A Fund for Student Opportunities

If you follow my blog posts here on Inside Edge, you know that I’m currently in the United States of America, on a sandwich placement at the Morton Arboretum. I was fortunate when arranging up this work placement that Edge Hill University had just set up its Student Opportunity Fund (SOF) – a fund that students can apply for to help them make the most of career enhancing opportunities. The fund’s goal is to make sure that no student at EHU passes up a potentially life-changing experience because of the financial burden it might impose.

When I was in the midst of applying for my placement as a Research Affiliate at the Morton Arboretum, I realised quickly that costs would add up. An updated passport, a visa, flights and insurance would quickly put a hefty dent in my finances, leaving my maintenance loan severely lacking for the year abroad. Thankfully, my personal tutor, Paul Ashton, and the Money Advice Team (for whom I was working for at the time as a Money Buddy) informed me about the Student Opportunity Fund and that I could potentially be successful in acquiring additional funding.

Any student on an undergraduate or PGCE course attending EHU can apply for the fund, which will supply them with up to £2000 to support the proposed activity. The projects can be near or far, large or small, requiring the maximum amount available or a portion. Applications could cover travel and accommodation expenses, for example, for unpaid work experience or volunteering; interviews or assessments not covered by the employer; or conferences, festivals, or events where you’re showcasing your work. The fund could also cover costs of developing and making creative material.

Many students have already made use of this amazing fund to enable them to experience some wonderful opportunities that improve both their transferable and career-focused skills:

Applications are judged by a panel and must be submitted over ten working days before the panel convenes. For this academic year, 2017-2018, the remaining dates of convention are:

  • Friday 13th April 2018
  • Thursday 3rd May 2018
  • Wednesday 6th June 2018

Public Lectures, Research Seminars and More!

Throughout the year, Edge Hill University hosts a number of public lectures. These are can be in subjects such as my own, Biological Sciences, or others, such as Education or History.

Banded archerfish (Toxotes jaculatrix). Lithograph, published in 1884.

Recently, my personal tutor and department head of biology, Dr Paul Ashton, gave his inaugural lecture titled “Contemplate an Entangled Bank” after the opening to the final paragraph of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Paul’s lecture was on the culmination of his work to date, from lime trees to sedges.

The Biosciences Department also hosts research seminars typically at lunchtime, as well as public lectures in the evening. Previous research seminars from this term were on biogeography (the origin of the Lusitanian flora), a rare genetic disease (Fanconi Anaemia), and how plant-atmosphere interactions shine a light on the origin of flowering plants. Although the schedule for 2018’s public lectures is not yet released, check back HERE for details! I attended Dr André Antunes’ talk, “Living on the Edge: Life in high salinity environments” last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Also of note for the department is “ENTO’18: The Good The Bad and the Ugly” – an annual entomological conference which this year is being hosted at Edge Hill University during the 29th to the 31st of August.

The Geography department also holds public lectures in the Geosciences building, the most recent two being a lecture on coastal vulnerability to climate change and rising sea-levels, and perceptions of “Globalisation, Sustainability and Culture” in regard to “the Identities of old/new Empires and their colonies.”

Conferences and talks are held by the Faculty of Health and Social Care in their own building, as well as the Tech Hub and the Manchester campus – particularly for open days, where the Operating Department Practice programme is held. Conferences are also held by the faculty, such as the Digital Ecosystem event.

Education students have an interesting research seminar scheduled for early 2018 on January 11th – The Teaching and Learning of Britishness and Fundamental British Values, by Dr Sadia Habib, who has also published a book on the topic. Past seminars and lectures have included teaching in South Africa, lesson study, and educational responses for the future.

The Department of Performing Arts also has had many events throughout the year, two workshops of which were on Mindfulness and Butoh in Dance Movement Therapy. Another inaugural lecture was held by Professor Stephen Davismoon earlier this month.

