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The Big Smoke: A Little Pilgrimage

Three weeks ago I began an MA in The Contemporary at the University of Kent, in Canterbury. I was somewhat familiar with the place prior to arriving, having applied here at undergraduate level and attended two open days (one of which was where I met one of my closest friends, Jess), and also visited said friend (who I now live with) (weird.) Nevertheless, the new place with new people and new reading lists have kind of kept me bogged down.

Admittedly, I was so scared and shy to begin with. It all felt very alien to me (even my own shyness, since I'm not usually very shy - or if I am, I manage to hide it well) and after my first seminar I felt very, very out of my depth. I had to sit and breathe and think "can I actually do this?"

Turns out this is completely normal. Not only did most other people feel like this, my first seminar was massively hindered by the fact I was so ill with the infamous Freshers' Flu so I didn't feel very alive and with it. And for some fever-induced reason, I volunteered myself for the first presentation for the following week. Somehow, this was really good for me. It kicked my butt in gear, it forced me to go to see my tutor, it made me work hard and read academically again. Honestly, past Claire made good fever-induced choices that day.

I also think visiting London and seeing Rachel and Nicky did me a lot of good. Rachel and I are the perfect chalk and cheese for rationalising each other. If I panic, I call her, and vice versa. It was also just so, so, so lovely to see two familiar faces. And since Nicky is doing an MA at UCL, we both had a pep talk about reading and such.

I've also met some lovely people, who are all so incredibly interesting and diverse. They know so much, and they also want to learn and grow and everyone is in the same boat. None of us know entirely what we're doing, none of us feel like we can take on the whole Canon and write a masterpiece - hell, none of us can blurt out something in a seminar that's going to change the Academy or indeed the world. But we're trying; we're trying to put thoughts into sentences, and share what we love, and grow as people and writers. And that's what's made this whole experience so far so much fun. Because I can learn so much from others, and I genuinely really enjoy hearing what people are passionate about, because it validates and motivates my passion and energy too.

I honestly should go and crack on with some reading now, but I guess the point of this post is that you have to do things that scare you a little a bit, because otherwise you will never get to meet great people, hear great things, and grow into a (hopefully) greater person.


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