New Zealand (NZ) is known to be the adventure capital of the world, so when I was seriously considering to take the “GEG6220 – Alpine environments” module in my third year, I knew I was in for the experience of a lifetime, that plus learning about about physical processes in NZ Southern Alps, of course. In order to make the most of the experience, a group of my friends and I decided to go out to Auckland and spend three days and four nights to explore more of NZ. Our stay on the North island, in Auckland was nothing short of adventurous fun, ranging from kayaking to Rangitoto, hiking 45mins to view the sunset from the peak and kayaking back during the night to visiting the Maori museum with a tour guide and topping it off with a Maori cultural performance.
Kayaking is not as easy as it looks, though I must say.. you will get that extra muscle workout on your arms
Watching the sunset but having to hike 45 mins back down the island and kayak back!
Day 3, visiting the Maori museum for some cultural fun!
After the Maori culture performance, these guys were great! Definitely enjoyed watching the haka performance
Once our stay in Auckland had ended, we made our way to the airport in order to catch a domestic flight to Queenstown to meet the rest of our class members and professors.
We could see Mount Cook right below us. The funny thing is that there was a retired Geography teacher who was sitting next to us and she kindly gave us information about the Geography of the area which gave us a headstart before our field trip
Kinlock lodge, our first accommodation and it did not disappoint! The views were amazing and so picturesque.
Our first day of fieldwork where we were looking at braided rivers on the South Island and how they evolved in response to high sediment yields and expansive valley width associated with rapidly uplifting Southern Alps, intense rainfall and glacial valleys.
Each day, we would go to different sites and focus on a longitudinal study of the Rees and Dart rivers.
A quick field sketch before getting into the van and heading to our next location
Bobs’ Cove, a pleasant nature walk through a forest and around a cover which allows a lookout where we could see much of Lake Wakatipu
On our way to our second location, accommodation – Aoraki, Mount Cook, but not before a quick stop for a photo!
On this day, we explored the accessible proglacial zones of the Mueller and Hooker glaciers, and later we were expected to produce a geomorphological map of the area through describing and interpreting the glacial landforms, processes, and hazards.
Kawarau shotover – considering the hydraulic factors that affect lake drainage, in our own unique way!
Drawing an end to our stay in New Zealand! #TEAMGEOGRAPHY # TEAMQM – It has been an unforgettable experience & I will be sure to be back!
I’m sure many of us have heard the phrases ‘life’s too short’ or ‘you only live once’ and these are phrases I believe to be very true. With so many great things to do, see, taste and accomplish, surely we can’t do everything on the planet, but we may as well try. Luckily, being a biology student, studying at QMUL and having the great chance to be in this fantastic capital, there is at least a place to start.
Aside from lectures and labs, my course has provided adventures across the globe. A field trip to Somerset in first year meant I could discover the ecology of a beautiful part of Britain. Second year ventured further afield, reaching Eastern Europe with 7 days in Croatia. Finally in third year, a trip to South Africa meant I could experience safari adventures like no other. I have seen parts of the globe that I perhaps would not have seen if it weren’t for these opportunities. Not only with my course, but other great chances have allowed me to travel to Asia. In the summer between first and second year, I went to China with QMUL on the study abroad programme. Two weeks at Sichuan University provided insight in to Chinese culture (and cuisine!).
The Kruger National Park, South Africa
The Great Wall of China
Returning to my base in London, there is so much to offer when not gallivanting the world. Numerous parks to wonder, cuisines to taste and things to see, there is always something to do, and it doesn’t have to be costly. For something different, I danced a ceilidh with the Ceilidh club, went swing dancing in Victoria Park, or have cycled the city by night on a Borris bike. Nowhere else is there such variety, in amongst a vibrant atmosphere of culture and fun.
Reflecting on some of the memorable experiences I’ve had so far, I can’t think of anywhere else I would have chosen to do my undergraduate degree. These times maks me realise I must live my life more than ever, as this is only the start. Life is for living. So live it.
