Uni Q&A | First Year Literature, Reading Lists, Uni Life & More!

Uni Q&A | First Year Literature, Reading Lists, Uni Life & More!

Hello everyone! I am Ashleigh, and today I’m
going to be doing my university Q&A! Basically, a couple of weeks back I decided to announce
a Q&A relating to university because I’ve now finished my first year of studying literature,
and I thought that might be quite interesting to talk about so here we are today. So I’m
not going to put screenshots of the questions n the page because quite a lot of them are
really long. I’m just going to jump straight in because this is going to take awhile. So the first one actually came through on
twitter, and it says “I would love if you could address how you adjusted to uni life,
and if it was difficult?” So for me, university was something I had
long awaited for. I actually started university a year “late” – you can’t really start university
“late”, but in the general progression of things, I didn’t start university when I was
18, I started at 19. And that’s just because I spent an extra year at college before going.
However that extra year I spent at college, I hated. It was necessary, but I hated it,
and I was more than ready to go into university by the time I actually got there. I’m going
to put that down. Especially because as well, I had a really
long summer in which I did basically nothing, and so by the time September rolled around
– as nervous as I was for university – I was so ready for it to start. So me adjusting
to university life actually had me thriving, because I went from not really having a purpose
to any of my days, to having the routine that I so desperately wanted and having something
to study. I love being in education. I love learning new things. And so having the routine,
learning new things, and just generally being forced outside of my house and outside of
this room was such a helpful experience for me. I would say it was difficult, but that’s
because – if you didn’t know this – I do have quite bad anxiety, so I do tend to find just
day to day life quite difficult anyway. So starting uni life, being thrown into a situation
that I’d never been in before, didn’t know anybody…that was difficult. Really difficult
for me. But I just kept telling myself it was worth it, because I wanted to be there
so bad. I had wanted to be studying literature at university for years, and I’m finally here. “Expectations vs reality?”
I feel like my expectations were pretty spot on because I had done a lot of research beforehand.
I basically spent my entire summer of doing nothing trying to find out any little bit
of information I could about university and the course that I was specifically studying.
So I wet into university knowing full well that I would find the work hard. Knowing full
well that the reading lists would be intense because I was studying literature, and I had
looked at the reading lists so many times. And I also expected myself to find the social
aspect of it really hard. And that’s exactly what happened! The only thing that I didn’t
really expect was how fast paced it would all be. Because it’s intense. It’s really
intense. So the next one is “I would love to hear about
your first impressions of university, and whether you were convinced that you were doing
the right thing from the very beginning. I’d also really like to hear about possible doubts
you had and how you overcame them?” Oh this is going to be a long one.
So my first impressions could basically be summed up by me saying “this is really terrifying,
but I love it”. As I said before, I did find it really difficult in the anxiety aspect,
because being thrown into classes with so many people I didn’t know and attempting to
try and get to know these people was just something I could not do. I am so bad at starting
conversations. My first impressions of literally everybody there was “oh my god these people
are so much more smarter than I am”. Was I convinced that I was doing the right thing?
Yes. I knew that I wanted to study literature. It was as simple as that for me. The doubt
that I had very much revolved around whether I could actually DO university or not. Because
I had built it up so much that this is what I wanted to do, I really wanted to go to university
and study literature. And I had thought this for years. That was my end goal for years.
And now that I was there…could I do it? That was my doubt. That’s what I kept asking
myself, because once I actually started and saw how intense and fast paced it was, and
being surrounded by people that seemed so much more smarter than I am, because they’d
all come straight out of studying literature at A levels, which I didn’t, or they’d taken
a year out and they seemed to have done a lot within that year by themselves. Being
in the classrooms in them and in the lectures, and hearing people talk about all these technical
terms that I didn’t know from literature, and just making literature seem like a more
scientific thing than it needed to be…that really made me doubt whether I should’ve been
there or not. I did not feel smart enough to be at university for a lot of the time
in the beginning. But how I overcame that – for the most part, worked as hard as I could.
