Student Life

Why I chose to study History and Politics

Today I thought I’d answer a question I am often asked by my friends and family, namely: why did I choose to study History and Politics at Queen Mary?

 

I chose to study History at Queen Mary as, for as long as I can remember, I have been in love with it. From being asked to dress as Henry VIII in Year 4 (thankfully no pictures survive of that event), due to my knowledge of the Monarchy, to winning a two-minute talk competition for a presentation on the history of the London Underground (hence my childhood deficiency in vitamin D), History has been a constant favourite subject of mine. However, my interest in politics developed later, particularly during my A-Level years, culminating in my participation in my secondary schools’ mock election in 2015, running parallel with the real general election, where I was given the candidateship of the Liberal Democrats. Below is one of my election posters (warning: it is eye-wateringly cheesy, and the writing is painfully off centre).

 

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I chose Queen Mary, in particular, as it is a Russell Group University, meaning it is one of the leading research universities in the country, located in the heart of London, with achievable entry grades and a unique, welcoming campus atmosphere. On the open day the staff were very friendly, and the course contained exciting modules which caught my attention. My course had a good mix of lectures and seminars. Lectures are large talks on a given subject, I currently have 3 hours of lectures per week, but this varies depending on the modules you take, as certain modules require more/less hours of lectures per week. Seminars are smaller classes where you discuss the lecture topic and the relevant course readings, at the moment I have 5 hours of seminars per week. The course readings are engaging and manageable, as I only have 8 contact hours with an academic per week, independent reading makes up most of the time I spend on a given topic. You put in what you want out, thus the amount of time spent reading around the subject varies from person to person.

 

The study of politics is intrinsically linked to history, especially my preferred twentieth century and Cold War aspects of history, and visa versa. I found studying one enhanced my understanding of the other, hence my desire to develop my knowledge of both subjects further at university level.

Moving into the Real World

After a fantastic first year living in student accommodation, for my second year studying at Queen Mary I have moved off campus and into private accommodation. The residential block I live in is clean and modern, with easy access to local shops and amenities. I share my flat with one of the many friends I made on my course last year, he’s friendly, reliable and clean, so that’s the major boxes ticked. My flat is a convenient 20-minute walk from campus and only 5 minutes from the nearest railway station. Dealing with landlords and estate agents, living off campus and managing bills myself, means I have some more responsibilities than I had living on campus in the first year; where most of my bills were incorporated into the cost of rent. As I no longer have the comforts of student living, most notably a cleaner, and my neighbours are not students who go to Queen Mary, for the first time, I feel like I am living in the real world. Here’s a look at some of my flat’s highlights:

Living Room (Image 1):

 

Image 1:

 

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First stop on the tour is the living room. This is the main communal space and social hub of the flat, hence my flatmate and I spend most of our time here. In the room we’ve got a television and sofa, whilst the adjacent balcony offers views of the main road below. Most importantly, the living room has witnessed a great many victories from myself on Mario Kart.

 

Bedroom (Image 2):

 

Image 2:

 

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Next stop on the tour is my bedroom; I definitely did not just clean my room before taking this photo. Otherwise known as the essay factory, my bedroom is where most of my work gets done, but, equally, it is a place of rest and relaxation after a long day’s work. That bed looks very tempting!

 

Kitchen (Image 3) and Bathroom (Image 4):

 

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Image 4:

 

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I hope these next two rooms are self-explanatory.

 

Rooftop terrace (Image 5):

 

Image 5:

 

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The aspect of my flat that drew my flatmate and I to it when we were initially shown the property was the access we had to the communal rooftop terrace, which, on a good day, offers some really nice views of London.

Delving Deeper Into Yourself

I reckon most of us have probably heard of the Myers-Briggs Indicator Type test. Well if you haven’t, you can check your ‘personality’ at https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test. According to this test, I am an ENFJ-T. However, I won’t elaborate too much about this –  there’s something else interesting about your personality.

