March 29, 2023, by UoN School of English
How Nottingham University has changed me for the better
As a beyond anxious yet excitable 18-year old stepping into the Derby Hall courtyard back in 2020, I saw university as a sort of adult playground, where making a solid group of life-long friends and having that “unbeatable” social life clouded any academic vision I left school with. Yet, looking back on almost three years of university life, where my experience – albeit chaotic – has exceeded any preconception, I can confidently admit the root of my university ease: my English degree.
Now, by no means am I suggesting that studying English is unchallenging and even manageable; reading three books most weeks has tested and refuted these theories. What I am saying, however, is that this degree – whilst at times painfully exhausting – has opened my eyes both socially and academically, providing anxious 18-year-old me with tools of confidence and social-awareness that have made my unparalleled experience here attainable.
Whilst the universal seminar structure of university is designed to improve student confidence through class participation, I was beyond relieved to discover that Nottingham University goes one step further, targeting boldness in an academic and emotional way. As someone who was embarrassingly hesitant to even raise my hand in seminars, let alone vocalise my thoughts, I quickly adopted an unproductive, passive attitude to my learning. This was until I was approached by my personal tutor and began the compulsory ‘Academic Community’ Module in first year – read on before you roll your eyes at my seemingly formulaic praise.
Having both of these outlets as open and encouraging environments, for my often dramatized academic and personal worries, really helped erode the unnerving, fictitious student-teacher boundary previously fixed in my mind. Lila Matsumoto, my assigned tutor, quickly became a frequent point of contact, where I offloaded any concerns I had that week, and sought advice my friends couldn’t give. Even when reaching out to my tutor became too embarrassing, my ‘Academic Community’ tutor never failed to allocate seminar time to discuss everyone’s concerns and thoughts on university life. No longer scared to talk to, let alone approach, my tutors, I developed a confidence to ask questions, share concerns and speak in general to people regardless of their age, position or intellect.
- Social awareness
Understanding the customs, dynamics and issues of our society is fortunately a deep-rooted concept in my English degree at Nottingham. Whilst studying literature teaches us of fictional or past societies, Nottingham’s language modules have explored and, more importantly, spotlighted contemporary issues that are typically overlooked in teaching. The ‘Language in Society’ and ‘Language and Feminism’ modules have not only given me a breadth of knowledge surrounding current societal injustices, but in turn augmented my appreciation for others’ contexts and beliefs. From understanding how patriarchal discourses are sustained in advertising, to how language can locate identity, these modules have taught me a social-awareness and inclusivity so necessary in our diverse and flawed society. As a previously self-acclaimed literature student, who knew nothing and honestly had no intention of learning about language, I can now confidently admit that the language modules I have taken over these three years have been the most interesting and eye-opening ones.
Recognising my growth through these skills has therefore adapted my initial perspective of university. It is not just a social, but also an academic playground that all students can thrive in at Nottingham – even if you’re just as anxious as I was on the first day!
– Isabelle Atack
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