My name is Annabelle Wilkins and I’m a final-year PhD student here in the School of Geography. In September, I was invited to participate in the first academic conference to be held at North London Collegiate School on the island of Jeju, South Korea. Jeju is located off the southern coast of the mainland, around an hour’s flight from the capital, Seoul. The island is incredibly diverse, with volcanic peaks, idyllic beach resorts, hiking trails and a rapidly developing urban centre, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region.
Views of the island from Sunrise Peak, at the top of one of its many volcanoes.
NLCS Jeju was established in 2011, and is one of a growing number of international schools on the island. The school offers a British curriculum including the IGCSE, A-Level and the International Baccalaureate. In addition to NLCS, the island has also supported schools affiliated with institutions in Canada and the US, all of which are located in the recently developed Global Education City. The majority of pupils at these schools are Korean students, many of whom are planning to study at some of the world’s leading universities.
Contrasting architecture in Seoul, where visitors can stay in restored traditional houses looking out over the modern city.
I was one of seven visiting academics invited to take part in the conference, participating alongside a mathematician, a classicist, a composer and a poet. The theme of the conference was based around improving subject knowledge. We were encouraged to introduce the teachers to our research interests and to suggest ideas for how they might develop and enhance their lessons and teaching methods. Before the conference itself, I also spent two days working with Year 12 and 13 students who study Geography as part of the IB syllabus. I introduced them to geographies of home and my research on Vietnamese migrants in East London, as well as talking to them about globalisation, migration and identity.
Presenting my research to Year 12 and 13 geography students in one of the school boarding houses.
During the three days of the conference, each academic gave a lecture about their research to an audience of teachers from different subjects. I gave talks to staff from Maths, Chemistry, Languages and PE departments, among others, which made for some fascinating question and discussion sessions as people contributed ideas from their own backgrounds. Once they discovered that the focus of my research is on home and migration, many teachers were keen to share their personal experiences of being an expatriate teacher living in South Korea, and the objects and practices that helped them to create a sense of home.
Statue of the Buddha at Sangbansan temple, Jeju.
In addition to presenting my research, I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet the Geography teachers and share some ideas as to how they might be able to enhance their teaching on globalisation and migration. I introduced them to critical geographies of home and other research by academics here at QMUL, and they were keen to incorporate these perspectives into the syllabus. By the end of the three days, we were discussing how to devise projects about students’ bedrooms and their material culture, possible interviews with the school’s cleaners, who used to work on the land around the school building, and inter-generational interviews between students and older people on the island. I had a brilliant experience at NLCS and also had time for trips to some of the island’s amazing beaches, temples and museums.
A woman diver selling her catch of seafood – women divers are famous within Jeju’s island heritage.
Hyopjae, one of Jeju’s beautiful beaches.
Sunset in Moseulpo, a fishing village close to the school on Jeju.
From volunteering in North London to travelling in a helicopter in New Zealand, my penultimate year at Queen Mary has been exceptionally busy but nonetheless another great and exciting year.
I’ve travelled to the other side of the world, become the President of a volunteer group, achieved a Silver Green Impact Award, undertaken environmental audit training and even presented my dissertation project to prospective students. Just when I think there are no more things to be involved in, another springs up and at the end of my second year with the ‘what will I do next?’ question looming, this year has definitely provided me with countless options.
In March I travelled to New Zealand for a 10-day field trip around the South Island. The scenery was breathtaking and it was definitely a trip of a lifetime! We got to take a helicopter ride up to the Franz Josef Glacier which we walked across. We went on many walks through valleys, exploring the processes that shaped them and discussed how they might look in the future, which affirmed the knowledge we’d gained from lectures leading up to the trip. Skills developed on fieldtrips like this such as filling out field notebooks and documenting results outside of the lab have definitely prepared me for my dissertation.