Finally, students of English, History and Creative Writing have enjoyed lectures on The Politics of the Neo-Victorian Freak Show, how the illustrations of Sherlock Holmes affected the success of Doyle’s success, and “what it meant to be a girl in the late Victorian period and how women editors played a role in shaping the modern girl,” in a paper reading by Dr Beth Rodgers.

As you can see, Edge Hill University offers numerous lectures across the board of courses! I’ve found that attending these talks for my subject has allowed me to get an idea of which topics I find enjoyable both inside and outside the curriculum.

What Exactly Am I Studying?

Over the last three years I have really enjoyed studying English literature and creative writing, I’ve had the option of taking a whole load of different modules that cover so many different areas. This post is going to list some of my favourite modules that I have studied since first year and I’ll you a little bit about them.

  1. Periods and Genres one – First year

This module ran for one semester in my first year. It was a literature module in my first semester and was a great way to ease me into the course. It covered genres from Romanticism to post-modernism and gave me a good over-all knowledge of the literature periods which I have now built on. It also started my particular interests in romanticism and modernism.

  1. Writing Short Stories – Second year

This module ran over both semesters in second year, It was one of the core creative writing modules. It built on the fiction module from first year and extended our knowledge of short story writing. It really opened my eyes to the short story form and I have a newfound appreciation for it both from a reader’s perspective and a writer’s perspective

  1. Film Adaptation – Second year

This was a literature module that was also available for creative writing students. It ran in my second semester of second year. It looked at a series of different book/film pairings and used film and literature theory to analyse how books are adapted into films. This has been, by far, my favourite module because I learnt so much; I realised that films don’t particularly have to be ‘faithful’ adaptations of a source text to be successful and there’s a lot of thought that goes into the process. I also got to choose what film/book I wrote my assignments, I chose Matilda for my final assignment – nostalgia much?

  1. Special Author two: Jane Austen – Third Year

This module ran in my first semester of third year, it focused on the work of Jane Austen, looking almost her entire catalogue of literature and a few contextual novels that linked to her work. I enjoyed Jane Austen novels before as I had studied them in my romanticism module in second year, but this module made me all the more interested. We had an incredibly enthusiastic lecturer who made the experience even more fun and I now have a new favourite book – Emma, which I wrote an essay comparing to the film Clueless for one of my assignments.

  1. The Art of Screen Writing – Third Year

Another core creative writing module that runs over both semesters in third year. It looks at screenplays, how to write them and the theory behind them. As I’m mainly accustomed to writing stage plays, this module has been a challenge for me to adapt to screenwriting and how different it is to writing for stage but it’s nonetheless a welcome challenge. I’ve enjoyed studying different screenplays such as The Graduate and When Harry Met Sally and I am now in the process of writing my own.

A day in the life of a creative writing and English lit student – sort of

Different university courses have different timetables, unlike school the subject you choose can drastically change the amount of contact hours you have. With creative writing and English literature, I tend to have two to three contact hours per module (six modules in total) which is not a lot in comparison to perhaps a nursing student. However, I have a lot of coursework that is required to be completed in my own time. It’s important to know what is expected of you on your chosen course and to make sure you are prepared to put in the necessary hours. To give you a bit of insight I’ve decided to give you a bit of a ‘day in the life’ post to give you an idea of how I spend my time.

Waking up

Like any self-respecting student, I hate leaving the warm cocoon that is my bed, on Mondays and Tuesdays especially (my dreaded 9am days), I have to set a number of alarms to coax myself out. I’m one of those high-maintenance people who need at least two hours to get ready in the morning, half an hour of which is spent waking up. When I do eventually emerge I zoom through breakfast, shower, general hair and facial improvement and leave the house half an hour before my class starts (at least in an ideal world I do).