 

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Do you know that every individual also has a risk personality? Psychological Consultancy Ltd created an assessment to evaluate one’s risk personality. These personalities are shown in the Risk Type Compass® below.

 

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Unfortunately, we would be unable to take the assessment as these are mainly created for businesses. This assessment has particular relevance to the banking and finance, insurance, energy, manufacturing and consulting sectors. Why do I have to say all these? Because as maths students, many of us are attracted to those industries.

 

Especially in the sectors mentioned above, an effective management of risk within the industry is vital to its growth. A study done by researchers over a 19-year period on over 1000 senior bankers from more than 150 were carried out. The study measures the riskiness of strategies of these bankers. It found that personalities were the integral factor in risk-taking.

 

Most organisational failures are typically caused by taking too much risk or taking insufficient risk, e.g. a group of predominantly risk-takers tend to amplify risk-taking, and a group with a great number of risk-averse members are less likely to take them. Hence, we need a more diverse range of personalities to balance this out to achieve an effective risk management! Of course, there are other factors that would make this work, such as establishing working relationships and concise communication with your colleagues in the firm. Other than winter, a number of us are in the season of applying for internships. Perhaps, if you are confident of your risk type or personality, could this probably be a point to mention to employers? (ehem, maybe.)

 

It is good for us to know ourselves deeper. Not just our risk personalities, but who we really are. More fully understanding yourself is a catalyst to personal growth – in studies, applying for jobs, decision-making and many more. Most significantly, always be genuine to yourself – no one is better than you at being you!

 

 

A few tricks of the trade

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

1)In Our Time (Radio 4)

Podcast on Plato's Republic

Podcast on Plato’s Republic

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

 

2) Documentaries

BBC Two Documentary

BBC Two Documentary

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

3) Public Lectures

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

I hope you found this helpful!

 

Living at University

New responsibilities

When I arrived on campus for my first year in student housing, I did not know what to expect from university life. I knew I was going to be living on the same site as my lecture buildings, which would come in handy. But this was the first time I was going to be fully responsible for myself,  previously I had only ever lived with my parents.

At first my new responsibilities, like cooking, cleaning and money management, seemed daunting, but with the passage of time these became part of my everyday routine; they were nothing to get too stressed over. I nervously anticipated the start of my time at university, wondering if my flatmates would be friendly, but most importantly how clean they were, as, after all, I would have to spend a year living with them.

 

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Image 1: The view from my flat window

My Flat:

My apartment was modern and came with all the essentials for student living. It was an en-suite, with a personal fridge in my room, eliminating the confusion caused by shared fridges. There was something going on most nights; the kitchen became the main social area of the flat. It came with the essential facilities, including multiple ovens, and was cleaned weekly as part of the cost of rent, but, as you can imagine with nine people sharing one communal area, it got messy quickly. As I am relatively low maintenance, a weekly shop of around £20 covered my shopping for essentials. It also had to budget for travel, because I was living away from my family, and I still wanted to go home and see them from time to time.

 

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Image 2: My kitchen, which, thankfully, was regularly cleaned by the university’s cleaning staff.

 

Fantastic Flatmates:

I lived in Pooley House with eight other people, four were exchange students from America and Australia and four were home students (from the UK). Thankfully, my initial anxieties were quickly extinguished by my new fantastic flatmates, who were all very kind and welcoming. With them I have made friends for life. Over the course of the year we bonded as a flat and had a lot of fun, making my time at Queen Mary particularly enjoyable. What’s more, the experiences I’ve had with them has enabled my social life to flourish, in a way that it had not done so previously. Indeed, the bustling university night life, in the heart of London, is something I wouldn’t have been able to fully experience, had I stayed relatively isolated from it all at home. Since moving out, I have enjoyed more freedom than I would have at home, I can now choose when to go to bed and what I want to eat.

My first year flew past. I am now in my second year and have moved into private accommodation, ready to do it all again with new flatmates.

 

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Image 3: A birthday surprise from my flatmates. One of the highlights of my year was the birthday party my flatmates threw for me, it was also lovely to receive the card signed by everyone and the presents they bought me.