But it didn’t take me long to realise that you didn’t have to come straight out of an
A level literature course to progress onto university. You didn’t need to know all of
the technical terms behind poetry to be able to analyse it. You didn’t need all of the
background knowledge that I thought I was missing out on. And if that was the case,
I wouldn’t have been let onto the course. My application wouldn’t have been accepted
if I needed that. So I eventually came to terms with the fact that I was on that course
for a reason – because I wanted to be there, and I had the motivation to do the work in
order to stay there. So. I feel like the handle of this mug will just
snap at any point. I decided to move the camera slightly because
I realised I was way over to this side. Didn’t realise that. Hopefully everything’s back
in focus now, but yeah. “What made you choose your specific course
of study?Was it personal interest, or did you have a career in mind?”
So for me, it was kind of a combination of both, because I knew that I wanted to study
literature at university ever since it was first mentioned to me in school. So that was
probably when I was about 12 or 13 or something. I’ve been a reader ever since I could read,
and literature is the only topic that I’ve ever come across that I can continuously study
without becoming bored of it. I did used to like doing art, and I studied it school, then
I chose to study it at college and ended up hating it. But I also studied literature at
college, and ended up loving it. It’s just one of those things that I will never get
bored of, and so it just seemed like the right choice. I don’t understand why anybody chooses
to study something they don’t enjoy. At least to some extent. I know it can be more helpful
to do different things, but if you don’t enjoy it then why waste that much time on it. I
– I can’t – I will never get that. Never get it. However I do want to work in publishing,
and that’s something I’ve had in mind for about two or three years now. So going down
the literature route very much helps with that. Speaking of, the next question – or questions,
because there’s quite a few that were similar so I threw them all together – “What’s next
for you?Are you going to carry on with a postgrad, or are you done with study for awhile and
are you going to be focusing on a career path?” The questions that were similar also say “What
kind of job would you like after university/one I graduate?”
I would absolutely love to do a postgrad, because I would love to be able to study literature
for as long as physically possible. I love being in education, and…I don’t know, it’s
something that I have considered. However, like I’ve just mentioned, I do want to work
in publishing, and to get into publishing it’s not the case of the higher education
you have, the more likely you are to get in. It’s more the work experience you have. So
once I’ve finished with this degree, I need to work on getting work experience in publishing.
Now a lot of that is London centric and I don’t know how that will work as of yet…but
I will probably have to get some sort of random job while I’m doing this and just keep applying
for internships and work experience in publishing houses and try and get down to London as many
times as possible to be able to do that. So…the goal in mind is publishing. How I will get
there, I’m not yet sure. “How did you find living at home and attending
uni rather than moving into student halls?” I find this question quite hard actually,
because I very much like being here. This is my bedroom, I’m so happy that I’ve not
had to move into a smaller bedroom and haven’t had to sort of prioritise what books to take
with me and sort everything out in that sense. And I do like the area that I live in. I like
the fact that I have a nice walk into uni every day – not so much on the walk back because
it’s all uphill. But I have also found it hard, because when it comes to university
experience, as I mentioned before I did find the social aspect of it hard. For quite a
few months in the beginning I found myself getting quite upset because I would be trying
so hard to make friends with people, and while I was at university I felt like I was getting
somewhere because I was talking to everybody. But then I would go home, and I would talk
to nobody. It was very much the case that even if I was invited out, I would still have
that sort of disconnection because, for example even when we were at uni, a lot of the conversations
were focused on the experience of being in a house, in a shared flat. People would talk
about what their flatmates are like, and what sort of improvisations they do, or the cooking
disasters and things like that, which I just didn’t have because I’m living here. And so
I did very much feel like there was a barrier between me and a lot of the people at university,
because I returned home and it was a completely different place. Yeah. However, that being
said, in the last couple of months it’s been less of an issue now that I have found proper
friends. And I do still intend to live here for the duration of my degree so…I don’t
know. We’ll see how that goes. So the next one says “I’d like to know if
you had to read many books per week?” It depends what you class as “many”. I would
