Maddi Maya, second-year English BA
"English ticked all the boxes for me and it’s really broad here, so I could still find out where my interests were."
Why did you choose your course?
"I actually thought about doing several different things. I was going to do Spanish for a bit, I was going to do film for a bit, but I’ve always loved books.
I used to write a lot when I was younger and it just felt like all of the things I was looking at were linked to communication, storytelling, and how we use language.
English ticked all the boxes for me and it’s really broad here, so I could still find out where my interests are."
Did you find the five key areas of English useful?
"It was definitely a big selling point. The opportunity to do creative writing was a big thing as well. I struggle to just do one thing all the time, so I like that it feels like a more specific version of A levels. It’s still all English, but you’re doing different subjects at the same time. I really like that. It really works well for me."
"I did come in hating drama, but I definitely enjoyed the drama modules more than I thought I would. I also definitely enjoyed Old English more than I thought. I thought I would enjoy the literature side and not like the language, but I ended up really loving the language side of it.
Linguistics as well, that’s more gripping than I thought it was going to be!"
What are the main skills that you’ve gained from your course?
"Definitely lots of research skills. My research ability has increased so much. I’ve gained a lot of confidence, too. I was always pretty shy at school, but I’m a lot more confident talking in seminars now."
Forming my own opinions would be the other big thing – really understanding myself and where I’m coming from and putting that into an essay.
Tell me about your favourite module so far
"'From Talking Horses to Romantic Revolutionaries' was one of my favourites. I didn’t really know where my specific interest is going to land, but I’ve always been really interested in the Romantics, so that one helped me really dig into that. I’m now looking at doing a masters in 18th century.
The 'Victorian and fin-de-siècle literature' was also a really great module. I felt like you got a lot of different perspectives on that module as well, which was really cool."
How did you choose your optional modules?
"I always start looking way too early, around January! I create a list and chop it down as I go. It’s the only way I can make myself make the decision, because if I could, I’d do all of them!
I go for modules that I think are going to be really interesting and that are going to challenge me a bit. I’m doing ‘Language and the Mind’ for third year. That’s got a presentation as part of the assessment, so I’m hoping that will push me a bit. I also like to keep it fairly broad with my choices – I try to not let myself go completely specific, if I can."
What’s your dissertation going to be on?
"My idea is still really broad, but I want to look at early Victorian novels and different societal things that were impacting how the characters were written. So Dickens characters are really caricatured, for example, because it was being published a chapter at a time. But then Jane Austen was just looking at being as realistic as possible.
I’m looking to see if there’s a link between the strict societal norms and characters in novels and how the authors show their personality despite that.
I have a big long list of things I want to research! I love getting deep into a topic, so I’m nervous but very much looking forward to it as well."
Any staff shout-outs?
"I did a research project with Christina Lee this year. I got to go and work with some old manuscripts and that experience was so valuable.
We were transcribing these manuscripts which were being worked on. There was a 16th, 17th and 18th century one. My job was to go into Manuscripts and Special Collections and sit for hours trying to decode these recipes! We were working with biochemistry, who were taking samples off the manuscript paper and trying to find protein signatures that matched the ingredients from the recipes which were written down. They were trying to figure out if the recipes had been used or not. It was amazing.
The experience led me down a totally different route. I’m looking for work experience and potentially future jobs in archiving and manuscripts now. Christina is also just so lovely and supportive and has been really encouraging.
Joe Jackson is my personal tutor and he’s always been incredibly supportive. He’s good at telling me to calm down a bit when I’m jumping the gun! When I was thinking about masters last September, he was like ‘Just calm down a bit, you’ve got time’, which I think it’s good to hear sometimes. It’s good to be encouraged but also sometimes you need to slow down and appreciate where you’re at."
You're an editor of The LanderMag, tell me about that…
"So this is part of the English shared reading group scheme, but we had to take it online during the pandemic. I came in as a volunteer this year and we all got split off into mini groups. It was so valuable – at the time I was seriously wanting to go into publishing.
Also, especially with Covid, it helped me to feel like I was doing something to help, even if it was small. I felt like I was giving some connection to the outside world for the residents of the care home. It was an incredible experience and I really hope that we can get in to see the residents of the care home at some point, as we’ve not been in to meet them yet."
In terms of skills, I was doing a lot of the history articles, so I gained research skills. It was also about writing in a very different way and following dementia guidelines. That was entirely new to me and really valuable.
Do you know what career you want to go into?
"I need to do more research. The whole of this year I’ve been thinking I want to do a masters and PhD and go into research in some capacity.
At the moment, I’m looking for masters courses that have some sort of connection to archives. I need to find out more about the industry as a whole, but am looking for ways to get my foot in the door."
What does ‘success’ look like to you?
"I think being comfortable, being near people I love, knowing I can help out the people I love and support them in the way they need. On a more material level, knowing I’m doing something I love and getting enough back from it to be comfortable in my living situation. I don’t want to be rich and famous, I just want to be doing something I love and around people I love."
Any top tips to share?
Don’t be afraid if you don’t know quite what you want to do yet. I came into uni not having a clue what I wanted to do afterwards, and a year in, I had too many ideas!
"Do what you love, make sure you’re pushing yourself, and it will appear."