Classes

After getting to uni – at a leisurely pace, usually accompanied by a podcast or some music – of course I have to go to class. My timetable is as follows:

  • Monday – 9 – 11
  • Tuesday – 9 – 1
  • Wednesday – 11 – 1
  • Thursday – free day (yas!)
  • Friday – 2 – 4

It may seem far less packed in comparison than someone at school or on a course that required more contact time but it’s still hard work! After class I tended to meet up with my friends, have lunch and just generally unwind for a couple of hours in The Hub.

Homework & errands

Once I get home it’s time for me to begin to mark stuff off my to-do list. I tend to spend a few hours every day doing the uni work that needs to be done, but on some days I also do house work or nip out to the shops or do other general adulty things like that.

Extra-curricular and social activities

I always make sure I have time to do something socially stimulating – or else I’d go insane! On a Wednesday night I go to dance classes, I find that’s a great way for me to relax and forget about work for an hour or so. I also enjoy meeting up with friends in town or just dropping by each other’s houses for a cuppa. It’s important to spend some time being social because if you get so absorbed in work that you don’t leave the house you will soon burn out and that’s not good!

Bedtime and chill

The last thing I do in a day is have a bit of chill time before I go to bed. I try to make a habit of winding down with a film or a book or else I tend to struggle getting to sleep.

Until next time! 🙂

So You Want to be a Combined Honours Student?

Being a combined or joint honours student has a lot of advantages that may benefit you over being a single honours student. As a Creative writing and English literature student I have had a lot of experience in both subjects and that has really helped me so far in my degree. Having the option of a joint honours can be incredibly beneficial if you enjoy more than one subject or aren’t quite sure exactly what you want to specialise in. In this post I will explain a little bit about my experience as a joint student and bust a few of the myths you may have come across when researching courses.

Advantages

In my experience I have found that there are a lot of advantages to being a joint/combined honours student, such as;

  • You get to learn skills in two different subjects that often complement each other.
  • You will be able to bring new and different ideas to both subjects.
  • It’s a good way to develop your adjustment skills and work to being more flexible. with your work, as you will complete assignments for both subjects that have different requirements.

Myth Busting

Now, you may hear a lot about studying a joint/combined honours degree that may not necessarily be true;

  • It’s more work than a single honours degree – Actually, in my experience, the work load is very similar, if not the same as those of my friends who are just studying single creative writing or literature. The only difference is that you may have a few deadlines at same time and thus have an influx of different assignments, but if you handle your workload it will be no harder.
  • It’s less of a qualification – Nope. It is just as valid as a single honours.
  • You do more modules than a single honours student – At least In my degree I study three modules in creative writing and three in English literature, as opposed to all six in one subject. If you were studying major/minor you would have more modules in your major subject but they would always add up to the same amount of modules as a single student in your field.

Final Advice

The biggest piece of advice I can give is to research thoroughly into what you want to study and get as much information as possible before applying. A joint honours degree may not be for everyone, as a single honours degree may not be, it’s up to you to figure out which you’d enjoy most and which would benefit you most. For more information on different courses you can visit the UCAS website, the subject page of the Edge Hill website and The Complete University Guide’s page on choosing your course.

Good luck to all those who have applied and to those beginning to look for a university course 🙂

The Life of a Performing Arts Student!

Hello all, hope you had a wonderful and Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays for those who celebrate other or no other festivals. As it nears the end of December and 2016, I am moving into Semester 2 of my BA (Hons) Performing Arts course at the University, and I can’t wait to be back.

If you’re looking at Performing Arts courses as a way of extending your skills and abilities, creating and performing, studying the theory behind performance or even writing your own scripts, the courses that Edge Hill offer are perfect for you! Below I have included a list of the courses which are hyperlinked so that you can check out the ones you are interested in;

As you can see there’s a course for every type of performer and creative. As I like to perform and devise performances as well as expand my skill set as a performer, I chose to enrol on the Performing Arts course.

This is the beautiful Arts Centre- where I have my lessons!

