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What's it like at Warwick Uni? English Literature and Comparative Studies

Lillian Hingley, English Literature and Comparative Studies

Published August 2014

“A mixture of doing things that I love and doing things I’d never thought of doing before…” Second year student Lillian shares some of her favourite moments studying English Literature and Comparative Studies at Warwick.

Department of English graduations

Name: Lillian Hingley
Degree: BA English Literature and Comparative Studies
Home town: Old Trafford, Manchester
A-levels studied: I did three: English Literature, English Language and Religion & Philosophy. Oh and General Studies – people don’t take it seriously but I’m proud of my A* in it!

Where were you before you came to Warwick?

Stretford Grammar School (a selective state school)

How long have you been at Warwick?

I’ve just finished my second year here.

How did you apply to Warwick?

I applied to Warwick through UCAS; it was the standard form filling-in and personal statement wrangling. I was invited for interview in January and I decided to make Warwick my first choice when they accepted me – they were the last to get back to me so I didn’t want to get my hopes up!

What’s it like to study at Warwick?

Studying at Warwick has been a mixture of doing things that I love and doing things I’d never thought of doing before. For some reason, my department offer a ridiculous amount of optional modules in the second and third year which means that I’m studying a completely different degree from that of my friends. The advantage to this is that you can specialise in the areas that you love (for me, theory) and avoid those areas that you’d rather not delve into again (old epic poems for me). However, I’ve got to admit that university really does stretch you academically. My favourite part of the learning experience is the seminar; you have a voice and can bounce off one another, can challenge each other and help each other. Along with contributing, you sometimes have to give ten minute presentations. Whilst this does seem daunting, especially when you could just hide in the corner of the classroom in school, it really does build your confidence up.

I love the seminar; you have a voice and can bounce ideas off one another, can challenge each other and help each other. And presentations. really do build your confidence up!

What was it like going from studying at A-level to studying for a degree?

There’s a leap that is daunting yet exciting. You pretty much get there and they say to you: “write an essay”. Of course, there are sessions that you can go to and the tutors are helpful and give lots of advice, but people aren’t holding your hand. Lecturers will give talks which assume knowledge. There’s no such thing as a first draft that you hand in and get feedback on – your essay marks are final. However, the best thing about this leap is that the first year generally doesn’t count (or counts very little) towards your overall degree. While some people assume that this is a year ‘wasted’, that is not at all the case. If you think about it, GCSE and AS/A2 encompass four years of doing exams and work that ultimately count towards something. It’s nice to have a year as a blank canvas, a place to experiment and, integrally, to be able to get things wrong. I think sometimes doing things ‘wrong’ helps you to work out how to do them right, so having a year to discover yourself academically and personally is actually quite empowering and productive, not ‘wasted’.

Why Warwick?

For some reason I didn’t visit universities before I applied to them. I think I was so scared of having too much choice that I did most of the research through websites such as The Student Room and applied to five universities as soon as UCAS opened. One criteria I had was to choose a university that wasn’t near the sea (honestly, I don’t know why either, I suppose Coventry is pretty much as landlocked as you can get). To be blunt, I wanted to go to one of the ‘top’ departments for English Literature and this is what I looked for online. Whilst today I no longer really buy into league tables or really believe that certain universities are better than others, there was just something I really liked about Warwick. I think at the time it was the course and the campus that got me drawn to the university. I would definitely say, however, that it was my interview day that cemented the fact that I wanted to go there. As soon as I arrived on campus I knew that it was the place to be.

What have you found most challenging?

I’d say that I found the social side of university to be quite a daunting prospect when I first arrived. Considering that this was the first time I’d lived away from home, knowing nobody combined with the reputation of student life made me nervous. I’m not a big party animal and I’ve been told that I appear to be quiet when I first meet people, so I was worried that people would judge me for that. However, I threw myself into meeting people, from speaking to my course friends to volunteering or even getting a job with Warwick Welcome Service. Subsequently I have met so many hundreds of people over the past two years that I no longer worry about starting up a conversation with someone I’ve never met before. I’ve learnt to utilise the initial perception that I am quiet: I’ve learnt to surprise people, thus turning something that could have hindered me into a positive.