say yes, because I on an average would read about one book per week. I’m quite a slow
reader. However in the first semester on university, I found myself reading at least two or three
books per week. In the second semester, not so much, because the reading turned into we
had one book per week and then a lot of critical theory reading and critical essays to read.
And I actually found that harder, because with the two or three fiction books I would
be able to get into the story and pick up pace while reading them or find audiobooks
or something. However when it comes to critical theories and essays, it’s something that you
have to go through slowly, make sure you understand, read it again, and again, and again, and make
sure you get it. So that’s what I struggled with. “Did I struggle getting my assignments done?”
Not really, because I’m someone who is a stickler for organisation, so I – the second I knew
I had an assignment coming, it would be planned. I would start weeks in advance and get it
done. I would go through the planning stages, have the mini breakdown that I was bound to
have thinking I was doing everything wrong…and then I’d pick myself up and carry on, and
write the essay, have plenty of time to check it, send it off to whoever is proofreading
it for me, if anyone. And I think I’ve handed in every single assignment before the day
it was due. So I didn’t find that too hard. “What are some of the classes you take?”
This is going to take some explaining. So on my literature course we did six different
modules. Literature of War and Peace, which covered the First World War, the Second World
War and the “peace” section in between, if you can call it that. Epic Transformations,
which was kind of like a timeline of books. We started with a story from the bible, and
moved onto Ancient Greece, Medieval England, and moved further into modern day society
and kind of reflected how the “original literature” had influenced later texts. We had a module
which was very much about the geography in literature, I guess. We talked about landscapes
and how they were represented, and also how that reflects upon the identity of the characters.
We had Film Narrative, which kind of just seemed like a wildcard module because it was
from the film studies course. But in that one we did cover how films tell stories with
camera angles, lighting, all these different things, and there were a few links to literature
but it was very much a film module. We had critical theory, which is exactly what it
sounds like. It was basically a pit stop tour of lots of different literary approaches.
And we also had Writing Yourself, which was a bit of a miscellaneous module. It was kind
of just like presentation skills and research skills and all the random things they felt
like we had to go over when we didn’t. I didn’t like that module. And then the same person also asked if I had
a favourite one of those classes. My favourite one without a doubt was Epic
Transformations, because that was the one where we could read Ancient Greek myths, Arthurian
legends, we had a lecture at one point about Vikings and dragons. It was probably the most
lively of the lectures we’ve had. So the next one is a bit long winded, so bare
with me as I read it out. But this one says “I’m super interested in the topic that you’ve
covered in English Lit. I can’t remember some of them off the top of my head, but would
love to hear your thoughts on postcolonial theory, narrative theory, storytelling in
other media, and how you find relating theories to literature or learning about idea through
literature and enhancing your critical thinking skills?”
Woo! So with the narrative theory and storytelling in other media, I presume you’ve picked that
up from the film module course that I did, because that’s what we talked about that in.
I found it really interesting. Like I loved watching a film and being able to pick apart
how they’re telling the story and the theory behind it. I found it fascinating, and I love
the fact that I can now watch a film and do the same thing, and just be like “I know what
they’re doing”. But the actual writing of it…I hated. I am not someone who likes film
anywhere near enough to be able to study it and analyse it and remain interested. So while
I loved learning about it, I hated writing about it.
As for the postcolonial theory sort of topic, we had so many different topics in critical
theory to do. We had feminism, marxism, ideology, structuralism, semiotics, post-structuralism,
psychoanalysis, ecocriticism, postcolonialism, reader response, erm…oh! Formalism, that
was one of them. It was intense learning about them, because we did approximately two different
theories per week, but all of our seminars and lectures were on the same day. So it was
basically two topics per day that we had to go through. But again, I found it fascinating.
I just love being able to apply different approaches depending how I looked at it, because
the text that we were studying for that module was Jane Eyre. So we read Jane Eyre, and every
single week we would take the theory and pick out examples and sort of read Jane Eyre through
that lens. So for example if we were reading it from a Marxist perspective, we would look
