Well friends… this is it. Assignments done. Dissertation handed in. My time as an undergraduate at Queen Mary has come to an end. I feel everyone always talks about starting university, about first-day nerves, the excitement, and about how it is going to be the best time of your life. Nevertheless, no one talks about what it feels like when it all comes to an end. In some ways, it was quite anticlimactic and hollow. While I am beyond thrilled that I don’t have any more essays to write, I must admit that right after I handed in my final piece of work, there was a moment of ‘ok…what now?’ What do I do with my time? I am not going to sugar-coat anything for you. The final year of your undergraduate degree will be intense and challenging. During the last year, it felt like the moment I finished one assignment it was time to start working on the next one, and when I wasn’t doings essays or preparing for seminars, I was working on my dissertation (a dissertation is a 10,000-word research project). It might be hard to believe but I loved every minute of it! As I was so busy all the time and always had something to get on with, after everything was done, I felt directionless – I no longer had a goal to work towards. At the same time, I felt a massive sense of accomplishment that I had completed my degree, and I absolutely cannot wait to wear my cap and gown and celebrate with my friends and family!

It’s impossible to estimate the number of times I declared to myself and to all those who would listen that “I’m ready for my degree to be over. I’m sick of all these essays!” Nevertheless, I already miss the euphoric feeling that you get when you encounter a particularly difficult question that feels impossible to answer, but then you have a ‘light-bulb moment’, a flash of inspiration, and suddenly the argument that you are trying to establish in your essay seamlessly falls into place. There is nothing quite like it! As you can probably guess, I am not ready to leave academia just yet. That is why I will be back to Queen Mary in September to start my MA in Postcolonial and Global Literatures. The poor English Department just can’t get rid of me!

I am spending my summer by doing lots of temp work (most of it is mind-numbingly boring but very good pay!), and going to public lectures, seminars and academic conferences at my university and all over London to begin preparing for postgraduate studies. For example, a few weeks ago I went to the first event in QM’s Postcolonial Seminar, which is open to the public if any of you are interested in attending, where Professor Ania Loomba from the University of Pennsylvania gave a brilliant lecture on Women, Communism and Feminism in India. Also, I am working on various events and projects with the School of English and Drama and the Widening Participation team, including QM’s summer open days and the Humanities Summer School.

One of the best things about finishing my degree is that now I have time to read for pleasure. I don’t need to speed through a novel in order to be ready for my seminar, or worry about essays or deadlines, but just sit in my garden or in the park, in the sunshine and read. I remember an alarming number of people told me when I was starting my degree, “Oh doing an English degree put me off reading! You’re going to hate it after”. Well, I am happy to inform you that has not happened, if anything, it made me love reading even more and introduced me to a vast range of incredible authors.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as an undergraduate. My course was intellectually stimulating and hugely interesting, and constantly challenged me to think in different ways. I loved being part of the university community, and I don’t mean to sound like a certain leader of the free world, but I got to know the best people. I have really enjoyed writing this blog and I hope you found some of it useful. I don’t know who any of you are, but thank you for being part of my uni experience, and adiós!

Writer’s Block

For an English student, there are few things scarier than a blank page. This hasn’t happened to me for a while, but last week I was struck by the dreaded writer’s block. No matter how hard I tried, I didn’t know how to begin my assignment. My ideas didn’t feel original. I hated how I was expressing myself. I just wanted to screw up the piece of paper and throw it in the bin with a dramatic flair – except I couldn’t even do that because I was working on my laptop. Chucking that in the bin would have been a rather expensive way to vent my frustration!

I am happy to report that I managed to complete my essay… eventually. It was a far more stressful event than it should have been. However, this process did allow me to identify a number of effective ways to overcome the writer’s block:

1. Free Writing

This is a technique that’s often used in creative writing but I think it also works for essays. In free writing you write continuously for a certain period of time. You don’t need to worry about spelling, grammar or punctuation. Take a look at your essay question and start writing the first thing that comes to your mind. Don’t think about whether what you are writing makes any sense, let your mind wander, let it jump from one idea to the next. It’s a great way to warm up and to stretch your writing muscles, while keeping a log of your thoughts. Later, you can organise these ideas in a coherent fashion or you may feel that the ideas you have come up with are not useful to your question, but that doesn’t matter because the point of free writing is to get you started and get over the initial block.

2. Mind map

Get a massive piece of paper and lots of coloured pens (you don’t need to use coloured pens but I just think it’s fun to use them and your notes look pretty). Jot down everything that you think will be relevant for the essay: evidence from your primary texts, possible line of arguments, critical thoughts. Seeing everything together is a great way of spotting the connections that will show you the way forward.

