Department of Classics and Archaeology

Ciara Murphy, second-year Classical Civilisation student

Ciara Murphy smiling and standing outside an ancient building, with her arms spread wide open

"Lecturers know that not everyone has done this before, and they’re also really friendly. You’re not going to be the only one feeling anxious or out of place at the start."

What made you decide to study Classical Civilisation?

"I didn’t have the opportunity to study it for my GCSEs or in college, so I was going into it quite blindly. I loved watching documentaries on Ancient Greece and, when I was 18, I went on holiday to Greece and just absolutely fell in love with the architecture and the art. I just knew that I had to do something to do with these cultures. 

I took a gap year after college, because I had applied to do business. Then I realised actually, ‘I can’t see myself doing a three- or four-year degree in that. I want to do something that I’m going to be really passionate about’.

During my gap year, on a whim, I Googled ‘how to study the ancient Greeks’ and the course at Nottingham popped up! It was perfect, because I’ve lived in Nottingham all my life and I didn’t want to move away, so it’s kind of like the stars aligned. It was the perfect course that covered everything I wanted to do."  

How was it having never studied Classical Civilisation before?

"Imposter syndrome, I think, is huge for most people at uni anyway. For me it was scary applying to this course, because the last time I’d studied history was when I was in year nine. I didn't know whether I’d be good enough.

At first, it was very daunting walking in there, because you don’t know what level other people are at. The majority of people had studied it before, but there were also quite a few people that were in my shoes and hadn’t. It did take you back to the very basics and that was so useful because I knew next to nothing!"

Everyone had to go through the same material and just learn a basis for history, literature, and art and archaeology, which was so useful. It also made me more confident in what I was really interested in and what route I’d want to go down for the other two years of my degree.

What are the main skills that you’ve learnt so far?

"A lot of critical analysis and research skills, which I know are going to be so useful for whatever I go into when I graduate. Time management is huge with any course, but especially mine where it’s all coursework that I’ve done so far, apart from a couple of exams in first year. Having three different essays all due in the same week, you really have to be in charge of how long you want to spend on things. 

My confidence in my own research and writing has really improved as well. To do well, you have to have your own opinion on the evidence you’ve looked at."

What’s been your favourite module so far?

"Last term I had the module ‘Communicating the Past’, which is an opportunity to teach the general public any aspect of your degree through any form. I’m a very creative person, so for me it was the perfect opportunity to combine two things that I love. 

I’m looking to get into advertising – and I love film marketing in particular – so I created an entire marketing campaign for a Disney film that I created about the Scythians.

It included doing research about an entirely new group of people that I’d never even heard of before, writing bits of a script, doing lots of research into marketing and creating this whole pitch on PowerPoint. It was so much fun to do. It was amazing to be marked on something creative."  

How did you choose your optional modules?

"In first year, we could choose two optional modules. One of the modules I picked was mythology. I knew immediately I had to take it, as it was something that I’d never have the opportunity to study in an academic environment after uni. It was about taking that leap with a lot of my modules, I think.

This year, the biggest thing was doing something that interests me and sounds fun. One of my modules was called ‘Classics and Comics’, where I studied how the ancient world was depicted in comics. Being able to choose things that sound fun as well as really interesting to study is a really important thing for me. It’s being able to do something just totally different and be graded in a different way."

What’s your dissertation going to be on?

"I’m in the middle of my research at the moment. I’m looking at late Bronze Age Aegean Art and seeing how emotions have been depicted. I’m looking at it from a point of view where I want to see how psychologists define emotion and our feelings, and how as humans over time we have presented them, and whether that means we’re interpreting this ancient art completely wrong. 

Picking a dissertation subject is the most daunting thing you’re going to do at uni and it comes around so quick. But my dissertation supervisor, Chrysanthi Gallou, is just brilliant, she’s my favourite lecturer. Having her has really calmed my nerves as she understands what it’s like to do all this and has been through it with loads of students before."

It’s scary but it’s going to be worth it. It’s so interesting to study something completely different. I’m already really enjoying myself with the research.

Tell me about volunteering with the Digital Transformations Hub (DTH)…

"I got an email saying they were looking for volunteers and thought I’ll give it a go. We were given the option of three different projects to work on – there was the digital marketing project (which I chose), a video project and a photogrammetry project.

I was running the DTH Instagram account. It was so much fun to be able to work in a small team. We all had our own platform and were learning together as we went along. It was an amazing opportunity to be able to get that experience and that practice, running a brand essentially, on social media and creating all the infographics and researching all the events going on across campus. 

Just because your degree isn’t in English or business, it doesn’t mean you can’t go and do something to do with that through volunteering. I think that’s important to put out there. You’re not limited to your field.

The experience really helped me when I was applying for an internship over Easter. It was amazing being able to use that and have actual experience to talk about in interviews. I do think that really helped to secure my internship, as it was in marketing. I’m so glad I did the volunteering."  

Do you know what career you want to go into?

"I’m definitely looking at getting into the creative side of marketing. 

My module ‘Communicating the Past’ and the work I did on that really established my interest in branding and advertising. The research that I was able to do made me realise how much I could see myself in that kind of role.

It’s a case of looking for internships when I graduate and trying to get as much experience creating content in the meantime, alongside my degree."

What does success look like to you?

"I’ve always thought that success is something that completely depends on the person. If you had a goal which you completed and it made you happy, I think that’s success. We’re not able to define anyone else’s success." 

Go further

Study classical civilisation

 Ciara's top tips

  • "Try and be as social as you can with people on your course. As daunting as it is walking into a lecture or seminar room, it’s much less nerve-racking if you know someone in there.  
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do too much, especially in your first year. It’s a lot to be dealing with. There’s plenty of time to get involved with societies later on. Put your wellbeing first when you first start, and everything else will fall into place."

Department of Classics and Archaeology

University of Nottingham
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