Postgraduate Blogs

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!

 

Second Semester on the Film MA

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For the second semester of the course, I took two modules – the compulsory core class and a module at UCL called Genre in Italian Cinema. As part of the Intercollegiate Screen Studies Programme, MA Film students can take a module from a selection offered by various London universities, so it’s a good opportunity to try something a bit different and get a feel for another university (and I must say, UCL has a great canteen…)

The Italian class focused on two areas of Italian cinema: in the first half of the semester we looked at commedia all’italiana, then in the second half the focus shifted to Italian crime film. I learnt a lot about Italian politics and society in the twentieth century, from the post-war years of the ‘Economic Miracle’ to the anni di piombi (Years of Lead) in the seventies, which saw unprecedented levels of terrorism, with nearly a thousand people killed. The decade saw numerous bombings and assassinations, including the kidnapping of ex-prime minister Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades in 1978. We discussed these events in relation to Elio Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970), a Kafka-esque black comedy about a murderous inspector, parodying the widespread police corruption and ineptitude.

While the first semester of the core module was concerned with space, the second shifted focus to time. We started the semester with a discussion on the cinematic construction of time and a screening of Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962), a short film about time-travel which primarily consists of still images. The film draws attention to the inherent stillness of the cinematic image – of course, films usually consist of twenty four still frames a second, giving only the illusion of movement. We spent a week looking at Gilles Deleuze’s ideas of the ‘movement-image’ and the ‘time-image’, notions which attempt to account for a change in the representation of time before and after World War II. Time and temporality were also discussed in less direct ways in relation to reception studies and how Douglas Sirk’s work has been viewed across time, filming death and dying, and phenomenology, amongst other topics.

The third semester runs from now until the end of August and involves writing the dissertation. I’ll keep y’all posted on how that goes!

First Semester on the Film MA

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In my first blog post I thought I’d reflect upon the modules I took during my first semester on the Film Studies MA course. I took two modules: one is the compulsory core module which everyone on the course has to take, the other was a class run by the History department called Hollywood and the Second World War. In both instances, the class sizes are quite small (fewer than 10) and instead of a lecture followed by a seminar, as you might get as an undergraduate, the format tends to be a sort of lecture-seminar hybrid for 2 hours, with ample time for in-depth discussion.

The core module lasts for two semesters, the first semester focusing on space and the second semester on time. The first couple of weeks consisted of a whistle-stop history of film theory as well as all the key concepts necessary for film analysis. After this, each session was taught by a different lecturer and covered a topic (directly or loosely) relating to space, including spatial theory, marginality in cinema, set design and deconstructing the city. The great thing about the module is the variety; we’d be watching Code Unknown (2000) one week and Dredd (2012) the next. In the first essay, we could pick from the different topics covered and apply it to a film of our choice, so if a particular week sparked your interest you could spend more time exploring it in greater depth.

The Hollywood and the Second World War module looked at the impact of the war on the studio system while also covering some key approaches to film history and theory. Though you may expect from its title that we’d be watching lots of war films, the set viewing didn’t include any combat films, and many of the films didn’t even make direct reference to the war. In addition to classics like Casablanca (1942) and The Big Sleep (1945), we also watched a few titles which I was less familiar with, like Since You Went Away (1944) and Gaslight (1943). Each week we’d discuss the set film in the light of a different approach: star studies, genre, auteurism, reception studies, etc. I found the week on reception studies especially interesting as it involved reading responses to a Mass Observation survey from 1942-3 about people’s favourite movies from the past year. The general consensus was that the respondents didn’t like films about the war or anything they perceived as propaganda. Generally, the responses express a low opinion of contemporary filmmaking, with the exception of Fantasia and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (though one respondent didn’t like it, saying that ‘I don’t like colour and I can remember that the cinema was cold’). A few avoid movie-going altogether because they don’t want to catch flu at the ‘germ-exchange’.

Thinking About A Masters

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

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

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

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

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

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

From London to Jeju: a trip to South Korea

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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A woman diver selling her catch of seafood – women divers are famous within Jeju’s island heritage.

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Hyopjae, one of Jeju’s beautiful beaches.

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Sunset in Moseulpo, a fishing village close to the school on Jeju.

Sharing PhD experiences in Edinburgh

My name is Alexandra Boyle and I’m a PhD student here in the School of Geography.

This summer, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the 5th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies at the John McIntyre Conference Centre in Edinburgh. I went to present the initial results of my PhD research ‘Exploring the emotional and spatial dimensions of communication technology use among older adults in contemporary London’.

 

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Collected my conference pack for the 5th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies at the John McIntyre Conference Centre in Edinburgh.