3. Talk through your ideas with a friend

Find a friend who is disciplined and motivated and discuss your ideas with them. I find that through the process of explaining your idea to someone, you actually end up gasping a better understanding yourself. They can also give you constructive feedback which will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your argument.

4. Change of scenery

If you are sick of your spot in the library where you have been sitting for what feels like hours, go for a walk and get some fresh air. Some light exercise often helps to clear your mind, and a change of scenery might give you a change in perspective.

A walk along Regent's Canal is always refreshing

A walk along Regent’s Canal is always refreshing

5. Get rid of distractions

I don’t know about you but I am easily distracted, especially by social media and the internet. I would sit down and promise myself that I will get my essay done by this afternoon but before you know it, 4 hours have passed and I’m on BuzzFeed figuring out which Harry Potter character I am (Hermione, if you must know). Force yourself to turn off your phone. I would also recommend installing apps such as ‘StayFocusd’ on your laptop which allows you to set a timer on time-wasting websites and once you have spent your allocated time, it blocks the sites for the rest of the day so you have no choice but to get on with your work. If the temptation to turn your phone back on is too much, try downloading ‘Freedom’ which can block your access to Internet for 8 hours at a time. As scary as it all sounds, it does increase your productivity!

I really hope you never have the misfortune to experience the writer’s block, but it is inevitable that you will at some stage of your academic career, whether it is during your GCSEs, A Levels or when you start your undergraduate degree. So when it happens, fear not, these simple steps will help you conquer it.

Summer Internship

“So what are you planning to do after you graduate?” Ah, the dreaded question that makes undergraduates break into a cold sweat. There are many people who come to university knowing exactly what career field they want to pursue afterwards, however, there are also people who have no idea. If you do know, then great, good for you! However, if you belong to the latter category, fear not, because trust me when I say this, you don’t need to have your dream career figured out by your early 20s. In today’s world, the average person changes jobs around 12 times. Chances are that you will not spend all of your life at the same job and your dream career will constantly change. For me, that is an exciting prospect because it means that you would develop your career organically – continuously learning different skills from various working environments and applying them wherever you go.

It is nearly impossible to know if a job is perfect for you unless you get a feel of that particular field, and I think your time at university is the perfect opportunity to experiment with different job sectors. The summer holidays are incredibly long (too long!), so I would suggest you use some of this time to gain as much experience as possible. At Queen Mary, we have a fantastic Careers and Enterprise Centre, through which you can find part-time jobs, work experience and internships. This summer I took part in QProjects, which is an internship scheme that is organised by the Careers team every year. QProjects places QM students as Project Leaders on challenging projects within local charities.

I did my internship with the East End Community Foundation (EECF). EECF is a philanthropy advisor and grant maker. This means they fund grass-root organisations, issuing nearly £1 million annually to charities in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham. My job was to help EECF with their Vital Signs 2017 Report. A Vital Sign Report uses a combination of existing research and surveys with local residents to identify key issues affecting local communities across the UK. I collated data from the surveys, and then analysed the data to find trends and patterns. I also worked as a researcher to find out more about the problems that affect the East End of London. My internship was originally meant to be for six weeks but EECF invited me to stay with them longer to work on their social media strategy. Here, I got to write case studies to promote the brilliant job that EECF has been doing, as well as working on their Facebook, Twitter and their website to raise their profile.

The EECF team at Sky Gardens

The EECF team at Sky Gardens

I had the best time working there! This was my first proper office-based job, and I got so much out of it: I honed my research and evaluation skills, got to go and network at a business breakfast at the Sky Gardens in Canary Wharf, learned about collaborating in a team and working within deadlines. I also got a full experience of a professional working life: I attended meetings with CEOs, contributed to strategy meetings within my department, and enjoyed being treated to staff lunches after big events.

My colleagues were incredibly supportive and welcoming, and to be honest, they have set my expectations for future employers impeccably high. I got to have 1-2-1 meetings with each member of staff and learn about their roles, which provided me with an invaluable insight into the charity sector. In terms of making the most out of your internship, my advice would be to be enthusiastic and to really take a keen interest in the work that you company is involved in. For example, I wanted to find out more about the charities that EECF supported so they generously arranged for me to go and visit some of the projects.

This was my desk at work. Check out my QM water bottle - I'm all about the branding and the environment of course!

This was my desk at work. Check out my QM water bottle – I’m all about the branding and the environment of course!

The process of getting this internship was enlightening in itself. I had to write an application outlining why I was suitable for this role and then I had to attend a Graduate-style interview, which was very beneficial because now I know what to expect after I leave university.