One of the best things about the Performing Arts course is the range of modules it covers. I did the BTEC Diploma in Performing Arts at my college, which I loved, however, I did not expect to cover such a big range of skills and genres of performance as I have done and will continue to do for the next 5 months. So, here is an overview of my Performing Arts life over the past 4 months!

Fresher’s Tasks and Introductions

In the very first week of the course, I didn’t know my way around so much and I didn’t know many people. However, the staff ensured that they gave me the information I needed to get more used to life at Uni and the course itself. There were a few talks carried out in the Arts Centre’s main theatre – the Rose Theatre – that gave me all the information I needed to know about the course heading into it and the University and it’s resources itself.

The Rose Theatre

In my first lesson, I was introduced to my main lecturer and form tutor- Barnaby King. The lesson was quite informal, which allowed everyone to feel more at ease than we did before entering it. There are 12 people in my class, including me, and it was nice to be able to finally meet everyone and get to know each other. Everyone came from such different backgrounds which was interesting to discover, and although we were quiet to begin with, being in a class with such lovely people is amazing and we all became friends quickly! Barnaby set us a small task based on our journey to the University to ease us into the course, which was great as it was our first opportunity to work with and around the people that we are going to be working with for the next three years of our educational careers.

The Introduction to Performance Module

As performers, it’s always great to be up on our feet and creating- I know that personally, when I enter a performance space, I’m itching to get up and produce something! However, as a performer it’s also important to know where performance came from and what performance itself is. This is where this module comes in. I have this module on Monday afternoons, and I’ll either attend a lecture or a workshop where we can discuss ideas surrounding the course and anything that we might not have completely got to grips with yet- one of the best things about these workshops is the level of support it offers you in your studies! The idea of sitting in a lecture might put performers such as yourselves off, however, Barnaby and the other lecturers ensure that it’s not just you sat listening bored! We often listen to songs related to ideas discussed in the lectures and watch videos from practitioners and researchers that are a nice change from powerpoints. In my classes this year we’ve even mentioned Hamilton the Musical and watched something about the background of the musical, so don’t let the word ‘lecture’ put you off! This module runs for an entire year, rather than one semester.

Performance Skills Workshop

This module was one of the two optional modules I had to choose from- the other module was Introduction to Technical Theatre. On Mondays I also attend a lesson for this unit. This unit is all about developing your skills as a performer, and so far I have tried my hands at all sorts of things from mask work to juggling in workshops.

Maskwork is something fun you might explore in this class!

For this lesson we have a teacher called Olly Crick, who always keeps lessons lively and fun whilst teaching you so much about different performance genres. For the past 4 months, Olly has run workshops with us to show us what techniques and genres there are within theatre and performance, and as we progress into the second semester we get to narrow what we are studying to particular techniques we want to pursue further- which is great if you really want to have time to master a technique or begin your path to mastering it! This module runs for an entire year, rather than one semester.

Physical Theatres

If you studied Performing Arts at college or are just a regular theatre goer, you’ve probably come across Physical Theatres of the likes of DV8 or Frantic Assembly, just to name a couple of companies. For the last 4 months I have been having lessons for this module on a Wednesday morning; something that might sound daunting, as Physical Theatre in the morning can be a very exhausting task. But the best thing about these lessons is that Barnaby did a small yoga warm up before each lesson he led, which warmed the body and mind up perfectly and also helped bring our awareness of what was occurring in lessons and of each other as performers to a level that aided us in performance and devising. At the end of the unit, we had devised a half hour performance on love, hate and the situation in America with Donald Trump, which we performed to an audience of our friends and which was followed by a Viva Voce- a spoken assessment. The great thing about Vivas is that it’s like having a chat with your teachers about something your passionate about (Performing and your performance!) but it helps with your grade! If the idea of being assessed on speaking worries you, don’t let it! It’s so much less nerving when you’re in the room just speaking. This module runs for one semester, rather than a whole year.