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh and the conference centre

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

Set against the stunning backdrop of Arthur’s Seat, the University of Edinburgh turned on a fantastic conference (and the weather!) for 3 days of interactive learning, socialising and networking and delicious food!

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Looking out over the historic city of Edinburgh.

 

I stayed on site at the University of Edinburgh accommodation which made me particularly nostalgic for my days as an undergraduate at Arana College at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand (with Dunedin coincidentally founded by the Scottish in 1848 and the name ‘Dunedin’ the Gaelic translation of Edinburgh. The two cities remain sister cities to this day!).

Although I was inevitably nervous about presenting, the conference was a unique opportunity to present the findings of my research to a community of like-minded scholars. The conference allowed me to test out ideas in a support environment and gain critical feedback that will help me to refine my research. The conference also provided a platform to meet interesting PhD students from Taiwan, Singapore, the UK and the Netherlands and share amongst each other our PhD experiences.

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Dr Joyce Davidson presenting her plenary session

With a diverse calendar of events not only were there daily plenary sessions with preeminent scholars in the field, namely Professor Liz Bondi and Dr Joyce Davidson who were co-authors (along with Mick Smith) of the seminal book ‘Emotional Geographies’ which helped to establish emotional geographies as discipline, but also the opportunity to participate in field trips, a drinks reception and the conference dinner…and I managed to find time to squeeze in a trip to the top of Arthur’s Seat!

Water industry visits QMUL

Award-winning students at the Queen Mary graduation day 2015 with Professor Alison Blunt (centre)

Gabriel Streich (second left) at QMUL Geography graduation 2015

Hi – my name is Gabriel Streich and I’ve just finished my masters in environmental science at QMUL Geography!

It’s been a packed semester but I just wanted to update about an annual lecture we attended here at QMUL by the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators – one of the supporters of our masters programme: Integrated Management of Freshwater Environments.

“The annual Water Conservators Lecture, this year hosted in the impressive surroundings of Queen Mary’s Octagon, was a fascinating opportunity to hear some big names in the water industry giving their take on the issues and innovations that will affect future water use in the City of London.

“Martin Baggs, CEO of Thames Water, gave a very engaging talk on the scale of Thames Water’s supply challenge and some of the measures they are taking to tighten up on efficiency.  Talks from Mark Lane, Chairman of British Water, and a representative of the host organisation, Ricardo-AEA gave insightful lectures on the pressures facing water in the City, and also on the innovations that could address these pressures, from technical solutions, such as real-time sewer controls, through to wholesale changes in economic models, e.g. from linear to circular economies.  As a representative of the water industry as a whole, Sarah Mukerhjee, Director of Environment at Water UK, provided the context within which the other talks fell.

“This was a free event and it provided a breadth of information that is really relevant to those of us with an interest in water within London and more generally within cities.  The opportunity to network with key figures in the water industry was also a bonus that any student would be glad of.”

  • I also visited the Tagliamento River in north east Italy as part of my degree, so you can see more pics from that on Flickr. Enjoy!

The dreaded ‘Write Up’ stage approaches

Only a few months remain before I leave the lab and enter the dreaded ‘write up’ stage of my PhD, where I hear day and night no longer hold such distinction, and it becomes acceptable to drink before noon. Duvet day, everyday! I fear that novelty may wear off pretty darn quick.

To be honest, my project has been on a steady track to doom since the start, but a couple of months ago began to turn around. I can just see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, partly because I might not have 80,000 words of pure negativity, and partly because this last year is finally coming to an end.

The final year is a strange one, as I’ve been told by many a friend that made it to the end. I want to be rid of this year just as much as I want to cling onto it with both hands. I want to leave this year behind mostly because of the stress. Oh, the stress! Frantically trying to finish experiments that are really resisting completion, whilst having to accept that not everything will actually be done by the time October comes around, and that any promising aspects of my project might be picked up by another student in the future. I feel very territorial about my work, which is why I don’t want to ever leave – I want to stay and finish every last bit myself. Alas, I have to fly the nest because nothing is ever finished in academia.
I must admit, the light emerging ahead of me evokes a level of excitement inside. The nervous kind of excitement that comes from wanting to move on into the big wide world and it being almost close enough to touch, but also not knowing what on earth that will bring. I could be unemployed for months, or I could be snapped up into the job of my dreams. Who knows? But, I’ve been traveling through this dark tunnel of a PhD for so long now, the brightness and vastness of the world ahead is also frightening one. How will the harsh environment outside of my little academia bubble feel?

My next post may well be written from a duvet den at around 3am, laptop on knee and gin in hand. But thankfully (I think), it’s now back to the lab.

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