English

Hi! I’m Isaac and I’m a third year student studying English Language with English Literature here at the School of English. My journey to university began when I signed up for an A Level evening course studying English Language and Literature. Whilst there, my lecturer suggested I should take my studies to university… and here I am in the final few weeks of my degree!

What really make BCU stand out from the crowd was the possibility for students to take a major in Language and a minor in Literature. There was also a huge variety of Language modules to choose from unlike other universities I had visited. In first year, every student took the same modules to make sure that everyone was at the same standard before choosing modules in second and third year (this will change a bit when the new curriculum comes in, but the basic idea for semester 1 will be the same!).

There have been three strands to my studies throughout my second and third years. The first was the building blocks of Linguistics: Studying Language, Describing Language, Grammar and Vocabulary, Language & Social Identity, Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Language and Cognition. These modules helped me to build the foundation of my linguistic knowledge and helped me get to grips with the fundamentals of language.

The next strand allowed me to take my linguistic studies and put them into practice in the study of Literature in modules like Literary Linguistics and Narrative Analysis. When I say ‘literature’, I don’t just mean books like Great Expectations and Jane Eyre, but also newspapers, comics, TV series and films. The assignments for these modules gave me the freedom to choose what to investigate – in Literary Linguistics, I looked at Politeness Theory in Star Trek!

The brilliance of this course allowed me the freedom to choose two very diverse modules, which brings me to the final strand of Literature modules: Children’s Fiction and Drama Workshop. Children’s Fiction gave me an insight into how childhood has been viewed throughout the ages and reflected in the literature available for children. In Drama Workshop, we were given the task of choosing and producing a play from scratch. This allowed me to develop my creative thinking and performance skills and working with a group of 12, team building was essential.

Outside of my studies at the School of English, I was elected Student Representative for the class of 2017 in my first year (now called Student Academic Leaders) and have supported students and staff in improving the learning community, addressing issues with staff members and making sure the School runs smoothly.

Another big part of my life at BCU is the part-time jobs I have undertaken while studying. My main role is the Library Peer Mentor at the Curzon Library where I support students who want to improve or are having difficulties with their information literacy skills (locating, evaluating and effectively using information). I give one-to-one tutorials, hold drop-in sessions outside the library, and support the activities of the Learning and Teaching team.

In my second year, I took on the role of Student Academic Mentor for a group of first years in my second year. My role was to welcome the new students to the school and help with acclimatising to life at university. With the group of mentors for the entire school, I helped plan introductory sessions throughout welcome week to give students the best possible start to university.

My final job at university is a Student Academic Partner on the organising committee for the School of English Undergraduate Research Conference 2017. In this role, I am responsible with the rest of the team for the planning of the conference – from room bookings to choosing the research papers for presentation – as well as making sure that the conference day runs as smoothly as possible.

I have learned a great deal from these roles, from planning and organisational skills to event management. Plus, I get to see a glimpse of what life is like behind the scenes of university which adds to my appreciation of all the staff members who work to give us the best university experience possible.

Of course, life at BCU is more than just studying! I have been involved with the Students’ Union through the societies I joined and have remained at throughout my time at BCU. I even stood for election at the Dis.Cover society (for students with disabilities) and was the President in my second year. This brings an extra layer of experiences to add to my CV.

As you can see, my life has never been dull at university and there are so many opportunities and experiences to be had. I highly recommend taking up as many as you can but the trick is to find the right balance between your studies, work and extra-curricular activities. You’re usually at university only once in your life and the best piece of advice I was given, and I am now giving to you is: savour the experience – never let a second fall from your grasp and enjoy it!

Language

DSC_0204New year, new you? The year you will never have to ask a friend to borrow a pen. The year you will always complete the extra-but-not-compulsory reading (as well as the compulsory reading, but you do that already, right?). The year you will complete your assessments a month before the deadline and make the most of all the opportunities provided by the university, even if that means cancelling your Netflix marathon and swapping your pajamas for attire that will be deemed acceptable outside the four walls of your bedroom. Even if you can’t stick to all of these goals this year, I recommend you that you take advantage of that which our school has to offer.

Since starting my English degree, I have completed study in Language modules, including Grammar and Vocabulary, Language and Gender, Literary Linguistics and Narrative Analysis. While Grammar and Vocabulary provided me with the essential skills to improve my writing and formed a foundation from which to analyse texts, Language and Gender made me better informed on issues of great importance (especially in today’s current circumstances) and developed my ability to analyse, argue and understand the views of myself and others in discussions surrounding gender. Literary Linguistics introduced me to the world of Corpus Linguistics, a branch of study I have found particularly interesting and have taken forward as a means of analysis within the Independent Study Module. I was also able to use this method of study in my recent Narrative Analysis project where I analysed the impact of Textual Patterning on the reader’s understanding of narratives. I have found all of my modules thoroughly enjoyable and have gained transferable skills that have been useful within the study of each of these topics and the general practice of ‘adult’ life.

Throughout my time at BCU, I’ve also realised how lucky we, as English Language students, really are. Unlike many other departments, faculties and universities, our tutors provide us with regular tutorials and office hours for the one-to-one discussion of projects, problems and progress. At first, I was reluctant to make use of these opportunities. However, after getting over the ‘safety in numbers’ element and realising that although the teaching staff are experts in the subjects they specialise, they are just as normal as the students they teach, I’ve discovered how useful and important these meetings are.

I now make sure to book as many tutorials as I feel necessary for my development and work hard to devise drafts within the given time-frame, in order to receive valuable feedback before final submission. I believe that in doing this, I have not only improved my grades, but it has made a significant impact on my organisation, motivation and self-awareness. Guidance and feedback are essential to effective personal development, and it would be silly not to learn from the breadth and depth of wisdom and advice provided by the expertise of our accomplished tutors and lecturers.

In 2016, I learned how to really get the best out of my BCU experience and in continuing this and further making use of these chances, I believe that 2017 will be a prosperous year of which I can be proud. In attending events, handing in drafts, asking questions and making the most of the vast range of opportunities and modules the School of English provides, I’ve been able to increase my confidence, develop and build upon valuable skills, qualities and knowledge, and become a valued member of a very supportive and tight-knit community.

– Katie

Welcome

Hello and welcome to the School of English blog! My name is Dr Robert Lawson and I’m the Course Director for the School of English at Birmingham City University. I’m responsible for the undergraduate programme of studies in English, which includes not just looking after students’ academic progression, but also their pastoral and professional development.

The School of English started this blog with the main aim of this blog of giving you a better perspective of what it’s like studying here at the School of English at BCU. Starting university can be daunting, especially if you’re moving away from home. Hopefully, the experiences of our students will give you a bit of a better insight into university life, what to expect when you arrive, and the kinds of things that you can look forward to studying and reading.

Over the course of the next six months, we’ll have a variety of posts from our current students talking about their experience on their degrees in literature, language, drama, and creative writing, as well as our joint degrees in English and Media. All of our students come from different walks of life, but they’re all united by a passion and a love for English, in all its guises.

We expect our readers to come from all sorts of different backgrounds. You may be a prospective student looking for more information about our courses; you may be a parent checking out what we offer here in the School; or you may just be dropping in because you’re interested in what kinds of things folks in the School of English get up to. Whatever your reason for visiting the blog today, we hope that you find the information you’re looking for.

Best,

Rob