I began university as an undergraduate almost exactly ten years ago. I had just turned eighteen and had really no idea what to expect when I rolled into Exeter wearing flip flops on that hot autumn day. Beginning that journey again triggers a sort of sense memory of those moments when I stepped into my student halls and onto campus for the first time, all tied up in scents and flavours and feelings. Sunshine mixed with bursts of warm rain; rustling pages, cheap wine and cheese toasties.
Beginning instead as a distance learning, part time postgraduate immediately felt quite different. I know my way around a library now, for instance, though I now have to find my own ways to access one, alongside tentatively exploring the wide world of digitised texts available from the University of Roehampton library. The balance of work and studying has swung the other way – as an undergraduate I would fit my hours working in the campus bookshop around my studies, now I squeeze studying in before I start work in the morning, or when I get home at night. When I think about my undergraduate life I marvel over how much time I seemed to have, and how I didn’t seem to realise it. Looking back, I seemed to spend an ordinate amount of time just sitting and thinking. I wondered how I was going to fit everything in now.
A Distance Learner Finds Her Way to Roehampton At Last!
One of the most delightful aspects of the Roehampton Distance Learning program is the opportunity to chat with our tutors on the phone during the semester. Now, double that pleasure for an actual onsite visit, which I did last month for the ‘Being Human in YA Literatures’ symposium and the MA Open Day. I used these events as my ‘excuse’ and Virgin Atlantic was happy to carry me across the Pond from Boston. Here, I share my experiences of both events.
The annual NCRCL Open Day was held on Saturday 11th June 2016 at Digby Stuart College, University of Roehampton. Gail Pilkington, a Distance Learning MA student, attended the event and has written her impressions of the day.
By Gail Pilkington
Visiting the university as a distance learner can be a little daunting, especially with all the building work on campus, but from the security staff to fellow students everyone I met was exceedingly helpful and friendly. With excellent cake, biscuits, and coffee, the Open Day started with informal chats and the air of hospitality continued. Having only met my tutors through Skype, it was lovely to actually see them and to hear the brief introductions from all the NCRCL staff.
Aidan Chambers then began his talk ‘The Stranger Within Me’ and the audience was captivated. We were challenged: Who is your second self? Who is the stranger within, the writer who writes? While the talk took some unexpected turns, the time passed unbelievably quickly with everyone being challenged to “find your voice”. Inspired, we took our first break to chat with other attendees and lecturers, as well as to see the posters* produced by final year students on their dissertations, both critical and creative. We returned for the second part of Aidan Chambers’ talk with bated breath: Chambers’ story of finding the stranger within him, the true voice for each of his novels. We were encouraged to see the novel as an artwork, but to understand that in undertaking a novel we needed ‘the energy of delusion’, the confidence to write and to fail.
We could have continued to listen to Aiden Chambers all day, but unfortunately our time was nearing its end. The morning concluded with hearing about the excellent work of two current MA students: Nivia De Andrade Lima, Distance Learning MA student, was awarded the Penni Cotton Prize for her Visual Texts essay ‘The Ironic Use of the Gutter in Postmodern Picturebooks’; Emily England received the Pinsent Prize for her strong performance on the on-site programme; and Annette Russell was awarded the Hancock Prize for her strong performance on the Distance Learning programme and her dissertation, ‘”Who’s that girl?” Fracturing postmodern female selfhood in adolescent fiction’.
The Open Day finished with a tour of the university library by Julie Mills, Subject Librarian in Children’s Literature, which in itself was a great reason to visit the campus. The tour was enhanced with tips from other students on good books to read for next year’s modules….so much for a summer beach read!
*Poster presentations by current MA students studying on-site or by distance learning. A winner was selected from each group.
The NCRCL invites you to find out more about the MA/PG Dip in Children’s Literature by distance learning. Explore the Virtual Open Day to discover what modules you can study, who will teach you, and how to apply. You can also join us for a Live Seminar on Friday 29 May at 19.00-20.00.
In this live session you will have a chance to meet the Programme Convener, Dr Alison Waller, and support staff on the MA. There will be a presentation about the content and mode of study, some information about resources and other practicalities, and a quick introduction to some of the texts you will be reading if you become a distance learning student with us. You will also be able to ask any questions you might have about the academic and practical elements of studying at a distance. If you are interested in joining this live session, please email Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(You will need to make sure your computer or device is set up to run Blackboard Collaborator software before you join the live Seminar – guidance on how to do this can be found here.)