Uni Life: Shannon, English Literature student

Today I’m here to share a Uni Life interview with you. The purpose behind this interview series is to give prospective and current students an insight into life at university, what it takes to get there and how to survive.

It’s hard to know what path to take when you’re in college. I hope that this series will give you a chance to learn from current students about the courses you’re interested in.

This week I’m talking with Shannon, a first year English Literature student. I hope you enjoy the interview and remember to feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below.

What course are you studying at university?

I’m currently in my first year of my three year degree studying English Literature at the University of Reading.

Did you have to study specific subjects at college to get onto the course?

I had to get AAB in my A-Levels and one of these needed to be from English (lit or lang).

How did you know this was the right course for you?

I took a couple of years out from education after I finished my A-Levels to work out what I wanted to do, after trying out several internships in different magazines and newspapers I had decided that was the direction that I wanted to take my career in and getting a degree seemed to be the best way to do that. I went along to several open days at different universities across the country but the second that I walked onto the campus in Reading, I knew that was exactly where I wanted to be.

What do you enjoy most about your course?

I love how broad my course is, there are always modules that you aren’t going to enjoy (and that is poetry in my case) but for each one that isn’t that great there is another one that makes it worthwhile. One day I will be studying Victorian novels and the next day I’m looking into how a press release is made – so it definitely keeps me interested because no two days are exactly the same!

What do you find most challenging about your course?

The amount of reading and assignments that I have to do on a regular basis. I know some people who have cruised through their first year with one assignment a term, whereas I get five and that is the absolute minimum so I’m constantly racing to meet my deadlines. Not to forget that the amount of reading that I have to do as an English Lit student is just crazy, for example, this year I need to read a 900 page novel for my closed book exam!

Are internships easy to come by in your field?

I was lucky to have the chance to work with several different magazines and newspapers while I was on my gap years and so I would say that providing you are willing to put together a good application, work hard and network well then there are actually quite a lot of internships out there if you’re looking to head into a career in journalism.

Please tell us about an internship/work experience that you’ve gained something positive from.

I think the best thing that I gained from all of my placements was the confidence to believe that I am actually good enough to do the career that I want to be doing in the future because otherwise none of the magazines would have published a word that I wrote for them!

Do you have any career plans in mind for when you’ve graduated?

As I’ve already said, I’ve dabbled with a bit of work in magazines but I am swaying slightly more towards the idea of PR so at the moment I would say that I don’t have an exact plan, but I know the kind of direction that I want to head in and seeing as I’m only in my first year of uni, I think that is good enough for me right now.

rocky the reindeer

Do you take part in any student groups or outside activities?

I don’t actually take part in any activities at uni, I did sign up to a few but due to a severe lack of money I haven’t been able to go along to any as of yet.

What do you do in your spare time?

My spare time at uni is fairly dull to be honest, it mainly involves trying to keep on top of my ever-growing assignment list, reading, keeping up with my blog Sweet Serendipity and at the moment I have developed a bit of an obsession with Pretty Little Liars so I spend quite a while working my way through that tv series. At home however I get up to much more, I had a pony before I went to uni and I’m luckily still friends with the yard owner where Rocky is kept so I get to head back to the stables and ride the ponies there when I’m free. Alongside that my time at home is usually spent trying to catch up with everyone, friends and family, before I have to head back to uni again.

What would you’ve liked to know about university life before you started?

That it is ok not to enjoy the ‘typical’ university lifestyle of going out drinking all the time and pulling all nighters to get the assignments finished. It would have also been nice to know that there are quite a lot of people who feel this way even if they don’t always admit it straight away. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing, if drinking isn’t how you like to spend your spare time – then don’t do it.

What keeps you motivated?

The thought that in three years time I will have (hopefully) graduated and I will finally be heading towards a career that I have worked seriously hard to get into.

What advice would you offer to prospective students?

Attend as many open days as you possibly can, I had my heart set on Nottingham until I actually visited the university and realised that I would never be happy being there and then I visited Reading and fell in love with the campus, the course and just about everything about it! I never would have realised that had I not attended the open days and so I am a firm believer that they are worth taking the time out of your week to go along to. Also, don’t be afraid to go with your heart when it comes down to picking the place that you’re going to spend the next three years of your life because as much as the course needs to be good, you need to want to be there to get the good grades that make it all worthwhile.

I would also say that if you’re going to study an English Literature degree, start reading the books on your reading list as soon as you get it. I didn’t and I’m still desperately trying to catch up with it all now and it makes the entire degree so much more stressful than it needs to be!

Finally, what is your go to meal after a busy day of lectures?

I’m a little bit ashamed to say it as it is the most typical studenty thing to say, but you just can’t go wrong with pasta if you’re getting in from lectures late and you can’t be bothered to stand around cooking a whole meal… Plus if you make up enough you’ve got your lunch sorted for the next day too (and maybe even dinner again, if you can stand eating that much pasta in a row/if you have no money to buy the ingredients for another meal…)

Thank you so much to Shannon for taking the time to be part of this interview. I hope you all found it as interesting and inspiring as I did, it’s fantastic to hear how passionate and hard working Shannon is. You can find Shannon over on her blog, Twitter and Instagram.   

This interview shows that making the most out of a gap year is very important. It can help you to figure out what to study at university as well as gaining some practical experience. I also like that Shannon raised the importance of attending open days. This is something I should have done more of before applying to university. There is a lot of pressure to just apply and get onto a course but it’s essential to take a step back and figure out the right course and university to suit you. 

If you fancy taking part in a Uni Life interview then drop me a message on Twitter.