Pompeii and Herculaneum study trip 2018! – by Selin Erez

A popular module that can be taken by second year students (but all year groups are welcome on the study trip component!) is the Ancient and Historical Study Places module. This year, in April, Drs Nigel Pollard and Jo Berry took students to the Bay of Naples. There the students delivered on-site presentations as part of their assessment and visited a range of ancient sites and museums, including Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum and Cumae. In this week’s blog post, Selin Erez reflects upon her memories of the trip.

 

Remains of the Villa of Pollio Felix and the view across the Bay.

This Easter, as part of the Ancient and Historical Study Places module, I had the opportunity to visit numerous ancient archaeological sites around the Bay of Naples. The majority of the sites were buried after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. It was so rewarding to be able to visit the places I had heard and read so much about in lectures. As a result of this trip, I fell in love with the Bay of Naples and I definitely want to go back again someday. During the week, we visited twelve archaeological sites, the Naples Museum, and even had time to climb Mount Vesuvius where we all enjoyed a glass of wine at the summit!

Although I enjoyed the entirety of the trip, there were some moments and sites that particularly stood out. Visiting ancient villas outside of city walls, and the opportunity to investigate how wealthy Romans lived in comparison to those living in the smaller domus type houses, was a high point. Villa A at Oplontis, where it is rumoured that Empress Poppaea resided, was particularly informative. Another favourite moment was when I reached the top of Mount Vesuvius and saw the full extent of the Bay of Naples with my own eyes for the very first time. It truly demonstrated the severity of the AD 79 eruption and how far reaching its effects were upon the surrounding towns.

Cement dome at Baiae

Before the trip to the Bay of Naples, I was already quite intrigued by the Roman town of Baiae, due to its description as a town that is now half underwater. This created a kind of ‘Atlantis-like’ impression for me, adding a sense of mystery due to buildings and statues being submerged! Additionally, it was interesting to hear about the ancient stories of drunken behaviour in Baiae, as it had created a name for itself as a place to escape your problems in Rome. Moreover, the architectural qualities interested me too. The cement domes frequently seen on the tops of buildings in the town demonstrate the development of styles and tastes in certain areas. These cement domes predated the dome on the Roman Pantheon, challenging misconceptions that Rome led the development of certain architectural features in the ancient world.

The Temple of Hera, Paestum

As a part of this trip, all students were required to prepare a fifteen-minute speech on a chosen site. I chose the theme of Romanisation and the Roman Forum at Paestum. At first I was nervous about standing in front of everyone (our trip was made up of undergraduates, postgraduates, and also lecturers!), but this was easy to overcome as everyone was in the same position and we were given a lot of support from our lecturers. All of the students on the trip reassured and supported one another too. I am actually grateful for this element of the trip because it provided us all with more in-depth learning experience at each site, as each presentation was detailed and entertaining.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed myself on this trip and would recommend it to anyone! The sheer number of sites we were able to fit in still surprises me and I felt I was completely immersed in ancient culture all week, whilst simultaneously making lots of new friends across all year groups in our department.

 

Picturing Late Antiquity – by Mark Humphries

As someone who teaches modules on the period known as late antiquity (roughly 200-800 CE), one of the really interesting developments in recent decades has been the appearance of many more resources that make the period accessible to students. One that is particularly close to my heart is the Liverpool University Press series, Translated Texts for Historians (abbreviated as TTH), which has been publishing translations into English of late-antique sources since 1985. There are a number of reasons for this: one is that, when I was a student myself, volumes of the series were among the first things I read on the period. Another, perhaps more obvious, is that since 2000 I have been involved in editing the series, and have served, for about fifteen years, as one of its general editors alongside Professor Gillian Clark (Bristol University) and Dr Mary Whitby (Oxford University).

A lion from a fifth-century mosaic in Antioch for a volume of speeches by the orator Libanius – the author of the volume wanted this because she always imagined Libanius as a roaring lion!

