too overwhelming. My best advice is to stay motivated, and if this all sounds a little scary, trust me – these are all skills you develop during school and university. Time management and balancing your work becomes the norm, they’re talents that you can never stop getting better at.

Thinking About A Masters

I’ve never been keen on doing a masters degree and my plans were always to go straight into employment directly after university. For those who don’t know, a masters degree is the next step in education after doing an undergraduate degree and is usually a year long course. However a few months ago whilst walking around uni, I happened to see a poster advertising a masters degree in ‘London Studies’. As I’ve said in previous blog posts, I’m currently doing an undergraduate degree in English, and I’ve studied all the London based modules I could. The subject really interests me as throughout my childhood I always enjoyed reading books set in London the most. This masters degree is joint and run by the school of geography so I would have the opportunity to do modules from both English and Geography.

Poster for the recent masters evening I went to (courtesy of QMUL School of English and Drama)

Poster for the recent masters evening I went to (courtesy of QMUL School of English and Drama)

I was curious and hadn’t done much research into masters degrees because I’d never seen anything I would be interested in doing before. I went to the open evening (poster pictured above) where they talked us through what exactly the degrees would entail, finances and then more about the specifics of the different courses they offer. The best thing about the evening is that I learnt a lot more than I could do online. A really nice lecturer talked me through the course and gave me some really helpful advice, so they gave me a lot to think about and work on.

My next steps are to go and see the advice and counselling to see if they can help talk me through the finances. The government now offer loans for people doing masters, but I would still have to find a little extra money to live on. There are scholarships available to apply for in most cases, but because the one I want to do is run by a different department (school of geography), so I don’t think I qualify. I could also choose to do the degree part time which would stretch it over 2 years, instead of 1. So I have a lot to think about.

Overall, I wish I’d researched all of my options a lot sooner, looking into postgraduate study is worth a look, even if you’re not sure or think you’re totally against it. I’ve got a lot to think about, and not much time to do it in, but I could always come back and do one a few years later! I’m still not entirely sure whether it’s for me, but it’s another option of something to do to broaden my horizons.

Sundays in the East End

As someone who grew up in quite rural areas, when I applied to universities, they had to be in London. Spending half my life in Cornwall and half my life on the Isle of Wight, I really wanted to move to a big city.

I’m not going to lie, it was a big change. There are so many more people, it’s easy to get lost and not everyone I meet smiles, says hello and asks me how school is going. Shops are open after 5pm (this is still a fact that I sometimes have to be reminded of) and there is always something to do, even on a Sunday. Plus, being in the East End, there are a lot more quirky things to occupy your time with. One of my favourites is something me and my house mates like to refer to as “Brick Lane Sundays” where we go to the Sunday market to browse and get food, sometimes venturing as far as the flower market at Colombia Road.

Map of the East End with Queen Mary, Brick Lane and Colombia Road circled. (courtesy of google maps)

Map of the East End with Queen Mary, Brick Lane and Colombia Road circled.
(courtesy of google maps)

As you can see from the map above, Brick Lane and Colombia Road are both fairly close to the university. It’s about a 30/40 minute walk, which is also quite enjoyable if you want to look at all the shops along Whitechapel Road (the main road running between the uni and Brick Lane), or you could take the bus or the tube to get there even quicker.

Colombia Road is a personal favourite of mine. It’s a small, narrow street (top left of the map) where every Sunday, flower sellers fill both sides of the road and thousands of people turn up. The crowds are insane, and it gets so packed that you have to shuffle along the road, like you’re at a festival. There are also loads of unusual little shops selling cute bits and bobs for home decoration, garden ware, art, antiques and food and drink. Even if you’re not a fan of flowers, it’s worth seeing all the people, enjoying some of the music from the buskers and looking at all the shops and flowers. Also during the lead-up to Christmas, the shops open late on Wednesdays and they have carol singers and Christmas trees out, which is great for picking up any unique Christmas gifts.

Some of the flowers in Colombia Road market

Some of the flowers in Colombia Road market

My mum and sister clutching some flowers from Colombia Road

My mum and sister clutching some flowers from Colombia Road

Brick Lane is also another great place to visit on a Sunday (bottom left on the map). Every Sunday, the road and a number of halls on the road fills with stall sellers, selling everything from festival sunglasses with interchangeable lenses to an adult-sized peperami costume (no, seriously). They’ve also got, you know, normal stuff too, like books, vintage clothes, antiques and jewellery. They also have an incredible food market, selling food from all over the world for really reasonable prices. Brick Lane is also famous for its beigels, sort of like bagels, but they’re incredibly cheap and really delicious. There are also all sorts of different musicians that perform every week, from full live bands to a guy who beatboxes with a harmonica, and for those into art, there is a load of street art all along the road that photographers come to capture every day of the week. Again, just like with Colombia Road, the spectacle is worth seeing, even if you’re not a big fan of the sort of stuff they sell. Plus, outside the Sunday Market, Brick Lane is around every day. There are a huge number of shops including the Cereal Killer Cafe, a cafe that (you’ve guessed it) only sells cereal. There’s also an incredible chocolate shop called Dark Sugars that often hands out free samples (yum), loads of cafes, a bowling alley, a record shop and so, so much more.

