Things to see

Colour Up Your London Summertime

Summer has come upon us now and let’s all be honest, as much as we love the feeling of not thinking about any studies, we get bored. However, there are definitely some things to do to fill your time here in London, both near campus and away from the campus. Let me give you a sample in-the-day-of-my-life time table:

 

09:00 – 10:00

Wake up, reply to all the texts from back home, make myself a smooth cup of hot coffee.

 

10:00 – 12:00

It’s all about the gains. Hitting the gym at QMotion which is on campus making it so convenient for students that needs to burn off some fats from last night’s dinner.

 

12:00 – 13:00

I usually cook – I’ll get ingredients beforehand from either Co-op or Sainsbury’s which can be found beside the campus and opposite the campus respectively. Again, convenience is key here. Otherwise, I’d go eat in Mile End chicken shops (ahem, Dixie’s £2 for 8 wings) or go around London. Where to go, though? We’ll see below.

 

13:00 – 21:00

Okay, I go out a lot and spend a lot of time outside because staying inside for too long can get my mind tangled thinking about life and such too much. I spend this much time because I usually go out with my good friends that I’ve met in my course, my department, or even the societies I joined. Here’s a list of places you can visit:

  1. Chilling in the park: London has so many parks that you can just sit down and chill on, all very accessible by both the closest stations near campus. Need a closer one? Go to Victoria Park or Mile End Park.
  2. Central London: Of course, who doesn’t go here? Take the westbound central line to either Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Circus, or Bond Street, and treat yourself for some good food.
  3. Westfield Stratford: Just a stop away, take the eastbound central line and you can spend time shopping, bowl, or ride the Boris Bikes around the Olympic Park, which is right behind
  4. Mile End Pool & Snooker OR Riley’s: Interested in pool or snooker? You should definitely give them a visit – one just very close to the campus and the other in Victoria, which is possible to get to using the District Line from both Mile End station and Stepney Green station, literally approximately 2-3 minutes away from campus.
  5. Tourist-y stuff: Check online some touristy things to do and get the most of London, simple ones like visiting the Museums for FREE, or even watch the changing of the Guards at Buckingham palace.

 

21:00 – 00:00

At this time, I usually have a couple of pints with my friends, just talk about what to do the next day, or even sleep earlier.

 

There’s so much that you can do around London as you study in Queen Mary. First year studying here has been eventful for me but there’s definitely more outside London – in my hometown Bandung, Indonesia – that I will tell you about in the next blog!

A Summer Guide to East London

Summer is officially here! Exams are over, Bank Holiday weekends are upon us and the sun is shining (for once). Yet as East London is currently scorching in 28° heat, we become completely unsure of what to do with ourselves in the nice weather, and guilt-ridden by the realisation that Netflixing in bed is probably not acceptable. Alas, grab your sunglasses and ice-cream, here’s a helpful guide on how to make the most of the sunshine in East London without blowing your budget.

Check out one of the beautiful parks of East London. In the summer months, the once unfamiliar green spaces proximate to campus become densely populated with sunbathers, picnickers and ice-cream trucks. My personal favourite is Victoria Park, which is approximately a 10-minute walk from the Mile End campus and the oldest public park in the country. Situated around a stunning lake, Victoria park is a popular destination for sailors, sunbathers and brunchers (the brunch menu at the Pavillion café is delicious). The park also hosts world famous festivals including Field Day and Lovebox, with performances from the likes of Chase and Status and Frank Ocean.victoria-park

 

Running adjacent to Mile End campus is Regent’s Canal, a tranquil waterway leading into the river Thames. Ambling alongside the Canal with friends is a great way to spend an afternoon without spending a penny. I would recommend walking North along the canal, passing through the likes of Victoria Park, Battle Basin at Kings Cross and finally into trendy Camden Market for some well-earned street food. Feeling brave? Why not try running or cycling alongside Regents Canal for an ultimate workout.

