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A few tricks of the trade

I find it so hard to believe that I am in my final year of university already. As clichéd as it sounds, it really does feel like yesterday I started my degree. Over the last two years, I picked up a few helpful tips that I like to believe have helped me become a better English Literature student. As I have mentioned before in this blog, at university you are in charge of your own education and of developing your academic skills. So this week I thought I would tell you about my top 3 suggestions that will help you achieve just that.

1)In Our Time (Radio 4)

Podcast on Plato's Republic

Podcast on Plato’s Republic

In Our Time podcasts are a life saver! It’s a Radio 4 programme where the presenter, Melvyn Bragg, invite academics and experts to talk about a plethora of different ideas. The topics range from discussions on Beowulf to the history of Penicillin, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality to the works of Rabindranath Tagore! Each programme lasts around 45 minutes and they are a great way to gain an overview of the literary criticism, author background and context of a text. I usually listen to them on my way to uni. I would also recommend Oxford’s ‘Approaching Shakespeare’ podcasts. I found them very useful during my first year Shakespeare module.

 

2) Documentaries

BBC Two Documentary

BBC Two Documentary

Obviously there is no substitute for hitting the library and consulting different sources to develop your knowledge but sometimes you may not have time to research the context behind every single literary text you study. Documentaries are a great way to learn about historical and political background of different texts.  I would recommend watching BBC Documentaries – they are often reliable, engaging, and there are a lot of them! So it is highly likely that there is a documentary on the period that your text is situated in. Last year, for example, I watched the BBC Two Documentary, ‘A Very British Renaissance’, to prepare for my first assignment on the Renaissance Literary Culture module.

3) Public Lectures

I think it is vital that you think beyond your syllabus in order develop as an undergraduate. I would strongly advise that you attend public lectures in order to improve your lateral thinking. London is an amazing cultural city, and there are often free lectures taking place at various institutions, like the V&A, the British Library, and Senate House Library. These lectures are usually delivered by renowned experts in their field, and it is an incredible resource that you’ll have, should you come to a London university. Moreover, wherever you go, your university will also host lectures which engage with contemporary issues. For example, during my time at Queen Mary, I’ve attended lectures such as Grenfell Tower: The Avoidable Tragedy, Seeking Refuge: Voices from Syria, and Brexit and Its Consequences for UK and EU Citizenship. So be sure to take advantage of them!

I hope you found this helpful!

 

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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Summer Internship

“So what are you planning to do after you graduate?” Ah, the dreaded question that makes undergraduates break into a cold sweat. There are many people who come to university knowing exactly what career field they want to pursue afterwards, however, there are also people who have no idea. If you do know, then great, good for you! However, if you belong to the latter category, fear not, because trust me when I say this, you don’t need to have your dream career figured out by your early 20s. In today’s world, the average person changes jobs around 12 times. Chances are that you will not spend all of your life at the same job and your dream career will constantly change. For me, that is an exciting prospect because it means that you would develop your career organically – continuously learning different skills from various working environments and applying them wherever you go.

It is nearly impossible to know if a job is perfect for you unless you get a feel of that particular field, and I think your time at university is the perfect opportunity to experiment with different job sectors. The summer holidays are incredibly long (too long!), so I would suggest you use some of this time to gain as much experience as possible. At Queen Mary, we have a fantastic Careers and Enterprise Centre, through which you can find part-time jobs, work experience and internships. This summer I took part in QProjects, which is an internship scheme that is organised by the Careers team every year. QProjects places QM students as Project Leaders on challenging projects within local charities.

I did my internship with the East End Community Foundation (EECF). EECF is a philanthropy advisor and grant maker. This means they fund grass-root organisations, issuing nearly £1 million annually to charities in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham. My job was to help EECF with their Vital Signs 2017 Report. A Vital Sign Report uses a combination of existing research and surveys with local residents to identify key issues affecting local communities across the UK. I collated data from the surveys, and then analysed the data to find trends and patterns. I also worked as a researcher to find out more about the problems that affect the East End of London. My internship was originally meant to be for six weeks but EECF invited me to stay with them longer to work on their social media strategy. Here, I got to write case studies to promote the brilliant job that EECF has been doing, as well as working on their Facebook, Twitter and their website to raise their profile.