Some of the street art along Brick Lane

Some of the street art along Brick Lane

The Thirst performing on Brick Lane

The Thirst performing on Brick Lane

Some more Brick Lane street art

Some more Brick Lane street art

Going from never really having anything to do, to having so much to do and see it’s almost overwhelming is a big change. Despite this, it’s sometimes easy to forget that I am living and studying in one of the biggest and most impressive cities in the world. In between studying I like to try and explore as much as I can and try and see something new. London caters for everything – last weekend I went to a cat cafe! And the crazy part is that that wasn’t even the first cat cafe I’ve ever been to, but TWO are also within walking distance from the uni. You think of it, London probably has it, and whilst I’m here I’m going to enjoy and do as much as I can, and potentially stay forever!

One of my favourite cats from Shoreditch's London Cat Village

One of my favourite cats from Shoreditch’s London Cat Village

That’s why I’m so grateful for the opportunity university has given me – to go and live somewhere new. If you’re not ready for that yet, you can always stay at home too (as long as you’ve got a university fairly nearby), but it’s nice having that freedom of choice. You can even choose to study abroad for something even more different! In fact, Queen Mary offers study abroad programmes and the Erasmus Programmes also offer this study abroad option. You can choose to move as little or as far away as you like, and I loved having that choice. Although it’s hard being away from home, London is a big transport hub, so it’s not too tricky to get home, even though I do have to get a boat! For now I’ll just go on exploring London in whatever free time I get – in fact I heard there’s a jungle themed cat cafe opening in West Hampstead…

Studying English

I spoke a little before about the best bits of studying English at university – the trips and all the choice, but in this post I wanted to talk a little about what an average teaching session is like. Over my university years they have changed a little bit – in first year the lectures were all really big, because everyone takes the same modules (specific topics for teaching). So, for example, everyone studied Shakespeare and so we had huge lectures that everyone attended, where a lecturer (like a teacher) stood at the front and told us all about the topic, play or book for that week. After that we had an hour seminar where everyone discussed the points brought up in the lecture and any other points you might have thought of yourself whilst reading. In seminars your seminar leader might also assign you a mini task, like reading through a bit of the play and talking about it in groups. This all changes again in second year as everyone gets to pick their modules, and there are so many options that the lectures become a lot smaller. The seminar groups however tend to stay the same size – roughly between 10 and 20 to a class. Then in third year it all changes again! Most of the time you don’t get any lectures at all, and instead you get a two hour seminar. It means that lots more of the work is down to you, so when you read the texts you have to think about possible points you could raise in the seminar and any questions you might have.

I’m going to describe what my ‘Writing Modern London’ teaching session on Monday was like, as it gives a sort of example as to what all this really means!

The reading for the week, image courtesy of: https://novelinsights.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/lonely-londoners.jpg

The reading for the week, image courtesy of: https://novelinsights.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/lonely-londoners.jpg

Above is an image of the reading for the week. We normally have a week to read the texts for the following week, however if you have a lot to do or are really prepared, it’s advised to read ahead so you don’t get behind. As it was a fairly short novel, only about 150 pages, we were also advised to start our reading for next week – a novel called ‘Absolute Beginners’ as that is about 350 pages. The lecturer and seminar leader expects you to do the reading so you can understand the content but also contribute in the seminar afterwards. Also in our coursework, we are usually expected to write on quite a number of the books, so it’s best to be prepared.

For ‘Writing Modern London’, we usually have a double seminar, and sometimes we have a lecture and seminar, however this week it was a lecture followed by a seminar. We sat in a fairly large room, as there is about 30-40 of us on this module, and our lecturer delivered her presentation. Normally this a combination of them talking, powerpoint slides and sometimes small video clips. This lecture opened with us watching a clip of some of the people who emigrated to Britain from Trinidad in the 1940s and ’50s. It served as a good opener as the book ‘The Lonely Londoners’ is all about people from Jamaica and Trinidad who came over to Britain. It was really interesting and we looked at a lot of history, and then the lecturer linked that back to the book. The lecturer also linked all of her presentation back to the overall theme of the module – London, and during this we all made notes. She then also told us a bit about the book for next week as the two books are quite similar.

The notes I took during the lecture.

The notes I took during the lecture.

Sometimes you’ll need to write down quite a lot all at once, so it’s quite demanding and you always have to be listening. Afterwards we had a seminar where we began by discussing a few of the themes from the lecture and then were given a task. We have an assignment coming up where we have to relate some critical literature to a few of the novels we have read, so our seminar leader gave us a task to prepare us for this. We were given an extract and then we split into pairs and talked about how it related to a section of the book. Everyone then gave feedback and we made notes about it and talked as a group through all of these.

Our seminar handout, with my annotated notes.

Our seminar handout, with my annotated notes.

After this, we are left to go through our notes at home as it’s always best to read them again to make sure you remember as much as possible.

This kind of learning is very different from school. Quite often you have to get involved and contribute a lot more and a lot of what you get out of the module is down to you. As a said in my previous post, this is all about organisation and as you go through university this is something you get used to – don’t worry, they won’t throw you in the deep end!

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