Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Second Year Snapshots

This time last year, I was just finishing up my final lot of First Year assignments and it felt like the biggest weight off my shoulders. Now that we are a whole 365 days ahead of that, I’m just a few days away from closing up my Second Year of being a student at York St. John as an undergraduate. And whilst I know that it will be the biggest relief to have everything wrapped up for the summer, there is something melancholic about leaving such a wonderful, productive year behind - especially as it has flown by so quickly! Because of this, I thought I would go through a few mile stones I’ve particularly enjoyed this year so that you can get a better idea of what student life is like studying literature, studying as an international student, and as a chance for me to reflect on everything I’ve achieved. This is only a fraction of it all, but I hope that it helps and that you enjoy reading.

Moving To Amsterdam
Making the decision to become an international student for a semester was perhaps the best decision I have ever made. Whilst I love my university here in the UK, there is something about studying in another country that really puts you out of your comfort zone and yet provides you with a wider perspective of the world as a result. Moving to the Netherlands was a big step for me as someone who gets quite homesick, but I soon found myself making friends from all across the globe, embracing the fast paced nature of their higher education systems, and even picking up some Dutch! Being able to learn so much about Dutch history and to study several different topics at once really enriched my way of thinking to the extent that when I got back to England in the New Year, I had the advantage of automatically looking at things in a completely new light to what I did before. It’s definitely prepared me for the huge workload of my Second Semester and provided me with the necessary motivation and academic practice to enter my final year with confidence.
I didn’t expect that I would adapt so quickly to the extent that when I left I would even become homesick for Amsterdam, yet I find myself looking out for the rush of bicycles and missing the fresh food stalls where I would get my weekly groceries. As soon as I can, I know I’ll be heading back for a visit and planning a museum crawl. At the moment, I’m still in touch with several of my teachers from a class I was in about the history of biography entitled ‘The Personal Is Political’. We are working at the moment on publishing some poems that myself and my fellow students produced on our own biographies in an academic journal and I’m even getting the opportunity to write a short introduction for it. Looking back over the work we produced, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with pride for our work and for the fact that I was a part of something so special. Like I say, adapting was a quick process in the end but it wasn’t always an easy one. Having this knowledge of a new culture through my own experiences is something I will never forget and will use throughout everything I do for the rest of my life. For those of you who are thinking of applying to an exchange programme or studying abroad, I can highly recommend! 

Work Experience At Manchester Central Library
For my Literature At Work module in Semester Two, I had to find a small internship to gain some experience in a literature based field I was interested in gaining further knowledge on. So, of course, I couldn’t pass up the chance to work in one of my favourite places. Manchester Central Library is extremely special in its’ collection of archival material (including a second folio of Shakespeare and original Bronte content), music library, and literary resources. Because I am interested in not only writing and academic English but also a wider range of different fields, this was the perfect place to put into practice a schedule working on multiple different skill sets - think portfolio career 101. My average day incorporated the expected desk work, filing, and cataloguing, but also meant I got the chance to plan out sessions with the public, deliver Rhyme Time hours with children learning to read, and to work in conservation, repairing 1906 General Election posters. My favourite day was when I got to produce some blog content for the library and to do a mini take over of their social media. I learnt so much about branding and outreach, whilst actually getting to put it into action by communicating what events and activities were taking place with the wider community.
Libraries are extremely important places to our world. They offer the opportunity to read everything and anything for free and, whilst I have studied abroad now, to experience the whole world without having to move from a comfy couch. This was the place in which I first took to reading and to books, so it felt incredibly important to me to have this occasion to give back and to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes. I know that come summer time, I’ll be heading back to volunteer here and in many other of the museums across Manchester because the arts are far too often seen as self sustaining, which is an urban myth-conception. The reality is that, when we care for these places we build communities, and it is through those communities that any form of art or inspiration for potential creativity can come to exist. It is this that we need to continue encouraging now more than ever and because of this, when I returned to York for the beginning of term the first I thing I did was sign up to help out with the literature festival. In essence, being a volunteer made me want to volunteer even more!

Reading 100 Books
Every year I do my 100 book challenge and this year, my self competitiveness has thankfully taken a secondary nature to my interest in the content I’ve been reading. Whilst this has meant slowing things down a little, it’s also meant I have been getting a lot more out of the content I’ve been perusing, especially the classics. I’ve also been lucky enough to gain several opportunities to begin editing and reading proof copies this year, which has been extremely exciting. A highlight would probably be getting to read an advanced proof copy of Andy Weir’s Artemis (I was a huge fan of The Martian beforehand making it doubly exhilarating that this was my first proof). Some of my other favourite reads outside of this have been incorporated by book clubs I’ve followed, such as The Banging Book Club and Our Shared Shelf, both of which promote gender equality through further individual education. Plus, this past academic year (along with the rest of 2018) marks the release of many fantastic new reads and some of them I will be fortunate enough to engage with after meeting the authors themselves! Living in two worlds (to quote Rory Gilmore) one of books and one of reality, could not be a more valuable thing. The only problem with spending so much of my time thinking and existing in fictional worlds is that I will not ever be able to read them all - but that doesn’t mean I won’t give it my best shot!

