Posts Tagged ‘history’

First Semester on the Film MA


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’.

Entrepreneur boot camp and fun at Hampton Court Palace

I spent Saturday with my LUIP Ambassador friends, first at Kingston University and then exploring Hampton Court Palace. Our time at Kingston was wonderfully impelling because we were led through an entrepreneur boot camp by Dr. Martha Mador, the head of Enterprise Education Strategy. Dr. Mador began by explaining the entrepreneur process:

  • A successful opportunity for entrepreneurial pursuit can occur at any point on the continuum of discovery, evaluation, and exploitation;
  • In order to be successful, there must be a healthy balance of creativity (the generation of new ideas) and innovation (the successful exploitation of new ideas–ideas being accepted in a marketplace);
  • Dr. Mador further clarified that innovation is not just a product or invention, and it’s not necessarily a new idea nor a ‘light bulb moment’. It is a combination of finding novel solutions to peoples’ problems.

After her thought-provoking explanation, we spent the next hour or so working through the entrepreneurial process ourselves. We split into groups, were given photo cards, and told to brainstorm a list of problems based on the pictures we had. The pictures were quite nondescript– a woman running through a field, a row of wind turbines, a person helping another climb a rock–but from those pictures we generated 10 general problems that could be fixed.


We could even write on the tables…I was awed. English majors don’t get to write on much, other than notebooks.

After generating a list of problems, we chose one and brainstormed solutions to the problem. From there, we created a viable solution and developed and pitched our service to the group. My group decided to focus on the lack of work-life balance for many professionals. We developed a company called Stress Less, a consulting agency that businesses could hire to help convert their offices so that they promoted a more healthy work-life balance. Our pitch even had a jingle, set to the tune of ‘Call Me Maybe’. We won the ‘Best Brand Name’ award…go Team Stress Less!

After boot camp we headed over to Hampton Court Palace, the palace of King Henry VIII (the one who created the Church of England, and had 6 wives in his attempts to have a son. He also fathered Queen Elizabeth I, who is by far my favorite English monarch.). The palace was beautiful, but I was much more enamored with the grounds. The gardens were absolutely stunning, especially the ones along the bank of the Thames. And I was impressed by how successfully lost we became while wandering through the maze. Most of all, I couldn’t have chosen a better group of friends with whom to spend the afternoon.




The English love their roses. Especially those Tudors. 🙂





Kim and her band of merry ambassadors. Photo Cred: Divi

Being guided through the creative process of identifying and developing a business was unexpectedly motivating. I left boot camp feeling like I could actually create a viable business–on paper, anyway. I started brainstorming ventures I would be interested in and that might actually work. However, after my original elation wore off, I realized I would have some serious work to do on the numbers side of developing a business. Let’s be honest: although I find an odd satisfaction in getting the correct answer on a math problem I am nowhere near confident enough to trust a business’s finances to my numeracy skills. Creates a nice opening for a partner, though. Any takers?

Smile! Geographer on camera to help BBC get behind drills, dentures and dentistry

Kristin Hussey Headshot

PhD student in the School of Geography Kristin Hussey

Most people tend to think of academics and postgraduate students as always buried in books in some dusty archive or whiling away behind a computer screen. I think you would be surprised at all of the different research activities we actually get up to. Not to say we don’t do those things; as a historical geographer, books, archives and museums are the reality of my day to day. But now more than ever it’s important to reach out and engage audiences with our research in new ways. Sometimes, this can mean actually getting in front of a camera and discussing your interests with a broadcast audience!

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Kristin talks about her previous research into dental surgery during WWI with prize-winning writer, historian and author of the BBC’s Eyewitness audiobooks, presenter Professor Joanna Bourke.

In the past I’d assumed you needed to be a lecturer before your opinion was sought out for on-camera interviews, but actually there seems to be a growing interest in history and historical research. I know I personally tune in to all sorts of shows along the lines of ‘Secret Killers of the Victorian Home’ to hear historians give me all the gruesome details. I’d never thought as a PhD student I’d have the opportunity to be on camera, so when I was asked to be interviewed by Professor Joanna Bourke for her one-hour special ‘Drills, Dentures and Dentistry: An Oral History’, I didn’t know where to begin!

In the show I’m actually discussing research I carried out in my previous position as Assistant Curator of the Hunterian Museum on dental surgery in the First World War. While my time period of interest has remained roughly the same, I’m now studying in the School of Geography at Queen Mary University of London to examine the influence of the empire and the development of British medicine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Fortunately my supervisors have been very supportive of my continuing with any talks or appearances I’m offered on the subject of my previous work. It’s important to remember that your PhD is just one project in your broader career!