 

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Image 4: Another great part of living in student accommodation were the themed nights we had, these included: burrito, curry and movie nights. This picture was taken on one of the burrito nights we had, and, as you can see, my flatmate approves.

Getting Used To Readjusting and Experiencing More to Life

I used to sit at the back row in lectures sipping on my long black from Ground Café, while I listen to the lecturer explain. I’d nod in agreement and understanding of the material, and write down vital key points. I usually hit the gym or get extra sleep after lectures like these.

Keywords: USED TO.

Second year is tough as you have to readjust some things again. I’d come early to be able to save my friends and I some seats closer to the front. That implies waking up earlier as I no longer stay in the convenient halls on campus. I still tend to daydream in classes of my summer back home in Indonesia with good friends – and although it sounds really depressing how the start of this year goes, it actually isn’t.

Keyword: READJUST.

I find that the materials in second year are mostly based on your first year. Without a strong fundamental knowledge in first year, this year will feel difficult. However, as I am studying Mathematics with Actuarial Science, I feel that the modules made compulsory for me included the technical skills and knowledge that I need to becoming an actuary, for instance, “actuarial mathematics”. It has been very busy this year, considering internship online applications were mostly opened at the same time as term started. So I definitely recommend making a timetable for yourself so that you can balance and have time for other things as well, may they be work or leisure.

For the first years reading this, I recommend you to get work experience that would be relevant to your CV for second year internships.

For the second years reading this, join me in applying for internships. I’ve been rejected by a few but I’m still going. Hold on tight and keep going – we’ll get there.

Now, I drink my coffee quicker and take my notes faster than my cognition. I put on my earphones and launch Spotify while I revise in the library during hours between lectures or tutorials. I come home and after getting dinner, I continue either my revision, coursework, or online applications. This repeats until the weekend wakes me up like the morning light that shines on my face as it slid through the gaps in the blinds. Trust me though, despite the stress, challenges, and difficulties, it’s all part of that missing word, that in real life has the potential to make you grow and learn over time.

Keyword: EXPERIENCE.

Academic Support at University

It’s a common misconception that at university you are completely left to your own devices and you have to figure out everything by yourself. While it is true that you have to be far more independent than you would at school, there are a lot of academic support available as you navigate your way through university. I am going to tell you about some of the support systems that are in place at Queen Mary. If you decide to come here for your undergraduate degree, I really hope you take advantage of them.

Drop-in hours

Our Academics have weekly drop-in hours, where students can pop by their offices and have 1-2-1 chats. It is a great idea to go and speak to your lecturers about things that you found difficult or interesting in your reading or in their lecture or seminar. You can discuss your essay plans, talk about things that you want to learn more about or things that you completely disagreed with! They are experts in their field and you gain so much out of these meetings. It also allows you to network and form good relationships with your lecturers, which is especially helpful when you need references for further studies and job applications.

 PASS

PASS (Peer Assisted Study Support) is a mentoring scheme that is run for students by students. In my first year I went to PASS sessions and I found them really useful. Now I am in my final year and I volunteer as a PASS mentor. We run weekly drop-in sessions, and the aim of these sessions is to help first-year students settle into their new academic environment. If you are finding something difficult or you are nervous about writing your very first university essay, I would really recommend attending PASS sessions. PASS sessions are friendly and informal, and I think it is a great idea to speak to students who have already done what you are doing, and they can teach you the tricks of the trade!

 

Royal Literary Fund Fellows

You can also make an appointment to see the Royal Literary Fund Fellows. They are professional writers based at the Queen Mary Mile End library and they will provide writing support to students from all disciplines and help you develop your writing skills through one-two-one tutorials. To find out more, click on this link: http://www.learningdevelopment.qmul.ac.uk/royal-literary-fund-fellows

 

Being Vegan at University

We have all heard of the “freshers 15”- a testament to the absolute chaos some of us inflict upon our minds and bodies when we first leave home. Beginning university as a vegetarian, my diet during that year reverted to the unhealthy and lazy stereotype of carbs and cheese. However, after learning about the wide-ranging harms of the dairy and egg industries, I decided to make the step of becoming vegan. Since then, I’ve learnt a lot about maintaining a vegan and (mostly!) healthy diet while studying.