Over the period of my engagement with the series, watching it grow from a handful of volumes to nearly seventy (as well as seeing the establishment of additional series, including one that translates Byzantine sources) has shed interesting light on how the study of late antiquity itself has flourished and diversified. From a very early stage, the series has taken a very wide view of the world of late antiquity: it includes translations of texts not only from Latin and Greek, but also from languages as varied as Old Irish, Armenian, Syriac, and Arabic. Very few people are able to read all of these languages, so the series has become an important resource not just for students (its original intended audience) but also increasingly for scholars. The series is important, therefore, in enabling its readers in developing a very broad picture of the late-antique world, which stretches not only in terms of time from the Roman Empire to the early Middle Ages, but also in terms of space from the Atlantic shores of Ireland and Spain to Persian and early Islamic central Asia.

“Candy-coloured covers”: TTH on display at a conference.

But there is another way in which the series has encouraged me to picture late antiquity in new ways. Since its establishment, the series has been celebrated for its publication format: each volume has a brightly coloured cover with a line drawing of an appropriate object (such as a mosaic, a coin, or a manuscript image). Among scholars in the United States, where the series has proved hugely popular, TTH is well-known, so Gillian Clark has been told, for its “candy-coloured covers” – and certainly at conferences a display of the series is pretty eye-catching. For reasons I cannot now completely remember, I started drawing some of the cover images in about 2000, and since have graduated to drawing pretty much all of them. This experience has led me to picture the diversity of the late antique world in other ways too, as I attempt to get to grips with objects as diverse as Persian coins, early medieval manuscripts, wall paintings, mosaic pavements, and even buildings. But it is also a reminder of one of the reasons why I got into scholarship and late antiquity in the first place: because it is interesting – and fun!

 

A coin of the Persian king Hormizd II (302-309) for a volume of Arabic historians of the Persian empire.

 

Ushering in the 2018/19 academic year!

Welcome to the re-launch of our departmental blog and the first post of the new academic year.

We may have been a little quiet over the last 12 months or so but that does not mean to say that we have been resting on our laurels. You can read about 2017/18 by taking a look at our first departmental newsletter (NewsletterVolOneEnglish) which contains details of our teaching, research, and what our students have been up to! This coming year promises to be as exciting with our staff, students, and colleagues in our award winning Egypt Centre active as ever.

To get us into the swing of the new year read below some reflections written by our freshers on their first few weeks in Swansea and the department:

Where do I start with freshers’ week?! So much has happened…met lots of new people, already learned loads about my course and enjoyed free pizza! – Meghan, Egyptology.

My favourite thing has been visiting the library and picking out my Egyptology books…The university made us feel very welcome and helped us make new friends! – Kitty, Egyptology and Ancient History.

It has been amazing waking up to a stunning view and the possibility of learning new things… Freshers in a nutshell: Stunning views, alcohol, exploration, new friends, laughs, cooking mishaps, outfits stress, and fear for my bank balance. – Lottie Lewellyn-Fox, Egyptology and Ancient History.

Freshers! Despite the many (horror) stories one hears going into it, there’s a surprising amount of variety involved. Take Saturday for example: one moment I’m stood in the corner of the ‘outdoor club’ and then I’m screaming along with everyone else in JC’s bar as Anthony Joshua knocks his opponent out twice in 30 seconds. There’s really something for all types of people to enjoy rather than a nonstop SESH. – Alfie, Ancient History.

Freshers’ week helped me to understand what was expected of me and helped me to get used to working with a hangover. Despite this the staff were very helpful and friendly and were always there to point me in the right direction. – Callum B, Ancient History.

More to come from us soon…

90 Years of the Classical Association at Swansea

I was recently lucky enough to be handed the minutes from the Classical Association of Wales – South Wales Branch (based at Swansea University) and the opportunity to riffle through the Association’s history between its formation in 1928 and the late 80’s as a result. As a Classicist, it was an interesting change of pace to pursue some more modern, local history, and I jumped at the chance to read a little more into the thoughts, attitudes and perceptions of Classics and its role in the community and the curriculum in the 20th century. As both a student of, and aspiring teacher in, Classics, this blogpost will contain a number of my musings as I flicked through the pages of old journals. I was surprised to find that, despite the many differences between the study of Classics then and now, we are still facing many of the same questions and challenges as our predecessors did nearly 100 years ago.

