An International Student of Literature in England.
I would choose UEA again a million times. And if I could, I know I would definitely stay here for another year (or more) to continue studying literature! I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said that, despite difficult times, coming to UEA was the best decision I’ve ever made.
While working alongside the Admissions Team on the Applicant Day Callback Scheme during most of my last semester, I have spoken to many applicants (mainly people wanting to study English Literature) about their applications, worries and expectations before and after they came to visit UEA. All these conversations (even the most awkward ones) were really nice and interesting and forced me to put myself back into the mindset I was in when I was 17/18 and when I was applying to universities, four years ago. While my situation was very different from the British students I rang and people I have met on Open Days and Applicants Days (because I applied a year after getting my French Baccalaureate results, I didn’t do A-Levels, I was living in France and didn’t visit a single university), it was interesting to hear all their concerns, put myself in their shoes and think about UEA, what makes it special and why studying English literature there was absolutely amazing.
Why UEA, then?
Well personally, I’m not sure why I chose UEA or why I applied to it. As I said, my situation was different than most people and my decision to stop studying in France and move to England was quite rushed, sudden, unexpected… Long story short, I moved to England and picked UEA because my boyfriend had put UEA as one of his choices and I wanted to go to the same place as him. I remember looking at tables and since UEA was supposed to be very good for English Literature and since my boyfriend’s sister had visited and liked UEA, I thought, why not?
UEA became my favourite university but I don’t even know why because I found barely any photos and videos online and didn’t really research it on forums. I just felt had a good feeling about UEA.
Pretty quickly after I’d sent my application, UEA sent me an unconditional offer. I was overjoyed and so proud! I felt honoured that they’d chosen me, a French girl who hadn’t even gone to international schools and didn’t know THAT much British literature. It was my first offer and since my boyfriend had also got an unconditional offer from UEA, I set my mind on it. When I finally moved to UEA the following September (2014), I had no idea where I was going or even where Norwich was. It was my first time taking the plane and traveling on my own, one of the rare occasions I was far from my family for more than a week or two. But to me, it was the promise of a new life, abroad, studying two things I adored: English and Literature.
So if you ask me: how did you make your decision? Why did you choose UEA? The answer wouldn’t be very helpful: I don’t know.
However, if you ask me now (or even asked me a few weeks after I’d arrived) why UEA is an amazing place to study English Literature…. I could go on about it for ages! So I will!
My very very first impression I got of UEA was that the concrete looked weird and old and kinda crappy because there was so much of it and because it reminded me of my university in France (which was truly old and not great). My other first impression was that Congregation Hall was a strange place but that, compared to France, strangers and administration people were so nice and polite! I soon realised that my first impression about UEA’s architecture was totally wrong, that all the teaching spaces were amazing and furnished with comfy chairs (Lecture Theatre 1!!), I started to love UEA’s architectural style, the contrast between concrete and nature, how the campus has everything you need, green spaces, the lake…
In first year I was living in ensuite Village accommodation, which is only 10 or 15 minutes from the centre of the campus. Living in halls was an amazing experience! Incredibly stressful before moving in and meeting my flatmates, but so cool once I’d met all of them. Even cooler when I found out two of my housemates were also vegetarian and that one of them also loved video games! I still remember the first thing each of them told me, when they arrived with their parents, which is so weird to think about now. It didn’t feel awkward or anything and I’ll never forget the first night all together, ordering pizza in my room and exchanging phone numbers around the kitchen table. I was lucky to be in a small house in the Village because it didn’t get too noisy often but it was still very communal and social – in my flat and in my house. Everybody knew each other. It goes without saying that living at university with friends is an amazing and liberating experience if you’ve always lived at home with your parents. Sure, it comes with a few difficult things such as dealing with people you don’t know (and you might not ADORE everyone in your flat), sharing the kitchen with people who are more or less messy (tough if, like me, you’re a bit of a cleaning freak), learning how to cook and cook everyday, feeling homesick occasionally… Despite this, living in halls is great and I can assure you, you will love it! 🙂
There are always people you will like in your flat (if not everyone) and everyone makes so much effort to be friendly and meet people, especially at the beginning, because remember that EVERYONE will be like you at the beginning. Everybody knows nobody. Don’t be shy, go to things with your housemates, be social and everything will be fine! (Or remain a massive introvert and realise that you’re not the only one who’d rather stay in with tea watching Disney films.)
One tip though: don’t stay in your room all the time and keep your room door open a lot so people know you’re here and open to talk (bring a doorstop). After only a week, I felt like I’d been living there for ages and that I’d known my flatmates for years. It was incredible, I can’t even describe it.
