Crying at journalists, meeting literary agents, having mini breakdowns and hating Cloud Atlas: how I spent my first year as a master's student.

So, I have finally finished the first year of my part-time MA, in Creative Writing yay! It’s been a tricky year, but a pretty good one. There’s been a lot of ups and downs, here’s a roundup of the most memorable:

The Best:

1. Meeting Catherine Chanter
I've met so many brilliant authors this year but Catherine Chanter, author of ''The Well' and Brookes graduate, was definitely my favourite. Not only was she full of useful writing tips, but she was totally down to earth and made me have hopes for the future that ‘normal’ people who have to hold down a job and a life outside of writing can make it too. Thanks Catherine!

2. Writing the first two chapters of my book
I now have 9,000 words that have been meticulously written, re-written and written again, so woo. Only around 81,000 to go.

3. Getting engaged
Okay, this isn’t MA related, but it’s been a highlight of a year that I thought I could have nothing happen to me outside of writing. So, in next academic year, I will be planning a wedding and getting married before graduation. Watch out for my 2018 breakdown!

      4. Meeting Literary Agent, Carrie Plitt
Not only was it fascinating to hear the inner workings of a literary agency, but she filled me with hope when she encouraged us to submit our work to her and casually chucked in that as Oxford Brookes MA students, we were already at an advantage to get published. She also told a fabulous story involving toast.

5. Writing for a living
In my ‘worst’ list, you will see reference to my stressful job. Well, I got a new one this year too. Instead of listening to a boss who told me, "you have to stay here because no one else will let you work flexibly enough to do an MA", I went and found somewhere that not only lets me work flexibly enough to do my MA and anything else I want to, but actually pays me to spend about 80% of my working life writing. And I love it.

6. Being awarded a place at Swanwick Writers’ Summers school
I’m so excited to have been given a place on the TopWrite scheme to attend Swanwick this year; this is in large part thanks to a lovely reference from one of my lecturers. I would have never had the confidence to apply for anything like this before doing my MA and I will now be spending six days in August doing nothing but writing and learning from some of my favourite authors. I’m going to try hard not to fangirl too hard over Sophie Hannah...

The Worst:

1. Crying my eyes out to renowned journalist, Nick Cohen
The shame. Half-way through my first term, I had a slight ‘flap’ as I will call it after my first feedback came back absolutely terrible, my full-time job nearly killed me from stress and I just wanted to give up. Unfortunately, when the rather prestigious journalist Nick Cohen came in to give us a lecture, everything came to a head and I ended up sobbing at him on the stairs. The poor man looked terrified. Sorry Nick, I’m all better now!

2. Spending hours of my life sat in traffic in Oxford
So many hours have been wasted this way and trying to park before 4:30 is even more fun. Traffic-related breakdowns have been a-plenty this year. Next year, I have to the park and ride as I can't park on campus. If there's one thing I hate more than traffic, it's buses.

3. Referencing
Do I even need to explain this one?

4. Reading Cloud Atlas
I really hated this book but it also encompasses a lot of feelings I have had over this academic year about all the things I missed out on whilst reading or writing for my MA. Which brings me on to...

5. Missing best friends’ engagements
Two of my best friends got engaged, at the top of a mountain, at the same time, to their lovely partners, surrounded by all of our other friends. I was at home, reading my least favourite book (see above) and stressing out over all of the work I had yet to do for that term. Sadly, I missed out on a lot of really big social occasions this year, but least it gave me a topic for my blog...

And now, term has finally ended, first year is over, and I’ve had my marks back (which were slightly better than last term woo!). Whilst I can hardly say ‘summer is here’ as I am not an actual student so will still be working 5 days a week until term starts again... it’s nice to have a little break before we get back into the hectic world of non-stop writing and reading again and know that if I survived one hectic, crazy year, I can survive the next.

Places I'll Miss

I'm a third year. I've finished all of my essays, I've paid off my library fines (sorry library) and returned all my books. I don't need to go to campus anymore, and I don't need to lug my laptop up the hill anymore (thank goodness). I'm a third year, but I haven't graduated yet, so I'm a little stuck in the middle for a while.