at Jane Eyre’s status as a governess and how she sort of falls on a weird middle ground
because she’s not lower class or higher class. Or for the week where we were psychoanalysis,
we talked about the uncanny, and we looked at how Jane Eyre has an uncanny resemblance
to Bertha Mason, or we analysed the dream that she has at one point and how that could
turn into her fear of domesticity. So that just kind of blows my mind a little bit, that
you can take so much from one book, or just one passage of a book, depending how you look
at it. While I didn’t like all of them, it was never not interesting. I think my favourite
theories probably were postcolonialism and psychoanalysis. Good old Freud, making everything
a bit strange. My least favourite was definitely Structuralism and Semiotics. They were probably
the ones that I focused on the least, because when it came to doing the exam for critical
theory, I had to revise certain theories of my choice, and I didn’t do those ones so I
don’t really know – I’m not as confident with those ones as I am the rest. All I really
remember is something about the signifier and signified, and words only meaning something
in relation to other words. That’s all I really remember from it. But yeah. It was an intense
module. But I really like using literature to think about this different approaches as
well because…it’s books. It’s how I understand things in the world. With it all being related
back to literature, it just clicks with me instantly and I love it. So this person also asked what made me choose
literature, which I have already answered, but they also mentioned the general worry
about whether the over analysis would ruin reading. Now I personally wasn’t worried about
this at all because I love it. As you’ve probably just seen from that ramble I went on a minute
ago, I find it incredibly interesting to be able to pick apart things in a book and find
out so much about it. Or to be able to read the same text multiple times and get something
completely different from it depending what approach you take to it. I didn’t have that
worry at all. “Do you think studying had aided you book
blogging and youtubing experience? Would your time doing this sort of content have had a
very different direction if you hadn’t studied literature?”
If I hadn’t studied literature, I don’t think I would’ve been able to keep up with book
blogging and youtubing. The books that I was talking about on my youtube and blog were
towards university. I didn’t have time to read anything else, especially in the first
semester. So if all that time was dedicated to studying something else that wasn’t books,
I don’t think I’d have been able to read anything. So what would I have talked about? I don’t
know. In terms of actual content, I suppose it’s given me more idea towards literature
that I read, but I’ve not been able to bring it obviously into the content that I’ve created
yet, apart from in things like this where it’s very obviously university based. A couple of people asked me what my favourite
read of university was, and someone also asked what my worst read was.
My favourite one was without a doubt The Odyssey by Homer. I did actually read it about a month
or two before starting university, but because it was on the reading list and I enjoyed it
so much the first time round, I decided to reread it, and I’ve reread certain parts of
it multiple times because of uni. I brought that book into every single essay for that
module. There were so many times where I found myself arguing about the portrayal of Odysseus
as an “ingenious” hero because I don’t think he’s ingenious at all. And so it got to a
point where my tutor probably could’ve identified my essay even if it didn’t have my name on
because I would be the person arguing about Odysseus. But just the fact that I reread
it so many times, and I’ve talked about it endlessly, and I still want to reread it even
now even as I’m talking about it, and I’m STILL not bored of it…it’s just made it
an all time favourite of mine. I just – I love it. I did actually do a blog post about
my top five favourite university reads, so I will link that down in the description box
below if you’re interested in what else I enjoyed at university other than The Odyssey,
because I feel like I mention that book a lot.
As for my worst read – you probably all know this by now, but Heart of Darkness by Joseph
Conrad. I’ve ranted about that book so many times on this channel already, so I’m not
going to say anything other more than it’s slow, boring and racist. Would not recommend. So someone else said “would love to know more
about your reading list – mostly interested in the balance between fiction and essay reading,
whether you think it is manageable to read so much or not, and maybe tips on how to keep
up with the reading?” So the balance between fiction and essay reading,
it kind of seemed like all or nothing to me depending which semester we were in. As I
mentioned before, in the first semester we had two or three books a week and they were
all fiction. And the only sort of essay reading we did was for our own research when we were
writing an essay and we needed secondary research. So that was very much fiction. However in
