Student Life

Year in Review: Second Year

Now that, for me, exam season is over for my second year, it is a good time to review my module choices for this year and how they will help me as I enter my final year at university.

 

Each year I need to take 120 credits worth of modules to complete my course. As a History and Politics student, I take 60 credits from each discipline per year. This year, on the History side of my course, I took one year long module (30 credits), which spans two terms – A Century of Extremes (20th Century Germany).

 

From its inception to its reunification in 1991 and everything in between. In this module I studied the ways in which Germany changed for better and for worse over the last 100 years, its involvement in triggering the First and Second World Wars and the pivotal role both East and West Germany played, as the battleground of the Cold War.

 

Meanwhile, I took two single semester modules (15 credits each) for my other history module. In the first term of History I studied Anglo-American Relations.

 

Here I set about understanding the complexities, fluctuations and peculiarities of the ‘special’ relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. As well as seeing how different presidential personalities, events and threats have altered the dynamics of the relationship over time, with periods of real closeness between the two nations followed by times of distance and distrust.

 

In term two I took the London and its Museums, my only non-exam based, module. Over the semester, my class and I visited numerous different museums in London each week, critically analysing their contents, focusing on particular controversies and historical debates regarding certain artifacts and galleries. This was a particularly interactive and fun module; indeed, we often presented our findings in groups to the class, with curious members of the public watching on.

 

Picture 1: Week 1: The British Museum

 

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Picture 2: Not your average coursework – Gallery Analysis in Greenwich

 

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For Politics, both my modules were yearlong (30 credits). The first, War and Security, looked at the academic controversies regarding the different aspects of war; its nature, causes and consequences. Whilst also analysing the various different threats to our security, how governments combat both war and security and the extent to which the strategies they have implemented have been successful.

 

Finally, my other politics module was Modern Political Thought. From Machiavelli to Marx I explored many of the major, particularly western, political philosophers since the Renaissance, challenging and dissecting their ideas. I also discovered how their ideas are still heavily influential in politics today, providing the bedrock for our current political ideologies and parties.

 

All the modules combined for my second year make up 30% of my overall grade for university. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed studying these modules this year and I will be able to transfer many of the aspects of what I have learned this year to my modules next year and my final year dissertation on The War on Terror.

Smells Like Team Spirit

Queen Mary has a wide range of societies on offer. With over 200 societies, whether you are interested in politics, gaming, sport or something in between Queen Mary has a society for you. This year I made it my goal to join a sports society. After much deliberation, I chose fencing, as it looked very fast and exciting when I watched it at the Olympics a couple of years ago. It’s always been something I have been interested in from afar, but I have never had the opportunity to participate in it prior to coming to university.

 

The novice sessions are held on a Wednesday afternoon, and are led by a friendly coach, who is a former commonwealth games athlete. Each week, after an intense warmup, we learn different techniques, skills and actions. Along with the other fantastic novices, the improvement in the quality of our fencing has been great. By the end of the tenth and final week of the novice session our fencing was almost unrecognisable compared to our first week.

 

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Picture 1 – All the gear and no idea – me during my first novice session

 

Also, over time, the comradery between the novices has developed and there has been a seamless integration and acceptance into the main, more experienced, Queen Mary fencers club. Now, like many of the many other novices, I take part in the ten-week intermediate fencing sessions with the same coach on Wednesdays, as well as the main club training on Saturdays. The experienced fencers are very kind and helpful, providing insightful tips and a tough challenge to fence against. As we improve further, our minds start turning to more competitive fencing and competitions.

 

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Picture 2 – Smells like team spirit – the fencing novices at the team fencing competition

 

Incidentally, on the 18th March I took part in my first novice fencing competition at the University of London. Two teams of three represented Queen Mary: ‘the Beekeepers’ and ‘We are the fencing Queens,’ I was in the latter. After the round robin group stage, the knockout tournament began. In the quarter finals, my team had an intense, narrow and hard-fought victory, winning 45-43 against the Oxford team. Meanwhile, after a valiant effort, the beekeepers were stung by their opponents in their match. While, in the semi-final we narrowly lost to St. George’s University, we still achieved a bronze medal.