Since finishing my deadlines off, I've mostly been at work or trying desperately to tidy my room without getting distracted by something and giving up (I finally succeeded yesterday). However, I realise I'll be going home soon, and by that I mean my real home back in Bournemouth. I'm leaving on the 24th May, and only have a few free days left to wander the cobbled streets around the Radcliffe Camera or spend hours getting lost in the Ashmolean.

Ironically, I was going to make you all a bucket list of things to do in Oxford before you leave (easier for Freshers), but I ran out of time and barely scratched the list I made with my housemates. So instead, the nostalgic wannabe hipster I am has decided to write you a brief list of the places I think I will miss most.

1. South Park When There's The Slightest Glimmer of Sunshine

South Park is essentially a giant field occasionally used for events like Tough Mudder or Common People, but it's also one of the most chilled out places you could possibly be in the Summer. I haven't had the time this semester to kick my shoes off and eat junk food like I did in the first two years (see photo for proof of frivolity and carefree-ness), but living so close was easily one of my favourite things about second year. Coming down to South Park with your friends and a frisbee or some drinks in the evening is just bliss - and if you catch a sunset over the skyline, you're really in for a treat.

2. The Second Year House I Fell in Love With

I don't know what it is, but I just adored this house. It wasn't super modern and fancy, or even that clean (plus we lost some of our deposit because we didn't mow the lawn..), but it was just great. It felt like it was really our place, me and my three housemates at the time. We turned the lounge into a study room by moving the kitchen table in there, or pushed the sofas together and added quilts and pillows until we were content with our fort. I also loved my room (I got lucky and had the biggest room), but had just as much fun walking with my friends to South Park, or discovering shortcuts, or just blasting out hit music as loud as we could. I love you, house.

3. The Little Shop on High Street Called Whittard

I first started working at Whittard in Oxford the day after Halloween in my first year at Brookes. I left at the end of that year, but returned in third year. Whittard has been my favourite job, and it's largely because I met my second biggest group of Oxford friends (first being housemates) who always made me feel welcome, and like part of the family. My head is now full to the brim with tea facts that probably won't be useful in adult life, but they're fun for me. I loved going there, just once a week, and I'll definitely be returning there on my visits to Oxford in the future.

4. The Vintage Shop on the Roundabout Where I Had An Idea

A weirdly cryptic one, I know, but in second year, I was on the U1 from campus into town and I had an idea as we went round the road. I remember because I remember texting someone about this idea half way round. It wasn't just a 'I need to remember to buy tights' sort of thing, more a concept and title for my collaborative feminist website that is now over a year old and has a host of writers and views. For some reason, every time I go this way, I remember.

What places will you miss, or what's on your bucket list?

#helloBrookes 2017 - Earn while you learn

91.9% of Oxford Brookes graduates are in employment or further study 6 months after graduating.

(HESA Destination of Leavers 2017)


It probably has something to do with the fact that employers rate work experience as “the most important factor” in recruiting staff, and that at Oxford Brookes we have a network of high-quality employers who offer paid work placements that you can complete as part of your course.

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Placements provide brilliant hands-on experience of the working world and give you the chance to build essential skills employers are looking for. In a crowded job market, Oxford Brookes can help you stand out.

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'Taking a placement year was the best choice I made...Now I don’t have to worry about not having employable skills when I graduate'
Carine Gashugi, Economics, Politics and Internation Relations - spent a placement year with Pamoja Education

'One of the key strengths of my course was how it combined quality and supportive teaching with placements...The placements were invaluable, giving me the chance to apply the skills I was learning in a real-world setting.'
Adrian Knight, foundation degree in Paramedic Emergency Care - completed placements with the South Central Ambulance Service

'This opportunity came up through Brookes and I took it. It paid off because now I'm working in my dream job.'
Dan Bond, Sport and Exercise Science - completed an internship with Oxford United, and now works as their first team's sport scientist

Order a prospectus to find out more about work placements at Oxford Brookes. You can also browse our courses online to see which ones offer a work placement option.

This blog post was written by a member of staff rather than a student - browse all our blogs to get the student perspective on life at Brookes!