the second semester, because we were doing critical theory, that was like hardcore essay
reading. We had this kind of critical textbook kind of read, and we had to read a chapter
per theory. And even then we had to read critical essays about the theories to get the background
knowledge, and it was just intense. There were bits of fiction as well and for the most
part I did read those. But the essay reading in the second semester really did slow me
down a lot, because it’s not the sort of thing where you can just get into it and pick up
pace like you can with a fiction book. You have to spend so long reading it and making
sure you understand what the hell they’re talking about, because academic writing can
be hard to follow. I suppose it kind of balances out, having fiction in one semester and essay
reading in the other, but at the time there was no balance.
As to whether I think it’s manageable or not….I actually found it alright. I did manage to
keep up for the most part. I didn’t have a problem with that. However I know that a lot
of people on my course did have a problem with it, and they didn’t find it manageable
at all. They thought it was too much. But then in the same respect, I’ve seen people
who are also studying literature at different universities who have a lot more books tha
us to read per week, and they find it perfectly manageable. So it really does just depend
on the person. I personally found it alright. That’s all I can say.
As for tips on how to keep up with reading, I relied a lot on audiobooks. I don’t have
an audible account or anything, but a lot of the classics and even some of the more
modern classics have audiobooks on youtube. And on youtube you can speed it up. So what
I did, because I can’t really focus if I’m only listening to the book – I probably would
just stop listening at some point – so I would still read the book, I’d have the book in
front of me, but I would have the audiobook reading it out as I read it. And that’s just
because I’m quite a slow reader, so if I was reading at my own pace it would take forever.
But because I’m listening to someone else read it, it just goes in better and I can
speed it up and read at a quicker pace. And that got me through so many books so quickly.
That is how I did the majority of my reading. Also just plan a lot in advance. I started
reading everything a week in advance, and if it was a bigger book, I would read it two
weeks in advance. That’s just how I do things. I don’t know. Also if you don’t manage to
read a book or if you fall behind, leave it behind. Don’t try and catch up. So many times
people would try and catch up on my course if they missed a book and I would be like
“don’t do that! You’re not going to catch up you’re just going to keep falling behind”.
It’s kind of like on a treadmill. They would try, they’d be running, but they wouldn’t
be getting anywhere. If you miss out a book, find a summary of it online, read that and
move on. You’re going to be fine without it. Unless you desperately need it for one of
the assignments you’re doing, leave it. Leave it behind. And the final question is “do you feel as
though you’ve made the most of uni opportunities so far/got involved in lots of the things
uni has to offer? Things like socials and teams etc?”
A lot of people would say no, because I am not a sporty person so I’m not on any team.
I don’t plan on starting. And I don’t attend any of the societies. I did join up for one,
but I haven’t seen any events apart from like, the beginning few when they first set it up.
So I don’t actually do anything outside of going to university. There’s been a few opportunities
for trips which I have taken full advantage of. You might have seen that I’ve gone to
Stratford lately, and also to London to see Mamma Mia. So I’ve taken full advantage of
those. But in terms of societies and like, team sports and things…no. But since the
question is do I feel like I’ve made the most of uni – personally I do think I have. I didn’t
want to join any sports teams. I wasn’t particularly interested in societies, so, you know. I’m
making the most of the uni experience that I wanted. I’m perfectly fine with that. But yes, that was it for my university Q&A!
I forgot how much I love doing Q&A’s. Thank you so much to everybody who sent me a question
or just commented on that video in general. Thank you for watching this video and this
face of mine – I’m just babbling now. I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve been talking
for a very long time. This is going to be such a pain to edit because I’ve rambled so
much. Ashleigh why? But yes, if you have anything else you that you want to ask about university,
if I’ve mentioned anything that you didn’t know in this video, just ask away in the comments.
I will be more than happy to answer any questions you have, whether you want to direct message
me on anything or just ask them in the comments. Feel free to. I’m here for all the chats.
I’d also love to know if you relate to anything I’ve said in this video at all, because I
love learning about other people’s university experiences, so…I don’t know. Just come
and chat to me in the comments. But that’s all for now, so I hope you have a lovely day,
and I shall see you next time with a new video. Bye!