Tasman Proglacial Lake, New Zealand
The obligatory task of measuring rocks for clast shape analysis (a must for any Geography student)
Since my first year I have been involved in the QMUL Canal Clean Up Volunteer group who are affiliated with Thames 21 who kindly provide equipment, training and most importantly extra pairs of hands on events! From simply volunteering at an event on campus got to know more about Thames 21, the work they do and the opportunities of leadership training. By undertaking the training, I am now the President of the group as well as an Event Support Team Member for Thames 21 outside of university. I recently helped lead an event in Edmonton, North London, where a buried river is being resurfaced to create a wetland. I’ve developed my team work skills, organisation capabilities and learnt to work to a schedule as on events you can be working with 20 or so people. These skills are going to be transferable into the workplace but primarily I really enjoy helping out and using what I learn at university to teach others the science and reasoning behind such projects like the one in Edmonton.
All the volunteers getting ready for a canal clean up!
The 2015 Green Impact Awards
In my first year, I also got involved with Green Impact which aims to make the university more sustainable and environmentally aware. Having achieved Bronze last year, my team has completed the Silver Award. Again, being organised, able to achieve on a deadline as well as working and communicating with a team are all skills I’ve gained from the experience here at QMUL, but still it’s being able to put what you study and understand into practice while working with like-minded people that I enjoy most about Green Impact. Through being a Green Impact Project Assistant, I was able to undertake an IEMA approved audit training. It was an insightful day where I got to see what other Green Impact Teams were doing as well as developing experience and skills that will set me in good stead after I graduate.
Hi everyone! Below is a glimpse into my recent field trip to the North East as part of the first year of my BA Geography course – enjoy!
Sunday 29th March 2015, Day 1:
Here comes a Queen Mary Geography cohort! A six-hour journey leads us to the North East. This evening, we have a lecture from economic geographer Dr Stuart Dawley, from the University of Newcastle. Dr Dawley provides us with a historical view on the North East’s development challenges. The opportunity to questions is taken and concludes the day.
The street of our student accommodation at St Chad’s College, North Bailey
Monday 30th March 2015, Day 2:
Economics and society. We experience stories of the North East at Beamish Open Air Museum, situated in years 1825 and 1913, by talking to actors and touring the area. Our class then splits into smaller groups and my group travels to Newcastle to explore science-led regeneration in Newcastle Science City and the Centre for Life.
Many community groups are brought together for science in Newcastle’s Centre for Life
Tuesday 31st March 2015, Day 3:
Politics and austerity. My group attends a talk from Simon Magorian (Newcastle Unites) regarding austerity’s effects on racism in Newcastle. We then carry out street surveys, establishing local thoughts on Newcastle. Our class also gets to question Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council on city-wide political issues. Before returning to Durham, we visit to the magnificent Angel of The North.
The Angel of the North
Sculpture of swans taking flight at the Civic Centre, where offices of Newcastle City Council are located
Wednesday 1st April 2015, Day 4:
Health and austerity. We attend a lecture on regional health inequalities by Professor Clare Bambra, an academic at the University of Durham. After this, the class fragments into groups again and my group meet Elouise Robinson (Sunderland City Council). Elouise shares various health schemes introduced by the city. In the evening, we perform role-plays, testing our knowledge of health inequalities in the region!
A building on the Durham University campus where Professor Bambra’s lecture was held
Thursday 2nd April 2015, Day 5:
Saying goodbye! We have breakfast and return our room keys; the end of the trip is here. I feel grateful for this extremely beneficial field trip and I recommend it to every first year human geographer. If you join QMUL Geography, I hope you thoroughly enjoy your academic experience in the North East!
The historic Durham Cathedral overlooks the River Wear, basking in the afternoon sun
Second year students had the opportunity to return to the legendary Cairngorms fieldtrip this year to help first years explore this unique and wonderful National Park. From searching for the geocaches left by last year’s trip to checking out the finest Scottish food and drink…they’ve kept a diary of her experience to help you catch a glimpse of this world away from the city and the research opportunities it brings.