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Swansea Summer School in Ancient Languages 2017

In July and August of this year, the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Egyptology hosted our third Summer School in Ancient Languages. Building on the success of previous years, this year we welcomed more than 35 participants, both new and returning, from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures, ages, and walks of life, from the UK, Europe, and beyond. Supplemented by our experienced language tutors and co-ordinating staff, the Summer School this year has offered not only high-quality language teaching in Latin and Ancient Greek, but also a number of extra-curricular activities, including talks by local and national lecturers in the field of Classics. Heading the Summer School this year in her first year in charge was Dr Catherine Rozier who, with the help of her team of students, has supported tutors and students alike in order to allow them to work at full capacity. This year’s Summer School has continued the tradition of going from strength to strength, with many noting the high standard of teaching, and the rigorous, but enjoyable, content.

Some of our tutors and participants in week 1

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Technologies of Daily Life in Ancient Greece – William Murphy reports on the schools’ day and conference

Monday 6th July 2015

The Technologies of Daily Life event (TODL for short), hosted by our Department in collaboration with the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies and the South West Wales Classical Association, took place on 2nd and 3rd July and combined an academic conference with a schools’ day, to demonstrate the use of the ancient technologies to our modern world.

The TODL event began with the schools’ day in which pupils experienced aspects of the ancient world they may not otherwise encounter. This involved running a range of talks and workshops across the day with a number of workshops which were attended by a number of schools. These were led by lecturers and assistants from Swansea University, Cardiff University, and the British Society for the History of Science (BSHS). In the morning, we welcomed 90 pupils from four primary schools from the Afan Valley; in the afternoon, we worked with 50 comprehensive school pupils from two secondaries in South Wales.

 

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Astronomy workshop with Dr Melanie Keene
In the first room there were workshops on astronomy and rope making. The astronomy talk explained how the ancients named constellations and their significance. Once the pupils discussed the theory, they were free to design, create and decoration their own constellations. In the same room was also a workshop on rope making, which was led by Lois Robinson, who just finished her undergraduate degree at Swansea University. Her workshop explained how the ancients would make rope, and so the pupils themselves followed the instructions, which involved stripping the nettles and tying them into a strong rope. Alex Ferron, one of the helpers, had a little fun making his own nettle jewellery. Henry and Molly, two other helpers, had great success making a rather long rope between them.

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Curse tablets – workshop with Dr Evelien Bracke, Callum Carroll and Leigh Herring
In the next room there were workshops on magic and cosmetics. Magic proved to be on the more popular workshops which was led by Dr Evelien Bracke (Swansea University). The use of votive offerings and curse tablets was discussed, and then the pupils had a chance to create and inscribe their own votive and curse tablets made from clay.  Also in this room was a workshop on ancient cosmetics and medical recipes led by Dr Laurence Totelin from Cardiff University. Many pupils got to grips with using a pestle and mortar for the first time to create their own cosmetics.

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Dr Tracey Rihll helping a student carve a gem

 

 

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Comprehensive school pupil discussing her curse tablet
In the final room, a further two workshops were being run. Dr Tracey Rihll (Swansea University) ran a workshop on ancient drills and gem stones. Students were able to experience how ancient drill’s worked by using similar tools and attempting to drill through a log. Tracey also did gem making: students could engrave a gem as they wished and they used it to make a seal on the clay provided another very popular workshop. Also in this room were three curators from Caerleon, dressed in a similar fashion to the ancients, demonstrating ancient forms of cooking. Their workshop involved examining modern ingredient and comparing them to their ancient counterparts. The pupils could then assist in making bread using all the ancient tools. Many students enjoyed this workshop despite ended up covered in flour.

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Making rope with Lois Robinson
The feedback we got from the pupils clearly demonstrates that they had a fabulous time and learned something new:
‘I enjoyed and learned a lot about the Greeks and ancient world. I’d definitely come again.’
‘It was the best!’
‘Staff were really friendly and helpful.’
‘This has given me better understanding and respect for ancient Greek stuff.’
‘I have learned a lot from today.’
The teachers also told us the pupils and they left inspired and ready to learn more about the Greeks.
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Tracey and Laurence making gems
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Dr Laurence Totelin leading a workshop on ancient medicine

 

The conference…
After the school day, Denis Morin arrived early to set up for his demonstration. His demonstration took place later at night where he made authentic bronze arrow heads from scratch. He used similar tools to the ancients which would require heating the bronze up to 1000o. A time lapse of the attempt to make arrow heads is available on the Twitter page, @TODLSwansea. Denis also gave a talk on metallurgy the next day. Before this demonstration began however, a fascinating talk by Serafina Cumo on the Foundry cup took place.