Hiring so-called Boris Bikes is one of the best ways to see the East End when the sun is shining. For just £2 for 24 hours, Santander Cycles could take you anywhere. Furthermore, hiring Boris Bikes could not be more convenient as there are several docking stations surrounding the Mile End campus and a new cycle highway, separating cyclists from motorists to ensure that you remain safe. Whilst cycling is fast, fun and affordable, the process of hiring a Santander Cycling is somewhat confusing on your first time. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find a Santander Docking Station
  2. Go to the docking station terminal with your debit/credit card, touch the screen to begin and follow the steps on screen
  3. Take your five-digit release code to your chosen bike and type it into the docking point’s keypad
  4. Once the green light appears, pull the bike out (and take note of the time)
  5. Adjust the seat and cycle away!
  6. Return your bike by pushing it firmly into an empty docking point and wait for the green light (to avoid incurring a charge, do this within 30 minutes)

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East London is also famous for its trendy pubs and bars, which become a hive of activity when the sun comes out. Want to stay close to Mile End? The beer gardens at the Morgan Arms and the Lord Tredegar are perfect for catching those rays and refreshments, and not to mention the beloved ‘Spoons’ of Mile End Road. Fancy more of an adventure? Shoreditch Boxpark and the many rooftop bars of Shoreditch are great places to hang out and host numerous cultural and musical events during the summer months to keep you entertained.

Finally, whilst summer is all about relaxing and recharging, for some studying continues. Yet studying and sunshine are not necessarily incompatible, but present a great opportunity to make the most of Queen Mary’s picturesque outside study areas. The green at the heart of the Student Village is transformed into an outside study area, with an abundance of garden furniture and motivational banners to get you through the last push. Venturing further into the Student Village, the many picnic benches alongside Regents Canal and the Canalside study room are great places to study when the sun is shining.

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Sunsets, Science and Sunflowers

Exploring London is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable elements of living in this city.  From scouting out hidden treasures; obscure coffee shops and underground bars; to being able to weave through the crowds of tourists and relax with a book on parliament square with Big Ben in view, the quote “When a man is tired of London; he is tired of life” has never felt more true.  Here are 3 of my best-loved outings at the moment:

 

Columbia Road Flower Market
Between the hours of 8:00 and 15:00 every Sunday, Columbia Road transforms into a vibrant floral paradise.  After popping to The Hackney Coffee Company for my early Sunday morning caffeine fix, a stroll through the bustling flower market is the ideal way to begin my day.  The incredible aroma of the plants intertwined with hint of coffee coming from one of the many independent shops along the street, as well as the hundreds of people socialising whilst boasting their large bunches of sunflowers and attempting to balance their over-sized orchids on under-sized coffee tables makes Columbia Road Flower Market my happiest place in the city.

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The Science Museum
London boasts an impressive range of Museums and Galleries, however the most significant one for me is, of course, the Science Museum.  I could spend hours meandering through the Space section, gawking at the rockets suspended from the ceiling.  Every so often the museum opens its doors after hours and hosts a range of unique workshops and interactive experiences, as well as a silent disco.  An evening spent talking to astronaut impersonators and dancing to Beyoncé below a suspended United States Scout was undoubtedly one of the most memorable evenings I’ve ever had.

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Primrose Hill
After 15 minutes attempting to navigate the streets encompassing Regents Park in what felt like arctic conditions following a rather temperamental phone which occasionally told me to “make a legal U-turn”, I finally noticed a rather large hill poking out from behind some houses.   Honestly, the difficult journey and slight dizziness just made the view from the top even more satisfying.  Roughly 65 metres tall, Primrose Hill offers panoramic views of the entire city and on a wintery evening at sunset, it is one of the most spectacular things I have ever laid eyes on.  At the top very top is a stone with a William Blake inscription, reading “I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill.”

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I have an ever-growing list of favourite places; and an ever-growing list of places I want to visit.  I am so thrilled that I have another 2 and a half years in this city; although I highly doubt that this is an adequate amount of time experience everything London has to offer.

 

Freshers 2016 – What is it really like during freshers?

As the first week of university begins for many new students, there is much to experience. I remember finding out about all the clubs and societies available to join at the students union and the events taking place. it all helped me settle in. The freshers fair, for example, is set up for new students. It has many stalls where you can join different clubs and societies you are interested in, such as the Engineering Society, Cheese tasting society, Harry Potter Society or any sports club. What was great for me was that even though there were societies I didn’t like, I always had the option to make my own.

 

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An example of the typical set-up during freshers fair.

 

harry potter society

For those who didn’t believe me when I mentioned the Harry Potter Society, this is proof you can sign up to be a wizard here at QMUL !

