Anne-Sophie at UEA

An International Student of Literature in England.

GRADUATION!

After a week, I am finally writing this post. I’ve been thinking about it the whole time and rehearsed it over and over again in my head over the past days but I just don’t know where to start or if I have the words to describes how I feel about having graduated, about the past three years at UEA, about everything that’s happened and that I’ve done since I moved to England.

A week ago , Monday 17th July 2017, I graduated with a first class degree in English Literature! I did it! 😀

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I’ve said it before but why not saying it again?: I am SO proud of myself, incredibly relieved, happy. The whole day was completely surreal and I don’t think words can describe any of it, the cocktail of apprehension and excitement, the joy of graduating, and the deep sadness of saying goodbye to this amazing university, to the course I’ve sometimes hated but adored so much deep inside, to some of my favourite modules, to days spent in the library, to many amazing and kind and inspiring lecturers/tutors I will never forget, to say goodbye to friends, and say goodbye to a huge part of my life and of my identity.

On graduation day, I arrived on campus super early to have time to get ready, try to see some friends, take photos… Luckily, I’d managed to get tickets for my parents as well as my brother beforehand but even managed to get an extra one for my boyfriend, Joshua, on the day. It meant so much to me that they could all be there for my graduation and in Congregation Hall. I would never have been able to do any of this without my parents and trust me, I am SO grateful and know how lucky I am to be able to go study abroad. As for my brother and Joshua, they mean the world to me and were always there for me when I was incredibly stressed with university and other things and both of them always knew what to say to bring a smile to my face! For their being there that day but also for their support and simply for existing, I am also immensely gratefully and consider myself the luckiest person! 🙂

After arriving to campus and getting all my tickets, I went to collect my gown. It all happened so fast and also seemed crazy and unbelievable to me. When they handed me my gown and hat, I suddenly felt really emotional and wanted to cry – I think it was all these emotions and realising I was truly about to graduate, that I’d actually made it this far.

The ceremony itself is very hazy in my mind and the only word I could think of at the time and can think of now is: “surreal.” To be honest, I also spent half the ceremony laughing about how I was dressed, about how the gown kept falling off, about how lecturers were dressed too, about the music, the sorts of gongs, about the whole ceremonial… I felt like I was in one of those American films that are always on on French TV (French university don’t get graduations like that and I’m not even sure they get a ceremony at all). What made everything even more strange was the fact that in the hall, I was sat next to Denise, a German student, probably the very first person from UEA I spoke to who arrived to UEA the same day as me and who was supposed to take the same UEA Meet and Greet coach from Heathrow airport on that very first day (17th September 2014). I was suddenly overcome with memories when she looked at me, mentioned these things and said that “the loop has looped.”

I can’t say how stressed I was when I realised that we were the next row to go onstage and when we were taken to go in the corridor next to the hall, before getting onstage. It felt even more surreal and like a dream because all the sound from congregation hall was muffled, I felt like I was in a parallel world. People put our gowns on properly, checked out names, handed us pieces of paper (the physical degrees!) and then it all happened so far. On stage, I don’t even know what happened, I rushed onstage and offstage, didn’t hear or see anything – except the chancellor who was looking at me and shook my hand. I do remember looking and smiling at Peter Kitson because he’d said my name right and so I was very satisfied (I’d had to send him a voice clip via email to say how to pronounce my surname!). I probably had a massive smile on my face when I walked across the stage, because his pronouncing my name and this hand-shake made it all “real” – the whole degree, me graduating, the three years at UEA…  But then that was it! It was over in the blink of an eye.

The handshake onstage!

The moments after the ceremony werestrange too, but nice. After looking for some course friends for ages, I finally found them and we had our little “Science Fiction” seminar group reunion with Matt Taunton and Jake Huntley; I saw Nola Merckel from European Literature;  saw Clare Connors from Contemporary Fiction, who gave me a hug – the cutest thing ever; spoke to Jo Catling from Reading Translation in first year who reminded me of how much I’d wanted to do an MA in Literary Translation; spoke to more lecturers who said that it was the perfect time to sign up for another course… It was tempting but I think it’s time to move on (maybe?). I will miss studying English Literature so much. And to be honest, walking back home that evening, I felt incredibly sad and empty. It was like the final minutes of the last episode of your favourite series ever – but worse, because you can always watch series again and again if you really feel that nostalgic.