The EECF team at Sky Gardens

The EECF team at Sky Gardens

I had the best time working there! This was my first proper office-based job, and I got so much out of it: I honed my research and evaluation skills, got to go and network at a business breakfast at the Sky Gardens in Canary Wharf, learned about collaborating in a team and working within deadlines. I also got a full experience of a professional working life: I attended meetings with CEOs, contributed to strategy meetings within my department, and enjoyed being treated to staff lunches after big events.

My colleagues were incredibly supportive and welcoming, and to be honest, they have set my expectations for future employers impeccably high. I got to have 1-2-1 meetings with each member of staff and learn about their roles, which provided me with an invaluable insight into the charity sector. In terms of making the most out of your internship, my advice would be to be enthusiastic and to really take a keen interest in the work that you company is involved in. For example, I wanted to find out more about the charities that EECF supported so they generously arranged for me to go and visit some of the projects.

This was my desk at work. Check out my QM water bottle - I'm all about the branding and the environment of course!

This was my desk at work. Check out my QM water bottle – I’m all about the branding and the environment of course!

The process of getting this internship was enlightening in itself. I had to write an application outlining why I was suitable for this role and then I had to attend a Graduate-style interview, which was very beneficial because now I know what to expect after I leave university.

This internship was eye-opening because I got to learn about a sector I hadn’t considered working in before, and now this will go on my list as one of my potential career pathways. On top of that, this term, I am doing QInsight, which is a programme designed to provide students with a better understanding of the civil service. I’ll let you know how it goes, and if you are interested in finding out more about career opportunities at QM, follow the link below:

QM Careers and Enterprise: http://careers.qmul.ac.uk/

Studying in Greece

Elliot Hamlin

LLM International Shipping Law


Having lived and studied all my life within the UK, I became accustomed to all types of rain based weather (drizzle, spitting, sleet, hail, mist, even a damp haze). I saw the opportunity to study in Piraeus, Athens as the chance to break a habit of a lifetime and not indulge in the daily English chat of how bleak is the weather. I moved to Piraeus in September of last year and spent two weeks getting to know the city. The city has much to offer and its large marina is home to some of the most magnificent private yachts in the Mediterranean. The public are free to walk along and it’s a great place to grab a coffee and enjoy the warm evenings. One issue to watch out for when moving to Greece as a foreigner is the issue of opening a bank account. Due to the capital control regulations placed on banks the banks have become reluctant to open new bank accounts. From personal experience, I would recommend Piraeus Bank as the easiest and involving the least paperwork.

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The course is situated at the Hellenic Management Centre which is very central and just off the main high-street. The centre has good facilities with a good-sized library and very friendly staff. It is where all the lectures and exams take place. The centre also organises several extra-curricular events throughout the year and organises a 5-aside football team. I was lucky enough to play for the 5-aside team which gave me the opportunity to get to know the other students studying at the centre. They were a very friendly bunch and were eager to ensure that my Greek improved, especially the words for penalty and foul.

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Piraeus is the fourth largest city in Greece, but due to its proximity to Athens it has the feel of a much larger city (it takes about 30 minutes to get from Piraeus to Athens using the Metro). This proximity also allows students the freedom to live and study in either Piraeus or Athens. Airbnb is a great website for this and there are hundreds of good value properties on the market. I chose to move to the neighbourhood of Ambelokipi which is about 15-minute walk from central Athens. The neighbourhood was fascinating and is fairly typical of most of Athens. The majority of the shops are locally owned and this means that they cater for eclectic tastes. For example, on my road there was an antiques shop, old book shop, two shops catering for toy models and a record shop. Another great thing about shopping in Athens is the local markets. Throughout the year there are daily markets offering really good value fruit and veg much fresher than that sold in the Supermarkets.

