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Student Quarter

Welcome to the Student Quarter. Here you’ll find out about life at UCL through a series of live sessions and blog posts – all created and delivered by students from the Faculty!

See your lecturers too! Colleagues from across the Faculty of Arts & Humanities have shared pictures of themselves from when they started university. Take a light-hearted look at the fashion and hairstyles from the past, and see what advice they have for students starting university now.

Student Blogs & Events

As part of the Inspiring Minds 2020 Induction programme, we will be hosting a series of online student-led sessions. Hear from students within the Faculty on a variety of topics that we hope will help you navigate starting university. Each session will also include time for you to ask our students any relevant questions.

Can't wait until the sessions? Don't worry, each student has written a blog post on the topic of their session so you can read their top tips before joining their online session.

Find out more about what topics will be covered in the sessions, how you can sign up and get to know our students using the links below. 

List of student-led sessions

Here's a full list of student sessions:

Name of EventDate and TimeRegister/ Watch
Joining Societies and the Students' UnionMonday 28 September, 4-5pmWatch
Managing Your MoneyWednesday 30 September, 4-5pmWatch
Living in LondonThursday 1 October, 4-5pmWatch
Feeling Supported at UCLFriday 2 October, 4-5pm 
Adjusting to University Life and LearningMonday 5 October, 4-5pm 
Making Friends at UCLTuesday 6 October, 4-5pm 
Managing Your Time Monday 12 October, 4-5pm 
Feeling Supported at UCLTuesday 13 October, 4-5pmBook your place 
UCL From HomeWednesday 14 October, 4-5pmBook your place 
For the Love of Books Thursday 15 October, 4-5pmBook your place
Joining Societies and the Students' UnionFriday 16 October, 4-5pm Book your place
Managing Your MoneyMonday 19 October, 4-5pmBook your place

Feeling supported

Feeling Supported

What does it mean to feel supported at university? Elin Johnson shares her experiences of feeling supported at UCL. Read her blog and find out details of her event on the same topic.

 

Books arranged in a heart shape

For the Love of Books

Are you interested in a career in publishing? Join Maria, a PhD student in UCL Information Studies, in her webinar where she will be sharing her journey from a degree in English Literature to a range of jobs across the industry. Read more and register your place.

Time Management

Time Management

"One of the more common tendencies before starting the term is the feeling of being overwhelmed", but worry not, Dylan Ngan shares his top tips on time management.

Money Management

Managing Your Money

"It’s no secret that London is an expensive city" but Deepali Foster has some top tips to make your money go further while you're studying at university.

Portico

Adjusting to university life and learning

Evie shares her experience of adjusting to university life and learning at the beginning of her studies.

Woman working from home

Studying from Home

Many students will be starting the new academic year studying from home, Isabelle Osbourne gives her perspective on UCL from home.

westminster
Living in London

In her session, Emily will be sharing her top tips on how to enjoy and navigate the capital city. Read her guide on living in London


Memories of the past and memories of the future: Your Lecturers as Students

As a new student, you are treading a path that has already been traced by others – even if the landscape that that path leads through changes over the years.

Here are some pictures of your lecturers when they were students. You might want to look at these for their historical hairstyles and fashions or to see how the fresh faces of yesterday have become the faces that they are now.

But you might also want to imagine what it will be like when, twenty years or so in the future, you look at a photo from what will be then the past and reflect on your own student beginnings.

Professor Stella Bruzzi

Professor Stella Bruzzi

English and Drama BA Hons, Manchester University 1981-1985

I was both excited and trepidatious. I spent most of Freshers' Week walking around campus trying to look confident, but inside feeling very self conscious. Things settled down when the courses started - then I thought: 'I've made exactly the right choice of degree (for me)' and relished pretty much every minute of it.

I spent a good deal of my first year working backstage on countless productions, culminating in Manchester Umbrella Theatre Company's tour of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was then that I was introduced to the plays of the Spanish 'Golden Age', working on Lope de Vega's 'The Dog in the Manger'. I knew English counterparts such as John Webster's 'The Duchess of Malfi', but the Spanish plays were revelations. My first uni live gig was to go and see The Clash.

My advice to new and returning students is to understand that university will surprise you and to enjoy learning why and in what ways the arts and humanities matter to you and to society.