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woodwork workshop

The second day had just as many demonstrations alongside the academic conference. At the conference there was a wide range of topics regarding aspects of ancient technologies. The conference involved topics such as how to detect pigments on statues and artefacts with a specialist camera, a talk from Giovanni Verri. Laurence Totelin returned for a second day to discuss the medicinal use of wool. Victoria Keitel, a PhD student from Reading University gave a talk on her research regarding the standardisation of Skyphoi. Adam Hart Davies gave a very hands-on talk regarding ancient wood work by explaining the similarity of ancient tools to tools we use today. Adam Hart Davies then took to making an ancient spoon and bowl from plain logs of wood as his talk progressed.

 

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The National Roman Legionary Museum brought a kiln!

 

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More practical workshops

There were a number of other talks as well but between talks there were plenty of demonstrations to be seen. Giovanni Verri provided a demonstration of the process where he identified the pigment Egyptian Blue in artefacts alongside Alan Hart Davies who showed off even more wood working skills. Other workshops included a third year student, Leigh Herring, operating a loom and a 3D printed pulley slowly pulling up 15kg of weight up several flights of stairs.

 

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Antikythera talk

The end of the two days of ancient technologies was rounded off with a trip to the National Waterfront Museum. This included a wine reception for all those who helped and spoke at both the TODL and British Society for the History of Science conference (which was taking place at the same time). The evening concluded with a fantastic talk from Mike Edmunds on the Antikythera mechanism and brought the very busy two days to a close. From pupils to speakers, the two day programme was enjoyable to all who came to experience technologies of daily life in ancient Greece.

For a Storify narrative of the event, see http://sfy.co/s0gAA.

Written by William Murphy, MA student, History & Classics, Swansea University

 

The First Swansea Summer School in Ancient Languages

This year the first ever Swansea Summer School in Ancient Languages took place for two weeks, from the 19th – 31st of July 2015. We had more than 50 participants, some from as far as Australia, the US, Canada, and the continent. We offered courses on Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced Latin and Greek, Beginners’ Egyptian, and Medieval Latin.

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Talk by Dr Peter Haarer (Oxford University)

Each class had three hours of teaching a day with homework set in between for the following class. In addition to classes, there were extra-curricular activities held for the participants every evening, Wednesday afternoons and the weekend between the two weeks (25th & 26th). We had talks by Dr Peter Haarer (Oxford University), Prof Mark Humphries and Ian Repath (both Swansea University), and Mari Williams. One of the tutors organised a quiz on the Friday, and we had excursions to the Dolaucothi mines, Caerleon and Caerwent, and to the Gower.

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Trip to Caerleon and Caerwent

We received excellent feedback from our participants:

‘Very good experience overall. Excellent teaching, teacher very motivated’
‘We were very grateful for a bursary, as we could not have afforded the course otherwise (there are two of us)’
‘Optimum erat et sibi gratias ago’
‘Absolutely brilliant! Loved every minute of the classes – the Beginners’ Egyptian tutor was an inspiration. He really made the language come alive – his enthusiasm is infectious!’
‘Most grateful to Evelien for keeping in close contact, keeping us informed and for all help before and during the course’
‘Very good being in a small group of four…The Advanced Latin tutor is a very gentle tutor who opened my eyes to many possibilities of interpretation and background’
‘the talks were very interesting and the summer school was well organised’
‘I hope you can continue to run it! The bursary made it possible for us to attend’

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A captivated Advanced Latin group reading naughty Catullus

Overall the Summer School ran well and because of its success this year we are currently preparing for next year where we plan to run it again with additional classes. To view our website for this year please visit: http://www.swansea.ac.uk/classics/summerschoolinancientlanguages/

For a Storify narrative of the Summer School, see https://storify.com/nimuevelien/first-ever-swansea-summer-school-in-ancient-langua

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Jed Rual and William Murphy do a Week of Work in our Department…

…and here are their comments:

