We caught up with English and American Literature graduate, Lauren Drozd, to reflect on her time at Kent and find about what she wants to do next.
What are you doing now?
I’ve just finished the degree-assessed part of my course! Hopefully, in the next academic year – pandemic permitting – I’ll be going on my Year Abroad that I had to defer. I’ll be at Freie Universität Berlin. The course catalogue doesn’t officially update until September, but the preliminary modules I have so far are taken from English Literature, Chinese Studies, and North American Studies, which is really exciting.
Which course did you study at Kent?
English and American Literature and Film with a Year Abroad.
What attracted you to your course, and to Kent?
I’ve always loved studying literature. In college I chose to do an A-Level in Film Studies and just fell in love with the theoretical part of the course, so I knew that my degree had to be joint honours. I was increasingly interested in interdisciplinarity, and Kent’s course was perfect for that – I could bring film analysis to pieces of my English coursework and vice versa. As a result of these overlaps, as well as studying them concurrently, I gained a well-rounded, thorough perspective on arts and humanities. I only added the Year Abroad to my course early in my second year, when I was realising how much I liked academia, and how much I felt I would benefit from gaining intercultural academic experience and – hopefully! – improving my language skills.
Funnily enough, I didn’t actually intend on coming to Kent initially; I threw it onto my UCAS application because the University offered an English and Film degree, but I certainly didn’t anticipate making it my primary choice. But after I visited Canterbury for an Applicant Day, I knew it was a campus and a city I could call home for three years. The first thing I remember noticing was how verdant the campus was, how it was so densely populated with rabbits, and that it lay a comfortable distance from the city centre. The cobblestoned city was gorgeous, and I loved the cathedral – you can see it towering in the sky from almost anywhere in Canterbury.
Which aspects of your time at Kent did you enjoy the most, and why?
I enjoyed the vibrant academic community. I felt really lucky to be able to attend poetry readings, keynote talks from the School of English (my favourites were given by Terry Eagleton and David Olusoga), and research seminars from the English and Film departments, often organised with academics from other universities. While COVID impacted this, I still got to attend talks and lectures online, such as Jonathan Jones’ guest lecture on slavery and anti-racism in Red Dead Redemption 2, organised with the Digital Culture Research Group. Video games, as a medium, don’t seem to quite have the academic and artistic legitimacy that film and literature has yet, so it was great to see events like this advertised, and to feel like your academic community is setting the agenda. I was also taught by a range of intelligent and friendly lecturers and seminar leaders who were doing some great, ground-breaking research in their fields and specialisms, and participated in some really enlightening and fun seminars with other students. I especially enjoyed studying medieval literature and attending the research series from the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies – the city is the subject of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and the site of Thomas Becket’s martyrdom, so it makes sense that this field should be particularly strong and engaging at Kent, with its iconic medieval connections!
In my first year I spent most of my time on campus, so I got to know Canterbury better and better when I moved into off-campus accommodation in my second year. There are some lovely independent bookshops, cafes, and homely pubs to visit.
Are you still in touch with any of your friends from University?
Yes! Social media has been a blessing to keep up and in touch with friends, especially during the pandemic.
Did you work or undertake any work experience whilst at Kent? What did you do? Did you find it was helpful in your studies and has it benefited your career to date?
In my second and third years at Kent, I worked as a Student Ambassador for the School of English, assisting in Open and Applicant Days. I became much more confident with approaching and chatting to people about their questions and concerns about living and studying here at Kent, and I got invaluable experience from helping out in sample seminars and working with prospective students. Seminars rely on participation and enthusiasm – you don’t passively absorb information, but actively query, critique, and synthesise what you’re learning. It was such a pleasure seeing prospective Kent students get to grips with, enjoy, and feel empowered by that type of learning.
Of course, the pandemic disrupted this, with Open and Applicant Days being moved online. The experience, though, definitely made me more adaptable – I quickly learned how to operate online chats and assist with seminars and information sessions over Zoom. And it remained a joy to hear about how excited attendees were to study English here as a result of the Days.
What are your future plans/aspirations?
In the short term I would love to gain a further postgraduate qualification – I just need to work out which one! I’m looking forward to using my Year Abroad as an opportunity to orient myself and experiment with and clarify the exact path I want to take. At the moment, I’m writing and reading a lot of film criticism, and I’d love to gain experience in freelance writing, and particularly writing in other forms than the academic style. At the moment, though, my options are open – partly because I feel like I want to do everything!
What is your favourite memory of Kent?
There are two things I did the most while I was a Kent and are probably my favourite memories of being here: studying in Templeman Library café with my laptop and a coffee, discussing ideas or reading out portions of an essay to my partner in the fortnight leading up to deadlines, and watching films.
The Canterbury campus has two cinemas, the Gulbenkian and the Lupino, which is just a gift to any student who likes film. I’d attend free screenings from the Lupino Film Club and, with my student membership, get £5 tickets to watch recent releases and older films alike at the Gulbenkian. I went literally all the time! For the first time, I got properly comfortable with going to the cinema on my own while I was at Kent, and I loved being able to watch arthouse films affordably. Templeman Library also has a large and excellent collection of DVDs, so I have fond memories of perusing the shelves for films to borrow.
Finally, I have to mention a School of English trip to Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage in Dungeness that took place in the summer term of first year, and I jumped at the chance to go. It was a really special, unforgettable day.
What advice would you give to somebody thinking of coming to Kent?
There is so much to do here. Look at the societies here where you can find likeminded people; there’s student media, academic and interest-based societies, and community action groups, to name a few. In my first year, I started some opinion writing for the Kent newspaper InQuire and volunteered with Canterbury Homeless Outreach, and I really benefitted from keeping busy in my early days at Kent. I’d definitely recommend keeping up with events, talks, and lectures to take advantage of everything Kent has to offer. Also, try to study and produce coursework on subjects that interest you and that you really want to research, rather than what you think your seminar leader wants to read. I found writing coursework incredibly gratifying and cathartic when I found I’d achieved a good sense of the debates and scholarship on what I was writing, and that I was making an original contribution in my own work.
Finding extracurricular work and activities to do is a great opportunity specific to university and will be of real benefit! During the summer term, I got to write and sit on the editorial board for the first issue of a student-run journal with the Film and Media Writing Club. It was an amazing and challenging experience for me personally and gaining that editing experience can only help me professionally, too.
How would you describe your time at Kent in three words?
Illuminating, rewarding, transformative.