Ebony Acheampong, BSc Environmental Science with Business Management
Kana Alam, BSc Environmental Science
James Jarrett, BSc Geography
Friday 3rd April:
After a long journey to Aviemore, Scotland yesterday, today was spent supervising the first years exploring Glenmore Lodge and the surroundings of Aviemore.
We also tested out the geocaching method that had been successfully carried out last year. The first years found one of the geocaches and proved positive as the first years enjoyed the treasure hunt.
Prof David Horne also demonstrated coring in peatlands out in the Cairngorms National Park, this allowed the students to practise looking at soil profiles from the last Ice Age and that have accumulated over large periods of time.
Overall the day was well spent observing and recognising the components that formed such a beautiful surrounding such as the Loch Morlich, Green Lochan (little Loch), Cairngorms Park and mountains in the distance.
The evening ended with a review of the 1st year students fieldnote books and then relaxing at the bar area playing poker with tea and cake.
Saturday 4th April:
Today started with mapping of all the previous geocaching sites and locations. We were preparing ahead for the 1st year students to carry out the exercise in a few days. The walk along the bike trail today was challenging but we all managed to complete it, the beautiful views and landscape also played a part in motivation along with getting back to the lodge in time for tea and cake, which is always helpful of course.
One group of 1st years went up to the Coire an t-Sneachda whilst the second group went to Glen Feshie for a mapping exercise of the river landforms and sediments. This day I spent with Kana and James planning out the walk for the geocaching. This was a brilliant way in exploring the area up to an outdoor centre called Badaguish, which looked like such a relaxed eco village centre.
The geocaches we found in the first location and second were bird boxes with the clue ‘‘Feathery friends’’ which was set up by students from the previous year.
We then interviewed some students that went up to the Coire on the first day; these are a few of their experiences.
“It was really awesome as I felt like I was in the Arctic, since I’ve never done this sort of thing before being from the city,’’ Yasin Wadud.
“It was a unique experience, as it was a complete white out of fog then as it cleared up it was really beautiful,’’ Matthew MacMillan.
Sunday 5th April:
This day me, Kana and James went on the walk up to Coire an t-Sneachda with the group who carried out the mapping exercise. This brought back so many memories from the last year we visited; the walk took about 3 hours to the Coire including a stop to the ski centre and 2 hours back.
At the halfway point there was a buzz with people from different locations enjoying the facilities in the Cairngorms Mountains and ski centre.
The walk continued afterwards to the top point for another break and drawing of the landforms present.
The second group carried out a walk to Allt Mor which was lead by two members of staff from the School of Geography. The aim of this study was to carry out hydrological analysis in the river catchment.
Monday 6th April:
We took the first group to carry out the geocaching exercise we planned out in the previous few days.
The geocaching exercise was put together with a practice Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA). This was done in proposal for bike trails across Glenmore Forest. The two activities linked well as each geocache location had positive and negative aspects to a future bike trial. The students thought and discussed well into the effects on the nature and habitats, so overall the day was a success.
Tuesday 7th April:
The second group of first year students were taken for the geocaching exercise, this was a success as the teams found all the boxes and signed the notepads available inside. Two geocache boxes found were set up by the second years who assisted my year so it was very nice to see it all in place.
The food provided at Glenmore Lodge is also really good quality and selection, really reminded us all of home cooked meals we have missed being away from home. This was always looked forward to after a long day of fieldwork.
Wednesday 8th April:
Today we assisted the first year students in Alt Mor soil and water samples collections, for chemistry analysis of pH and minerals present. In addition to this we helped with ideas to further development of the fieldwork diversity policy for the school of geography. We came up with some good ideas to create a more interactive and realistic alternatives to exercises carried out.
Today after the fieldwork we spoke to some of the staff to learn about their experience working in Glenmore lodge. We spoke most with the Chef called Mike who had travelled a lot and finally settled in Aviemore with his wife and family. He gave us great advice that words of wisdom and how much he enjoyed being in Aviemore. We definitely think he is the happiest person that we’d had ever met; there was a joy about him that was radiant and almost alien to us.