#helloBrookes 2017 - Make your vocation a vacation

You can travel the world with Oxford Brookes. By taking the opportunity to explore new places by working and studying abroad for one or two semesters, you'll create memories to last a lifetime and shape the graduate you will become.

Where will your course take you?

We have over 100 partner universities. Do you fancy Argentina, Vietnam, or Mexico? Canada, the U.S or New Zealand perhaps? Thailand? Uruguay? How about somewhere in Europe?
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'I took on the challenge of an entirely new learning environment. I got recognised for my ideas and skills - as well as developing new ones I never knew existed!'
Lola Leach, International Hospitality and Tourism Management - worked at Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, Canada for a year and then studied at Curtin University in Perth, Australia for five months.

'The exchange has given me opportunities to exhibit and publish internationally in a way that would have been impossible...I definitely gained a lot of self-confidence and proactivity.'
Emma Mayoux-Andrews, Fine Art - studied at Vilnius Academy of Fine Art, Lithuania for a year.

'All in all, going on exchange has changed my life in every possible way.'
Elena Saldana Quintans, International Business Management - studied at Mahidol University in Thailand and Macquaire University in Australia.

Order a prospectus to find out more about studying abroad with Oxford Brookes.

This blog post was written by a member of staff rather than a student - browse all our blogs to get the student perspective on life at Brookes!


Guest blogger and Brookes Sport Ambassador Madeleine Ralph talks about what playing netball means to her.

Netball is the most popular team sport among women, and although it has its origins in basketball, the game we know today is one with its own unique rules and skills. I have taught girls as young as six who are just learning the basics of passing and footwork, and have played alongside women in their fifties who may be rusty, but demonstrate with ease the skills they learnt back in school. Netball is clearly a game for all ages and abilities, both socially and competitively.

I have been playing netball since I was about eight years old, and thirteen years later I’m still learning new things about the game and am always excited to be on the court at every training session and match. It is something in my life which has been a constant, so when I came to university and was fortunate enough to be selected for the squad, what can sometimes be a rollercoaster of a first year seemed to have some normality and stability. Having training sessions in the evening and matches during the day made the whole change to university life a little easier.

We all know that physical activity is key to a balanced healthy lifestyle; however, how we get that activity completely depends on what an individual finds fun and engaging. It’s also important to consider the long term benefits that a team sport like netball can have.

I’ve played netball in multiple environments, and although each has the excitement and enjoyment of the game itself, it has also given me the opportunity to play with so many talented, driven and fun women. From school friends, to university students, to mums who take an hour to train each week and then play a game on a Monday evening. Playing netball has allowed me to meet and learn from so many people.

With such a wide variety of skills to be learnt, training is never boring. You may, inevitably, repeat drills, but with each practice there is a new challenge and improvements to be made - even at a high level. The different positions allow for versatility, something I consider to be one of the most valuable skills to have as a player.

Despite netball being a non-contact sport, I’ve yet to play a season where someone on my team doesn’t get injured, therefore the team needs to be shuffled and players need to feel confident enough in their skill level to move, for example, from a shooter to a defender if needs be.

With netball being a predominantly female sport, the participation of males is mainly at a junior level. The sport offers a space for girls and women to develop their skills and knowledge that can then translate to their everyday lives, while also helping to change the perception of a women’s capabilities.

To me, netball is important in showcasing confident and strong leaders on and off the court, as well as in its ability to challenge the cultural norms that prevent gender equality. Through coaching, umpiring, training, league organisation and club governance, netball offers leadership and decision making opportunities for girls and women which, in some areas of life, are sadly still not possible.

Netball, like other team sports, teaches so much more than just drills and tactics: you learn important, valuable skills that you can take with you into the wider world; you learn how to problem-solve quickly and more effectively and how to deal with hardship through defeats or injuries; you learn how to push yourself and remain motivated when things might not look positive. Not to mention the obvious teamwork, which is one of the most sought-after skills in the workplace. The ability to work coherently within a team, yet also know when to lead, is a vital life skill which can translate to so many aspects of life.

