Department of American and Canadian Studies

Amelia Anastasi, 2020 graduate

Amelia graduated from American Studies and History BA. She is now working as a paralegal in family law and is on the path to qualify as a solicitor. 

She talks about accidentally discovering her course, and how the skills gained led her to a fulfilling career.

What made you choose your course?

"I originally had my heart set on just studying history, but when I had another look online at the courses available, the prospect of studying a combination of two degrees fascinated me. 

I had never heard of American Studies before but when I studied GCSE history, we learnt about cowboys and Native American tribes, and I found that interesting. It was also the time when Donald Trump had just become president and I wanted to know more.

What really captured my interest was the opportunity to do a placement year abroad. I thought the potential to study in America (although never realised) would be an amazing experience. 

I am glad I didn’t just pursue the history course, as I thoroughly enjoyed the American studies part of my degree."  

What are the main skills you gained from your degree? 

"I definitely learned to think outside the box. In my module ‘American Violence: A History’, I analysed the specific wording of the second amendment and the effect it has on gun legislation today. Then, in my module ‘The American Pop Century’, I wrote an essay on whether Macklemore truly has a space in rap music. Because American Studies can be quite contemporary, it allowed me to reflect on the past and consider the future consequences in culture and society. This really allowed me to be imaginative. 

This is really useful in my role as a paralegal, where you often have to see the big picture and take creative approaches to certain problems."

How did you choose your optional modules?

"There was such an amazing variety to choose from, so I chose modules I believed I would enjoy and that I would be good at.

I often picked modules that were heavily coursework based as I like to plan ahead, and coursework allowed me to do that. I didn’t particularly struggle with exams; I just always tended to score higher on coursework.

I also considered the tutors. As the course goes on you get to know them and their styles, so I chose modules which were led by tutors I knew I could approach and had a good relationship with."

Did you have a favourite module?

"I’d say 'The American Pop Century' was my most memorable one, as I remember always feeling engaged! I think this is because I really enjoyed the structure of the tutorials, as everyone would be asked questions about the pre-reading, and I enjoyed listening to other people’s points of view. It always felt like an open space, where you could voice your opinions."

Is there anything surprising that you learnt about yourself?

"By the end of my course I was surprised by my ability to write an original piece of work. I think this stemmed from learning how to conduct good research by using a variety of valuable and reliable sources.

When I did my dissertation, I heavily relied on photographs and YouTube videos. Sources do not have to be just published books and articles as I assumed when I started." 

That is something I really enjoyed throughout this course. I had the opportunity to watch film, listen to music, analyse lyrics, look at photos and their backgrounds, I even explored fashion. I never thought this would be considered research, but it is.

What was your dissertation on?

"It was on the underground ballroom culture. This is a subculture created by queer Latinx people and people of colour so that they can express themselves in a society that has attempted to ostracise and exclude them. I focussed on their elaborate performances and the concept of 'houses' which are essentially chosen families of friends used to replace their estranged families.

I also touched upon the concept of intersectionality, and how experiences and difficulties are often shaped by a combination of factors such as race, class and gender, not simply just one."

What was the staff support from your lead department (American and Canadian Studies) like?

"I found the support excellent. In my first and second year I didn’t really ask for much help and I regret that. But in my third year, I ensured to always discuss my essay plans and ideas with my tutors. They were always happy to share their thoughts and provided great feedback.

Steph Lewthwaite, in particular, has always been supportive. Even recently, I emailed Steph to see if she’d be willing to write my reference for my current job and she was more than happy to. The fact that I felt I could reach out to her after graduating speaks volumes."

How did you end up working in your current role? Did you always have a career plan in mind?

"I’ve always had an interest in law, so when Covid hit during my third year, I thought I would use it as an opportunity to explore this further and complete a master’s degree in law. Once I graduated, I was fortunate enough to end up in my current role."

How has your degree helped you in your current role? 

I’m definitely using my skills. As a paralegal, I often have to conduct research. If I hadn’t gained a foundation of how to research from my undergraduate degree, then built upon it on my masters, I’d have struggled.

"Also being able to write concisely and in an academic way is extremely valuable when emailing or writing a letter to a client."

What’s your favourite thing about your current job?

"I enjoy supporting people and assisting them through a significant time in their life, whether that be starting a relationship or sadly ending one. I do not find working in law to be as black and white as many believe it to be. For example, in family law you must consider the dynamics of the relationship and manage each case accordingly. This requires some creativity and I find it fascinating."

What does success look like to you?

"For me, success is not superficial, it is about feeling fulfilled in whatever I’m doing."

I could have a million pounds in the bank, but if I don’t feel fulfilled, I wouldn’t consider myself successful.

Anything else to add?

"I’m really grateful for the opportunities and experiences that I had in Nottingham. Without those I wouldn’t be where I am today."

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Department of American and Canadian Studies

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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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