 

At Queen Mary, I remember attending a disco that had DJ’s playing music as well as food and drink being served at a bar. This was a great experience for me because despite generally not enjoying this type of environment, I wanted to meet new people who had different hobbies from myself. In the end I was able to make lots of friends, some of which I still hang out with today. In addition, I found it funny that some of the people I met also didn’t like going to discos, and shared the same views as me regarding meeting new people. If I could go back to my first year, I wish I had tried more events such as comedy shows, as I assumed they wouldn’t make me laugh.

 

 

The bar makes use of really cool lighting for tables as you can see

Drapers bar before a night event for students.

 

Typical scenery of students at Drapers.

Typical scenery of students on the dance floor at Drapers !

 

This was an example of the event I attended during my first year at university.

This was an example of the event I attended during my first year at Queen Mary.

 

Make sure to check out the QMUL students’ union page to find out what will be happening during this year’s freshers !

Shakespeare’s Globe

This summer I have been fortunate enough to attend three different theatre productions at Shakespeare’s Globe. All three plays were absolutely phenomenal. The tense and eerie atmosphere in Macbeth, the genuinely hilarious scenes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the unsettling feelings that The Taming of the Shrew created, stayed with me long after the curtain call.

Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT

Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT

I have to confess – this is probably a cardinal sin for an English Literature student – but I was not always a big fan of Shakespeare. Studying Shakespeare in the lower years at secondary school was a frustrating ordeal. We spent absolutely ages analysing just one metaphor! I could not engage with the old-fashioned language, and I remember finding it incredibly difficult to concentrate in class. It was especially bad when I had double English on a Friday afternoon. The words just felt dead on the page.

My attitude began to change somewhat near the end of GCSEs, and it changed completely after I began studying English at Queen Mary. This is because I started watching theatrical productions of Shakespeare’s plays. Reading a play is not enough to understand it. Plays are meant to be performed – it is why they are written. This seems very obvious but it is an important fact that is worth mentioning. When you watch a performance, the physical action of the actors, their tone and mannerisms bring the words to life. Hearing Shakespeare’s words out loud make them feel less alien than they appear on paper. The development of the storyline becomes more clear and easier to follow. For example, Macbeth is about a loyal soldier who becomes seduced by the lust for power. He kills his own King, and all those who get in his way, to take the throne.  The three witches utter one of the most iconic lines in the play, ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair’. This is meant to foreshadow a sense of confusion, where nothing is as it seems. The witches represent evil and immorality, and they tempt Macbeth to create his own downfall. When you just read the witches’ lines on a page, you cannot visualise their wickedness or feel the sense of danger that they pose to Macbeth. Nevertheless, in the Globe’s current production, initially the actors playing the witches are all heaped together, like a mass of limbs. Then, they disentangle themselves into one menacing, conjoined being. Moreover, the use of prosthetic limbs, coupled with the eerie organ music gives them a sinister presence as they lurk about the stage. For the audience, the threatening evilness of the witches become a tangible reality.

Our £5 yard tickets to see A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Our £5 yard tickets to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Shakespeare’s Globe is my favourite theatre in London. Every time I go there, it feels like taking a walk through the pages of history. It is a faithful reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre which was built in 1599. There is a yard which is encircled by three floors of tiered seating. From a bird’s-eye-view, Shakespeare’s Globe looks like a massive ring doughnut because only the stage and the seating is covered by a thatched roof.

I always get yard tickets because they are the cheapest, costing only £5. The one drawback to getting yard tickets is that you have to stand for the whole performance. For me, however, this is not a problem, because I think the yard is the best place to watch the productions. You are the closest to the stage and the actors constantly interact with the audience. The plays are so entertaining and engrossing that time flies without you noticing. One of the things that I really like about Globe productions is how the plays bring Shakespeare to the twenty-first century by making it relevant to modern audience. For example, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the actors were dressed as Hipsters instead of Athenians. They made jokes about health and safety, sang David Bowie songs, and when Hermia told Helenus about her engagement to Lysander, the two best friends broke into a Bollywood infused rendition of Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’.