Greece, Athens, and Piraeus have a lot to offer and am pleased I took the opportunity to enjoy the Mediterranean pace of life.

 

Presenting in Vienna

Beata Sobkow (QMUL Student)

LLM Computer and Communications Law (2016-2017)


Hi everyone!

This little dot at the back with the microphone is me ‘Beata’ a QMUL postgraduate law student presenting at the Annual Privacy Forum an international conference in Vienna:

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How did I get there?

How did I manage to suddenly switch from listening to a lecture to actually giving one?

Well, this is all, really, thanks to the Centre for Commercial Law Studies (CCLS – QMUL’s  postgraduate law centre) and the amazing project they run for the postgraduate law students. Every year, CCLS hires students from each of the legal specialisms to act as a ‘Student Specialism Representative’.  The reps organise various academic, professional and social events such as parties (obviously!) but also interesting lectures and meetings with professionals working in the specialist legal industries. For my specialism (LLM Computer and Communications Law), our lovely rep set up a dedicated Facebook page sharing upcoming events and external opportunities.

One of these opportunities was from the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) who focus on raising the awareness of network and information security. They were looking for submission of papers for their upcoming Annual Privacy Forum in Vienna. A bit overly enthusiastic and optimistic as I am, I edited one of my LLM essays on EU Data Protection and sent it out to the ENISA for consideration.

I managed to completely forget about my submission as I was focused on my upcoming LLM exams. How surprised I was to suddenly receive an email from ENISA congratulating me and selecting my paper to be presented at the conference in Vienna! This was to be an exciting opportunity to share my work and knowledge with reputable industry professionals.

After experiencing a mix of joy, disbelief and a huge amount of utter panic as well as receiving lots of encouragement from my university friends and “support” from my dad (‘There’s no need to worry, Beata. In the worst case scenario you’ll faint in front of everyone which means you won’t have to present your paper anymore’). I accepted the invitation and started preparing for the ‘big day’.

Vienna arrival

The conference took place between 7-8 June and it turned out to be one of the best memories from my LLM year. None of my imagined 99 possible catastrophes (including passing out in front of the audience or being electrocuted by the presentation pointer) materialised and, instead, I had an amazing time presenting my paper and discussing my presentation and the other topics with the inspiring attendees.

I even got to take a selfie with the data protection legend Max Schrems (calling all my fellow law nerds!)..

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..attended a fancy dinner in a restaurant located in the Vienna city hall…

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..and, staying true to my hipster soul, found some time to visit one of the local hipster cafes:

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Overall, it was a truly unforgettable and fantastic experience. Currently, I am waiting for the publication of my paper and, encouraged by the recent experience, I am already looking for other conferences to attend ;).

This all would not be possible without our amazing specialism rep, QMUL and all the fantastic services, options and opportunities QMUL provides us with. As your LLM is really what you make out of it, make sure you make the most of QMUL’s services and thereby your year at QMUL!

 

Top 10 Places to Visit in Mile End

Are you new to Queen Mary and exploring the area? Maybe you are a Queen Mary veteran who simply wants to leave the house without having to endure the tube. Whatever your age, interests (or the weather), Mile End has an abundance of activities to suit everyone. To help you enjoy those long summer days, here is a helpful guide to the top 10 places to visit without having to leave Mile End.

10. Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is London’s most urban Woodland, and one of London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ Victorian cemeteries. Whilst the Cemetery is now a designated park and hasn’t been used for burials since 1966, the unique history and solace of the park makes it the perfect summer escape. From the stories of mass graves burying up to 30 deceased bodies during the 1850’s to being bombed 5 times during The Blitz, the cemetery is now a nature reserve and educational facility. From my experiences, the Cemetery Park is the perfect place to escape to with a good book on a sunny afternoon, although it is open from dawn until dusk. Looking for something to fill in the long summer days? The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park are always searching for volunteers to join their team and help tend to the park.