This internship was eye-opening because I got to learn about a sector I hadn’t considered working in before, and now this will go on my list as one of my potential career pathways. On top of that, this term, I am doing QInsight, which is a programme designed to provide students with a better understanding of the civil service. I’ll let you know how it goes, and if you are interested in finding out more about career opportunities at QM, follow the link below:

QM Careers and Enterprise: http://careers.qmul.ac.uk/

Part-time Work

Like a lot of university students, I work part-time. Not only is it great to have a bit of extra spending money on top of my maintenance loan, I think working part time is a really good way to gain professional experience. Also, since I started working, I believe I got better with organising my time. I have to fit work around my studies, and the only way to do this is to manage my time efficiently. Time management is a key skill and I believe it will come in handy in the future, after university.

Nevertheless, always remember: your degree comes first. I would recommend that you find work that’s quite flexible so your education is not compromised in any way. Whatever you do, don’t overcommit at work because then you wouldn’t have enough time for studying and assignments, and might feel overwhelmed. You need to look after yourself first and foremost. You may want to work less during term time and work more during the holidays. This summer I made the monumental mistake of not working. I told myself: ‘I have finished my first year at university so I deserve a break’. I was bored after a week. By the time this realisation hit me, all jobs were gone. I think the best thing to do is apply as early and as widely as possible.

My friend, Dina and I at Campus Tour Training. We run Campus Tours so prospective students can get a better idea about what a university campus looks like.

My friend, Dina and I at Campus Tour Training. We run Campus Tours so prospective students can get a better idea about what a university campus looks like.

I have to admit, I have heard some horror stories from my friends about horrible bosses and rude customers, but fortunately for me, I have never experienced such distressing things. I have had admin jobs before – I am not going to bore you by writing about the exciting world of photocopying! My favourite jobs, by far, are my current roles as an Ambassador for the School of English and Drama (SED), and a Widening Participation Student Ambassador. I have gained a lot of transferable skills from being an Ambassador. It has increased my confidence, improved my communications skills and helped to make me a better team player. I have talked about my job as a SED Ambassador before in this blog, so I will tell you a bit more about Widening Participation.

My fellow Student Ambassadors - Dina and Hanya

My fellow Student Ambassadors – Dina and Hanya

Most, in fact I think it is all, universities in the UK have a Widening Participation Department. Statistically, if you: are someone whose parents did not attend Higher Education; are eligible for free school meals; have parents who are from non-professional occupations; have a disability; are a young carer; are estranged from your family, or have lived, or are currently living, in local authority care, you are less likely to apply to university. The aim of Widening Participation is to address this, and encourage young people from these social backgrounds to consider attending university.

My job as a Student Ambassador is to engage and interact with school students, and to provide an insight into university life. For instance, this summer, I helped run the Year 9 Humanities Summer School at Queen Mary. This was one of my favourite projects! A group of students from our local schools got to spend a week as a university student, attending lectures, workshops, and a theatre trip. My task was to supervise them throughout the day, as well as to take part in Q&A sessions – answering questions about student life. We run lots of events throughout the year, I am going to include a link to the Widening Participation website below so you can check out what we are all about.

Widening Participation at Queen Mary: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/teachers/wp/index.html




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/

Back to reality

Over Christmas I had a really nice break, did a bit of reading, went on holiday and also had a couple assignments too. However, when I came back from Christmas, just like any time when you’re away from work for a while, things got a little bit crazy.

For my course, I had a module pack to pick up, which I needed to complete the first week of reading. I had already done a bit of pre-reading for the first week back – I had read two novels over Christmas, one for my Writing Modern London module and a brand new module for this semester, British Culture in the 1950s. In my blog about self study, I spoke a bit about how it’s wise to read ahead, especially if you know you’re going to have a lot of work to do or you have a lot of reading for that week.

Film Society’s 2 Co-Presidents. Myself (left) and Gemma (right)

I mentioned in another previous blog that I’m co-president of Film Society with my housemate and fellow film loving friend, Gemma. We also had a lot of work to do for film society, as we had the second round of welcome week for all the new students joining Queen Mary coming up. That was pretty hectic too, as we had leaflets to print out, and the fair ran from 2-6, on the day of our first screening. This involved a lot of dashing about and last minute changes, but we pulled it off okay in the end!