Meeting people like Mike definitely is a perk to these trips and opportunities, which come by through being at university.
Thursday 9th April:
Today we arrived back in London after a long coach journey around 8pm; this was a faster journey than when we were setting off to Scotland. It was nice to arrive back into London at a good time, though it was equally sad to leave Scotland. Everyone was so friendly and this environment was so refreshing especially coming from London.
The trip overall was definitely worth going more than once and hopefully it will be possible for more students to experience Aviemore, Glenmore Lodge and the Cairngorms National Park.
When I decided to go back to school for my Masters, England was an obvious choice. What better place to study English Literature than its birthplace, right? But choosing a school was a bit more complicated. I spent several weeks researching schools around England, but ultimately chose Queen Mary because they are the only school to offer a pathway specifically tailored to by academic interests. Although my research on American schools was minuscule, I don’t think many universities in the States offer explicitly defined areas of study for Masters students. You have your general ‘American Lit’ or ‘English Lit’ programs, but I never cam across any programs that were specifically ‘Romantic Lit’ or ‘Shakespeare’ or anything very detailed.
My pathway, Eighteenth Century Literature and Romanticism (ECLAR), has completely broadened my understanding of not just literature but history, philosophy, politics, theology, and early science. The professors teaching the modules for this pathway are top scholars in their field and having the opportunity to learn from them has been invaluable. It was a completely new experience for me to be reading a book or article and find that my professor had been quoted as an expert. I would get quite star-struck the next time I saw the quoted professor. 🙂
Queen Mary’s English department also goes out of their way to bring our studies to life. In almost every module I took, we spent at least one class at a location other than Queen Mary using archives, making connections between literature and other subjects (London has an amazing number of free museums!), learning the procedures for different libraries available to us–the British Library was particularly different from any library I’d ever used before, and visiting relevant historical sites like Newington Green Unitarian Church, London’s oldest nonconformist place of worship (founded in 1708) or the Tate Britain to talk about the Turner exhibit and Romantic themes.
We even took a day trip to Margate, which is on the East coast of England. That was absolutely one of the most lively and entertaining classes I had the chance to attend. We left just after noon on a Friday, spent the afternoon visiting various landmarks, discussing the literary and historical significance of Margate, mingling with the locals, and ended the day with a beautiful sunset and delicious fish and chips.
Our brilliant day trip leader, Dr. Matt Ingleby (left), and a rhapsodic Margatian (right).
In addition to exponentially broadening my understanding in many different fields, ECLAR and the English department as a whole are dedicated to providing their students with real-life connections to their studies. There are weekly Postgraduate Research seminars which bring in speakers from a number of academic institutions to discuss their current research, and the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies also hosts regular seminars and an annual conference.
I could not envision a more preparatory English program than the ECLAR pathway at Queen Mary. Obviously if your research interests are different you should seek out a department that can support your pursuits, but when looking into potential universities make sure to think about what they will offer you outside the classroom. Get in touch with people in the department to ask any questions left unanswered by the websites. I’ll be the first to admit that Queen Mary’s website isn’t particularly insightful, but each of the professors I e-mailed responded within a couple days…and that was over their summer holidays!
Takeaway Tidbit: Ultimately the choice of university is yours, so make sure to do your research, but Queen Mary provides an excellent approach to Masters-level study and real-world preparedness.
This past weekend, I went to Scotland with my study abroad program. After class on Friday, I rushed to get to King’s Cross Station to board my train, which took around 5 hours to get to Edinburgh Waverly Station in Edinburgh’s city center. Since I arrived at Edinburgh late in the afternoon, I didn’t have as much time to look around, but I did get to see some attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, the National Gallery of Scotland, and St. Giles’ Cathedral. In general, I just enjoyed walking through the different areas in Edinburgh–both Old Town and New Town. On Princes Street, there are a lot of high street clothing stores. On Royal Mile, there are a wide variety of shops and restaurants. Edinburgh is probably one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. Many of the buildings in Edinburgh look as if they were stained with smog, and this is because, when homes were heated with coal fires, the soot and smog from chimneys stained the buildings, but the dark color of the buildings makes Edinburgh look even more historical and beautiful.