“The Week of Work placement programme is a great, rewarding opportunity for gaining much needed experience, especially with such a lack of opportunity in today’s society. Not only was I able to gain experience in an academic environment but it was comforting that the work placement was within my own Department, meaning the work I undertook was related to my degree and interests, making the week a really enjoyable experience. As the placement was an administrative post, there was a large and diverse selection of tasks to be completed. These tasks allowed me to demonstrate many skills which I would otherwise not be able to use (generally speaking). The week is also the perfect crash course in Microsoft Publisher. Taking creative control of several projects was particularly rewarding and a welcomed change from the norm of essay writing, with most of the work I designed being displayed to the department, university and the public, something which is pleasing. The working environment is very comfortable and the staff that you work with (in my case Dr Evelien Bracke), are more than helpful when you need assistance as well as really appreciative of the hard work you put in for them!”

— Jed Rual (level 2 Egyptology)

“From my week of work I have learned to adapt my skills to a number of different tasks in a strict amount of time. During the week I have created and edited a number of pieces for the department to be used during the open days and flyers for the South West Wales Classical Association. I also handled emails for the department regarding a number of the volunteer projects and the induction event. During the week I also put together posters and information for the employability events and other department related activities. The week of work has challenged me to be more creative to produce professional and informative pieces. The most memorable part of the will be definitely be when I was able to look over a research proposal involving Latin in education across the country and being able to see the administrative side of research. I enjoyed having different tasks to do which allowed me to experience how much an academic environment needs to cover in just a single week. The week of work has allowed me to have a deeper understanding of academic environments which I’m sure will prove valuable in the years to come. The experience has been a great week of work which will hopefully help me enter similar environments after completing my MA.”

— William Murphy (level 3 Ancient History)

It’s been amazing having Jed and William’s help this week: they’ve been professional, punctual (9-5 every day!), happy to take feedback on board, and above all, creative in ways that I wouldn’t always have considered myself. They’ve come up with some brilliant resources we can use in the department.

Want to get similar work experience? Contact me at e.bracke@swansea.ac.uk.

Lewys Zastapilo writes about his Week of Work

I just finished my BA in American Studies and decided to do an extended Week of Work (2 weeks, in reality) with Evelien as I had no prior administrative experience and no real idea of what such work included. Turns out, it’s really enjoyable. The past two weeks have proved to be a challenging and rewarding experience as I completed several tasks that I wasn’t sure if I would be capable of finishing. As such, I’ve developed several useful skills and greatly boosted my confidence in administrative work.

The first of the two main projects that I was put to work on was to help with organising next year’s Summer School in Ancient Languages. My main task here was to compile the feedback from this year’s School. This involved transcribing written feedback, compiling the answers from questionnaires into tables, and presenting all the information effectively. The positive feedback was then sent on to the teachers, which they thoroughly enjoyed. I also used skills I’ve learned throughout University to compile the postal addressed of universities, libraries, museums and local schools and organise them onto easily printable label template, saving a lot of time in the future.

The second project that I worked on was the Cymru Wales Classics Hub (CWCH). This involved creating posters for two upcoming events using Publisher and using Weebly to edit the website. Both of these proved to be a valuable learning experience for me as I had never used either of these applications. The website is looking great now:http://cymruwalesclassicshub.weebly.com.

I’ve enjoyed the past two weeks and would like to thank Evelien for giving me this opportunity and supporting me throughout whenever I needed help with anything. The experience and skills I’ve gained from this will benefit me greatly in the future and for this I am incredibly grateful.

Written by Lewys Zastapilo

A Classics student teaching English abroad

This blog post is written by Dan Engel who did an undergraduate degree in Ancient History and then an MA in Classics with us.

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Busan, South Korea

Many things run through the minds of final year students. Will I get the grade I (think I) deserve? Will I stay in touch with my friends? How long can I acceptably use my student card after graduation…and what should I do with the rest of my life?

A lot of people jump straight into graduate schemes, office jobs, or fields related to their studies. I remember when I was graduating, none of those kept my attention. I wanted something different. I didn’t want to go directly into a ‘regular job’ and I still had the urge to travel.