  • Preparation is key!

Lunch should be the best meal of the day…but it is difficult to find tasty vegan lunches in restaurants, cafes and shops. That’s why half an hour of evening cooking and a leak-proof Tupperware box can save you a lot of trouble! Even if you can’t manage to cook a whole lunch for the next day, quickly frying some tofu, seitan or pulses the night or morning before can take care of your protein source and save you going hungry! You can then supplement your meal by ordering a side; for example, a jacket potato or chips.

  • Eating out

Being a vegan in London provides so much variety in restaurants! A quick google search can provide a crazy amount of information; lists like the following one are all over the internet:

https://www.timeout.com/london/restaurants/the-best-vegan-restaurants-in-london

Some of my personal favourites in the area include The Gallery Café (Bethnal Green), 90 Degree Melt (Stepney), Fed By Water (Kingsland) and Mildred’s (Soho).

There are so many amazing vegan restaurants to choose from, but don’t feel limited to these! Many popular restaurants are accommodating to vegans, so make sure to check menus online beforehand, or give them a quick call to enquire.

(Pro-tip: If you want to impress both your vegan and your “determined carnivore” friends, “Homeslice” in Old Street is a non-vegan pizza joint, but the vegan alternatives they make are OUT OF THIS WORLD.)

  • Try not to get drawn into arguments

We’ve all heard the cliché that we can’t go two minutes without mentioning that we’re vegan…I mean, that’s pretty accurate for me! Our diets and ethical choices do form a large part of our lives, so it’s easy to see why. On top of this, it’s difficult not to get drawn into provocative questionings when being in a new environment around new people, who are all trying to figure out their own identities. One thing I’ve learnt through first-hand experience is that when you’re happily being you and living the lifestyle that fulfils you, you become a positive role model; so you just keep doing your thang!

  • Join QM Vegetarian and Vegan Society

With pot-lucks, events and outings, this is a great way to meet new people who share your lifestyle, and eat great food! Here is the link to the facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/QM-Vegetarian-and-Vegan-Society-310873675763769/

I hope you enjoyed these tips! Happy vegan-ing!

Oh and did I mention…I’m vegan!

It’s OK to not be having fun

“It’s such a doss year!”

“Freshers is so epic!”

“Everyone is so nice!”

These are just some of the phrases I heard both before, and during my first year in medical school.

With freshers’ week fast approaching, I imagine prospective students are starting to feel the fear and excitement that comes with opening a new chapter in one’s life. It’s no wonder; the first year of university is often portrayed as the most instructive and adventurous time in our studies, even in our lives….perhaps that’s why it was so easy for me to feel alone in my unhappiness during this period. Between moving away from home, being dunked head-first into a flurry of confusing lectures, and navigating the foreign social landscape, I felt as if I were caught in the eye of a storm: directionless, isolated and hopeless. It’s hard to know who to listen to during freshers- the second-year who tells you it’s OK to miss lectures? Your friend who says you should start revising a month early? Your specialist lecturers who insist their teaching will be imperative for your future career? How did everyone else have it so together?

This is not meant to put prospective students off. In fact, that time of struggle taught me a lot about being a “grown-up”:

  • Never set your standards (professional and personal) by the apparent certainty of someone else.
  • Never think that the people around you aren’t as scared as you are.
  • Never think that bad times will last.
  • At some point, someone will gossip about you. Move past it and so will everyone else.
  • Friendships happen.

I hope that by writing this, or through my interactions with scared-looking freshers, that I’ve helped pay some of these lessons forward. As for me, the lesson I’ve learned is to always be helpful and gentle to the people around you…especially freshers going through the torture of FunMed!

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