The stage in A Midsummer Night's Dream

The stage in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

One reason why I decided to study at Queen Mary is because of its location. Not only does it have one of the best English and Drama Departments in the country, it is also in London. For me, London is the heart of culture, music, art and creativity. Going to a London university allows me to have access to fabulous places like the Globe. Also, there are numerous museums and galleries which are almost always free, and going to these places allows me to enhance my understanding of the contents covered in my course. The West End always has concessions for students and young people and I would encourage everyone to take advantage of that. For instance, the Donmar Warehouse is currently running a ‘Young and Free’ scheme which gives people aged under 25 free tickets to watch their Shakespeare Trilogy. I will include the link for more information below and I really hope I have persuaded you into going to the theatre very soon to check out some Shakespeare!

Donmar Warehouse: http://www.donmarwarehouse.com/mailing-list#xkGeHFHZ0WYEgvX7.97

Shakespeare’s Globe: http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/

London Marathon 2016- Time to Marshal!

Hi all, I hope revision is going well for you. I thought I’d share my experience of volunteering with QMSU Volunteering at the amazing London Marathon last week- one of my favourite annual events to volunteer or spectate at.

The London Marathon is 26.2 miles and runners pass sights including the National Maritime Museum and One Canada Square, finishing at Buckingham Palace. This year’s was the 36th London Marathon and the millionth participant ran the route too!

Sunday 24th April 2016- the runners’ big day!

It is barely 4°C at 9am when we set off along Mile 19 to choose our places to be stationed at!

It is barely 4°C at 9am when we set off along Mile 19 to choose our places to be stationed at!

 

At around 7:45am, we had a rundown of the event (pardon the pun) as we’d been briefed on our role as marshals at uni on Friday. At 9am, we walked around to Mile 19 and I chose to be at a crossing point with three other volunteers. With a pair of us on opposite sides of the road, in charge of the crossing, we started cheering on the elite women, followed by the Paralympic athletes and then the elite men. We were directing spectators when they needed assistance. Soon, the masses started approaching us and hundreds of spectators on our road alone, us marshals included, began encouraging thousands of runners!

 

One of the elite runners approaches our section

One of the elite runners approaches our section on The North Colonnade

 

The whole day was brilliant. Though my hands were hurting from continuous clapping, icy wind and occasional freezing sheets of rain, I continued applauding the runners- the reactions of some runners when they saw everyone, even if it was just you clapping and calling their name at times, was my fuel!! My voice was going too and the responses of some concerned spectators saying “oh no, you’re going to lose your voice” was heart-warming. Some spectators were even cheering me on for cheering, aha!!!

 

A marshal portrays just how cold it can be during the London Marathon!

Tried to portray just how cold it was! This expression unfortunately doesn’t look like one of a cold me but a cautious me, aha- it was very cold indeed!!! I used my backpack straps to hold onto my useful event guide and free my hands, ready to applaud.

 

The great majority of runners were strangers (I did cheer on a colleague, a YouTuber and a former teacher, though) but I still genuinely believe they are ALL CHAMPIONS for running the marathon! Mile 19 can be one of the most gruelling miles. One of my favourite received reactions was people actually speeding up or starting to run when we cheered for them. And my reaction to that? Well, I was thrilled each time and jumped up and down cheering even more excitedly for them as they sprinted past me yelling a “thank you” or smiling from ear to ear at me while I mirrored the smile or laughed!

 

A wonderful event to marshal- substantiated by my sore and freezing hands at the end of the day and my now-croaky voice in need of a rest!

A wonderful event to marshal- substantiated by my sore and freezing hands at the end of the day and my now-croaky voice in need of a rest!

 

Well done, one and all, what an accomplishment, what a feat (that one was intentional)!

Be proud of yourselves for completing the London Marathon! A huge congratulations to Eliud Kipchoge who smashed his 2015 course record and Wilson Kipsang’s 2014 course record, setting a new course record for the elite men and to Jemima Sumgong who overcame some horrible falls and even an inconsiderate intruder on the course to win the women’s elite race!

 

Fact: The first event I can ever remember volunteering at was the 2011 London Marathon. Yes, eesh, half a decade ago!! Thus, volunteering at this year’s marathon marked half a decade of volunteering for me (not at every Marathon event but volunteering in general- 5 years ago is when it all started in volunteering for me)!

Fact: The first event I can remember volunteering at was the 2011 London Marathon. Volunteering at this year’s marathon marked half a decade of volunteering for me (generally, not at every Marathon).

