The difference between studying History at School vs University

By Emily 2nd Year History student based on the Penryn campus

Hi everyone! My name is Emily and I’m a 2nd year History student at the University of Exeter. I’m based down at the Penryn campus in Cornwall, which I love because it is such a different experience and atmosphere compared to Liverpool, which is where I’m from.

I love the independence that university brings, and this doesn’t just mean living alone and things like that, but also in my course. When it comes to how you study and quite often what you study, you get to decide what to do, which is very different from school. It is exciting, but admittedly a little daunting at first!

In this blog post, I’m going to be explaining some of the differences between studying at school and studying at university, which will hopefully give you a good idea of what changes to expect. Being a History student, I will be talking from a Humanities perspective. A lot of what I will say will relate to all university courses, but it is just something to keep in mind. The main thing to stress is that yes, university is very different from school. However, different definitely does not mean harder, or scarier, or anything like that. If anything, you’ll probably find that you find studying more enjoyable because of how much freedom you have.

Thinking back to when I was school (which wasn’t THAT long ago), I find it hard to believe that I actually used to stay in the same building and have lessons for 6 straight hours every day, 5 days a week. Sixth form is a little bit more freeing but if your college is anything like mine, it didn’t feel that much different from school. University is completely different. This will vary for each student, but I have around 8 contact hours per week at university, broken up into lectures and seminars. Lectures are basically like watching someone give a big presentation, and a seminar is similar to a classroom, but smaller and more of a discussion, rather than a teacher simply teaching.

The reason that university contact hours are lower than school is because you are required to do a lot of independent work. Don’t get this confused with homework, where everyone gets the same task. Using my course as an example, in your lectures, your lecturer will introduce you to ideas surrounding the topic of the week, and you will then go away and do your own reading. There might be a few chapters that your lecturer has asked you to read, and they might supply you with a question to think about, but you are encouraged to explore anything you find interesting about that topic and be ready to discuss what you have found in your seminar with your course mates. Lecturers love it when students have new ideas, that they might not have even thought about. Not only this, but a lot of assignments may require you to think of your own question. For example, I just completed a project where I got to find all my own sources and I could think of any topic I wanted to cover. The dissertation is another example of this, I know people who have wrote dissertations on everything from skateboarding to disco music. This is a great opportunity to write about anything you are passionate about within your course and essentially, to show off. You don’t really get this opportunity at school because everyone is required to study the same thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you study is also up to you. If you would prefer to stick to a school routine and stay on campus all day to study, then that is completely okay. I tend to do that close to deadlines, but not always! There is so much going on at university and you might find that you study at random times. For example, you might have an hour-long lecture at 9am, but then decide to go out to lunch with a friend, or go to a society meeting, or go to a gym class. Then, you might decide to come home and pick up studying again after dinner. Sometimes you might be on campus all day and others you might not need to go in at all. There is no right or wrong way to do it, it is all about finding your groove and what is best for you.

Before finishing up here, I think the biggest difference between studying at school vs university, is that university really expands your academic potential. You have chosen one subject to study because you want to become an expert in that field, and you are surrounded by others who have also all chosen to be there. People don’t realise how limiting the school curriculum is until university, especially in history. At school, everyone gets taught a lot about World War 2 but not about things like Australian Aboriginal history. I have been able to study so many different perspectives, that I could never do at school and it is actually so important to consider different perspectives!

There is definitely a lot more to be excited about than to be afraid of when it comes to studying at university, so don’t let the word ‘different’ give you a bad impression and look forward to all the new things university will bring! Thank you so much for reading, I really hope that you found this blog useful!

What is it like to study a Humanities subject at Exeter University?

By Ferdia 2nd year English and Drama student at Exeter University

Hello! My name is Ferdia and I am in my second year studying English and Drama at Exeter. I am originally from Manchester but I love going to a university far away from home, as it has given me an increased sense of independence and responsibility. My favourite thing about studying at Exeter is the size of the university and the fact that it is campus based. I think that as a campus there is an increased sense of community and everyone is really friendly. Getting to know people and making new friends couldn’t be easier!