Dr Tim Beasley-Murray

Tim Beasley-Murray

Modern Languages (Czech, Russian and German), University of Cambridge

This picture was taken in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, during a year at the Ecole normale supérieure, just round the corner on the Rue d’Ulm.   I didn’t have very much money (the pound crashed against the French franc, blasting a hole in my budget) and, while I did make friends, I didn’t find it easy finding my feet in a new city where I didn’t know anybody.  Maybe these are some of the reasons why I spent a lot of time in these magnificent gardens - reading, thinking, day-dreaming, watching the chess players and the toy boats on the boating lake. Still, it is definitely important, as a student and in life, to know how to do these things too.

Dr Eleanor Chiari

Dr Eleanor Chiari

Anthropology at the University of Chicago

Summarising my experience of university, I was terrified and certain that the university had made a mistake in admitting me. I thought everybody else was smarter and more sophisticated than I was and that I would soon be unmasked as a fraud.

In my first-year I discovered that serious editing is as important when writing as coming up with all the ideas.

My advice to new arts and humanities students is that this is your time to grow and follow your curiosity. Don't let fear and competition stop you from remembering that learning is fun!

Dr Caroline Wintersgill

Caroline Wintersgill

BA Hons, English Literature, Newcastle University 1985 - 1988

Though Newcastle wasn't my first choice of University (UCL turned me down!) it turned out to be a brilliant one. I grew up in a village in North Yorkshire. Newcastle was  an hour away but it felt like a different world. It was such an exciting place to be in the 1980s: politics was in ferment with the Miners' strike, the clubs and music scene were amazing: I saw Elvis Costello, the Ramones, David Bowie, the Sugarcubes ... Cult music TV show The Tube was broadcast live from the quayside and you could go as a guest.

But there was also plenty of high culture –  arts cinema at the Tyneside, poetry readings at Morden Tower, the RSC in residence for 6 weeks every Spring.  The Newcastle English department was friendly and collegial from the start. I hadn't excelled at school but this changed for good at university. The course was, with hindsight, ultra-traditional  - the theory wars hadn't seriously impacted the English curriculum in 1985 so we studied a canonical curriculum starting with Anglo Saxon and ending with late modernism (with a few third year forays into postmodernism). But it was illuminated by the research enthusiasms of brilliant specialists - Robert Woof on the Romantic poets, Kelsey Thornton on the 1890s, and students were stimulated and cajoled into embarking on their own research journeys too.

What I'd want to say to new students is that this period will be formative in ways you don't expect. University is so much more than intellectual or professional training. It is a liberating space after the constraints of school or work. It gives you space to read, think, experiment, mix with probably a wider range of contemporaries than at any other point. It is, or was for me anyway, one of the heightened moments of life.

Jo Evans graduating

Professor Jo Evans

Tim

Professor Tim Jordan

Bachelor of Arts (Hons) University of Melbourne. This was at graduation and I mainly remember that my parents and grandparents were so happy, I was the first member of my family to get a University degree. That and my goodness that was a lot of hair.

Dr Emily Baker

Emily

History, Literature and Cultures of the Americas
University of Warwick, BA

During my student time I did a variety of sports including football, rugby and—at Cambridge during my PhD—rowing. Aside from exercise of any kind being excellent for brain health and overall wellbeing, having the daily structure of different sessions and practices increased my productivity by focusing my mind on the task at hand, in the slots I had available. I also met loads of amazing people, many of whom are still my good friends now. Organised sport is one of the few things still possible for some under lockdown (with adequate precaution) and can be a good way to get involved and meet people. For those with a disability, shielding, or protecting family members, online exercise classes, yoga and meditation at home can also help to keep the mind focused and the body active.

The other advice I have for new students is to tap into your curiosity and read as much as possible. There is no substitute for reading in terms of broadening the mind, tackling the big questions in life, writing informed essays and, overall, getting a good degree. It’s an incredibly fun activity that has been practiced by humans since ancient times.

Dr Alexander Samson

Alex Samson

English and Philosophy
University of Leeds, BA

I arrived in Leeds in 1990 to study English and Philosophy. It was a bit of a culture shock for a born and bred Londoner and I remember getting called ‘duck’ disorienting me quite a bit at first. But I came to love the north over the next few years, from Bradford’s National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, as it was then, to the West Yorkshire Sculpture Park and of course Ilkley Moor and the original Harry Ramsden’s in Guiseley before it became a chain. I have no idea why I am wearing a shirt, a collector’s item, something I try to avoid if I can help it to this day and one of the main reasons I became an academic!

