Freshers’ Tips – Alex Hewitt
Coming to Durham to study English can be intimidating, complete with the fear that every other student is an Oxbridge reject who knows Shakespeare’s works off by heart, or that you’ll have to sacrifice nights out to plough through Dickins’ back catalogue. Both, I’m sure you’ve realised, are not the case, but here are a few tips from a second year perspective to help you make the most of English in your first year.
1. Be tactical with reading
As fun as it might sound to read everything from Beowulf to Angels in America, it is certainly not essential to get through the whole reading list. If you have the time this will doubtless help, but bear in mind the number of texts you will really need when it comes to exam time – most exams will only require knowledge of four or five. Coming from studying one or two texts at A-Level to a never-ending list at University can be a tricky task, so be sure that by the end of the year you know a handful of texts like the back of your hand.
2. Make the most of tutorials
Getting used to sharing your ideas in front of others can be difficult for some, but avoid the awkward silences and make the most of the expertise of your tutor. With few contact hours and only a scant fifteen minutes to discuss your formative, this is key. Experiment with ideas in your tutorials and essays – this is the perfect time to do so.
3. Embrace the challenge of unfamiliar material
The Durham English department throws you in at the deep end with a number of new challenges, from Old English language to the finer details of Classical and Biblical. Persevere and the knowledge from these modules will be invaluable when it comes to second and third year studies.
4. Get involved
English can often be a somewhat solitary experience, with few contact hours and little opportunity for collaborative work, but there are ample opportunities get involved in the subject outside of the course itself. Attending Durham English Society events, writing for student media (such as The Bubble) or tutoring English with Student Community Action are just some of the ways you can have a wider experience of the subject and perhaps even bulk out the C.V.
Durham is a great place to study English, and amidst the flurry of deadlines and reading be sure to remember and foster the love of reading that made you apply in the first place. And remember, of course, that this is a formative year!