9. The Half Moon (AKA ‘Spoons’)

Everybody knows that Wetherspoons is a student staple: cheap food, cheap drinks and a relaxing atmosphere. Mile End is home to the beloved Half Moon Wetherspoon franchise, “the local” for Queen Mary students. The pub and restaurant is the former home of the Half Moon Theatre and a Methodist Chapel; the interesting history and architecture of the Half Moon therefore makes it a must-see for anybody visiting Mile End. If you’re looking for summer drinks, ‘pub grub’ or in need of a substantial meal, The Half Moon is the place to go. And fun fact: The Half Moon was dedicated to showcasing modern socialist plays during its time as a theatre.

8. Mile End Skate Park

Looking to take up a new skill? Mile End Skate Park is perfect for learning the art of skateboarding, with several ledges, flat areas and manual pads to help assist beginners with getting their balance on board. Come rain or shine, Mile End Skate Park has indoor and outdoor ramps and many unique lines on which you can spend all day practicing. You could even pass the time at the skate park celebrity spotting, as Olly Murs and Rizzle Kicks filmed their music video for “Heart Skips a Beat” in Mile End Skate Park back in 2011 when the park first opened.

7. The Coffee Room

With all the leisure facilities and sporting opportunities available in Mile End, this list would not be complete without a hip café to refuel and relax. My personal favourite is the Coffee Room, situated on Grove Road. Run by a team of friendly Italians, the coffee and food is perfezionare and the café has an authentic Italian ambiance. Whilst the coffee may be slightly more expensive than coffeehouse chains, it is worth paying those extra pennies; they even serve a bespoke Italian hot chocolate. As a lunch option, The Coffee Room offers a healthy selection of foods which can be enjoyed in an intimate terrace or cosy indoor seating area. Ultimately, I would recommend The Coffee Room for its delicious selection of cakes, cookies and brownies (and its baked goods in general, of which I have shamelessly tried them all).

6. Mile End Leisure Centre

Also known as Mile End Stadium, this venue has multi-sports facilities available to use at reasonable rates. The leisure centre currently holds 10 sports courses, ranging from street dancing and trampolining to a specialised Tom Daley Diving Academy. Alternatively, the leisure centre has a variety of facilities such as a fully-equipped gym, sports hall, studio and swimming pools which you can use on a pay as you go basis or for a subscription fee. If you’re looking to get fit with friends, Mile End leisure centre also has numerous pitches and tracks which can be hired out for group sessions.

5. Mile End Park

Running alongside Queen Mary is Mile End Park; a unique park divided into different zones, each with their own personality. A popular hangout for Queen Mary students during the summer months is the Art Pavilion, which hosts community events including farmer’s markets and summer fetes. My personal favourite part of the park is the Ecology Park, which is home to many species of wildlife that live in the picturesque lake. In addition to wildlife spotting in the Ecology Park, the Ecology Pavilion is also a popular venue for weddings and christenings. And of course, no park is complete without a play area… the one situated in Mile End Park is very impressive and boasts state-of-the-art children’s playground facilities (which I unfortunately haven’t tried). As the park is an impressive 32 hectares in size, there is also an audio walking tour to help you discover all the opportunities Mile End Park has to offer.

4. The Greedy Cow

For award-winning burgers and steaks, Mile End’s Greedy Cow is a must-visit restaurant. Every visit to the Greedy Cow has been an exciting fine-dining experience, with exotic meats such as Wagyu, kangaroo, bison and crocodile recently appearing on the menu. Matching the unusual steak cuts is the quirky interior of The Greedy Cow, which has a rustic theme but a cosy atmosphere. The Greedy Cow has also won several TimeOut ‘Love London’ awards for its quality service and quality meat. Great food and good value really does lie at the heart of The Greedy Cow, and with a special Student Lunch Special offering a burger, side and unlimited soft drinks for £7.50, missing it would be a real miSTEAK.