Moviegoing in London

As an avid cinema-goer and having now studied in London for over three years, I know a thing or two about the best places to go to the pictures in the capital. London is one of the best cities to be a film student, partly because there are so many cinemas. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourites, keeping the student budget in mind:

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Barbican Cinemas, Beech Street, EC2
In addition to its theatres, exhibitions spaces and countless cafés, the Barbican Centre also has three cinemas, mostly showing new releases. If you’re 14 – 25, then you can get £5 cinema tickets from Monday to Thursday with a Young Barbican account, which you can sign up for online for free.

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British Film Institute, Southbank, SE1
The BFI is the cinephile’s Mecca, showing 2,000 films a year across four screens and if you’re under 25, then it’s probably the most affordable cinema in London – bring ID and get a £3 ticket, available 45 minutes before the film starts. I can’t overstate how great this place is, on any given day there’ll be something worth seeing: classic Hollywood movies, the obscurest of obscure World cinema, experimental film, old TV series even. Upcoming seasons include retrospectives of Jean-Luc Godard and Quentin Tarantino. They also have two restaurants, a shop, library and Mediatheque where you can access an archive of film and TV for free.

Ciné Lumiere, Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, 17 Queensberry Place, SW7
The Ciné Lumiere, located in the Institut Français near the Natural History Museum, specialises in French, European and World cinema, hosting Q&As with filmmakers and actors and showing a classic French film every Sunday. It’s like a corner of West London that is forever France; the box office staff greet you with a ‘bonjour’ and the signage is all in French, c’est charmant. The building itself is very nice and the seating is spacious with ample legroom. Student tickets are £6 for matinee screenings.

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Close-Up Film Centre, Brick Lane, E1
Having recently moved into a new premises just off Brick Lane, Close-Up houses a café, a DVD library with 19,000 titles and a small cinema which seats 40 and shows films in ‘glorious 35mm’ (as the chalkboard outside declares). Tickets are £10, which sounds pricey but it’s worth it for the experience; every time I’ve been there’s been an exciting atmosphere and a sense of occasion. As well as films by the likes of Cassavetes, Tarkovsky and Fassbinder, Close-Up specialises in little-known works which are yet to be digitised.

Genesis, Mile End Road, E1
Genesis is the go-to cinema for every QM student – just five minutes down the road and tickets are only £4.50 on Mondays and Wednesdays. It has five screens, one of which is the luxury Studio5, as well as a bar and pie shop, and the films are a mix of blockbusters and more niche fare, including NTLive broadcasts. It’s something of a carrot-cake cinema, recently refurbished with distressed wallpaper and exposed lightbulbs and serving that most hipster of pastries, the cronut. Genesis also hosts monthly Cinema Italia screenings where you can see brand new Italian films which are yet to get a UK release (as well as some classics) and generally there’s a Q&A afterwards.

The Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, SW1
Secluded from the hustle and bustle of Trafalgar Square, the ICA is easily missed from the outside, but it’s worth looking out for. On its two screens you can see arthouse new releases, art films as well as retrospectives (previous retrospectives include Chantal Akerman, Luis Buñuel and Paul Thomas Anderson). There’s a bookshop where you can stock up on Derrida, Sartre and all your critical theory needs. Student tickets are £8, and a cinema ticket will also grant you ‘day membership’ to the art gallery.

Odeon Panton Street, SW1
While this list is mostly independent, arthouse cinemas, I’ve included this crusty little Odeon because it primarily shows films which were released a few months back. Located on a backstreet just off Leicester Sq., if you missed something when it was released but you still want to see it on the big screen, then it’s worth checking the Panton St listings. It could do with a lick of paint, but it has a certain ramshackle charm; one gets the sense that the place is aware that it can never compare with its fancy Leicester Sq. cousins, so it’s given up making an effort. Student tickets are £6.00

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…

Choice

When looking at universities to apply to, the course content was absolutely key in my decision making process. I looked at a lot of universities but I found that many of them were only offering traditional courses for English and didn’t study anything more modern than the eighteenth century. Many other courses had no option for choice, and you had to study prescribed texts and modules throughout the whole three year course.

I found a few universities with more modern course content, and also the option to pick modules (specific topics for teaching), and this, in combination with a number of other factors is why I picked Queen Mary. The way the English course works here is that in first year everyone studies the same modules, and second and third year is when you get to pick your own modules, with the option for more modern content.