With no media experience at all, QMUL was absolutely fantastic at giving me some pointers on what to do on the day. Everything from how to dress to pattern of speaking can be very important. What I don’t think anyone prepared me for was how very hard filming can be. Hours upon hours under the hot lights becomes exhausting – especially when you don’t have a script and so you need to try and come up with an answer on the spot with the camera rolling! It doesn’t really matter how well you know your topic that can be tricky. Also, in order to get the interview from a variety of shots, you need to repeat yourself many times. I’m sure I gave wildly different answers in each take, so that’s definitely something to work on for the future. I was incredibly impressed by Joanna Bourke’s calm and professionalism doing this exhausting work.

Overall it was an interesting experience and I hope I’ll have another opportunity to give TV history a go as my PhD research progresses!

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The BBC programme was filmed at the Royal College of Surgeons here in London.

If you’d like to read more about my research, click through to my profile page on the School of Geography website.

Watch now on BBC iPlayer (Kristin at 44.30) or read more about BBC 4’s Drills, Dentures and Dentustry: An Oral History. It aired on BBC 4 on March 30th at 9pm, 2015.

Making the most of study abroad!

A few weeks ago we had our autumn break, which I took full advantage of and traveled to Oslo for a few days, and to end the week the university’s mentor program had arranged a cabin trip for the exchange students, which is apparently a traditional part of Danish university life.

I started my trip to Oslo with very little sleep, and arrived early enough to watch the sun rise over the city which was a really wonderful way to begin the week. By complete accident I managed to stumble onto the parade route for the official welcoming ceremony of the president of India to Norway, and ended up standing at probably the best possible vantage point for watching the event. Having the opportunity to see the Norwegian royal family on my first day in the country was a very special experience, and it was a great start to my trip there. I would say without a doubt that the best museum I visited while in Oslo was the Nobel peace centre, which is, as the name suggests, a collection of exhibits relating to the Nobel peace prize, including the winners of the prize, the work they have undertaken in order to promote peace, and also a celebration of the creator of the peace prize Alfred Nobel. It was a really eye-opening experience, and one which I would definitely recommend visiting if ever you are in the area!

After returning from Oslo, I very quickly had to prepare to leave on my second trip of the week. The cabin trip was two night of activities and getting to know more of the international students that are studying here. It was nice to get to get out of the city for a while and see some of the Danish countryside, and the cabin which we were staying in had a lovely view over the sea. It was a very busy weekend, the highlight for me being making snobrød over a campfire on our last evening.

Sunrise over the royal palace, Oslo

Sunrise over the royal palace, Oslo

The Norwegian royal family from afar

The Norwegian royal family from afar

The Nobel Peace Centre

The Nobel Peace Centre

Making campfire bread

Making campfire bread

University Life

University Life

Much like some smaller UK cities, Uppsala is based massively around university life. Being one of the top research university’s in the world it has a massive student draw. It also backs this up by being absolutely stunning (The main parts of it anyway).

Whilst the city to the east of the river is where urban sprawl has taken hold, the western parts of Uppsala boasts scenic and architectural beauty in abundance, with botanical gardens, the tallest Cathedral in Scandinavia (which they like to boast about) and the oldest University in Scandanavia (Which they also like to boast about. This is mainly because of the long-standing feud against Denmark…whose university was built nine months afterwards.)

The Swedish education system is massively different than the UK’s. Not only is it free but it is much more relaxed (which is a trait shared with most of Sweden) and much more research intensive. This was done to allow people who had part-time or full-time jobs the opportunity to continue studying, which means you are often in a classroom with more mature students than usual. As I have been slack with the blog posts, I have already completed the 15.0 credit module of ‘Media in Contemporary Armed Conflict’ and am now studying ‘Sweden in the 17th Century’ and ‘Culture in Armed Conflict’, all of which require long, long essays. So far I’ve done three 1,500 words essays, three 2,000 word essays (which I had two days to do as part of a take home exam) a 5,000 essay, and I have a 10,000 word research paper coming up… But one exam in three modules could be worse.

Through these I have also met a whole lot of Swedes who, I am glad to report, are not a socially awkward as I had been told prior to arriving and have been helpful in showing us around the city and giving us some useful (and some not so useful) Swedish phrases. These have been used throughout my travels to mixed reception, probably because, as I have been told, ‘I sound like a Norwegian putting on a bad Swedish accent.’