The Village is only a 15 min from to and from campus, it’s a good compromise because you get your own bathroom but pay less than for en-suite campus and (the best thing): it’s only a 20 min walk to Aldi (good for saving up and living on a tight budget). But you can also get Asda or Tesco deliveries. The Village is a very nice and quiet place next to a residential area, it is as social as anywhere on campus (the ziggurats aren’t the only place where things happen!). The rooms are and look older than on campus but many (maybe most now?) flats have been refurbished with new carpet and kitchen equipment. Sharing a kitchen can be a bit tricky sometimes so it’s great that “only” 8 live in Village flats. You’ll see, it’ll make cooking much easier than elsewhere. And also, those kitchens feel more homely than the more industrial ones on campus. You get four hobs, a microwave/oven (it does work and you can make cake and pizza!), maybe even real ovens now?, a freezer and two small fridges. In terms of fridge space, it’s not great but unfortunately, they won’t add more. There are lots of cupboards though which is awesome! A cleaner will come twice a week to clean the kitchen surfaces (obviously not wash up for you) and they clean your bathroom once a week.
Rooms are a bit small but fully furnished (with the least comfortable desk chairs I’ve ever sat on… My poor butt.) You get a very deep wardrobe with shelves at the back, storage space under your bed (you can lift it up), a very spacious desk which is actually amazing, bookshelves. The shower pod is small but it’s got a little shelf and not having to share is awesome! You can see more pictures of en-suite village rooms here. I felt like I had more than enough space for all my stuff but it’s probably because, as an EU student, I only came with one big suitcase and my guitar. Most people brought their entire house with them and realised that was ridiculous because: A) You don’t need all these things, B) You probably won’t have time to read all the books you have and brought with you, C) Rooms aren’t huge. So my advice would be not to bring too much stuff, be sensible about which clothes you’ll wear etc. There’s a hoover in the flat but it’s kind of annoying because it’s in a locked cupboard and you need to ask your cleaner to give it to you when she comes.
The course is obviously a massive part of your university experience because that’s what you came to university for. All I have to say is: STUDYING ENGLISH LITERATURE AT UEA IS A-MA-ZING!
5 stars, would recommend to a friend! I don’t know where to start but I adore it. My blog is full of stuff about my course so I’ll try to be concise here (check the “BA English Literature” category for more). I thought first year was really good and interesting (I liked the idea of Literature in History 1 and 2, loved Writing Texts, loved Reading Translations) but when I got to second year and had chosen all my modules I found it SO much better than first year (my favourite second year modules were European Literature, Contemporary Writing and Reading and Writing Translations). But THEN… everything about third year was even better than the second one! I was even more free in terms of module choices, the modules all sounded amazing… For instance, this semester I’m doing a module called “New Worlds: Science Fiction and Beyond.” How cool is that? You can see a listen of all the modules that exist here, but please bear in mind that modules are subject to change.
In short, in first year you’re “restricted” but cover a wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide range of periods, genres… You really learn a lot, discover tons of new things you didn’t think you’d be interested in and you learn the basics of being a good “literary critic.” It was good at the time but looking back, first year wasn’t great in comparison to second and third years because you pick ALL your modules, they’re all fascinating, you can start to specialise and it feels like you have so much freedom! And so much FUN!
Once, when I was talking to an Applicant, I was asked what my favourite thing about UEA or about the course was. That was a very tough question but I’d say that one of my favourite things is the freedom I have in this course. And also all the amazing, approachable, friendly, interesting, supportive seminar leaders and lecturers I’ve had. It can be a bit scary or intimidating sometimes because they know so much about so many things, you don’t want to say something stupid, and compared to them you’re almost a literature baby but I always felt valued as a student and as a person!
More broadly, my favourite thing about UEA is how much goes on, how much there is to do, how many societies and clubs exist (and they are so active!), the very helpful Career Central, opportunities to work part-time or on an ad-hoc basis for the university on Open Days, the Student Ambassador Scheme…
I also have to say that there is a lot of support for students, for students with disabilities, financial difficulties or needing tips about budgeting, for foreign students seeking language support or classes, for students with mental health issues (counseling, mental health advisers…)… The Student Support Services is an amazing place, free of charge, and there’ll always be someone to help and listen to you!
I’d probably better conclude here because this post is getting quite long, but I always have so much to say about UEA. I just adore it! I love my course, I’ve learnt so much and have changed a lot (for the better) since I came to university. But then you might ask, why UEA and not any other university? Well you’ll have to trust me on that. I’m already incredibly nostalgic about UEA but everything I’ve said is completely sincere and you won’t regret it.
Studying English Literature here is amazing, a lot happens in terms of student life, Norwich is a very dynamic city that’s got a lot to offer culturally and for fans of literature (student blogger Hannah wrote a great post about it, here), and it’ll be the time of your life! Oh and I haven’t mentioned the Sainsbury Centre, the library and the huge Sportspark! I made a campus tour video that you can watch here!
Don’t hesitate to comment below if you have questions about anything, I’d be very happy to help you! 🙂