Reflections of a 3rd Year Literature Student…

By Jordan Welsh. 

I’ve wanted to write a blog entry for the LiFTs Department at Essex for some time but unfortunately reading, essays, research and life got in the way. Today I am pleased to actually have the chance to contribute something as I prepare to end my time at the University of Essex. *sobs uncontrollably*

I am amazed at how much the place has gotten under my skin. The truth is Essex feels like home. It is welcoming and accepting. They say that university is an opportunity to reinvent yourself, I say that university is the place where you can actually be yourself. Unlike school, when you come to university you’ll find that you will moan and complain but you never truly want to leave. More amazing still you actually can’t wait to return after the holidays!

I’ve worked as a student ambassador at the university for nearly three years, and the question that I get asked the most by parents and prospective students is “why did you choose Essex in the first place?” In short, the place felt right. It had that atmosphere that I really liked, everyone was kind and friendly, and the module choices suited my interests – what wasn’t to like?

Sure it has been hard work. I have suffered many sleepless nights and heart-racing moments whilst here but on the whole it has been a wonderful experience. I have met so many wonderful people, have learnt so much and have made it my mission to get the most out of my £9,000 per year tuition fee – to which I apologise to the staff for my constant badgering and question asking!

In my personal statement I quite pretentiously included the Ezra Pound quotation: “literature is news that stays news” but it is still something that I believe in now. If anything my studies here have increased my enjoyment and appreciation of literature, something I am thankful for, as it could have easily gone the other way.

Would I change anything about my time here? Perhaps I would like to have been more involved and sociable… I have a tendency to become too obsessed with work. On the whole university is what you make of it, I’ve tried to be as involved as I can and take as many opportunities as possible *Carpe Diem and all that* and when it comes to looking back in a nostalgic fashion I’m pleased with what I’ve achieved.

And who knows, if my masters application gets accepted I could be spending a few more years at Essex…

The Return to LiFTS…

                                                           Ashleigh Poole.

It took nineteen months of being a University of Essex graduate before the longing to come back stole my every second thought. Nineteen months of wishing I had stayed for the Wild Writing MA programme, nineteen months of missing the way the squares tend to vibrate with happiness as soon as the sun begins to shine, nineteen months of reminiscing over the senseless adventures taken during my three years at University of Essex and regretting the decision to stop them right there. After nineteen months, I couldn’t stay away.

So here I am, one week into a six month internship working alongside my favourite people in my favourite department. Pinch me – am I dreaming? My new role is to inspire and encourage people from all walks of life, from all areas of the country, and with all different types of talents, to apply for a life-changing educational journey within the LiFTS department. I have been told countless times that my love for the campus and for my degree subject, Creative Writing, radiates as I speak, so my fingers are tightly crossed for lots of new applications to flood in as a result of my ideas.

I have already been asked, ‘how does it feel to be back at the university?’ My answer is that it feels simply delightful. I can no longer stay up all night dancing in Sub Zero on a Wednesday, however the sense of accomplishment that has come with this transition from student to staff member has exposed what I must have been searching for during these past nineteen months. What I had recognised as graduate heartache was in fact just evolution into a real adult – a super-depressing thought. Being an undergraduate was the most fun I’ve ever had, but I am more than ready for real life responsibilities. I know this because seeing the women’s football team drunk at 5:30pm as I leave work made me smile with nostalgia but I didn’t wish to be them.

I sent a draft of this blog post to my boss and he told me I sounded much too starry-eyed and should add some negatives associated with working at University of Essex; the only downside I can currently think of is that I had planned to be healthy and eat soup every day, and after five days I am entirely sick of soup.

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Picture credit: Ashleigh Poole

Fake News?

  By Sarah Lawrence.

I’m sorry, who will star in Strictly Come Dancing 2017?!

The lineup for the Saturday night show is always one to spark interest and to be the subject of speculation before the official unveiling. However, from a trustworthy source, a rumour concerning the participation of someone who is very close and dear to the University and most importantly, the LiFTS Department has just been confirmed. Does the name Seeger ring any bells? We can now safely assume that one of the fifteen celebrities competing for the Glitterball Trophy in 2017 is our very own Dr Sean Seeger.

Let’s hope that his fondness for James Joyce is second to his fondness for sparkles and fake tan!

The rumour started to occur when he announced a rather abrupt sabbatical from the University of Essex: why else would he leave? Now it seems that he is planning to impress tutors of a different kind (personally I hope he is partnered with Oti Mabuse). Hopefully Craig Revel Horwood will be as proud of him as we are. 

Although we are not sure whom he will be competing against yet, we know he has our vote. More is set to be revealed in the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes peeled and be vigilant!

…and don’t forget: “keep dancing!”
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The View from the General Office…

By Deanna McCarthy

When I joined the LiFTS General Office in March 2016, I was eager to see things from “behind the scenes”. When I was a Language & Literature student here at Essex, I never really gave much thought to what those in the admin offices actually do. My experience with the admin team (in both the LiFTS and the Language & Linguistics department) was often extremely brief. I would hand in or collect coursework or enquire whether my marks were back (FASer was in its infancy when I studied here from 2009-2012 and I normally received my feedback handwritten – oh how times have changed!) and then leave for my lectures or to try and grab a study space in the library.

However, it turns out (as our previous Student Engagement Intern Sam said in his post earlier this year) that it takes an awful lot to run an academic department and the General Office have a bigger role than you may think. So in case you’re interested, here’s a brief rundown of what we do all year (no Easter or summer break for us!)…

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Just Do It!

By Lelia Ferro.