My brother called me “Dumbledore.”

I’m not going to lie – my time at UEA wasn’t always perfect and easy, I did struggle a lot especially in second year, I was totally overwhelmed by stress, pressure and perfectionism most of the time, terrified about my future after university since the start of second year, had periods when I struggled so much to sleep because of the stress and often had to listen to hypnosis recordings to sleep and to the sound of sea-waves to relax enough to be able to work… (Alternatively, I’d listen to The Ride of the Valkyries to feel like a badass warrior who could fight anything and anyone – and I guess it did help!) At the beginning of third year, it really hit me that it was the last year at university and that I’d already wasted so much time, and that I had to make the most of final year. And I did, and for this, I am SO happy!

Even though a huge part of university is obviously to do with the course, there’s a lot more than that. While at UEA, I have had the chance and opportunity to do so many thing I would never even have thought about – especially in final year and this semester – and I hope that these memories stay with me all my life. It’s all been absolutely incredible and I can’t say how happy I feel when I look back and think about all these very happy experiences and memories.

Firstly, the fact that I am writing this from Norwich is incredible. My family is French, I was born in France, grew up in France, went to French schools… I hadn’t even planned to become bilingual, and I planned to move to England even less (at least not so early in my life). It was a dream I didn’t even dream of. And then there was me being accepted at UEA – that felt incredible too when I received an unconditional offer from UEA not that long after I’d sent my UCAS application and soon after Joshua also got an offer from UEA too.

While the UK isn’t that different from France, it’s not home. But although it’s not always been easy, it’s been absolutely incredible and I think that everybody should have the experience of living abroad, even for a short period of time, just to see what it’s like to arrive somewhere you don’t know, be or feel a bit rootless, have to build your life in a new environment with new people and a language that doesn’t feel natural, and also to be in the position of the stranger and the foreigner for a minute. But it also means you get to start from scratch in a place where nobody knows you! Not that I have dark secrets to hide…

At Nice airport — on my way to Norwich and to UEA for the first time! Also the first time I was travelling alone (exciting but totally frightening).

I will never forget arriving at UEA, finally, arriving in my room in Pine House, the first evening on campus, meeting more people than I’d met during my entire life in the first week at UEA, meeting all my flatmates, and meeting Olivia who I ended up sharing a house with for the next two years! I guess she become what some might call “a BFF” and university certainly wouldn’t have been the same without her, without her jokes, without her putting up with my jokes, innuendos, puns; my nearly burning the house down, my cooking “incident” such as burning scones and baguette in the microwave (totally sober) or dropping at least a kilo of cooked noodles in the sink; without all the nights spent watching Derren Brown shows, Louis Theroux, weird “documentaries” on Channel 4, and of course, Orange is the New Black and our Life is Strange Marathon! I think without her I would have gone mad.

Olivia and I. This photo always make me laugh so much!

I couldn’t write a post on my blog about these past years without mentioning my blog itself! I was hired to write a blog about my life at UEA at the very beginning of my course. At first I didn’t realise that I’d actually become so involved in blogging, that I’d enjoy it so much and that UEA would re-use my posts sometimes and put me all over social media but hey! I am so glad about it because although the first posts are very cringey to read now, I feel like my blog has really evolved and matured with me, and it’s amazing for me to be able to go back and see what I was doing or thinking at certain points of my studies – including all the doubts and tougher times.

Thanks to my blog, I became what I call a “Sainsbury Centre V.I.P.” and what I mean by that is just that they liked the reviews of exhibitions there I wrote and tweeted so I became part of their “private viewing list” without even really realising it! So I’ve been invited to the opening of every new exhibition since I’ve arrived at UEA which has been so cool – another thing I would never have imagined doing! I guess it pays off to ramble on your blog about how much you love the Sainsbury Centre for Visuals Arts (plus, you get free wine and an awesome introductory talk when you go to these openings!).

At the Sainsbury Centre.

My blog is also what led to me being invited as a “media visitor” to see Queen Elizabeth II when she came to UEA to visit the Fiji exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre (always the Sainsbury Centre…)! I was so excited about it and will always remember my grandmother shouting on the phone when I told her I was going to see the Queen of England!! (They adore her in France). It was such a fun and exciting thing for me to do – I’ve written a post or two about it on my blog and there are also videos on Youtube.