Visual Theatres

Visual theatres is something I had never studied before, so this was an interesting module for me! If I had to summarise what this genre is and what I studied in this module, I would summarise it using these three techniques; Object Manipulation, Puppetry and Mask Work. Throughout the module we were given the opportunity to explore the use of these techniques and even create our own 3ft puppets and masks, which was frustrating at times but definitely worth it once we got to put them to use in our final performance! For this module, there is another performance, which we again showed to friends and our assessors, and a small written piece. As someone who loves Arts and Crafts, this module was a challenge but one that I welcomed with open arms! This module runs for one semester, rather than a whole year.

So that’s what I’ve spent my time at Edge Hill doing so far! You might have a different experience with what you cover in classes and especially if you choose a different first year optional module to me, but I hope this has given you a better idea of what Edge Hill’s Performing Arts course is like and I hope you make the choice to audition over the coming months! In my second semester, I will be studying the Devising Performance and Multimedia Performance modules in the replacement of the two semester-long modules I’ve done so far, which I can’t wait to explore. In the second and third year of the course, you have a lot more optional modules, from things like Popular Musicals to Prosthetic Makeup. This course is so different to the one I was on at college in all the right ways- I’ve always wanted to stretch myself as a performer and learn new skills, and with the aid of the teachers on the course this has proven to be an accessible goal!

If you have any questions, I’m very happy to answer them, just pop them in the comments!

I hope you have a great end to 2016 🙂

Here is the link to the Arts Centre’s page for more info on the theatres themselves and the shows that the Uni organise for staff, students and the people of Ormskirk;

The Arts Centre

Last Week

Well last week was one of the busiest weeks that I’ve had in a while. On top of university and work I was also busy most evenings.

On Monday evening I went to see Interstellar at the IMAX in Liverpool One. I often feel like I’m not a very good film student as I often don’t see a lot of new films, but with all the hype surrounding it I felt that Interstellar was one that I had to see. I’m also a big Christopher Nolan fan, so was excited to see what he had to offer. The film was incredible and visually stunning and I’d recommend it to anyone, although I must warn; there is a jumpy bit that made everybody in the cinema scream!

On Tuesday evening I went to see one of my favourite musicians live, Jamie T. I’ve been a massive fan of Jamie T for quite a few years, so I’ve been waiting to see him play live for a long time. We went to see him at the Liverpool Guild of Students, which I believe is the University of Liverpool’s student union. It was a really intimate venue and I came out of the gig incredibly happy, although wishing that he was playing more dates.

On Wednesday I was on campus, at the The Rose Theatre, watching a reading by the Irish short story writer, Kevin Barry. We are studying Kevin Barry’s book, ‘Dark Lies the Island’, as part of the Creative Writing course, so hearing his work read out loud and having an opportunity to ask questions was incredibly helpful. I really love Kevin Barry’s work and managed to get my book signed, although in true ‘Harriet style’ I turned into a shy, giggling mess.

On Friday I was at The Lantern Theatre in Liverpool watching ‘Still Ill’, a play written by one of the Edge Hill Creative Writing Lecturers, Billy Cowan, and based around the music of The Smiths. We are able to write our Script coursework on this play, so it was great seeing it acted out, and at the end there was a question and answer session. The play managed to be funny and heartbreaking and was a great way to end my week.

In spite of how busy I was I somehow managed to keep on top of all my work last week and it’s certainly means that I have no excuse on a normal week when I have much less on.

First (and Last) Exam of the Year!

Yesterday I had my first and thankfully last (yay!) exam of the year. The exam was in a film module called ‘Film Genre- Case Study’ and involved applying critical approaches to a fifteen minute clip from a Western film.

The exams on my course are nothing like the exams from school or college which involved sitting in a massive, echoey room on tiny desks, far apart from everybody else. We have the exams in our small seminar groups in the usual seminar room and I definitely find that it makes the whole experience less nerve-wracking. We are given a sheet of paper with the exam question on, as well as information that may be useful, like character and actor names. We are also given an exam booklet which is full of blank paper to write on. It’s okay to make notes in the exam booklet as long as they’re crossed out at the end. When filling out our information on the front of the booklet there is a section that can be folded over and stuck down to cover our names. This ensures that the person whose exam is being marked is kept anonymous throughout the marking process.