I am writing today about the difference between studying a Humanities subject at university, compared to studying Humanities at school. I would say that the first key difference is the sense of freedom you get at university. At school, you have to study the topics assigned by your teacher, meaning you may not necessarily enjoy all of them. Whereas at university level, although there are some compulsory modules, you get the freedom to choose what you want to do and are interested in. This makes it a lot more enjoyable. For example, in my first year I picked ‘Introduction to film studies’ as one of my English modules. I had never studied film or cinema before, but this freedom of choice led me to have a real love of Film Studies, and consequently I will be taking a Film & Television Studies module as part of my final year.

Another difference is the level of engagement with tutors. In school, you spend most of your time guided by a teacher, whereas at university most of your time is spent in independent study. In an average week, I might have 8-10 hours when I’m led by a tutor – broken down into lectures and seminars. I might have two 1-2 hour long lectures a week, which will be based on the reading for that week. You will be expected to have done the reading and be prepared. I might also have two 2 hour long seminars a week. These seminars are a guided discussion led by a tutor based on the reading for that week. These sessions are really helpful, as they make you think about things in a way you might not have thought about before, and you can engage with like-minded people. I love the independent aspect of studying a Humanities subject, you can learn more about what interests you and learn more about your writing style. If you are stuck you can always go and speak to one of your tutors and they are always more than happy to help.

A difference in essay writing between writing at school level and writing at university level, is the criteria you have to fulfil. When writing essays for humanities subjects at GCSE or A level, there are certain assessment objectives you have to fulfil and you are taught how to write an essay in a very specific way. However at university level, you are given more freedom in the way you can approach an essay question and can develop your own essay writing style. I found this really helpful, as at school I struggled with the way we were taught to write essays and consequently my marks suffered due to this restriction. However now I can approach an essay in a way I feel is most suitable, and I find that I can write essays with more passion and enthusiasm!

Although I have really enjoyed the increase in freedom in my studies during my time at university, there are also many other things that have made my time at Exeter a special one. I have been very active in societies, including my academic subject societies and also theatre societies, which have helped me to make friends and enjoy myself! I hope that this post helps with any questions you might have and I wish you the best of luck studying Humanities in the future!

The value of the Coddiwomble- Why I chose to study MA Creative Writing

By Hannah MA Creative Writing student at The University of Exeter

My name is Hannah and I am a word nerd. I love them all, every character, particularly once they’ve been plucked from language’s jumble and trained into lines designed to delight. My favourite word tamers include Emily Bronte, Robert Macfarlane, Hillary Mantel, Oscar Wilde, Terry Pratchett and Haruki Murakami. These literary legends transport one from the bed, the bath or the bus to the Moors, sixteenth-century Court, Discworld, tropical archipelago’s and Victorian parlours. Until teleportation becomes an option reading is the easiest way of getting yourself an interdimensional holiday for a tenner – a real penny saver for travel bums like myself. Twenty-five years after discovering I could get to Narnia, Hogwarts and Wonderland by reading, I’ve come to study word organisation at Exeter. I hope that the modules, lecturers, environment, time and space help me craft something(s) that transports other readers away from (and on) rainy afternoons and sleepless nights.

Why study a Creative Writing masters? I’d already completed a BA in English and Creative Writing, what would I gain by putting myself through another bought of deadlines? Even I’ve asked myself the question on the Sunday’s I’ve spent hunched over a laptop while everyone is out playing or snoozing on the sofa. Technically I’d already achieved what I’d set out to: I was paying the bills through my work writing. I’d also discovered just how many varied opportunities there are for pen wielders; in Peru I used my degree honed skills to write about the alleviation of Menopause’s 34 symptoms and in the UK, I’d increased charitable income by working as a Trust Fundraiser. But the problem is, I wasn’t writing my words, (and my interest in surrealism and fin de siècle Gothic’s far surpasses my interest in the menopause).