The early 90s was a fantastic time to be a student there, with a lively music and clubbing scene. I had a bedsit at one point that only cost £25/week although to be fair the only heating was a gas fire in the living room. I loved the brutalist architecture of the bits of campus built in the 70s and the red brick terraced student housing. My favourite course was on the European Novel, featuring Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Balzac, Zola, Flaubert et al., unfortunately it turned out I had taken too many credits, so my essay on Crime and Punishment didn’t count...

Dr Natasha Tanna

Natasha

Starting university gave me a dizzying sense of freedom...it was wonderful, but sometimes overwhelming, to have control over my own time, around who to spend it with and what to do with it (including dressing up in bright and clashing colours, a joy that has remained with me to this day). There were so many activities to get involved in beyond my studies and I wanted to do more than I had time for.

My advice to our students would be to approach the new people you meet with warmth and an open mind. Support each other through this exciting journey. Be firm in your principles, but also be willing to change your mind. Don't be intimidated by authority.

Having said all that, 'Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia' (Mary Schmich). For other such gems, listen to Baz Luhrmann's 'Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)', a rendering of Mary Schmich's essay 'Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young'. Ha. Have fun!

Professor Michael Berkowitz

Groucho

History at the University of Wisconsin

I had an extraordinarily wonderful experience at the University of Wisconsin, where I completed my MA (1983) and PhD (1989) in European cultural history.  I was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with the great George L. Mosse (1918-1999) in Madison and Jerusalem.   Here I am as Groucho, with Leann Jozefowski as Zeppo, on Halloween (1981) in Wisconsin’s Memorial Union.  Yes, one could light up a cigar, inside, in those days!

Professor Lily Kahn

Lily Khan

This photo was taken in Prague in 1998, shortly before I started my BA in Hebrew at UCL. I’d like to wish a very warm welcome to all new students joining UCL and hope that you love your time as an undergraduate here as much as I did mine.

I’d encourage all new students to trust your intuition and choose modules that you feel passionate about and inspired by. There is a lot of pressure on students these days and it can be easy to get caught up in the stress of trying to ‘achieve’ as much as possible, so please make sure to take the time to explore, enjoy, and have fun with your subjects!

 

Dr Samantha Rayner

Dr Samantha Rayner

English Literature, Bangor University

This picture was taken at the end of a summer term, when we had to pack everything away and leave for home. My trusty Fiesta travelled hundreds of miles backwards and forwards from Kent to North Wales, packed to the roof:  I still have the mix tape (an actual cassette!) that accompanied those trips, and listening to tracks like Electric Blue by Icehouse instantly takes me back to uni days (yes, I wasn’t the coolest student – and it was the late 80s!)  So enjoy this time, as you compile the sound track to your own future lives!

Dr Matthew Sperling

Matthew Sperling

This picture was taken in summer 2001, at the end of my first year. I’m in a bar in Prague, drinking absinthe. I would have just turned nineteen.

I had the good fortune to win a university sonnet-writing competition that year (the prize fee remains the best rate per word I’ve ever received for a piece of writing), and spent the proceeds on a few weeks of interrailing, which made for a fruitful break after an intense first year at university…

Professor Philippe Marliere

Professor Philip Marliere

Doctor of Philosophy, European University Institute

The picture was taken on 1st May 2000 at the European University Institute (Florence, Italy) at the end of my PhD viva. Happy day!

As a student, I was influenced by the work of Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist. His Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (1979) had a great impact on my work. In this book, Bourdieu proposes that those with a high volume of ‘cultural capital’ (non-financial social assets, such as education) are most likely to be able to determine what constitutes ‘taste’ within society.

According to Bourdieu, the acceptance by the ‘lower classes’ of ‘dominant’ forms of taste is a form of ‘symbolic violence’, i.e. the naturalisation of this distinction of taste denies the dominated classes the means of defining their own world. Besides, even when the subordinate social classes have their own ideas about what is and what is not good taste, the working-class ‘aesthetic’ is a dominated one, as it is constantly obliged to define itself in terms of the dominant aesthetics of the higher classes.

Profile photograph of Prof Antonis Bikakis

Dr Antonios Bikakis

This photo was taken 22 years ago during a play called The Dining Room written by Pete Gurney. It was in the second year of my studies in Thessaloniki (Greece). I wasn’t studying acting (although I enjoyed it, I was not very good at it) but computer engineering. But I always liked trying new things and meeting new people. And these are the things I remember most from those times. I never acted again after that play. But I met some of my closest friends in that theatrical group.

My advice to new students is to take advantage of the vast range of opportunities for socialising that UCL offers through its clubs, societies and activities. These can make your university life memorable!