 

The Creative Writing side of my course is exam-free and completely based on coursework as it’s hard to evaluate creative skills in an exam format. The coursework is split between creative pieces and analyses of other people’s creative work. This year I’ll be producing a stage play, a collection of poetry and a piece of short fiction. Although these pieces aren’t due in until May I find with creative work it is best to start as early as possible as the drafting process can be quite intense and often the final piece is nothing like the first draft. We also workshop these pieces in seminars in order to get feedback as well as giving feedback to others, which can help with our own work.

I now have to wait around four weeks to find out how I did in the exam and, although I’m nervous to get my results, I’m glad that it’s out the way.

Meeting Prospective Students

On Saturday I assisted Billy, my scriptwriting lecturer, with an applicant visit day. He was running a taster session for people who have been accepted to study Creative Writing at Edge Hill University, and he wanted a current student of the course to speak to the applicants.

Initially I was nervous; the idea of a room full of people all staring at me wasn’t one that I was particularly comfortable with, but Billy assured me that the session would remain informal and that the group was relatively small.

I remember my Applicant Visit Day and how the taster session really heavily influenced my decision to accept my place at Edge Hill, so I knew that it was important to ensure that the applicants all got a good feel of what the course would be like and whether it was for them.

Once the session began I quickly realised that I’d been silly to feel nervous and I actually really enjoyed myself. Billy set writing exercises for the students that I remember doing in my early weeks at uni. I really loved how each individual person approached every exercise from a completely different perspective. I walked around the room checking on people to see how they were getting on and all the applicants were confident and spoke passionately about their writing.

The applicants were being shown around by two other Creative Writing Students, and at the end of the session they were given the chance to ask us questions regarding the course and the university experience. The topic that came up most was the experience of moving away from home- something that I haven’t done to attend Edge Hill, but have done in the past- and it reminded me how big a step all these people were about to take. Living at home I often forget that for majority of students university isn’t just about embarking on a new academic journey, it’s also about gaining independence and freedom.

Meeting students who may be starting at Edge Hill is September was great and I’ll look forward to seeing their familiar faces around campus. I can only hope that they enjoyed the taster session as much as I did!

Visiting Edge Hill

Whilst I was certain from the moment that I applied to Edge Hill that I wanted to go there, it wasn’t until the Applicant Visit Day that I really started to become excited.

The most valuable part of the day for me was the taster sessions. The day was especially for joint honours students so I attended a taster session for each of my subjects.

In creative writing about thirty of us sat in a room and took part in discussions before doing writing exercises. I had been a bit dubious initially- I had doubts that I’d ever just be able to write on cue- but by being given certain scenarios, requirements and restrictions I soon found myself inspired and writing away. This felt like a breakthrough for me, as I’d had writers block for the previous two years which I’d spent working in fast food, and it made me all the more sure that I was taking a positive step.

The film studies taster was a lot more intimate; a group of five of us sat round a table discussing Cult Cinema, a subject that greatly interests me and that I can speak passionately about for quite a while. After the session I remember thinking that this was exactly how I wished my first time at university had been.

After the film session we were each given a pack that included information about our tutors and a history of cinema
After the film session we were each given a pack that included information about our tutors and a history of cinema

After the applicant day I was a lot more nervous to start, as well as a lot more excited. It all suddenly felt very real and I began to get worried that I’d struggle with the workload or feel out of my depth.

Now that I’ve completed my first semester at Edge Hill University I know that I was wrong to worry and that when I put the effort in the workload isn’t an issue.

The applicant visit day was really helpful in that it gave me a much clearer idea of what the next few years are going to be like, and I’d recommend that everybody attends one.

You can find out more about visiting the university HERE.