Sweden in Seconds: Fika

THE cornerstone of Sweden. That may be a tad dramatic but fika is an extremely important part of Swedish social life and it is gloriously tasty. Fika is the tradition of eating pastry, or cake, with a cup of coffee (tea is frowned upon which I have found out to my chagrin) at any point in the day. I was told it was meant to be in the afternoon but the Swedes practice fika all the time. If you feel any emotion the Swedes usually suggest fika as a solution/reward and it is a habit that has stuck with my friends and I (I must have spent more money on coffee and pastry than anything else at this point) and I must admit it is a tradition that I will be lobbying for in the UK. So strong is the lure of fika that a man won’t ask/isn’t allowed to ask a lady on a date but rather to fika as fika is what friends do, allowing them to get to know each other before a date. I am currently using the fact that it is starting to get cold here as an excuse to build up my insulation via fika… I’m not the only one.




A City of Nations

A City of Nations

What makes Uppsala a completely unique experience is the Nations and there are thirteen to choose from; Gotlands, Gästrike-Hälsinge (GH), Göteborgs, Kalmar, Norrlands, Smålands, Stockholms, Södermanlands-Nerikes (Snerikes), Uplands, Värmlands, Västgöta, Västmanlands-Dala (V-Dala), Östgöta (ÖG). The Nations are the student hubs in the city.

During the welcome week familiarising myself with each nation became a priority and they host a vast array of different events to persuade you to join up with them (Unlimited pancake morning being a particular highlight). This was also the prime time to meet other international students – the Swedes didn’t start until the week after – and get to know the people I’d be living with on my floor. Typically this involves going out to a nation on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (through to Sunday) where there is a club night. Yes. The pancake and pastry places become clubs.

Due to the cold night temperatures here, Swedes start drinking extremely early with the nations opening for business at around 19:00 and shutting at 2. It is a massive change from getting the night bus back to Queen Mary campus at 4 in the morning and drunkenly re-evaluating life choices with the prospect of a hangover looming. The city is relatively small so I am usually in bed by 2:30, which is surprisingly pleasant.

The people I live with are from all over the world (with around 30,000 international students coming to Uppsala each year) and I live with a ridiculous assortment of nationalities: An American, an Aussie, a Swiss, A Pole, an Austrian, A Venezuelan, A Ugandan (Amongst a whole host of others) live on my floor, making the drabness of the Hotel seem a lot less bleak.

In early September we went on a two-hour hike to a huge lake between Uppsala and Stockholm. This re-emphasised the beauty that I had imagined Sweden to have and the swim, albeit exceptionally cold, reaffirmed that I had definitely made the right choice in coming to Sweden for the year.


Sweden in Seconds Part Two: Systembolaget

The dreaded Systembolaget. This is the government run alcohol store where you have to go in order to buy any alcohol over 3.5%…but it is not open on the weekends. This means that Friday afternoons necessitate a mad dash to purchase the light refreshments. This monopoly means that the price of alcohol is extremely expensive, in the guise of trying to curb alcoholism. As most Swedes say however – “It doesn’t.”




The woods around Uppsala

The woods around Uppsala

More Uppsala woodland

More Uppsala woodland

Lake Ekoln

Lake Ekoln

First Week in Copenhagen

I have now been in Copenhagen for just over two weeks, and so far I am absolutely loving it. The city itself is really beautiful, and I’m really excited to be able to spend the next year here!

I had a few days on my own here before things started to happen at the university, which I used to start to get to know the city. Copenhagen isn’t nearly as big as London, so it’s quite easy to find your way around, and the metro system is really simple too. Most people here travel by bike, although I still haven’t decided whether to get one for myself yet.
We had orientation in Thursday, which was a very intensive day filled with absolutely everything we needed to get started. The day was for all exchange and guest students in the faculty of humanities, so it was a great opportunity to meet lots of people studying all kinds of different subjects, and from all across the globe. The university also runs a mentor programme, which held a dinner for international students in the evening, which was a really lovely way to get to know more people, and it really made the university seem like a welcoming place to come and study.
I only study two modules here, so I only began classes last Wednesday, starting with State Formation in the Ancient and Modern World. The first class was really interesting, although they teach classes differently here than they do back home, or at least differently to what I experienced last year. I don’t have any lectures in a lecture hall, instead they all take place in seminar rooms for two full hours. The other module I am studying is Nordic Mythology.

