First semester as an English student!

As a new semester begins, and we are all settling into new classes, a few of our first year students reflect on their experience of starting  their degree and their first few months studying English at Westminster!

Workshops by guest authors have made the course tremendously exciting and dynamic, and it’s been rewarding to work with other writers.

Studying English Literature and Creative Writing as a mature student at Westminster has exceeded my expectations.Lectures and seminars have impressed me with their depth, in unpacking the historical and sociopolitical contexts of literature, for one example.Workshops by guest authors have made the course tremendously exciting and dynamic, and it’s been rewarding to work with other writers. I’ve improved as a writer from their guidance and found feedback relevant and mostly invaluable.

Alex, BA in English and Creative Writing


 It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the epoch of possibility, it was the season of loneliness. These contrasting thoughts, adapted from the famous Charles Dickens quote to fit my current predicament, run through my mind; they float on top of all my idealistic expectations of university. This wording, I know, is nothing more than theatrical exaggeration but at the time these thoughts were conjured, they seemed relevant. I was sitting in a café with a cold, overpriced cappuccino and a half-eaten croissant before me, feeling sorry for myself as one does when idealism is crushed by the cynical hand of life. The problem? Loneliness. When one is used to being surrounded by an array of friends and peers, it’s fair to say the newness of university – newness, in this case, consisting of over 20,000 students – can be slightly daunting; and when one isn’t living at dorms, it’s even more daunting. Needless to say, this was the second day. Like I said, theatrical exaggeration – the result of reading too much Oscar Wilde, perhaps. Fortunately for me, things did improve over the next few days and weeks.

The next day, I decided to alter my course from joint honours Spanish and English Literature to English Literature. This involved a lot of e-mailing on my part, although I did learn to get in the habit of putting ‘Kind regards’ at the end of e-mails so that was a bonus. The next few days introduced me to my modules, which included What is Literature, a module I thought I would completely glide through – right up until I actually had my first seminar and realised obvious, logical answers weren’t necessarily right and that philosophical thought was actually needed.This, I learnt, was what university was about: unlearning a lot of what we had been taught at college, being challenged and, of course, challenging others.

This, I learnt, was what university was about: unlearning a lot of what we had been taught at college, being challenged and, of course, challenging others.

Keywords for Literary Studies is another module, where we were told we would be reading Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, a book I consider an old foe. I tried reading it twice before while going through one of my ‘I must be cultured’ phases and, I admit, failed both times. The fact that I must now read it in its entirely once and for all is a challenge I must complete. Shakespeare and Performance is another interesting module, as I have always loved Shakespeare – isn’t it a sin for a literature student not to? – and the first seminar was a riveting introduction to the study of his plays. Moreover, I actually met people and made some friends, which means brooding in cafés alone will hopefully not be a regular occurrence.The following week went better, as I had settled in and built a slight regime for myself. The best thing, however, is the fact that starting university has cleared up the vexatious writer’s block I had been suffering from and now, I have started writing again. Studying the literary greats at degree level makes it hard not to be inspired.

Danny, BA in English Literature


My first semester at the University of Westminster has flown by. At the beginning, I experienced an array of emotions varying from bewilderment to excitement, as well as a real sense of confidence and pride starting my new journey in London.

Embarking upon anything new is naturally daunting and it would be hypocritical of me to say that I was not apprehensive before starting University. However, my fears and worries soon dispersed into thin air after a couple of weeks into the semester, when I met people on the same course as myself. Knowing that we were all in the same situation was both reassuring and encouraging.

One of the principal reasons for me selecting the University of Westminster as my choice of study was that even on the open day, a welcoming aura was apparent. The communal feel was palpable on the enrolment and orientation week.

One of the principal reasons for me selecting the University of Westminster as my choice of study was that even on the open day, a welcoming aura was apparent. The communal feel was palpable on the enrolment and orientation week, which I really enjoyed due to the FANS (Friends of Arriving New Students) at Westminster. They were not only relatable, knowing that they had stood in the same shoes as you last year, but also positive and knowledgeable about all aspects of University life. Whether you had questions about what societies to join or just general information about library opening times, there was no stone left unturned. Many times, throughout the twelve weeks of the semester has the leap between A Level and University study made an appearance in conversation. The principal question on my mind was: what does this giant gulf standing between these two levels of study consist of? I would say the analytical, presentational, research and inference skills that you learn at A Level are like foundations to a house; necessary to cement the base knowledge. However, University level consists of you utilising those foundations on a much more rigorous scale whilst building upon your previous knowledge. Furthermore, the words that I associate with University study are independence, self-motivation and determination.

Having completed my first semester as an Undergraduate in English Literature and completed many forms of coursework for various modules, I have learnt to appreciate that you must be a proactive, independent learner, prepared to take initiative by using information given to you in lectures and formulate your own opinions.  The end of the first semester was abundant in coursework deadlines, presentations – a stressful period! But although initially the amount of work can appear daunting, I have learned that if you plan well in advance and keep focused on all deadlines then everything should run smoothly!

To gain the most from University study and achieve the degree that I aspire to have, I believe it is imperative to take advantage of the surrounding environment.

Having a campus in London is the biggest and best classroom of all.

Having a campus in London is the biggest and best classroom of all. Every street bleeds history and the capital itself offers everything and more in terms of academic resources. Studying a subject like English Literature, the amount of academic resources are limitless including institutions such as The Tate Modern, The Globe and The British Library. I have been really enjoying the opportunities to use what the city has on offer!

Francesca, BA in English Literature

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