The somewhat chaotic Welcome Back Fair

The somewhat chaotic Welcome Back Fair

I also had to begin writing my dissertation, a scary prospect for most. In case you don’t know, a dissertation is a large piece of writing (mine has to be 10,000 words) on pretty much any topic (as long as it’s to do with English!) of my choice. My supervisor, who is someone who helps me through the process, is trying to get me to write it as soon as possible, so I have plenty of time to edit it and look it over. I had to write a first draft of my introduction over the Christmas break too, to hand in when I got back. Although it took me a week longer than I said, I also got that done and now have the next chapter to begin. I’m feeling more confident about the project as a whole now, and am not freaking out too much about the fact it’s due in May!

On top of all of this, there was also the next issue of The Print due, and trying to settle back into a life where my mum doesn’t cook all of my meals and wash all my clothes.

Overall, although there was a lot to do, the work is manageable. I like to make lists of all the things I have to do so I have things to tick off. I feel more productive and this helps me complete all of my other tasks. Other things I’ve found that work are breaking up larger tasks with smaller ones or doing something fun in between, like organising my notes whilst watching a TV show I enjoy. Sometimes things can feel overwhelming but everyone else is in the same boat, and all my housemates have as much work to do as I do. Luckily we own a VHS player and about thirty classic Disney movies so we can all unwind together.

I’m getting back into the swing of university now, so I’m getting back into a regular work schedule again. Plus, even though sometimes work can be hard, I’m really going to miss it. I’m seriously considering the masters degree I wrote about in my previous post. I’ve been doing a bit more research, which shows you that work is never too overwhelming. My best advice is to stay motivated, and if this all sounds a little scary, trust me – these are all skills you develop during school and university. Time management and balancing your work becomes the norm, they’re talents that you can never stop getting better at.

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.

Studying English

I spoke a little before about the best bits of studying English at university – the trips and all the choice, but in this post I wanted to talk a little about what an average teaching session is like. Over my university years they have changed a little bit – in first year the lectures were all really big, because everyone takes the same modules (specific topics for teaching). So, for example, everyone studied Shakespeare and so we had huge lectures that everyone attended, where a lecturer (like a teacher) stood at the front and told us all about the topic, play or book for that week. After that we had an hour seminar where everyone discussed the points brought up in the lecture and any other points you might have thought of yourself whilst reading. In seminars your seminar leader might also assign you a mini task, like reading through a bit of the play and talking about it in groups. This all changes again in second year as everyone gets to pick their modules, and there are so many options that the lectures become a lot smaller. The seminar groups however tend to stay the same size – roughly between 10 and 20 to a class. Then in third year it all changes again! Most of the time you don’t get any lectures at all, and instead you get a two hour seminar. It means that lots more of the work is down to you, so when you read the texts you have to think about possible points you could raise in the seminar and any questions you might have.

I’m going to describe what my ‘Writing Modern London’ teaching session on Monday was like, as it gives a sort of example as to what all this really means!

The reading for the week, image courtesy of: https://novelinsights.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/lonely-londoners.jpg

The reading for the week, image courtesy of: https://novelinsights.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/lonely-londoners.jpg

Above is an image of the reading for the week. We normally have a week to read the texts for the following week, however if you have a lot to do or are really prepared, it’s advised to read ahead so you don’t get behind. As it was a fairly short novel, only about 150 pages, we were also advised to start our reading for next week – a novel called ‘Absolute Beginners’ as that is about 350 pages. The lecturer and seminar leader expects you to do the reading so you can understand the content but also contribute in the seminar afterwards. Also in our coursework, we are usually expected to write on quite a number of the books, so it’s best to be prepared.

For ‘Writing Modern London’, we usually have a double seminar, and sometimes we have a lecture and seminar, however this week it was a lecture followed by a seminar. We sat in a fairly large room, as there is about 30-40 of us on this module, and our lecturer delivered her presentation. Normally this a combination of them talking, powerpoint slides and sometimes small video clips. This lecture opened with us watching a clip of some of the people who emigrated to Britain from Trinidad in the 1940s and ’50s. It served as a good opener as the book ‘The Lonely Londoners’ is all about people from Jamaica and Trinidad who came over to Britain. It was really interesting and we looked at a lot of history, and then the lecturer linked that back to the book. The lecturer also linked all of her presentation back to the overall theme of the module – London, and during this we all made notes. She then also told us a bit about the book for next week as the two books are quite similar.

The notes I took during the lecture.

The notes I took during the lecture.

Sometimes you’ll need to write down quite a lot all at once, so it’s quite demanding and you always have to be listening. Afterwards we had a seminar where we began by discussing a few of the themes from the lecture and then were given a task. We have an assignment coming up where we have to relate some critical literature to a few of the novels we have read, so our seminar leader gave us a task to prepare us for this. We were given an extract and then we split into pairs and talked about how it related to a section of the book. Everyone then gave feedback and we made notes about it and talked as a group through all of these.