At the end of first year, I became a Student Guide, which meant that I worked on Open Days to do various things such as campus tours (many, many, campus tours) but also general help/setting up. I genuinely loved working as a guide, it was always a fun thing to do and nice to do something to promote the university, talk about stuff I enjoyed, while earning money and get a break from my studies.

Super classy, and also super-freezing, during an Open Day.

That’s also when I became a volunteer French/English translator for the co-operative Banana Link! Since at the time I was still considering becoming a translator and doing an MA in translation, and since I wanted to make the most of me being bilingual, I applied for this position! After doing a couple of sample translations for Banana Link, I officially became a volunteer for them. I don’t get many translations to do for them and it’s not a regular thing but despite it being challenging, it’s always been very fun and I was very happy to be able to help a co-operative protect and educate pineapple and banana workers indifferent parts of the world! I hope I’ll have more time from now on to do more when needed because I still really enjoy translating documents – literary or not.

One thing I will not forget was the day Joshua told me he wanted to stop studying at UEA to go study something totally different elsewhere in the UK. Not the best day of my life. When second year started and Joshua left Norwich, it was so hard for me to get used to being “totally on my own” (which means “without him”) and it took me the whole year to get used to it and stop feeling so homesick. However, it’s made me realise how lucky I was to have him and I will never forget how many times Joshua came to visit me in Norwich, and all the weekends in Southampton or in London with him, all the things we did, places we wemt to, all the concerts… 😀 It was very tough sometimes but it’s made me become much more independent and made me realise how much I could do and achieve too, as cheesy as it sounds.

2015 BBC1 Big Weekend in Earlham Park!

Visiting Joshua in Southampton!

Seeing our hero, Steven Wilson live!

At Winter Wonderland in London!

I really didn’t do much in second year apart from studying but in third year, I don’t even know where to start. It was by far the best year in my opinion in terms of modules/studies. The first semester, Nervous Narratives and Cultures of Suburbia was just fantastic and the second semester, Science Fiction was just… Well just look at how many posts I wrote about this module and you might start to get an idea of how amazing amazing amazing the module was and how much fun I had in it. If at the beginning of third year I was very sick of studying literature and sometimes struggled a bit to enjoy it, Science Fiction reminded me of how much I loved reading, how much I loved studying literature, why I loved it, and that working on a project could be the most fun thing! So these are very unforgettable modules, but I also keep very fond memories of Contemporary Fiction, European Literature and Reading and Writing Translations in second year! Not to mention how the library became my second home and almost a safe haven 🙂 (and it was so nice there in winter because it was so much warmer that in my student house!)

But third year but also about so much more than university which is why I was so great. I spent millions of hours stressing about jobs and applying to graduate schemes without much success—lol no just kidding, that part was awful. I finally became a volunteer for the Wellbeing Service (a partner of Norwich Mind), which meant so much to me! I did the whole training and finally starting volunteering them regularly which made me feel useful and like I was doing something worthwhile – exactly what I needed. It also meant that I HAD to take some time off books and university work which I also needed but didn’t manage to do on my own.

And then I also become a Student Ambassador!! Finally! I’d applied in first year and second year too I think but didn’t even get invited for an interview. Being a Student Ambassador is honestly probably the best thing I’ve done while being at UEA. It was amazing and I did SO many different and cool things I don’t even know where to start. Being an Ambassador is a bit like being a guide except it’s faaar better and there is so much you can do. It started with me working for several weeks, one evening per week, on the Applicant Day Callback Scheme. I was basically working alongside the Admissions Team and ringing applicants to see what stage they were at in deciding where they wanted to study and inviting them to come to UEA for applicants days! Slightly terrifying at first but it very actually really fun (most of the time)! So that kept me quite busy throughout the semester and at the very end, after I’d submitted all my essays I got to do SO MUCH and meet so many lovely ambassadors who were really fun to work with! And again, I got to do things I never thought I’d do. I worked on many school visits with primary school children, doing quiz-types campus tours, but also with teenagers on visits and in workshops designed to give them a taste of university and get them thinking about higher education, worked at an Enrichment Day Summer School, participate in a Sixth Form Conference where I ended up in a Shakespeare taster session with my Shakespeare seminar-leader (Tom Roebuck, he’s awesome – it’s just I have a little problem with Shakespeare), I worked at a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Conference about young people from traveller communities accessing education and the challenges it represents for teachers… I had such a great time doing all this! And all this was only during one semester. Imagine if I’d managed to become an Ambassador sooner.