So, I’ve decided to actively Coddiwomble*, that is to push myself to ‘travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination’. The ‘vague destination’ is somewhere / some scenario where I can live by writing my own words (ideally it will be on a beach). In order to purposefully travel towards this unmapped location, I quit my full- time job as a Trust Fundraiser, jumped into the unknown (excuse the cliché) and landed back on campus – the University of Exeter’s to be precise. Already the move has forced me to grow as a writer.

In term one Sam North’s suitably challenging Poetry of Events module convinced my classmates and I, that in order to excel we needed to stop worrying about crafting beautiful prose and instead focus on working out what separates a good plot from a bad one. (Hint: Desire and satisfying the audience’s thirst for puzzles is key). I’ve also been able to indulge my fascination with late 19th century society and its literature by taking the English Literature module Empire, Decadence and Modernity. Highlights have included; considering the paradoxes and epigrams of Oscar Wilde and discovering relatively obscure but brilliant texts such as The Story of a Modern Woman by Ella Hepworth Dixon.

The wisest decision I made was to complete the course over two years rather than one. In addition to getting a whole extra year of study, I’ve also been able to combine the course with a role in communications and, importantly for me, I’ve only had to deal with one set of deadlines per term.

Realistically the move back into academic study may not add digits to my paycheck or land me a top dollar publishing deal, but it is allowing me access to storytelling experts, 1-1 support, a global community of writers and most importantly of all, the time and space to write.

*Can we all try to actively reintroduce this incredible old English slang word back into everyday conversation?

Fieldtrip series, Part 2: A coastal walk from Poldhu to Mullion

By Orla MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy student at The University of Exeter

As the second instalment of my fieldtrip series, we’ve got a fieldtrip which I went on as a fundamental part of my Heritage and Environmental Change module. As one of our assessments focused around the coastal harbour of Mullion, which is situated on the Lizard Peninsula, our first fieldtrip for this module was a coastal walk from Poldhu Cove to Mullion itself.

With our lecturers, we re-enacted Louise Ann Wilsons interpretative walk ‘Mulliontide: A Guide for Walkers’, which encourages walkers to actively engage with the environment whilst exploring themes of loss, change and identity. Wilsons’ original interpretative walk was done in October 2016 but was so popular that a guide has been published so that it can be re-created by anyone at any time. The walk itself went along some incredible areas coastline and some of the South West Coast Path – and you’ll be pleased to note that the weather on this occasion was bright sunshine!

In pairs, we carried the guidebook alongside us, which got us involved in individual stories, legacies and also some singing of the ‘White Rose’! Although we didn’t do the original choir justice, we all joined in and gave it a go and there was a lovely sense of community when were all singing along together. We followed the stations in the guide, sharing some gummy fish and also paddling our toes into the sea as recommended. At lunchtime, we stopped at the Chocolate Factory for a hot drink and also some of the best chocolate I have ever tasted!

For me, what was so poignant about this trip was that it would not have immediately sprung to my mind as a form of heritage. The ‘typical’ form of heritage often involves museums and archives, however this trip showed that heritage can move away from these more traditional forms. When walking through the landscape and interacting with stories, we ourselves were interacting with and also helping create the heritage of the landscape itself. I think this is what is so amazing about this MA – it opens your eyes to different forms of heritage and helps you consider things in a way which you never thought of before. If you had told me that I would be walking along the coast, singing with my cohort I think I would have laughed at you! But the experience and feelings of community that were felt, not only on the walk but also when we got to Mullion and learnt about the harbour were hard to ignore.

https://louiseannwilson.com/work/mulliontide-a-guide-for-walkers

Fieldtrip series, Part 1: Tintagel Castle, Cornwall

By Orla MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy student at The University of Exeter

Hey there! My name is Orla Padwick and I’m a 21-year-old hailing from the sunny seaside of Brighton and Hove! Studying as a Postgraduate student on the MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy course means that I will always be here to convince you that museums and National Trust properties are ALWAYS worth a visit (even though we all know that the tea-rooms and gift shops are difficult to avoid!). Being at Exeter since my Undergraduate means I’ve had my fair shares of ups and downs and will never be afraid to tell you one of my many embarrassing stories to show you how to (or how NOT) to do things!