Starting with first year, we all study ‘Shakespeare’, ‘Literatures in Time’ (Medieval texts) and ‘Reading Theory and Interpretation’ (reading books “through the lens” of theories such as Marxism and Feminism). We also study two other modules, for half a year each: ‘Poetry’ and ‘Narrative’ (reading books that demonstrate different elements of books). These modules cover most of the key elements that come into English studies later on and prepare us for the course.

When I saw the list of first year modules for the first time, I won’t lie, I was a little disappointed. I’d never got on well with Shakespeare at school and I’d only heard rumours of how ghastly Chaucer (for the Literatures in Time module) could be. When the Shakespeare book we needed for the course arrived (pictured below), needless to say, I was still worried.

The Shakespeare textbook, complete with pound coin for sizing reference

The Shakespeare textbook, complete with pound coin for sizing reference

But studying topics at university is very different from school. Like I said in my last post, a lot of it is self-study and the way you’re taught is different. For Shakespeare, we had a film screening of the chosen play every week, so that if we were struggling to understand what was happening in a certain scene, we could see it performed. We also had lectures (where a lecturer – like a teacher – talks to the whole group) that linked the plays to modern film, television shows and art and then in the seminars (a group discussion on the texts and the lecture) we could discuss anything we didn’t understand or wanted to focus on more. We even got to go on a few trips to the Globe – a replica of the theatre many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed at, to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream and then back again to perform a scene from it on the stage!

The view from on stage at the Globe

The view from on stage at the Globe

This was an incredible experience and it totally changed the way I thought about Shakespeare. Chaucer turned out to be not that bad either. We even studied The Summoners Tale which is all about farts (no seriously, it really is) which had everyone giggling all the way through the lecture. We got to do another trip for that module (English gets quite a few trips) to the V&A where we looked at all the artefacts that tied into what we had read in the texts. It even involved some dressing up…

My two friends trying on some of the costumes available.

My two friends trying on some of the costumes available.

Another feature of first year that came as a surprise to me, as I hadn’t seen this when I was researching my course were exams. We only had to do two exams in first year: one on Shakespeare and one on Literatures in Time. However after that, in second and third year (except for a few modules) the assessment is all coursework – so no more exams! As someone who struggles to revise and would much rather do things in my own time, this is really helpful and takes a lot of stress and pressure off.

Second year was when I got to pick my modules for the first time. When looking through the modules before I came to university, the ones focused on London really stood out for me, so top of my list was a module called ‘Representing London: The Eighteenth Century’. I also took ‘Renaissance Literary Culture’ which looked at how arts and literature really came about in that time and ‘Modernism’ – a module that included a lot more modern texts. I then took ‘Writing Now’ for half a year, all about texts published in the last few years and ‘Satire, Scandal and Society’ for the other half of the year which linked very well with the London module and studied satire in the eighteenth century.  I found that overall I had more motivation because I was getting to study topics that I had picked for myself. We also got to go on more trips. Pictured below are a couple of the pictures I took on a walking tour we did for Representing London: The Eighteenth Century, where we walked along and thought about how the London landscape has changed.

The first part of the walking tour, up the Monument

The first part of the walking tour, up the Monument

A very attractive selfie of me and my walking tour group

A very attractive selfie of me and my walking tour group

Finally in third year, the modules I’ve picked are my favourites yet and I’m really enjoying them! I have to do a dissertation this year which counts for one of my modules. This is a 10,000 word final essay about a topic of my choice. I’m also doing a module called ‘Writing Modern London’ which was another module that excited me when I was doing my university research, and ‘Feminism(s)’, a module exploring feminist theory. Then for half a year I’m doing ‘In and Ideal World: Utopias from Plato to the Present’ which looks at utopian fiction (stories about ideal societies) and in the next half of the year I will be doing ‘British Culture in the 1950s’. I feel more motivated than ever approaching these modules and find that I am enjoying third year study the most. And the good news is that I still get to go on trips! This week I’m going to be going to the Tate Britain for my Feminism(s) course, looking at Tracey Emin’s famous bed and a photography exhibition, among all the other art. The fact that I get all this choice continues to excite me in my learning, I love getting taught about subjects I am really passionate about, and feel that I’m personally shaping my degree into what I want it to be.

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