Hannah Parker, second-year Classical Civilisation student
"If you've got that passion, don't try and cover it because you won't feel fulfilled".
You changed course in your first year, from Environmental Biology to Classical Civilisation – why was that?
"I had this false sense of security in science and I thought that was the only way I would be able to get a good job. That was kind of encouraged by my school – women in STEM – it’s a big push. I didn’t want to do a BA, as there’s a stereotype that you’re not going to get a good job.
I did my first semester in Environmental Biology, then panicked because I was really not understanding the material and I did really badly in my exams. I had a meeting with my tutor and just said to her, 'My brain’s clearly not ‘science’. I’ve always wanted to study the ancient world and history. Maybe that would be a better decision'.
My advice would be trust your gut, 100%. When I was sat there staring at a cricket, trying to dissect it in the labs, I was like ‘What am I doing?’. I just did not like it. That entire time, I was still watching TV shows based on the ancient world, and reading about it.
Changing course was really easy, I just had to have a meeting with Carl Buckland in Classics – he’s really nice – and he basically asked if I’d done any classics before. I said yes, I did it at A level. We had a chat and he said 'I’ll sign the paperwork for you'. Within a week I’d suspended my old course."
What skills have you gained from your classical civilisation course so far?
"A lot of independence. You have to do your own research. Nobody is going to spoon-feed you. You’re not going to get a good grade if you don’t make yourself work. I’ve become very independent and disciplined. It’s a good skill. No matter what career I go into, I don’t need to be watched over.
My confidence has grown, too. By doing a subject that I’m good at and passionate about, I’m now much more confident in my everyday life."
How did you choose your optional modules?
"In my first year, I had two 10-credit optional modules. I really wanted to do an archaeology module, because I’d never done any archaeology before. That was really interesting. And again, I hadn’t ever learnt anything about mythology, so I thought I’ll do a mythology module.
It was just curiosity. Optional modules allow you to choose something that you’ve never seen before. That’s what drew me to them.
This year, I’ve done a bit more ‘out there’ options. At the moment I’m doing The Silk Road. It’s really interesting to have a broader understanding about the ancient world and history."
What’s been your favourite module?
"Interpreting Ancient Art, which was a first-year module, is by far my favourite. You spend the first semester doing Greek art. You progress from the earliest Greek art, to when the Romans conquered them. Then in the spring semester, you do Roman art from beginning to the end and talk about all the different periods.
It was interesting for me, as you got to do a presentation on a specific piece of art. It was really fun."
You had to write an essay based on your presentation, but because you’d chosen it you felt like you had more control. Ancient art is my passion, so it just helped to reassure me that this is something I want to do.
How have the teaching staff supported you? Any shout-outs?
"I have two. One is Chrysanthi Gallou. She is the nicest woman you could ever meet. She is so kind, and patient. I didn’t understand something last semester and she called me, and we sat on Teams for an hour going through it, one-on-one.
The other one has to be Tiziana D’Angelo. She is someone I look up to so much. She’s had this amazing career. She’s really lovely. Any time you ask a question, she doesn’t think it’s stupid or anything – none of the lecturers do – but she’s the person who I want to follow in her footsteps."
What's been the best part of your course so far?
"Last semester, I was doing a module called The Origins and Rise of the Aegeans and our coursework was to create a project or an essay. I decided to make a project and I did an online museum exhibition, which was really fun. I did dyes, textiles and beading in Minoan fashion. But the only fashion that we have is evidence in their art, so it’s art as well as the fashion.
I made pamphlets, posters and the actual exhibition online. It was really fun to just do something colourful and creative. We had to do a write-up on it, too."
It was good to do some research, which I hadn’t thought about before. I learnt a lot about accessibility in classics and heritage, which is currently awful. It felt good to now be aware of something that potentially is going to play a big part in my career.
What are you hoping to do your dissertation on?
"At the moment, my biggest struggle is trying to decide which civilisation I’m going to focus on, or what area! I’ve literally been debating this with Tiziana on Monday, with my mum pretty much every day…I’ve got a little pros and cons list! But it will be arts!"
Tell me about your work placement...
"I did one over last summer at my local museum. It was from May to September. I literally just emailed the curator and said 'I have nothing to do over the summer', and volunteered to do something distanced for them (due to Covid-19).
Me and the curator were working socially distanced the whole time. I made an exhibition on local school history in my area. I learnt about archiving and all about how to catalogue new items, as well as de-cataloguing, when we are getting rid of something or donating to someone else.
I did a lot of research about certain things they are going to do exhibitions on, which was really interesting. It was a really good experience. I was very lucky."
You're taking part in the Nottingham Advantage Award. How did you get involved?
"I had a look at the Careers website and it mentioned the Nottingham Advantage Award. I’d never heard of it before, so gave it some research and it came up with these two modules, one about working in the cultural sector and one about working in the heritage sector.
I applied for both – even though you only get one, I wanted to hedge my bets – and I got the heritage one. They set me up with a local museum in Erewash. That’s where I’m having my placement. It’s all remote. You have a meeting and get different tasks over seven weeks. My first job is sorting out their Instagram, as it’s a bit outdated. Then I’m helping with an exhibition aimed at Nottingham students. Part of my job will be helping create this exhibition, then also promoting it with the student demographic."
Any plans for postgraduate study?
"I'm considering doing a masters in Classics, focussing on visual culture. My whole life I’ve been surrounded by art. I grew up in the Middle East, so my family is very multicultural. My dad is artistic and he draws and paints. I’m not very artistic myself, but when I did that module it basically clicked in my brain that it’s not that I want to do the art, I want to study the art."
Read more about Classical Civilisation BA
If I’m reading about art, it just makes me happy. It’s like a puzzle clicking into place, I just love it. I know it’s the thing I do best in, so clearly the intellect’s there, the passion’s there. Why wouldn’t I want to do my career in something that I love and am good at?