The matriculation ceremony- this year was the first that international students were able to attend

The matriculation ceremony- this year was the first that international students were able to attend




London, Just do it.

How do I wrap up five glorious months studying abroad in London in a single blog entry? I really can’t. All I can say is… Experience it for yourself! JUST DO IT! London is the most awesome city in the world and there’s something for everyone here. There’s always something to do and see and experience. Also, try new things! I was never a theatre-goer until I lived in London. Now I love the theatre and am even considering a profession in scenic design. Here are my top seven things to do in London:


1. Watch a play or musical (at least one!)

(Queue early in the morning—it’s not that bad especially when you’re with good company—to get cheap tickets. I saw Matilda for £5! I couldn’t help smiling the entire night after watching it.)

'Matilda the Musical'

‘Matilda the Musical’

2. Subscribe to The Londonist

(You can get daily emails about random free or cheap events around London. For instance, I went to a free arts and crafts party. There’s always something fun and weird going on around town.)


3. Visit markets

(I wrote a whole entry on markets! They are fantastic and a lot better than the ones in the U.S. There are always delicious street food to try and funky vintage threads to look out for in this town.)


4. Frolic in the parks

(Queen Mary is right next to Mile End Park, which leads to Victoria Park. It’s my favorite park and a great area to have a morning jog. I also recommend the famous Hyde Park. It’s HUGE. There are so many parks scattered around London and it’s a lovely escape from all the concrete.)


5. Visit castles and palaces

(They are remarkable to say the least! You can spend hours upon hours in one place and not see everything. My favorite place had to be the Tower of London just because I love the history of Henry VIII. I even spent about six hours at Hampton Court Palace and didn’t see everything. London has some remarkable history. The architecture and craftsmanship that goes into every palace and castle is also mind-blowing.)


6. Visit museums

(Museums sometimes sound a bit boring, but they don’t have to be! London is filled with museums with various exhibits. One time I went to the Science Museum for a special exhibit on zombies. People dressed up and the whole exhibit was interactive and fun! I particularly love the Victoria and Albert Museum and found their theatre exhibit really interesting. Oh, and did I mention that museums are free?! It’s fantastic!)

The V&A's Cafe

The V&A’s Cafe

7. Get lost!

(That’s right, I’m encouraging you to get lost in the city. Although there are maps outside of most tube stations, I managed to get lost a few times, but during those times I got to see parts of the city that I would not typically explore and loved it. You get to know the city a lot better by wandering around and you can actually see how everything is actually so close together and walkable. Don’t worry about not being able to find your way home: there’s always a tube stop nearby!)



Writing about London makes me want to go back so bad! It’s a city that can honestly steal your heart when you’re not expecting it. I even miss the cold weather! Strange, right? The study abroad experience is really what you make it and I can honestly say I’ve had such a full and wonderful experience. Queen Mary is also a great university to attend while in London. It’s nice to have a closed campus a bit away from the center of the city. I would highly recommend taking the course on London architecture at Queen Mary. Every other week is a field trip and you learn to appreciate the city so much more. I hope you get the chance to study in London or at least visit. It’s been such a pleasure sharing my experiences with you. Cheers!

Hello . . .

My first blog post! I guess I’ll just make this a quick introduction. I’m Sami, and I’m a sophomore at Lafayette College in Easton, PA. I row and I’m attempting to make my comeback in football (aka soccer) after my untimely retirement two years ago. I’m studying History and Drama, and back home I also minor in Geology and help with Studio Art classes.

Today is Wednesday, which means I don’t have any classes. Wednesday afternoons are basically set aside for the sports clubs to train, and normally I would be at the London Regatta Centre right now however I’m sick once again and I’ve decided to rest a bit. Also, I’ve got concert tickets for Walk The Moon at Scala London tonight, and I do not want to miss it! Living here is great – I really miss being in a big city. I’m originally from Singapore, but I moved to the states when I was about 7 years old – hence my obvious American accent. I actually moved to Easton, PA and haven’t left since . . . so basically coming to London was my big escape from the town!

As far as classes go, I’m really enjoying the classes I took, especially for this term. I’m taking two final year history courses: Cold War America and Film History of Post-War America. My drama course is a Group Practical Project and it has been amazing so far! It’s a lot of fun, and we’re putting on a performance in May for it. I’m looking forward to the rest of term too – especially for the Boat Race in March! Then training week in April, maybe a bit of travel, and finals in May! I’ll be going back home in August just before my junior year starts.

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