3. Mile End Climbing Wall

If you’re really looking to challenge yourself over the summer months, look no further than Mile End Climbing Wall which has some of the highest walls without roped protection in the country. The 16,000sq ft climbing surface has something to offer for everyone, as the centre runs sessions for complete novices to seasoned professionals. Famous for having one of the friendliest and most relaxed atmospheres of all the climbing walls in the capital, Mile End’s climbing wall has the perfect environment and tailored sessions to help you learn; including taster sessions, level 1 bouldering and weekend or evening beginners’ classes. Looking for a more social occasion? Why not book a party or join the climbing club at Mile End climbing wall?

2. Roman Road Market

As a self-confessed shopaholic on a student loan, Roman Road Market is my paradise. Whilst the shops on Roman Road are an eclectic mix of modern and traditional, the market is primarily a clothes market which sells branded favourites, such as Topshop and French Connection, but at a fraction of the price. Roman Road Market has been running for over 150 years and is situated on the oldest known trade route in Britain; its long-established history therefore attracts some of the best market sellers around. The market runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; although I’d advise anybody to get there early to grab the best bargains.

1.Victoria Park

Number one place to visit in Mile End is, of course, the famous Victoria Park; London’s oldest and most beautiful parkland. The 218-acre park is also known as the People’s Park, as it was created by the Queen Victoria to provide a recreational space for the working classes of East London during the Victorian era. Today the recreational function of the park continues all year round, with Victoria park offering numerous leisure facilities, including a boating lake, lawn bowling area and a large bandstand. During the summer months, the park really comes alive and hosts some of the UK’s biggest music festivals, such as Lovebox and Field day. The park actually hosts an extensive summer events programme, and all the events are free! Moreover, for the best brunch in London, look no further than the Pavilion café in Victoria Park. Situated in the Western area of the park, the Pavilion Café sells a delicious range of brunch classics (well, in my experiences, a delicious range of avocado-related dishes which have satisfied my avocado obsession). Whilst an afternoon chilling in the park is a quintessential perfect summer afternoon, in Victoria Park you can spend your day in London’s best park without even having to leave the comfort of Mile End!

Hello From The Other Side!

How’s everybody doing? I hope everybody’s having a great time relaxing, or preparing in advance for many things ahead! Summer’s always the best time for everybody – personally for me, this is the first time I am experiencing summer that lasts for around 3 months and this explained fully why summer is said to be the best 104 days (according to Phineas and Ferb…anyone?). Why? Because this is not the case from where I come from, that is, Indonesia!

 

Coming from the other side of the world means that coming home after 9 months of living in London has made me miss home more than ever. Coming back to Indonesia allowed me to meet my family and friends, and also savour all of our dishes and street food and all the small things that I have always been craving for in London. Of course, happiness is meant to be shared and hence I will share my joy with all of you through some pictures to allow you to see through my eyes.

 

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Food as expected – and a bowl of chili!           Nighttime culinary market called Cibadak.

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Nature! Indonesia attracts tourists mostly for its natural scenes!

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A bowl of meatballs in soup would cost about 1.5 pounds and two or three bowls are enough to make you full! Definitely, the picture on the right is a restaurant that serves everyone’s (ehem) favourite instant noodle – Indomie – that is topped with Indonesian traditional spices and sauces!

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Being at home means being able to play with the cats again!

 

Even though summer is such a great time for all of us, let us not forget a few things! For many of you applying to Queen Mary, don’t forget to sort out your accommodation, tuition fees, or even your visas if you are coming from outside the UK. Get prepared for university life! It may be hard to settle and fit in in the beginning, but eventually ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’ and you will meet the right group of people for you, and QMUL is even glad to help you out with their buddy scheme which allows you to feel more than welcome on campus. Most importantly, going to Queen Mary means that you are about to be surrounded by a diverse environment, and you will be able to see the beauty coming from the differences every one of us owns.

 

With that, have a fantastic summer and have a good time, and see you soon!

What is learning at University really like?

