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Robert McWhirter BA English

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Hi, I'm Robert McWhirter and I studied BA English within Humanities at the University of Southampton.

I’m never tied down to doing something that doesn’t interest me and there’s a real focus of coming up with your own argument on a topic. If a topic fascinates you, you can go away, focus on a part of it, research it further and then start coming up with your own ideas. I love having this kind of freedom

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

 I was born and grew up in Bromley, Kent.

What made you decide to study English?

I had always enjoyed my English classes at school, particularly at A-level when things started to get a bit more interesting. As I started to enjoy English more and more I began considering studying it at degree level. Initially I did consider doing something more vocational actually: Architecture. However, after a little research and speaking to a few employers I was reassured that a non-vocational subject such as English would put me in a good position when I graduated. Most importantly though, I find the study of English Literature incredibly interesting.

Why did you choose to study at Southampton?

After including Southampton in my list of Universities that ranked highly in the league tables and had good reputations, the open day sealed the deal for me. I remember coming here after a series of mediocre days at a few other places and being really impressed by how friendly everyone was as well as how well the course suited my interests. I’ve been proved right and I’m glad I chose to study here.

Are you enjoying your studies? What do you like most about your degree programme?

What I love about English is the breadth of subjects that are covered, in my essays I need to have knowledge of History, Philosophy and Sociology on top of the Literature that you would expect. I’m never tied down to doing something that doesn’t interest me and there’s a real focus of coming up with your own argument on a topic. If a topic fascinates you, you can go away, focus on a part of it, research it further and then start coming up with your own ideas. I love having this kind of freedom.

Tell us more about the areas of English that you are now specialising in …

I’m starting to think about next year’s dissertation at the moment and I’m looking at focusing on identity and nationalism, probably something on Zionism. I’m going to use Amos Oz as a starting point and go from there I think. I really enjoyed the Jewish Fictions module that I studied last year and with the Parkes Library onsite I’m keen to take full advantage of the wealth of Jewish resources that Southampton holds, in both books and staff.

Do you get on well with the academic staff in English?

The academics have always been more than happy to help with any problems that I’ve encountered. It’s easy to arrange a meeting with them, although many just operate an open door policy. Seminars are also a really useful time to discuss any ideas you have on a topic with both the lecturer and your class, they are usually reasonably informal so it’s a great place to bounce things off people.

What’s the best thing about living and studying in Southampton?

This is a really tough one. I have to say the people. If you're prepared to get involved then there’s an infinite amount of fun to be had at Southampton. I’ve met so many different people through different places, from halls, the kayaking club, my course; I found it really easy to settle in here.

Are you involved in any clubs, societies etc?

I’ve been pretty heavily involved with the kayaking club since I arrived and I have to say I’m really glad I did so. The club runs trips every fortnight to some of the most beautiful places in the country so it’s been well worth getting stuck in. I was on the committee last year which was a big commitment but fantastic fun and I’m already finding it’s reaping the rewards on my CV; so much so in fact that I’m currently working for the Humanities department on an internship over the summer! The university run loads of different summer internships every year, providing students with a brilliant opportunity to get some genuinely interesting work experience under their belt.

What has been your favourite moment so far?

My favourite ‘moments’, to take the word quite literally, were the tenths of seconds that followed my first ever drop off a waterfall in a kayak. Paddling over the lip is a real leap of faith and as you fall, with the roar of the water rushing around your body and the pile of water that you’re imminently going to crash through flying towards you, it’s a massive buzz. It’s because Southampton’s clubs and societies are so active that I’ve had the opportunity to experience moments like this.

What are you planning to do after graduating?

My plans seem to change a lot, but I’m gradually narrowing it down. I’m looking at a career in either journalism or marketing; both are well suited to an English degree and I’ve had some good experience in both fields whilst at university.

Do you have any advice for people considering studying English at Southampton?

Get involved! The university has so much to offer, both within and outside of your degree programme so the best thing you can do is make the most if it.

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