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Katie Holdway BA English (French Minor)

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Hi I am Katie Holdway studying BA English (French Minor).

"As an Access to Southampton Applicant, I had the chance to attend a summer school at the University attending taster lectures and experiencing the university’s learning ethos"

What made you choose to come and study at Southampton?

I had the chance to attend a summer school at the University: staying in halls overnight, attending taster lectures and experiencing the university’s learning ethos. This confirmed the quality of the course, and I saw it would give me the freedom to personalise my degree with modules from other disciplines. I was also able to visualise myself not only working, but living in the University’s surroundings, and this was key to my decision-making process.


What were you anxious about before coming to Southampton, and once here were these fears overcome? 

My biggest concern was time management, as I was aware that the volume of reading was set to increase drastically from what I was used to at college. However, this is compensated for by the ample time for independent study incorporated into the timetable, which allows for students to tailor their studying habits according to how and when they work best. Lecturers are also mindful of the fact that you have several modules to work on, some of which may be in other disciplines, and are available for consultation on a regular basis.

What is it like studying here?

The way the teaching is structured is very inclusive, there isn’t a sense that somehow, as an undergraduate, your opinions are less valid. In fact, I feel very much a part of a literary community, and tutorials mean I have a chance to talk with lecturers who are experts in their chosen field. Each student is assigned a personal tutor from their academic discipline, which means that pastoral care, when needed, is equally forthcoming.

How do you rate study facilities at the University, such as the Library? 

Having a separate set of study spaces on Avenue Campus creates an environment that brings all Humanities students together, and also offers a library of dedicated resources that is easily accessible. Library staff are friendly and helpful, and the lecturers teach you how to make use of the extensive hard-copy and digital resources on offer as soon as you arrive.

What have been your Southampton ‘highlights’ (best experiences) so far?

From an academic point of view, there was a moment at the very beginning of my third year when, having taken a couple of 18th and 19th century modules that were particularly fascinating, I hit on the topic I wanted to pursue for my dissertation. I have since had many useful discussions with academics with similar interests to myself, come across a plethora of intriguing resources, and had a chance to specialise in a topic of my choice. These factors have all contributed to making my research journey more exciting and interesting. Beyond my course, I have also had the opportunity to work as an English mentor for students who, like myself, are on the Access to Southampton Scheme, discussing literary texts and answering questions about university life. Little opportunities like this abound, and have added another dimension to my student experience.

What other activities have you taken advantage of while at University?

I work as a student ambassador for both Student Services and the Faculty of Humanities, both have been excellent ways to gain valuable experience and earn money whilst studying. I also spent two weeks in Washington DC during the summer holidays, studying politics at a partner institution. Southampton is very well linked both nationally and globally, with funding available to assist those who want to add some time abroad to their degree.

Have you had any exposure to employer involvement or research-led learning during your course?

At Southampton, research-led teaching means that the lecturers are not only teaching you, but continually learning themselves. They may be writing a journal article or a monograph, planning a lecture series that will travel the country (or even the world!), presenting a documentary, editing an anthology or organising charity events or public seminars based around the faculty. The fact that Southampton’s lecturers are keeping up to date with and pioneering new research in the field of English, translates directly into the way I am taught. For me, lecturers who specialised in late 18th century women’s writing and Victorian print culture both inspired the initial thought processes that formed the basis of my dissertation. In this way, the research doesn’t dictate what you learn, but underpins it, to enable you to expand your horizons independently, but with an excellent grounding.

What are you enjoying most about your course?

I very much enjoy the freedom that I have when writing essays. The mark scheme is written by the university and is very broad and open to your personal writing style. It also doesn’t change for the duration of the course so no hoop-jumping or changing your individual style to suit an exam board. This also means I can bring an interdisciplinary element to my essays; history and philosophical theory regularly form a part of my work. This method of assessment also takes away the restriction of the kind of texts I can look at. I certainly look at canonical novels, poems and plays, but there is a huge emphasis on lesser-known writers and looking at newspapers, pamphlets, political documents and historical events as literary texts in their own right.

Do you have the opportunity to study modules outside of your core subject area, and how do you think they are adding to your experience / will affect your future plans?

As I have built up 25% of my modules in French, I am eligible to graduate with a minor, so that my degree certificate will read ‘BA English with French’. Studying two subjects certainly adds to the diversity of my course, and the two disciplines have some very strong links. As foreign language proficiency is highly valued by employers, varying my degree in this way also offers additional preparation for the workplace in an increasingly international job market.

What networking, employment and work experience opportunities have you undertaken and how have they enhanced your undergraduate experience?

As an ambassador, I was able to represent the University at a teachers and advisor’s dinner hosted by Southampton at Warwick Castle, meeting with the heads of local sixth forms and colleges to promote the Extended Project. I also spent some time abroad in Washington DC on a Politics course, which allowed me to network with the heads of prestigious local institutions and businesses. Both of these experiences have directed my thoughts for the future and shown me the tremendous variety of careers that a graduate in Humanities is able to choose from.

Do you have any idea of what you would like to do in the future?

After considering taking a PGCE in Secondary Education and looking into a variety of graduate internships, I decided that what I most wanted was to remain in the academic world, but in a university environment. Having the opportunity to work with prospective students and being encouraged to develop my research interests as an undergraduate confirmed that this would be the right path for me. I have recently been accepted onto the MA in English Literary Studies at Southampton, after which I intend to pursue a PhD, to the view of becoming a full-time academic. The lecturers have been very supportive in this area, offering plenty of advice with my application and encouraging my ambitions for the future.

Did you stay in University accommodation?

I stayed at Glen Eyre halls in my first year, sharing a flat with seven other students. As the flats aren’t grouped according to subject, I had the opportunity to meet people from various walks of life studying a huge variety of subjects. Freshers’ week was a time where you couldn’t go anywhere without meeting new people and trying out something new. It passed in a whirlwind, but by the end of it, I had settled into halls life very well.

Do you like living in Southampton? 

Southampton as a city is very well-linked, with a Unilink bus pass included in the halls package when you move in. It is also close to supermarkets, shopping centres and train stations. and even has its own airport. Highfield Campus itself is like a mini village, with shops, eateries, a doctor’s surgery and hairdressers. That being said, it is also very green, so has the benefits of a campus university without being too remote from local amenities.






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