Meet Philosophy student: Nicholas Barrow

We caught up with BA (Hons) Philosophy student, Nicholas, to find out more his experience studying Philosophy, and student life at Kent.

What has been your favourite module so far, and why?

It is tough to whittle it down to one; however I would have to say Metaphysics. It was run incredibly well and covered such interesting questions. What’s a philosophy degree if you don’t spend at least one module considering the existence of other worlds? Moreover, the module convenor Dr Graeme Forbes was able to include some of his current research on the Philosophy of Time. This allowed for some incredibly interesting discussion that could, potentially, impact on his further research!

What made you decide to study your course at University of Kent?

Kent for me was always going to be my first choice. The freedom we have with choosing our modules, and the range of those modules means that I’m always learning topics I am thoroughly engaged with. I was also drawn to Kent’s focus on coursework rather than exams as, as I was explained to at an applicant day, philosophy is not something that should be rushed into a 2 hour sitting – it is not a discipline that thrives under time pressure. Instead, I feel as though I am able to fully showcase my intellectual capacity and thoroughly defend my ideas through the careful deliberation I am allowed.

When on campus, where do/did you spend most of your time?

By day, the library – by night, venue.

Are you a part of any sports or societies? And if so, what’s been your experience? Would you recommend them to fellow/new students and why?

In my first year I joined the Lacrosse society and it proved to be an amazing place to meet new people – I even now live with one of them! I am now the treasurer of RespectTheNo, which is a society advocating consent and helping survivors on campus which has been incredibly rewarding to be a part of. Everybody says it, but everybody says it for a reason – join, and get involved with, as many societies as you can! Even if you don’t enjoy it, chances are you’ll still make friends out of it – I was awful at Lacrosse, yet found the social side to be the best part.

During the lockdown, how have you been keeping social and catching up with friends?

Walks, zoom, and my housemates!

What’s your favourite thing about the campus?

Everything is within walking distance. Need to grab some milk? Co-op. Fancy a coffee? Cafe Nero/Library Cafe/Sibson Cafe. Fancy some food? There are multiple outlets. The Templeman library is also absolutely fantastic. The Wifi on campus is also extremely useful.

What’s your favourite thing about living in Canterbury?

The scenery! I found myself constantly going on walks exploring the local area and the town itself – Dane John gardens is a personal highlight. We also get year round free access to the Cathedral.

What would you recommend to a new first year student studying your course that would really help them?

Be incredibly open minded with what you’re learning and do not get too bogged down in the detail for every topic. My main mistake in first year was going 100% on every lecture – this is not needed and will ultimately burn you out. By all means, take notes and let yourself be engaged, but do not feel as though you must master everything. You will quickly realise that philosophy has no answers, and, no one philosopher will know everything there is to know about any particular topic. Let yourself be interested in the questions that interest you – do not try and force it. Engage in seminars and ask questions! No perspective is a wrong perspective and, even if your question is misguided, it is an indication that the theory may be purposefully dense and would benefit from some clarity.

Finally, if you do not understand something, ask. Your lecturers, seminar leaders and tutors are all there for you – use this to your advantage.

One more thing, make great use of the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy – it is a life saver!

What would you recommend a first year student moving to Kent try out?

Go to all the coastal towns!! Make sure you visit the Blean nature reserve too.

Are there any books / podcasts / film / online magazines that would be helpful for a new student, or fellow students, studying your course?

There are LOADS of philosophy podcasts. Philosophy bites, In our Time: Philosophy, History of Philosophy (without any gaps) etc. I also really recommend finding ‘Philosophy twitter.’ Follow as many academic philosophers as you can, and you will realise that, even as a lowly undergrad, you are able to relate with them. For me it has made me feel much more comfortable and less of an ‘imposter’ – they are also extremely approachable, and will welcome any comments you wish to make on what they have to say (in a respectable manner, of course).

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