International links and upholding values
Essex Uni has a consistent record of fighting for liberal values with demonstrations and protests to celebrate the Human Rights Act and the struggles to enact it around the world. Every year they paint the steps between the squares, writing the constitution on all the steps. That for me is iconic Essex Uni. They do it in different languages as well, so on one side they might have it in English, and then they’ll have it in Arabic, because Essex Uni has got a huge international student community, which really boosts your ability to interact with people from different countries. I did group projects when I was at uni with people from Israel, or people from Korea, and all over the world. Yes, they really celebrate that, and they celebrate their commitment to progress and to equality, and those sorts of values.
One of the best things about my degree was being inspired by some of the best lecturers I’ve ever come across.
Essex Uni has got a huge international student community, which really boosts your ability to interact with people from different countries.
Meet some of my inspirational teachers
I had lots of great lecturers and my third year United States lecturer, Owen Robinson, he was just cool! He specialised in southern literature. He was writing a book about Faulkner. He’d studied at Essex, he’d done his doctorate, he’d kept coming back; he loved the place for its ethos. It’s got quite a history of protests and standing up for things, and he was brilliant because he was so passionate. We read ‘The Naked and the Dead’ by Norman Mailer, which is the 700-page tome about the American war experience, and for some reason we’d had to cancel the seminar the week before so we did a four hour seminar on a book that I’d spent the entire previous day reading. We did a four-hour seminar, and it wasn’t boring: he asked us questions, and provoked thought. He was one of those people. He stood at the front of the room and could talk to you, or talk at you even, for an hour, and you were captivated.
Owen taught me in the third year and gave us a lot of freedom. So, after the four hour seminar on ‘The Naked and the Dead’ by Norman Mailer, I decided that I was definitely going to use that for my essay. We had a lot of creativity with it, and that essay was far and above the best essay I had ever written. His comments and understanding of it gave me the inspiration; I had been averaging a 2:1, and that was the first essay I got back that year with a first and I decided that actually, to do my best was to try and achieve the best, so I was then on course, and determined to get a first for my degree. He was an inspiration.
I was then on course and determined to get a first for my degree.
John Kant was the film lecturer, and he was amazing. His passion was incredible and something that he told me about how he marks is something that has influenced how I try to mark now as a teacher; he gave me a first on one of the essays that I’d written for him, and he said, “Now, I’ve marked this, but I don’t want you to think that it isn’t good because I’ve written all over it, but actually I’m in conversation with you and it’s just to develop your thinking.” He marked with questions, and it’s actually really inspirational because it makes you really reflect on what you’ve done. He was really good.
I studied Shakespeare with Professor John Gillies who was incredible: very knowledgeable. It was a smaller seminar; I think everybody in the Shakespeare seminars was going on to be a teacher, so they felt like they needed to do Shakespeare studies. I did modules with him on tragedies and comedies, so I had breadth in my studies, knowing that I’d be teaching them as I went into secondary schools.
It’s actually really inspirational because it makes you really reflect on what you’ve done.
My life on and off campus
I was a bit older when I joined Essex Uni. I had my own home and lived with my boyfriend, so I was quite settled compared to the students who were arriving in Freshers’ Week and hitting the clubs on the campus, or in Colchester, but I still had a lot of good times. They’ve got a theatre called The Lakeside Theatre which puts on some amazing student-led performances. They stream the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company performances. Even as an alumna I still go back to the performances that they put on there.
They had a brilliant modern version of Romeo and Juliet in 2014, in the summer of the year I left, and so I still go back there and enjoy it. They’ve got a great café, all glass and modern, and the public can go too. In fact, there are a couple of bars and a club on campus, and there are restaurants. If I had a morning lecture, I’d get in early so that I could go into one of the restaurants, grab a coffee and a cake and sit out people-watching. They run buses so you can make it into Colchester, and they’ve got a lot of student safety support as well to make sure that if you are commuting into the town, all is good. Because it’s just outside Colchester, in the country, it’s lovely. When I was living in Frinton I was going back through Wivenhoe to get there, and there are some gorgeous pubs out on the water. You’ve also got the Wivenhoe Trail that you can walk, going through the woods, and that follows the train track at some points, so it’s very picturesque.
It’s just outside Colchester, in the country, it’s lovely.
As an alumna, I have retained strong connections with Essex. The uni continues to support me in my career and include me in events and I still go there to socialise and study.
Obviously there are alumni events: we get email updates about events that are going on. They invite you to different things such as performances in London, so, there’s still a real community about it, and I feel like I’m still involved and still part of Essex Uni, even though I left four years ago now. I also go back to do continued professional development as a teacher; because I’m an alumna, they email me things so I’m aware and I can keep developing my career through Essex even now. There’s a really nice bar up at the university and I’ve still got friends who are academics there. So, even now, I will go there to meet people or, if I want to research something or I was looking at applying to do a master’s, I’ve got access to the library. I can still go in and look things up for teaching.
There’s still a real community about it, and I feel like I’m still involved and still part of Essex Uni.
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