Recently I have been trying to do some of the things that I would never normally do. A couple of weeks ago I stood on a small stage before the mic and read my poem The Last House at Poetry Wivenhoe. I had wanted to attend for over 10 years but I was too terrified. Everyone clapped when I finished and people were lovely and encouraging afterwards. It was a fantastic boost.

Last week I launched a poetry and art project called Married to the Marshes which I hope will feed my dissertation and later perhaps a PhD. I would never usually dare to call myself an artist. To me that word seems far away and belongs to someone far more confident and eminent. But a local writer who has recently published something quite beautiful suggested to me that perhaps I should just do it, and so here I am going for it! 

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All The World’s A Stage…

By Raphaela Behounek.

For anyone who missed the highlight of February: last month our own Theatre Arts Society staged the ancient Greek tragedy Antigone at the Lakeside Theatre, and if you didn’t come and watch it – gee, did you miss something! In case you were wondering why I am still so excited about it – I had the honour of being part of this amazing cast and crew. Do not fret, however, I will not spend the whole post praising everyone involved and I certainly don’t expect you to bow your head in shame if you haven’t seen it (but just for your information, even people who don’t like Antigone and/or Greek tragedy enjoyed it!). What I do want to talk about though is why we should all go out and see some more theatre and maybe even try to participate in it, even when we are not pursuing a degree in Drama.

First things first, why is it important that people go and see theatre shows and why should we even bother to stage and study theatre? If you have a passion for theatre, like most drama students have and I do too, you do it because of that love. But not everyone feels that way. If we think back to school days and our teacher telling us that we’re going to see a play, at least in my class, I seemed to be the only excited person. So how can we pass on this excitement and even more importantly, why do we even want to do that? Going through the how is definitely not my speciality, so I will not talk about that, but during my time as a tutor, I certainly had to answer a lot of these whys when I got all excited about Shakespeare and Sophocles.

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A Man’s Take On International Women’s Day: “Y X Doesn’t Matter”

By James Jefferies. 

Part of my role as a Student Engagement Project Worker is to help run and organise events, so when I was asked to be involved with an event that LiFTS would be holding in conjunction with International Women’s Day, I took it on like any other project. I began by researching into the history of the event, learning what it was about and also what it aimed to achieve. I soon began sharing ideas with colleagues and the cogs of the project started rolling.

Guests were invited, activities planned, paperwork written up, meetings conducted and posters made and distributed. The roller coaster of organising the event was now moving fast along the rails of time and after growing a plethora of fresh grey hairs, and at times considering emigrating to the North Pole to live as a penguin, everything soon began to fit into place and the day was suddenly upon us.

The day started with sorting leaflets and placing posters up with directions to the room. The worry that nobody would turn up for the event kept tapping me coldly on the shoulder. People did turn up though. A good number of people in fact, who were giving me feedback about how wonderful the event was and soon I was feeling rather proud of what the Department had achieved.

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A Frontrunner’s ‘Journey’

By Eirini Apanomeritaki.

“Why would you apply for a frontrunner position? This is for undergraduates, not postgraduate students!”

In my defence, Bilbo is not that young when he begins his adventure in The Hobbit. So, being in my second year of a PhD in Literature, I applied for a frontrunner placement at the Centre of Myth Studies, which is based within the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies. Needless to say that in all these years I have spent at the University of Essex I had never taken an internship. You see, I wanted to focus on studying only, plus I wasn’t familiar with the idea of a work placement before I came to the UK as my university in Athens did not offer them.

I did not encounter any dragons but I attended (paid) training workshops on social media and branding, I learned how to manage my time effectively (time management was NOT my strongest skill – it can take me ages to write a chapter!) and I carried out research on all potential aspects of myth studies, from oral storytelling to literature, religion studies and psychoanalytic studies. I realised that it takes a high level of commitment to organise the Centre’s weekly Myth Reading Group: from creating posters and advertising the Centre’s activities on social media and keeping up with the latest news and publications on the field of myth to reaching out to students, academics and people who may have an interest in myths.  

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The Tricky Why

                                           By Raphaela Behounek.

Choosing to seriously study something that most other people only see as entertainment usually leads to the same old questions: What do you want to do afterwards? So, do you just read books and talk about it? Or, my personal favourite, so you’re becoming a teacher then? It’s never easy to explain to well-meaning grandparents why we choose to devote four or more years to Literature, Film, or Theatre Studies, especially when the big question of ‘after university’ is usually left unanswered. And even in my Masters, I still cannot give a simple answer to why I chose my field of study, because let’s face it – we won’t find the cure for cancer or the solution to world peace, as much as we want to.

            What we can do, however, is to change how people see the world around them. Our work can be the shove that a girl needs to go into cancer research, because The Fault in Our Stars has touched her so deeply, and a night at the cinema or the theatre is often the much-needed escape from dire reality. Being blessed with a campus cinema, I could witness this relief first hand a few weeks ago. I was sitting in the almost sold-out screening of Moana, the newest Disney hit. Surrounded by around 100 adult university students, I could see everyone trying to hide their tears and sniffling. Yes, it was only an animated movie with children as the target group, but I doubt anybody in that room didn’t feel their eyes itching and their arms being overtaken by goose bumps.

            Walking out of that room, while subtly checking whether I looked like a raccoon or not, and seeing how all these people were equally touched and happy, I knew why I am doing what I am doing. Maybe I won’t be the next Lin-Manuel Miranda or J.K. Rowling, and maybe I won’t make people ugly cry at a book or happy sniffle during an animated movie. But if we can make only one person want to change the world because they read the right book, or followed the right movie discussion – isn’t that exactly why we go through all of this?