An International Student of Literature in England.
So this is it, my last year of university has started, the final stretch of the “student” chapter of my life. Don’t get me wrong: I can’t wait to finish university, but I dread what will come after it.
I have now been back to Norwich for three weeks, but I only had my first (and only) day of seminars last Thursday. It has already given me enough time to go through all sorts of feelings: wanting to go back home, hating studies, having zero motivation, enjoying books and realising that I’m not that sick of university, being motivated, trying to have fun and do lots of things, losing motivation, stressing, feeling like I’ll never be good enough for third year…
I only have four modules (instead of six) in third year – two per semester. This term, I am doing “Nervous Narratives” and “Cultures of Suburbia”. The big difference with the previous years is that, now, seminars are three-hours long and we have no lectures. The fact that we do not have lectures is quite stressful to me because they are always the place where I can gather a lot of vital (yes, vital.) information about the books or issues we study. My lecture notes were always so helpful for seminar preparation and were usually the starting point of my essay plans and ideas. I’ve only have one day of seminars but I can already tell that we will be expected to bring in a lot of ideas (since we’re the ones doing “all the work”).
Going through the reading lists, I don’t feel like I will have as much to read this semester than I did for the last one. I only have two novels to read per week and they’re usually short (instead of two longer novels and one play). However, there is quite a bit of secondary/context/historical material to read and that can take a long time too! And as I said above, we’re supposed to bring in more ideas and participate more and… well, I don’t feel I have the intelligence or self-confidence to do that.
But anyway, back to the modules… I was very excited about Nervous Narratives because it studies mental illnesses (what was for a long time called “madness”, “frenzy”, “spleen” etc.) from a literary and critical/medical perspective, from the 18th century to nowadays! It is a topic I am really interested in and I’ve wanted to study it for a long time! Unfortunately, the module hasn’t started very well because we’re starting with 18th century extracts and A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift. I am sure these are all very interesting texts but they are extremely hard to read (at least for me). I’m quite ashamed to say that I’ve prepared all the reading but haven’t really understood anything and have no idea how on earth I’m going to participate in the seminar. I have seen my motivation and enthusiasm decrease a lot because of the very challenging reading I’ve done for the first two weeks. However, I remain hopeful because I’m sure I will enjoy the reading more once we get to 19th and 20th century stuff. The only thing I’m annoyed about is that for this one, we’ll have two essays: one right in the middle of this semester, one at the end. Although that means I don’t have to write one big essay, it means more pressure and less time to breathe during the semester. (And also I really wanted to go to France to visit my godmother around that time but I can’t because of that.)
As for Cultures of Suburbia, I’m not really sure how to describe it. We will study the literature born out of the creation and development of suburban housing and life, in 19th and 20th century Britain mainly (with one or two American texts). Said like that, it may not sound exciting but I’ve actually enjoyed it more that Nervous Narratives so far, and it’s cool because it links well to the Modernism module I did in second year. The first novel studied for The Diary of a Nobody, a very funny book that shows the rise of a new “middle class”. The second novel is Metroland by Julian Barnes. I haven’t had the seminar yet but I can tell you that we’ll discuss commuting (thanks, module outline)! In any case, it’s a good book and I really enjoyed reading it, it was very relatable at times. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll study the questions of gender and the suburban housewife which sounds super cool (in The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing, a very nostalgic novel for me because I studied it in sixth-form).
So yeah, I am more relaxed about things and university in general – or at least, for now. I’m trying to remain motivated and stay on top of my work, but deep inside, I’m stressing a lot about this year and need to make time for job search, applications, making sure I won’t be homeless when my contract ends next July… It is the last stretch but it is a terrifying one. I’m thinking more and more about what I could do with my life, what I want to do with my life, where I’d really like to work, what I’ve learnt from university… but I’ll save these thoughts for another post!
I just hope that in a few months, I’ll be graduating and that my family and boyfriend will be able to come, and that they’ll all be proud of me. 🙂