And then of course… there was FLY and the BCLT. I became a trainee for the UEA FLY Festival, literature festival for young people, and became the “press team” with Louise! We went to so many great and inspiring talks, met lots of authors, actors, saw great performances, tweeted a lot, and had an amazing week of fun during the festival. I wrote a whole article about FLY so you can just read it here. It was honestly one of the best weeks of my life and a memorable time! I felt so lucky I’d been chosen for this.

With BREIS.

Matt Windle.

I also adored the internship with the British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT)! Again, I got to meet lots of lovely people and was lucky enough to be able to work for an organisation I was genuinely interested in! I didn’t work many hours but as an intern there, with Alis, we made plans for the BCLT translation and creative writing summer school, started cataloguing Doris Lessing’s translation archive which I found very exciting, went to some super-interesting translation events, and participated in the summer school itself, among professional translators and participants coming from all over the world — which was so cool! 😀 Again, another thing I’m very thankful for!

Setting up for filming a video with a PhD student about her research!

Translations of Doris Lessing’s work!

Duncan Large welcoming participants to the 2017 BCLT Summer School!

This article is almost a novel – but let’s just say it’s my short story about my life at UEA and some of the best moments and things I won’t forget. It’s been truly incredible and I can’t thank people enough for giving me all these opportunities, thank people enough for all their support, thank seminar-leaders for their awesomeness and teaching, thank the people I’ve worked with, and thank whoever accepted me at UEA for accepting me at UEA.

Phew! I feel like I’ve just re-lived all this just by writing about it.  I should probably stop writing now before I start rambling about more things. I could go on for ages about some of my favourite books studied for my degree or about the Science Fiction module but I should keep that for another day 😛

If you’ve made it this far: well done! That’s impressive.

And in case you forgot the point of this post, it was just to say I’ve graduated! 😀

Thank you, UEA. ❤

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3 comments on “GRADUATION!

  1. Ravenclaw Book Club
    5 August, 2017

    I’m so happy for you!! A first is really impressive as well!
    The picture of you giving your boyfriend a kiss on the cheek is adorable, what a nice photo!
    And wow you sat next to the first person you met at UEA, that’s so cool!! The whole day sounds really amazing, and it’s great that your family could be there!
    Your post is making me a bit sad too haha!

    I agree about moving to another country being an incredible experience. The feeling of being “rootless”, as you call it, is one of my favourites. Arriving at UEA on my own was similar and something I will never forget!

    Haha being on the private viewing list is so random but pretty cool! The Sainbury Centre is not my kind of place, but it definitely seems like a cool opportunity if you like it so much!

    I’m so happy you had such a good time and got to do so many things – I’m really excited about my second and third years, and hopefully will get to participate in lots of cool things as well! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anne-Sophie
      15 August, 2017

      Thank you so much for this comment! 😀 I kept meaning to reply and always put it off.
      Haha thanks for all the kind things you said (I also love that picture of Joshua and I). It’s nice to hear you have similar feeling about living abroad. It is an incredibly experience, and we are so lucky, but sometimes I think our British friends can’t understand and can’t relate to this experience and to the struggles that sometimes come from it. I’ll still be looking at your blog and commenting (MWAHAHA) but I wish you an amazing second and third years at university. MAKE THE MOST OF IT AND DO A MILLION THINGS! (Signed: a sad and very nostalgic UEA alumnus.)

      Like

  2. Man💝
    25 July, 2017

    FÉLICITATIONS 🎉 ma Chérie. Quel travail tu as fourni, quelle volonté et persévérance. Tous tes efforts ont payé et tu as obtenu ton diplôme avec honneur et reconnaissance. Excellent et merci 💝. Ta réussite nous comble de bonheur. Je ne suis pas étonnée de tels résultats compte tenu de ta ténacité et de ton implication. Maintenant, mets toutes tes connaissances à profit et fonce 😍

    Like

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