The next day we got up early for our bus tour around the Scottish Highlands. First we stopped by Forth Road Bridge to take some pictures. Then, we headed over to Blair Castle in Pertshire. The castle had large rooms with interesting displays and the entrance hall’s walls were impressively decorated with guns, swords and shields. Walking through the castle was like going through a mansion! The rooms were large, and everything looked so extravagant. After thoroughly touring the castle, we boarded the bus and traveled through Cairngorms National Park in North East Scotland. This is the largest national park in the British Isles, and it was a very scenic route. I enjoyed seeing the red deer and greenery as we drove by. We then went to Culloden Battlefield. Here, we looked through the exhibitions, watched a four minute film of a reenactment of the Battle of Culloden, and walked around the battlefield on Culloden Moor. The tour was very informative, and visiting the battlefield was a great way to learn about Scotland’s history. Afterwards, we headed out to dinner in Inverness, where we stayed for a night.
On Sunday, we started the day at Urquhart Castle where we saw breathtaking views of Loch Ness and the Great Glen. It was nice exploring the various parts of Urquhart Castle and going up the tower to look out at Loch Ness. I was hoping I would find Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, but sadly, that did not happen! Later, we traveled through Glen Coe, a volanic glen, where we stopped for a few minutes to take pictures. Glen Coe was such a spectacular sight! There was fog circling the tops of the mountains, and there were small waterfalls scattered around the area. The area was so beautiful to look at, but it was horribly cold and there was lots of wind. However, enduring the cold wind was definitely worth looking at the wonderful scenery.
I do wish I could have spent more time in Scotland because Edinburgh was so beautiful and I loved seeing all the greenery in the Highlands, but at the end of my trip (as with all my trips, actually), I just enjoyed returning back to London.
We travelled to Mumbai, India, as part of our final year here at QMUL Geography – and here’s a bit more about the project we undertook exploring the economy that underpins one of the world’s largest slums, Dharavi.
For our project in India, my group conducted research on Dharavi’s leather industry and how leather is a local and global commodity. Dharavi is widely known as the largest slum in Mumbai, but less people know about the economic activity that occurs there!
Leather sheets in one of the many factories in Dharavi
For the first part of our project, a tour guide took us around Dharavi, where we had the chance to go to various factories and see the leather production process in action. Most of the leather production process occurs in Dharavi, excluding tanning, due to the fact it is very polluting. The factories create the raw materials through several stages, and then the raw material is used to make leather products such as belts, wallets and bags.
After our tour of the slum, we were driven ten minutes down the road to Megha’s office, owner of Dharavi Market. Her company sells leather products, amongst many other items such as clothes, jewellery and clay pots, made by craftsmen living in Dharavi. The website aims to promote the work of people living and working in the slum and demonstrate that Dharavi is full of economic activity. She told us that ‘the whole point is to make Dharavi more visible, provide a platform and I want to make it more mainstream where regular people…who have this perception of the slum being this notorious area… I want to change that attitude and mind-set’. Furthermore, she explained that she also wants to improve Dharavi in many ways through her website – ”It’s not just going to be returns in terms of more business but also social good, so improve the lifestyle, the whole final aim would be to improve the living conditions [of Dharavi]”.
Dharavi Market (http://www.dharavimarket.com)
The people that make the products upload photos of their products to an Android app. After approving the items, Megha sells it online to international buyers. She explained that ‘it’s nice for them to know that people around the world are buying from them’. If you’re in need of some new products, her website is www.dharavimarket.com. You can choose from a wide range of commodities, while benefitting people living in Dharavi. They have a Facebook page too so make sure to check it out!