 

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Picture 3 – “We are the Fencing Queens” – My team for the ULU Team Fencing competition in action

 

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Picture 4 – Can’t Touché Us – The Medallists’ Group photo at the social after the tournament

 

After my fantastic first tournament experience I have officially caught the fencing bug. I’m looking forward to future competitions I may do in the future, as I continue this fast paced, high adrenaline hobby for a second year.

Women in Higher Education

When the resolution to award full degrees to women on an equal basis to men was first voted on in 1897 at the University of Cambridge, protests erupted across the city.[1] Male undergraduates strung an effigy of a female scholar from a window. When the resolution fell through, those students ‘maimed and decapitated the effigy before pushing it through the gates of all-woman college Newham’.[2] While women were allowed to study and sit examinations at the university, they were not allowed to receive a degree. This was the type of attitude that women had to contend with as they ventured into higher education.

Flash forward 120 odd years, and according to the BBC, women in the UK are 35% more likely to attend university than men, and this gap is increasing year on year. If the current trend continues, then a baby girl born in 2016 is 75% more likely to go to university than a boy.[3] Moreover, more than 80% of Higher Education institutions now have more female students than male students. There can be no doubt that we have made progress. However, while a cursory glance at these dazzling statistics would lead to the conclusion that a decided victory has been achieved for women in HE, everything is far less rosy than it seems.

We may have achieved the equal right to study and receive degrees, but women still face discrimination when they decide to pursue a career in academia. According to a 2016 report published by the University and College Union, only 8 higher education institutions pay women equally or more than men, and at 154 institutions, women are paid less. On average, female academics face a shortfall of £6,103 per year.[4] Furthermore, a study published last year by Sue Shepard from the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent, highlights the significant gender imbalance in terms of leadership in HE: women make up 45% of academic staff but account for only 22% of professors.[5] The figures are even more dismal when it comes to BME representation: in the UK ‘only 85 professors are black, of whom just 17 are women’[6]. Also, only 20% of UK vice-chancellors are female.[7] This shows that an institutional level of discrimination exists in HE in that there are not enough women in senior positions. Unfortunately, this reflects the wider trend in the job market. For example, 10% of FTSE 100 companies are headed by female CEOs, and currently, only 6 out of 23 Cabinet posts are occupied by women.[8] True, we have come a long way but the battle for equality is far from over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Victoria Finan, ‘A brief history of student protests: From ‘no women at Cambridge’ in 1897 to ‘cops off campus’ in 2013’, in Independent, (published 11/12/2013), < http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/a-brief-history-of-student-protest-from-no-women-at-cambridge-in-1897-to-cops-off-campus-in-2013-8997569.html> [Accessed 05/03/2018]; ‘A History of Women’s Education in the UK, <https://www.oxford-royale.co.uk/articles/history-womens-education-uk.html> [Accessed 05/03/2018]

[2] Finan

[3] Sean Coughlan, ‘Why do women get more university places?’, (BBC, 12 May 2016), < http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36266753> [Accessed 05/03/2018]

[4] ‘UCU names and shames colleges and universities that hold down women’s pay’, <https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/8130/UCU-names-and-shames-colleges-and-universities-that-hold-down-womens-pay?list=1676> [Accessed 05/03/2018]

[5] Sue Shepard, ‘Why Are There So Few Female Leaders in Higher Education: A Case of Structure or Agency?’, < https://core.ac.uk/display/78074896> [Accessed 05/03/2018]

[6] Jack Grove, ‘Universities confront ‘horrifying’ figures on BME promotion’, in Times Higher Education, (published 25/01/2016), <https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/universities-confront-horrifying-figures-bme-promotion> [Accessed 05/03/2018]

[7] Louise Tickle, ‘Why universities can’t see women as leaders’, in The Guardian, (published 08/03/2017), <https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2017/mar/08/why-universities-cant-see-woman-as-leaders> [Accessed 05/03/2018]

[8] Tickle

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):

 

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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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I hope these next two rooms are self-explanatory.

 

Rooftop terrace (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.

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