14 thoughts on “Uni Q&A | First Year Literature, Reading Lists, Uni Life & More!

  1. Fantastic Q&A!!

    I love the passion you have for literature and publishing. 🙂

    25 minutes of Ashleigh is the dream video ahaha!!

  2. I had a year out before starting uni, and it was the best thing I could’ve done. I wasn’t ready when I finished sixth form, but I was SO ready by the time I went. I also loved it hahaha.
    I didn’t realise you still live at home while you attend uni! It’s great to hear about different people who do different things. Glad you’ve found some good friends💕
    I’m also not part of any societies or sports teams at uni. I did sign up to some societies but there either wasn’t much going on or I didn’t really like it. Like you, I still feel fine with it all anyway! I feel like I’ve done what is right for me, and I’ve enjoyed it. It’s so annoying when people assume you should be doing lots of society things to make the most of uni, it’s just not for everyone!😂
    Loved watching this, thank you for sharing☺️

  3. I'm heading into my 3rd year at Uni, I lived in halls for my 1st year but I was basically by myself and moved back home for 2nd year but in two months I'm moving out to my tthurd year home. Which is terrifying for me and my aniexty but I am looking forward to it. Such a great q&A, it was lovely to hear about your experience of uni.

  4. What an interesting Q&A! It is great to get some further information about you personally :). I could relate to a lot of your feelings towards starting uni. 😀 I'm also quite afraid of all the social aspects and the 'living-on-my-own-thing', as I am the total opposite of an outgoing person. I also always struggle with the 'Can I really do this?' question, this uncertainty wether I am good enough to study anything at university. Or at least these things will occur to me when I am finally there (I'm always late realising things really happening). A lot of your experiences sound as they could happen to me the exact same way. But this is also why I loved to watch this video. It is very encouraging and shows that things aren't always as hard as we think they are. 🙂

  5. I say this like I'm super old even though I'm only 23 but you remind me of myself at 19 starting my Bachelors degree in English lit. I was doing both art and lit at the same time and ending up choosing literature. I always felt like everyone else knew much more about the subject than I did until I learned that everyone else also felt that way. Now me and a friend of mine who both think we know nothing were accepted to a Masters degree program, so don't believe the self doubts in your brain. Anxiety is usually the culprit for those thoughts. My anxiety with making friends was awful too, and I promise making yourself get out and do things more often does wonders with beating the anxiety monster down. I also want to go into publishing in the future and wish you the best of luck! I wish I could go back and redo every year of my degree.

  6. I love your videos about studying lit in uni! Super interesting to someone who loves reading but studies something else 🙂 best of luck for next year xx

  7. You’re so cute I could just hug you all the time! (here’s a virtual hug 🤗 coming your way 😉😂)

    P.S you sipping the tea at the beginning is a big fat mood

  8. Ashleigh! I've been slowly watching this video over this long weekend (I only caught it every moment Davide was in the shower or doing something else) but I absolutely loved it! Your answers were really insightful and super interesting to listen to, I think you did a great job getting to so many questions (especially my beastly long one) and loved hearing your perspective on your studies!
    It's always lovely hearing people gushing about their studies and saying how much they love learning, so this was very heart-warming! Thanks so much for answering all these and sharing your thoughts!
    I (kind of) joined some societies at uni, I feel like it's considered such a big thing to do, but to be honest, apart from the LGBTQ group I didn't really get involved all that much and that worked perfectly fine for me! <3

  9. It never ceases to amaze me how similar our courses are but also how different they are at the same time even though we are doing literature? Like the signifier and signified as well as the theoretical perspectives is something I did too but we did not have anything film related things at all! In some ways I would love to have been at home (my own room, my family, all my books) but I’m also glad for the independence and experiences I’ve had while here as well… thanks for the video!

    My recent video; https://youtu.be/nEdUNIRLI2Y

  10. I hated uni in Morocco because it's a waste of time and people here go to the uni to get a diploma degree to find work then, not for studying and teachers didn't teach well because they do it for work also. It was really a nightmare for me. so i really wish to leave this place and study English/Italian literature in Europe.

  11. Thank you, this video was really helpful! I would love to see more because I'm doing my best to prepare myself for uni (studying English Lit) over the summer.

  12. Is literature really hard?? For example the terminology but also being able to read deeper into the text. Because sometimes my teachers will read a poem and I will be well off with my assumptions! Do you use the internet a lot or your own original thoughts????

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