What were your favourite memories of the past year?

Most of my favourite memories have been with my housemates, especially in our house in Leamington. From holding a Eurovision party for one housemate’s birthday, to plugging the laptop into the television to watch weird 4Od documentaries and YouTube videos, they’ve always been there to provide the best entertainment (and I mean this in the most endearing way possible). Things move really fast even in a ten week term, such weird and wonderful situations pop up every day that it’s difficult to quantify. It’s just so lovely to live with people who will make you laugh all day every day even if you’re down.

Any low points?

Just in general I think people forget that university isn’t merely about studying – if you’re not living at home and commuting, you’re going to be living away from home for a good percentage of the year. With that, you’re going to experience highs and lows. You may have bad days where you might not get the grade you wanted or your fridge breaks or you get a bit homesick. I find that when things are getting you down, it’s best to go and speak to someone. Friends, personal tutors, advice/counselling services or even your hairdresser are all people you can just talk to if you need to get something off your chest. I personally think that exam season is a time which is pretty fertile for stress, so it’s also good just to make sure you allow yourself time to relax. Sometimes just taking a walk or sitting down to watch a short television show to get your mind off things can stop you from burning out if you feel that work is taking over your life.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned this year?

I’d say the most interesting thing I’ve learnt has been part of the module Literature and Psychoanalysis. I had a foundational knowledge of Freud, but I’ve learnt so much detail about his theory and the motivations behind it that I’ve decided to continue reading up on Psychoanalysis as part of my dissertation. I’m fascinated by the eccentric and by theories about the things that occur below the surface and was particularly interested in why Freud came up with the infamous Oedipus complex. A lot of people think that he just arbitrarily thought of it but I learnt that it was a response to a general theoretical problem he had in 1897. Rather than accepting the alarming frequency of child abuse by parents as an explanation for neuroses, he tried to come up with a theory that was more universal and developmental. It’s really interesting to see Freud’s theoretical inconsistencies and how he wrestled with this problem, the “ghost of seduction”, for the rest of his life.

I’ve genuinely had some lectures, seminars and conversations that have inspired me as a scholar that I will never forget!

What do you plan to do once you’ve completed your degree?

I still want to carry on studying my subject. In the near future I hope to successfully apply for an MA (masters) in English Literature, Literary and Cultural Theory or even Literature and Modernity. In the past few years I’ve worked in order to aspire to this goal, but if it doesn’t work out immediately I’m considering teaching English abroad or working in something to do with education and outreach. Ultimately, I want to do postgraduate study at some point in my life and work in higher education in some form or another. I never want to stop learning.

What do you do when you’re not studying?

Up until term three I was deputy Books editor for The Boar, the student newspaper. I’m keeping up writing though; I’m founding my own student-led journal called Warwick Uncanny Journal (although, I suppose, that’s still academic). I’ve also been involved with a widening participation project entitled Transformations. Transformations was a 10 week project in which I and a team of English Literature students went into a school to deliver a programme based on the Undead, from literature to theory.

Who have you met whilst you’re here?

I met some amazing friends in halls in my first year. I lived with a few of them in second year and will continue to live with them in 3rd year. I’ve met many people from the university, whether they were on my course or volunteering with me, who are committed to inspiring the next generation of students to go on to higher education. Additionally, I’ve met a lot of English Literature academics and many of them are amazing teachers and mentors; I’ve genuinely had some lectures, seminars and conversations that have inspired me as a scholar that I will never forget.

What’s your favourite spot on campus?

I’ve got a few favourite spots depending on my mood or what the weather is doing: I like spending time either on one of the seats on floor 5 of the Humanities Building (the English Department), in Curiositea, sitting by the Koan or walking in Tocil Woods!