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?

Procrastination – Our Arch Nemesis

                                                              By Simran Kabotra.

Procrastination: “The act or habit of procrastinating, or putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention.”

We all know what this is. We all know how it feels. We all know how much it distracts us. It certainly is a bad habit we are all guilty of, no matter how studious or organised we are. You have a deadline within the next three weeks but you allow yourself to take it easy “because you have time”. A week before the due date, you assure yourself that the essay can be completed within two or three days instead, thus procrastinating some more. 

Besides, looking at YouTube videos of how to make a stress ball seems more relevant and so you convince yourself that you need to go through the stress of making a stress ball! You don’t posses any of the materials but you watch it nonetheless as preparation for when you do make it. 

One day. Maybe.

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Is Truth Stranger Than Fiction?

By James Jefferies. 

Whenever I get asked what I studied at the University of Essex I always seem to be given a strange look when I say I studied Drama and History. “Oh that’s an interesting choice of degree, I never knew you could do that” people respond to me with a rather bemused face. I’ll then reply by saying that it was actually two separate degrees rather than one. My Bachelor’s degree was in Drama and my Masters in History. They then say something along the lines of “I never knew the two could link.” Well, neither did I, but in many ways they did. Both were about discovering truth and understanding humanity. They are, after all, both subject of Humanities. It’s kind of obvious when you think about it.

Many of my favourite films when growing up were often historical and I often found myself asking two questions – What was the real truth behind the story? How can it be discovered? Both questions could be explored through historical research and through the process of performance. When studying History, I would examine sources to unravel the truth and in Drama, I would understand how a theatrical medium could be used to express and explore much of a historical story from fact.

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How to Survive Your Year Abroad

   By Antonia Vladut.

Coming to university is a terrific, yet thoroughly frightening experience. On one hand, you get the thrill of moving away from home for possibly the first time, starting a new life as an adult, and submerging yourself in the world of debauchery and late night Dominos that is university. On the other hand, you need to wash your own clothes, learn to cook at some point (hopefully), and actually attend the courses that you are continuously gathering an incredible amount of student debt for. Delightful, isn’t it? But once you arrive at uni, you realise that life is not too bad; you make a great deal of new friends which you can go out partying with, you sign up for countless societies and sports clubs (most of which you’ll never ever attend anyway but hey, they were giving out free lollies at their stall!), and last but not least, get to become a more intellectual and creative person due to your course. While this sounds pretty amazing, some people just can’t get enough; they want to challenge themselves even more, and that’s when a year abroad opportunity comes chiming in.

A year (or term) abroad is an excellent opportunity for students to thoroughly expand their area of expertise. It gives you the incredible chance of attending a new university in a different country, and engage in their curriculum. With the help of a year abroad, a psychology student may get to enhance their understanding of cognitive memory in New Zealand, an economics enthusiast gets to experience local finance in Canada, whilst a politics undergraduate can make his voice heard in the United States of America.

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Heritage

                                                                By Lelia Ferro.

I am currently working on two very different but connected poems about family heritage.

Although I was born and raised in England, both my parents were born in Genoa, Italy. I grew up near to London, and lived and worked in London and Brighton. The transition to Wivenhoe 10 years ago wasn’t easy and for a long time I felt like a fish out of water. However Genoa, like Essex, has a great maritime history and so in this respect I felt that we were connected by the sea in our blood. Colchester was also of course home to the Romans for quite some time.

At the University I have found a home with great diversity where I am by no means the only person who is from here, there, and everywhere. I believe that having a mixed heritage is a very interesting gift creatively, although it has taken me a long time to recognise this. I identify with both my countries, but at the same time I can be an observant stranger in both. It is this outsider position and feelings of uncertainty that lead to questioning ideas and perspectives. Continue reading

A View from the Other Side – A Farewell from LiFTS’ Student Engagement Intern

By Sam Cannon. 

As a student, my relationship with the LiFTS department was always short and sweet: I’d come in to submit or collect essays, have some friendly chat with the administrative staff as I did so, and then happily trundle off back home again. So when I found out that I’d been accepted for an internship within the department, I wondered what things were going to look like from the other side of the desk, or behind the scenes.

Some things never change, however – a 9am start is still a 9am start, a cup of coffee from the kitchen is still enough to draw me out of bed on dark mornings, and autumn term was still full of fresh-faced first years roaming around campus, taking all of it in. And it’s been my job to make sure that all of the changes are relatively easy to adapt to, things like making sure students know where to find support if they should need it, making sure they know where their classes are, or even organising events such as book fairs or social events.

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Are Smartphones Ruining Our Lives?

                                                                   By Melanie Ashton.

Over the New Year a video went viral on Facebook and YouTube in which motivational speaker Simon Sinek discusses what he calls ‘The Millennial Question’. He discusses how employers feel that they cannot connect with the generation born post 1994 and they can’t understand why. Simon puts this down to several factors, one of them being technology and social media. Ed Sheeran recently revealed  that he no longer has a phone and can only be contacted by e-mail. He felt that his phone stopped him from being in the moment and once he stopped using it he found that he was thinking again rather than filling empty moments by turning to his phone. The idea that smartphones can become addictive and have a severely negative impact on not only our relationships but also our mental health and productivity really struck a chord with me and I think it is something worth considering.

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