An average week of a School of English student

Martha Grogan, who studies English and American Literature and Creative Writing with a Year Abroad, takes us through an average week, and offers some advice to people about to begin their studies.

Tell us a bit about your weekly life on campus including; lectures, seminars, study time, work or 1:1 with staff.

So, for my course (English Literature and Creative Writing), you’ll have two modules per term, one literature one and a creative writing one. This means two lectures per week, and two seminars/workshops per week to complement the lecture, with maybe some extras sprinkled in. The rest of the week is yours to do all your reading, primary and secondary sources — if there’s a big novel on the syllabus, don’t worry, you’ll be given plenty of warning. You won’t have to read Middlemarch in one week. Most essays are due at the end of term, everything is scored out of 100 which makes life easy. And the staff are so happy to help; you’ll have their emails and office hours, and you’re encouraged to go. Whether you have a question about admin stuff, want to expand on something from class, or just have a chat, they’re there for you! You’ll also have an academic advisor, who is your go to for everything. I’ve talked to mine about everything from my future career, changing my course, literally anything.

How many contact hours are on your course? Is this easy to manage and balance with your social life/work life?

Contact hours are 6-8 hours a week, which might sound low, but you’re expected to do so much independent study. It’s tempting to see your contact hour timetable and think of the rest of the week like free periods. I know I fell into this during my first term at university. I then realised that I needed to organise myself a bit better, and started allocating my free days into library study time. Some people say to treat uni like a full time job, 9-5. I think that’s a little extreme for a humanities course but it depends on how you work. Do you need a study timetable? Make one. Do you need an accountability partner? Study together with people. You work on a rewards system? Get one of those timed containers with chocolate inside. It’s all up to you now, and you know how you work best.

How many different modules do you cover over the week? How did you choose your modules? Did you choose any wild modules?

In the first year, it’s quite easy to choose your modules because most of them will be compulsory. Over time, you’ll learn what you’re into and what you’re not. Like this week’s Parliament of Fowls by Chaucer? Awesome, you can go take some speciality mediaeval literature module next year. Absolutely flipping hate Middle English, Chaucer and anything written before 1900? No worries, it’ll only be for one week. I chose my modules based on what I really liked. My third year modules were: Marxism, the Body in the 18th century, the Book Project, and Poetry Beyond Text. You’ll be surprised, no matter how random they may seem, how all your modules inform on another. In first year, I did take a wild module – it was Reading and Writing the Everyday, and while I was already doing creative writing, it was really cool hearing the perspectives of classmates who were writing for the first time. But you can go wilder with your wild modules. My friend did a module on the American Revolution because she was really into Hamilton at the time. Go wild, it’s in the name.

Does your course have any special facilities that you can use? Do they enhance your experience on the course? Can you access them 24/7 etc?

The English common room is comfy, if you want to chill/study in a small room with sofas and a little library. I had a friend who would take naps there (not that I endorse this behaviour, I just want to prove how nice it is). Quite honestly, the facility I used most was Templeman library, open 24/7 and has computers, silent areas, and tons of study space. Especially living on campus, I’d find myself in the library at all odd hours of the night/early morning, fueled by coffee from the library cafe. I’d borrow tons of books for my course, but also find little gems I’d read for their own sake – among my favourites was a book about the representation of frogs in literature.

How much do you travel to get onto campus?

I live off a little road from the main high street, practically in the city centre, with three housemates, we all made friends when we shared our first year halls. The walking commute is absolutely fine, up a footpath, and very bike friendly, even if the hill up to campus is a little steep. It’s a five minute bus ride from campus to town, and I’d definitely recommend getting a bus pass, not just for convenience and accessibility sake but also if you have one, you’ll find yourself going out more often because you don’t have to think about transport. The Uni1 and Uni2 are fairly regular – I think if you’re from a city you’ll be disappointed, but if you’re a country bumpkin, you’ll be very impressed the bus comes every ten/twenty minutes or so.

What university accommodation have you lived in and what was it like?

In my first year, I lived in Darwin accommodation. You share a flat with four other people, sharing a shower/wetroom and a toilet. Two flats share a kitchen, so ten people per kitchen. While a little intimidating, sharing with so many strangers, I can think of no better way to make fast friends with people. Learning to share space, and time, you make personal connections real quick. The parties would pre-drink in nextdoor’s kitchen while the introverts gravitated together and watched films in another. I also really loved Origins, the bar/restaurant in the building. After every piece of coursework I’d hand in, I’d go get a steak as a reward, either take-away to my room or eating in. There’s pool tables, and they host karaoke nights and indie music events. And just outside is a vending machine, which I used to scuttle up to after a hard study session for that blood sugar boost.

What is the social scene like in Canterbury on and off campus?

My favourite coffee shop is Garage Coffee, a little place a couple of doors down from the Cathedral Gate, where you can choose your beans and even buy a packet for home which theyll grind for you. There’s a discount for reusable cups, and plenty of space to do some work, and some delicious cakes, and keep winning awards for their stuff. They also serve their coffee in the Gulbenkian cafe, the cinema/theatre on campus. My favourite bar is called Privy, it’s a little speakeasy style bar under the ground by the Thomas Ingoldsby Wetherspoons. It’s a pretty cool cocktail bar, considering it’s a refurbished public toilet. Students get free access to the cathedral, and there’s also a cool library. The Beaney library is a really good resource if you’re not at Templeman library on campus, and upstairs has an amazing exhibition/museum space, especially if you’re into taxidermy.

Have you been on any trips within Kent and London since studying here?

Last weekend I went to London to meet my partner’s parents, we had dinner in Covent Garden. Taking the high speed train takes no time at all. I also did take a class trip to the Globe for a second year Shakespeare module, which was very cool. There are quite a few buses  to Whistable and Herne Bay if you ever have a hankering for seaside fish and chips.

Are you involved with any Student Societies? If so, let us know what you get up to and what you think of being involved in a society.

I am a member of the LGBTQ+ society, which is a great place to make friends. Because this particular society is about the people rather than a specific activity, there’s all sorts to get up to; coffee mornings, pub crawls, board game nights, film showings, book clubs, pub quizzes to list stuff off the top of my head. I’ve made friends for life there.

What would be your main advice to prospective students looking to join the community here at Kent?

Take a deep breath. Relax. Don’t worry. Maybe something easier said than done. I think the most important thing to remember is that everyone is in the same boat as you. In a new place, in a new course, in a new home, with new people. You’re doing great.