Lectures, seminars, tutorials… lost in the University jargon? I remember thinking to myself “a lecture is something that my mum gives me when I’ve done something wrong. I don’t like the sound of some mad University professor shouting at me in an attempt to make me learn.” It is now safe to say that I had completely no idea of what to expect from teaching at University; films such as Legally Blonde gave me a completely misconceived preconception of what it is actually like to be taught at University.

From my experiences as a Student Ambassador, it seems that I was not alone in my confusion over the teaching terms, and many prospective applicants have questions over the teaching process. In fact, one of the greatest transitions when moving from Sixth Form or College to University is the way in which you are taught. Whilst you are expected to devote a considerable amount of time to independent study throughout a University degree, you are also taught in ‘lectures, seminars and tutorials’: here are what the terms actually mean.

 

Lectures

For many of you, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about University is lectures. Essentially, a lecture involves a professor speaking about a particular topic in a large hall. There are often between 50 and 250 students in a lecture; meaning that lectures take the form of a talk about a subject, rather than an interactive discussion or question and answer session. Lectures are designed to give you an overview of a subject, and typically last around 50 minutes. You are then expected to undertake further reading. Most lecturers are specialists in the subjects and at the forefront of their fields, which allows you to find out about the latest research and the academic’s own perspective on the matter.

During lectures, the lecturer generally uses handouts, PowerPoint slides or a whiteboard to help guide you through what they are saying. My advice would be to make notes from these materials, and build up your notes in accordance with what they are saying. Most students choose to make notes on their laptops during lectures, as lectures are usually delivered at a fast pace. However, to get the most out of lectures, you are best to adopt to your lecturer’s style and don’t worry if you miss a few things as further reading will fill in the gaps. The important thing is to turn up on time, gain an introductory understanding of the topic and make notes for future reference.

 

Tutorials

Tutorials take the form of smaller group meetings which give you the opportunity to discuss a topic in depth. At Queen Mary, each tutorial generally has around 10 people, lasts for 50 minutes and is scheduled once a week for each module that you are studying. Tutorials are led by an academic member of staff, who will set a reading schedule and questions for each tutorial. Tutorials give you the opportunity to ask questions and share your own ideas, and are therefore a vital part of each course programme.

Before each tutorial, do your reading! You’ve probably heard the saying “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”; this is unfortunately true when it comes to tutorials. There is nothing worse than sitting there clueless, unable to participate in the discussion and benefit from what other students are saying. Most tutorial leaders also set questions in advance which you should also attempt prior to each tutorial. Whilst you may struggle to answer them, a tutorial is designed to challenge you so don’t panic. During your tutorial, you will be given the chance to discuss answers and ask any questions you may have from the work. Tutorials may also be skills based, and give you important tips on how to approach questions as well as vital exam advice to really boost your learning.

 

Seminars

A University seminar is somewhat between a lecture and a tutorial. Seminars are generally taught for more specialist modules and can last anywhere between 50 minutes and a few hours. They are usually led by a specialist in the field, but in a smaller format than in a lecture. In a seminar, you can therefore expect to be taught by an academic, but there is also a degree of opportunity to interact and ask questions. Prior to each seminar, you are often given reading and questions which will form the basic outline of the seminar. The seminar leader will then talk you through the subject in a similar format to a lecture and will often ask additional questions regarding interesting or controversial points.

A seminar is designed to help you develop your independent learning skills, as some seminars do not follow a lecture schedule as you are expected to undertake your own reading on the topic beforehand. During the seminar, you can then explore the material in greater detail than a lecture would allow for as the format allows for a greater degree of interaction and personal opinion. As a consequence, seminars are generally tailored towards an individual group; whilst the academic has a topic and an outline for the session, they often revolve around points which members of the group wish to explore further. My advice would be to prepare, participate and probe into the subject after the seminar to really make the most out of University learning.

 

Fundamentally, lectures, tutorials and seminars are there to help guide your learning throughout your University experience. Although lectures, tutorial and seminars are broadly similar across most universities, my explanations are based upon my experiences of studying law here at Queen Mary. Whilst other Universities may differ slightly in size, structure and delivery, the purpose and format remains largely similar to Queen Mary.

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