I stumbled upon teaching English as a foreign language, and ended up living in South Korea for almost two years now. I lived in Busan, a city of five million people and 11 beaches, and the majestic island of Jeju, with a population of 600,000. It’s been a life changing decision, and one option that students should definitely consider.

Going to a country as vastly different as Korea is to the UK (Neo-Confucian/Buddhist/Christian culture, deep system of patriarchy, respect for elders and well…alcoholism [1]) is such an experience that forces you to grow. You’ll be teaching children in one of the leading education systems in the world, living in a country where you (probably) don’t speak or read the language (though learning the script is deceptively simple),[2] and eating foods you don’t even recognise (I’ve been here for two years and that still happens).[3]

Why do it?

  • I’m not going to cut any corners: money is a motivating factor. You earn c. $2,000 USD a month, have your apartment and flight here and back paid for, cheap bills and almost non-existent taxation. Not to mention decent holidays. But the real draw is the cost of living; even going out a lot to eat, drink, travel…you can expect to save $1,000 USD a month. How many jobs straight out of uni let you write off $12,000 student debt?
  • Living in a country where you don’t read/speak the language, one of the most homogenous countries in the world, you grow quickly; you learn to adapt and take care of yourself. Or you don’t. Sink or swim, really. A lot of people can’t handle that, but if you’re adventurous and open-minded you’ll thrive.
  • Having a home-base in SE Asia allows you to explore the Orient in all its wonders. Spend Chuseok(Korean Thanksgiving) in Japan. Go to Vietnam for your summer holidays. Spend winter exploring China or Russia (Vladivostok is about an hour’s flight away). Asia is your ocean.

How to do it?

Moving countries is a tricky process, but not too tricky. Just a few humps to get through…and a job to get.

I’d recommend applying for a job using EPIK (English Programme in Korea). It’s government run, and they place you in public schools across the peninsula. It’s increasingly competitive to get in. But if you’re enthusiastic and can show you’d thrive in a strange environment, you’ll have no problems.

https://www.epik.go.kr/
Here’s the link. Familiarise yourself with the website, do your research to impress on the interview, and send in your application. The sooner the better as spaces fill up fast.

However, there are many jobs in Korea. Private after-school academies, called hagwons are rearing to employ young graduates.

http://www.eslcafe.com/jobs/korea/

Here’s a link for hagwon style jobs. But beware: they’re not government run, they’re primarily businesses, and many horror stories exist about life working for bad ones. So be careful and do your research before accepting.

I’m always happy to help a Swansea student so feel free to drop me a line at 556853@swansea.ac.uk

I hope this blog has shown you some of the more interesting possibilities of post-university employment and inspired you to do some deeper research on the topic. Good luck!

Dan Engel

[1] http://www.koreatimesus.com/the-average-korean-drinks-9-16-liters-of-alcohol-each-year/

[2] http://www.bbc.com/news/education-25187993

[3] http://www.koreaboo.com/interactive/11-terrifying-korean-delicacies-you-may-be-too-scared-to-try-ever/

Beth Donaldson talks about her Week of Work experience

When I started my Week of Work placement with Evelien Bracke, it cannot be said that I approached the week without trepidation. I had never worked in any form of administration before, and so had no idea what tasks I would be undertaking. However, with hindsight there was no need for the nerves at all, as help was available every step of the way. With help from Evelien as well as the other students working at the same time as me, I was able to quickly iron out any issues that I had and overcome problems that I faced. Throughout the week I was able to develop the skills of working in a professional environment, I learnt how to communicate with staff members and the best way to present information to the public online.

I took a particular interest in the work that I completed on the two websites, Cymru Wales Classics Hub and in particular the departments blog. Previous to this week I had never worked on the production or editing of websites and blogs and so approached this task with slight nervousness. However, I felt that I very quickly managed to grasp the concept: my confidence when working on these two websites greatly increased and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the task.

Completing a Week of Work in the Department allowed me to experience the other side of a university, and there is much more going on than I was previously aware of! This week has given me invaluable experience in both working in and contributing to a professional working environment. I felt that through the variety of tasks that I carried out I was able to develop a number of skills that will aid me in my future work prospects.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Week of Work. I found it extremely useful in both developing existing skills that I had and also in creating and nurturing new ones. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Beth Donaldson, History and Politics 

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