Here is part one of my fieldtrip series!

One of the (many!) perks of studying an MA in International Heritage Management and Consultancy is the broad range of fieldtrips which you have the opportunity to go on. The course really prides itself in giving you hands on experience with heritage sites and interactions with professionals in the field, so you gain both academic and practical experience. To give a taster of some of the trips that we go on (and also a sneaky peak at my photography skills) I thought I would start a fieldtrip series, including some of my favourite trips/heritage sites from second term.

On a very wet, and very windy Monday morning I went on a fieldtrip to Tintagel Castle in the north of Cornwall as part of my Interpretation, Narrative, Memory and Conflict module. This was actually one of the modules which had drawn me to the course in the first place, and although I had visited Tintagel one before, I was excited to get the opportunity to see what managing such a popular coastal site was like ‘behind the scenes’.

After a very chaotic bus journey, where the scenery appeared to become something out of a Daphne du Maurier novel, we arrived at Tintagel village to find that…everything was closed. Not a tea-room to be seen. Not disheartened (but definitely dishevelled) we made our way down the coastal track to the site itself. Contrary to its name, Tintagel Castle is in-fact a site of ruins – although this certainly does not make it any less impressive. Stepped in history and inherently linked with the myth of King Arthur, the site certainly looked impressive as we battled through the rain and increasing wind to get to the English Heritage station at the bottom.

After sampling the tearoom (a key stop of point for ANY heritage student) we met the Assistant Site Manager in the exhibition. The exhibition explains both the historical use of the castle as well as the intangible myths of King Arthur and Merlin and it was interesting to how English Heritage presented both sides of the story. Although we were told we were unfortunately unable to get onto the site itself due to the increasingly gale force wind, the discussion we had was a true insight into the problems of managing Tintagel. Factors including balancing visitor footfall and coastal erosion were key issues for the site – in 2016 alone Tintagel had 229,809 visitors![1]

There has been a recent inclusion of a suspension bridge between the mainland and the island where the castle is, which has massively improved accessibility, as before visitors had to climb over 100 very step and rocky steps. Personally, I am so glad that more sites are improving accessibility, as it enables the enjoyment of these sites to be shared and inclusive. It was also interesting to discuss managing visitor expectation and the balance between the Arthurian myth and the Cornish history of the site, and how to present this to visitors.

Although the trip was extremely wet and we were unable to visit the main site, I thoroughly enjoyed our first fieldtrip for this term! Being able to take what we had learnt in our seminars and critically apply them first-hand to a site was invaluable, as was the discussion with the heritage professionals. I would definitely recommend a visit to Tintagel to anyone who is exploring or studying in Cornwall and I will certainly be returning to walk across the suspension bridge to the island!

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/tintagel-castle/

[1] https://www.alva.org.uk/details.cfm?p=403&codeid=789

MA Creativity Pop-up Event: The Exeter Happinesst

By Emma Anderson MA Creativity student at The University of Exeter

As part of their term two assessment for module EAFM003, the MA Creativity students were asked to create a pop-up event in just twelve weeks. With £250 at the disposal of each group the students went about producing an event to remember. Team Happinesst were one of the lucky few able to open their event before Covid19 prevented the execution of events going forward. The Exeter Happinesst was an interactive pop-up experience celebrating happiness. As one of the team members of The Exeter Happinesst this is my journaling of the process leading up to the event and the event itself.

