Life as an English student
Recent graduate, Anouska Wilkinson, discusses her own experiences of being an English student at Bristol.
From the intimacy of small group tutorials and seminars, to the intellectually stimulating forum of the lecture theatre, the English Department is renowned for the variety and depth of its approach to exploring literature through the ages.
For Anouska Wilkinson, this was a deciding factor in choosing to study at Bristol. The encouragement and support of the department was especially pivotal in shaping Anouska's career – after her dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer were thwarted, she found fresh hope in the student life.
"On my first visit to Bristol, I was immediately struck by the warmth and openness of the English department," says Anouska, who graduated with a BA in English in 2013. "All the academics spoke with such a compelling enthusiasm for literature and sense of discovery in their work, I knew this was the kind of ethos I wanted to work with.
"It was clear that each student was an individual here. The knowledge, guidance and encouragement offered by tutors has been so valuable, everyone I encountered has been incredibly supportive, intellectually and personally.
"My degree gave me an opportunity to rebuild my life when I thought it had fallen apart, and I could not be happier. I came to University from slightly unusual circumstances. While training at The Royal Ballet School, my career was curtailed by an injury and so studying English was a sizeable change of direction. I am still grateful that the department was willing to consider my application, even though my qualifications differed slightly from those of a standard candidate.
"The diversity of the department's approaches to teaching is an integral part of its success. Lectures are structured to run alongside tutorials and seminars. They address topics and authors pertinent to the period of study, complementing and expanding the knowledge gained through weekly reading, often acting as a point of departure for further enquiry. It is also a chance to observe academics in action, to watch how to present your ideas in a lucid and accessible manner.
"Lectures are social events too; it's the time when the whole cohort of English students comes together. Tutorials, on the other hand, provide a more intimate setting to engage with literature. They offer the opportunity to closely examine all the fascinating details of texts and analyse their criticism. Being able to become so familiar with your group and tutor creates a wonderfully comfortable and encouraging environment for such discussions. Interacting with a larger group of people during seminars is another really conducive way of inspiring wider debates. They teach you to express your views with confidence and give you the chance to listen to others.
"Essays are naturally the most demanding part of the course. However, the time-structure is very manageable, and ultimately, writing an essay is a fantastic opportunity to learn how to creatively craft and formulate your opinions into a coherent, eloquent argument.
"When I began at Bristol I don't think I held any firm notions about where I would be heading at the end of my degree. My personal tutor first suggested doing an MA at the end of my second year and I am very fortunate to have been awarded a scholarship by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to continue my studies at Leeds, an outcome which would have been impossible without the teaching and guidance I received from the staff within the department.
"I can genuinely say I have loved every minute and feel greatly privileged to have had the chance to study here. Beginning at university was inevitably challenging, but I learned that the more effort you invest, the more rewarding it becomes."
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