Our seminar handout, with my annotated notes.

Our seminar handout, with my annotated notes.

After this, we are left to go through our notes at home as it’s always best to read them again to make sure you remember as much as possible.

This kind of learning is very different from school. Quite often you have to get involved and contribute a lot more and a lot of what you get out of the module is down to you. As a said in my previous post, this is all about organisation and as you go through university this is something you get used to – don’t worry, they won’t throw you in the deep end!

Back to university

Although university classes started this week, last week was ‘Welcome Week’ which meant the uni held a whole bunch of events to welcome all the new students, and ease the returning ones back in. I thought I’d start my blog with the biggest and busiest event – the ‘Fresher’s Fair’, aimed to help freshers (first years) see all of the clubs, societies and sports groups the uni has and choose which ones they want to join. For me, this was a particularly busy time! Me and my house mate are this year’s new Co-Presidents of Film Society, meaning that we are in charge of the running of our society, including organising our booth at the fair. We had also just moved into a new house and so everything was all quite panicked, but we managed to pull it off!

Me (left) and my house mate assuming our Co-President roles at our booth.

It was personally very important for me to make sure our booth was as good and welcoming as it possibly could be, because when I first came to the Fair, two years ago, I was very nervous. I had been too shy to go to any events before the fair, and my flat mates were all very private people so I didn’t know many people, apart from two I’d already met from my course. I mainly shuffled around the fair with my head down, only looking up occasionally and not talking to many people. I finally caught the eyes of two guys at the Film Society booth, who had a very modest stall, and they told me about their society. It was very causal and you just had to come along on a Thursday evening, and they would just watch a film and then go and socialise afterwards. It sounded perfect and incredibly low commitment, in case my studies got in the way, so I pinned their flyer to my pin board and waited until the following week.

It wasn’t the only society I joined, as each year I join new ones, and new societies are made. However, it was Film Society that became my favourite part about university, the two guys running the stall turned into two of my best friends and I met so many more people and friends through the society. When I made a couple of other friends through my course and other events, friends who I am now living with, I introduced them to the society and I soon had a big, very close-knit group of friends. In my second year I was the society Secretary, meaning I was in charge of all the emailing and then this year me and my house mate decided to split the Presidency role.

The best part about the Fair is that everyone is always very welcoming, they even have a quieter hour at the start of the Fair for those uncomfortable with large crowds, and there is always a lot to get involved in.

Harry Potter Society, one of the most popular societies on campus.

Harry Potter Society, one of the most popular societies on campus.

One example of this are the social societies. Film Society comes under this title, but others include the Harry Potter Society, as pictured above. I joined this society last year and they run events like a Sorting Ceremony at the start of the year and a Slug Club once a month. They also have Quidditch tournaments between the houses which are so much fun! Other social societies include: Lego Society, Game of Thrones Society and Baking Society, among many, many others.

There are also faith societies and academic societies. These include a very wide range of faiths who also organise their own events, and the academic societies have groups for all the courses taught at the university. There are so many societies, you’d never be able to join them all, or even hear about them all! There are also recreational societies which tend to either do more specific activities or use their time to make or create things. Pictured below is the Knitting Society, but there is also a Medieval Re-enactment Society and Games and Video Gaming Society and a Parkour Society.

The Knitting Society making their own table blanket.

The Knitting Society making their own table blanket.

There are so many types of societies, I could go on all day about them. And the best part is that if, even among all these societies, you can’t find the one for you then you can set up your own! The Student’s Union, who work with the students at uni to improve our experience will help you out and it’s so easy. Some new societies this year include the previously mentioned Game of Thrones Society and also a Disco Society who kept us all energised through the fair with their non-stop music and dancing.

The Disco Society dancing their way through the fair.

The Disco Society dancing their way through the fair.

In addition to societies there are also sports to join, and these are so varied you will undoubtedly find the sport you enjoy or love. I got involved with Archery a bit last year, but have decided that this year I’m going to become a full member and turn up to practice a lot more often. There are also ways to do sports without joining a club which is more casual, or ways to sign up to clubs and leagues and compete and train a lot – it’s entirely up to the individual. Outside classes and studying, the freedom university gives you allows you to choose which ways you want to spend your time.

Overall the Fair is chaotic and overwhelming but undoubtedly one of the most important things I attended when I joined university. Inevitably I signed up to way more societies than I could have ever possibly attend but that doesn’t matter. You get to meet a massive range of people of different ages, cultures and courses and, like me, these people can end up being some of your best friends.

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