Construction Day One: After weeks of ideation and meticulous planning we began constructing and transforming the events space. I arrived around midday with one other team member to collect some props and equipment we had hired from the Drama Department Technical Team. We had ordered a sizeable events tent to use as a central piece to build what we called ‘the nest’ from. ‘The nest’ would be a fort type space made from fabrics, pegs, and washing lines. It was inspired by the kind of thing you made as a kid to play in. However, the scale and instagramable nature of it would make it more of a spectacle for all ages. ‘The nest’ would be a hub for relaxation, meditation, and good feeling, where you could choose to mingle with others in a safe environment or reflect in your own way. Unfortunately, our events tent from which to construct the nest had arrived missing parts. We also found issues with creating the planned window display. The stressful nature of physically creating an event space over designing it was beginning to set in.
18.00: The rest of the team joined once finished with their busy working days to help begin the construction of the space. Our plan was to work in MakeTank well into the night and return early the next day to continue. I had luckily found a remedy for our window display and after a team meeting, we agreed to abandon the use of the events tent. Instead we began attaching taut washing lines from pillar to pillar in the centre of the event space. From these lines, criss-crossed above our heads like a spider’s web, we would hang fabrics and sheets and attach them using pegs. Most of the evening was spent in high spirits watching ‘the nest’ fabricate. Some positive energy, hard-work ethic, and inspiring music allowed us to press on.

Construction Day Two: The team returned to the space after a good night’s rest with energy and anticipation: today we would finish construction. ‘The nest’ was finished first. Next, projectors and coloured spotlights were set up alongside light stands dressed in white fabrics. This area of the event would be for light displays and projecting natural scenes to induce happy feelings. The back area of MakeTank was obscured using hanging sheets. The space was metamorphosed. I began to wonder what MakeTank had looked like before we had started. The event had taken on its own life with a new aesthetic and authenticity. I felt proud as passers-by would stop and look at our construction through the window. A few I invited to join us in the space at its unveiling to the general public the next day.
As the day progressed so did our event. A second delivery of equipment meant that we could continue to improve. An arts canvas element was added, lights and decorations were hung from the ceiling of ‘the nest,’ and an appreciation of the audience journey began to become imperative. I used some spare props to create another component for the event: a photograph opportunity or photo corner. This was put together using some abandoned wooden pallets, a few benches, sheets, fairy lights, excess spotlights, soft boxes, and netting. Although it was an unplanned add on element it helped to fill the space and encourage guests to interact through another dimension. My plan was to add the finished images to the Happinesst Facebook page with the guests consent so that audience members could engage with the Happinesst long after their visit had ended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Event Day- March 14th: The team arrived early to make any last-minute amendments. Hot beverages and snacks were bought to offer to guests, letters were written with kind and heart-felt messages inside which could be taken home on exiting, labels scrawled with positive messages were artfully displayed on a hanging net at the front of the event. The intention behind this was that as guests came and went the net would be filled with multi-coloured labels. This would be a spectacle but also an indicator of our audience engagement with the space. Our module convenors arrived before the guests at 12 o’clock. The team were exhausted but proud of their work. I was dis-heartened by the prospect of having to dismantle everything, but the nature of a pop-up event is just that; to pop-up and disappear leaving only photographs and smiles.
The events unveiling kicked off positively. Guests were invited in off the street by a host and herded around each area of the event by a team member. The event received overwhelmingly positive engagement from young children who enjoyed the visual spectacle of the space. Older participants were amused by the event also. Yet, they engaged more with the social opportunities it had to offer. Guests interacted well with ‘the nest’ and the photograph opportunity. Some guests in their teens and twenties preferred the silent disco headsets and art canvas segment. Celebrating happiness, merriment, and a sense of community is welcome to all audiences and as a result everyone felt favourably about The Exeter Happinesst.

Although the event lasted a short three hours guests who entered left feeling that little bit more important and cherished. For the team and I, it was gratifying to see our creation produce the desired effect. Our vision became a lived-in reality all thanks to the resources and funding our MA course provided. The experience was as close as I have ever felt to being an arts curator or creative director, and even if I go down a different path within the creative sector I will always have this memory to strengthen my flourishing potential as a creative.