After reading all of those books and learning so much in class, my biggest desire is often to encounter places in person. I haven’t done as much travelling as I would have liked over the past academic year but I am determined to make up for that over the next. For my twenty-first birthday I visited my beloved Paris and went to Shakespeare and Co. and Disneyland which made for a mixture of cultured wandering and 90’s throwbacks which was amazing. And of course, I moved to the Netherlands for 6 months which somehow doesn’t feel like it counts because of how much like my home it became! And over the summer I’ll be heading to the U.S.A for the first time which is extremely exciting because American Studies is my secondary subject and something I am eager to pursue at Masters level. There will be many more opportunities I hope to see the world, and from each of them I know I will learn at least one new thing. At the moment I am setting myself the goal of working hard and saving up so that I can travel more thoroughly in the summer after graduation and see as much of the globe as possible. Currently, I most want to see Russia, China, and Japan and would really like to attend a language based summer course in each of these places. We’ll see if I can make that a reality but for now, I will keep dreaming and locating new points on the map to add to my bucket list. My advice to students considering undergraduate degrees is to travel alongside your studies! Whether that be in the form of study abroad or planning a few trips during the holidays, you’ll learn so much by putting your knowledge into use and gaining real life experience.

Being Voted Chair Of Feminist Society
I’ve ran in two sets of elections this year and both were so much fun! Where you’d expect to find competition, instead at York St. John I found myself meeting new people and making friends opposed to getting too stressed. Whilst I didn’t merit chair of school (my lovely friend Jenny was voted into this position and I couldn’t be more pleased for her) I have been fortunate enough to earn the place of Chair of Feminist Society 2018/19! I’ve been a part of Feminist Society ever since I began at university and it’s come to be a place of friendship and development for me. It’s a great space for building upon confidence overall whilst discussing a really important set of topics and planning different events to raise awareness about the importance of securing gender equality. In the past year, we have fundraised for Coppafeel and SmallsForAll, as well as promoting the RedBox campaign to end Period Poverty throughout the UK and collaborated with the Healthy Relationships project, to lead consent workshops designed to prevent domestic abuse in student relationships. It’s so rewarding to be a part of and I can’t wait to lead further progress, with one of my main aims being to keep up the great work we have accomplished so far and to make our own feminist book club. There’s so much to be creative with in making what is often a heavy subject more accessible, and I can’t wait to see what we achieve.

Expanding My Freelance Writing Career
I first started blogging with UCAS back in 2014 and it was from this time onwards that I became more and more aware of just how much I love writing. Consequently, Freelance Writing as part of my future portfolio career is something I am focusing in on at the moment by gaining further experience and practice with a wider range of audiences. Since last summer and over the past year I have worked with various different student writing projects in and out of university, the result being that I have been able to greatly improve my current ability. I still have a long way to go and am far from perfect, but I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities I have been lucky enough to be part of so far. A particular area I have worked on is allergy writing as, living approximately 76% of my life with severe Anaphylaxis, I feel there is far from enough coverage for young people about how to deal with it. This has meant working on everything from a pamphlet for an NHS conference to a full length student feature with the Guardian of which I remain extremely proud because editing it took me a long time! I’ve also focused upon raising awareness about mental health with The Student Pocket Guide and Student Minds, recorded my travel adventures with TopUniversities and continued education based content with Milkround, Campus Society and my own university. Each piece has had its own challenges and required a lot of research, but the more I do the more I find myself able to enter into a particular mode of thinking and to get work done much more quickly than I did before to a higher standard. It has been eye opening to realise that I am much more capable than I previously realised if I put my mind to something, practice and ask for help when I need it. I can’t wait to do even more writing this summer and to see what topics there are to work with next.
Deciding On My Dissertation Topic
It’s incredibly scary (despite all of the many positives) to be heading into my final year of University come the Autumn time and to realise how quickly these past few years have gone by. Most intimidating of all has been deciding upon my dissertation topic and last four modules, though this is all starting to come together now. Currently I’m thinking a mixture of comments on Chekhov, Virginia Woolf, Angela Carter and Sylvia Plath but that might be too much, so we’ll see what I can round it up to in my final tutorial of the year. Of all the snapshots I’ve mentioned, going into this next academic year I think this is the picture I will remember most when I look back. It’s one of those defining milestones I never thought I would reach and feels oddly surreal to find myself considering now that I am here. The more I learn, the more I gain in experience, the more I realise that we do not realise anything has changed (even our level of expertise) until we look back and see the progress. It’s a real adventure to go on in every sense of the word; there are obstacles to overcome, muddy woodland to trudge through, sunny days and storms, just in a metaphorical form with more paperwork and less woodland. Second year has been defined by similar such epiphanies, all of them guiding the direction of my choices and decisions in ways that I might not have considered before. There are still many to go and thankfully, a whole year of academic shenanigans still to go. I can’t wait to see what snapshots I will have waiting for me this time next year.

If you would like to hear more from me, you can follow my writing here on UCAS as well as over on my Twitter page, @emordnilap97. Thanks for reading!


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