Although it is improving, there is not enough funding in netball meaning that even elite England players are still working full time jobs while completing a training regime. This carries on through to local levels, where league coordinators and club managers are putting in the time and effort to keep people playing netball past school and therefore keeping women active and social. Everyone is doing it for the love of the game.

It would be cliche to say I play netball purely because I love it. I do, but there is more to it than that. I play because I feel confident on the court. I am by no means the best player there is, nor do I think I know all there is to know about netball, but I know when I step on the court with my teammates that we have complete and utter trust in each other.

We have the belief in each other to support, give options and get the ball to goal as swiftly as possible and do it all over again until we’ve won. There is no judgement, it’s comforting to know that after having played for 45 minutes and you’re red and sweaty no one really cares - in fact if you aren’t sweating buckets you haven’t tried hard enough!

In school, I was on the netball team with one of my best friends for 8 years, and now while at different unis a topic of conversation every week during our FaceTimes is always netball. How the league is going, her reoccurring injury which she obtained in year 6, any funny moments which happened at training or the fancy dress for that Wednesday night out. There is more to the friendship than that, obviously, but netball is so important to both of us that is has made us closer.


Guest blogger and Brookes Sport Ambassador Brodie Holmes talks about her passion for Olympic lifting and how it's changed her life.

I have been into sport and loved it ever since I first started rowing in 2010. Since then, sport and exercise have been a huge part of my life. University challenges meant that I did not have the time to row as training 8 times a week is extremely time-consuming and very tiring. Eventually I decided it was best to take a break from it. This led me into the gym.

I first started with a bodybuilding style of training during my first year of university, both at Brookes Sport as well as at home. During the summer last year, a coach at home approached me from Charnwood Barbell and suggested I try Olympic Weightlifting. Since then, improving my lifts has become an obsession and it has changed who I am.

For me, bodybuilding wasn’t right due to a long history of body image difficulties and issues. For years I have struggled with how I look and always wanting to look “the best” or look like somebody else. I am overcoming an eating disorder for which I have been in recovery for over a year now. Bodybuilding is extremely focused on personal appearance, which meant my mentality was not improving from my struggles over the proceeding few years.

Olympic Weightlifting on the other hand, has a focus on technique, strength and mobility, which has eventually, after only 6 months, started to shift my mental focus away from my body and how I look to getting stronger and better at what I am doing. I do this by focusing on my goals for my weightlifting programme.

I am working on a 10 week programme with set weights with the aim of achieving personal bests by the end of the 10 week period. The weights set in the programme depend on what I manage to lift during a test week prior to starting a new plan. It’s hard. The psychological effort and confidence you need to get underneath the bar is huge. It takes a lot out of you and requires a high level of positive thinking and trust in yourself to get the bar from A to B.

The determination hits you and you just want to push yourself to lift the best you can. When I say to somebody I am tired or feeling a little down and heading to the gym, they ask: “Why? If you are tired, why not just stay in?” The gym helps, it makes me feel less stressed, more relaxed and it helps me deal with difficult situations by allowing me to forget about everything else and focus on my lifts and my goals for that session.

It helps to boost my confidence, both in the gym as well as outside of it. The confidence developed when you lift transfers into everyday life. You need to believe in yourself to succeed and that’s what I have started to do. In order to succeed, I also need to fail. I have bad sessions and poor lifts, but all of this makes me learn, retry and succeed to be what I am today. I will keep failing and succeeding over and over to help me improve. Nobody can have a perfect session every day, no matter what your sport may be. Bad sessions happen but it’s what you do to make it better and how you learn from it that helps you progress, succeed and move on.

I love using Brookes Sport when I am at university as it is well equipped, has a friendly environment and support from others around you along with having lots to offer. When I went back to Brookes Sport after the summer training at home, and having just taken up Olympic Lifting, I found it difficult having got used to working with a thinner 15kg Olympic bar, while Brookes Sport only had traditional 20kg bars. I decided to put in a suggestion form and shortly after I received an email saying that they were looking into this for me. Now they have invested in not just one, but two women’s bars as well as my other suggestion of smaller weight plates for the bar including 1kg, 1.5kg and 2kg!

Through Brookes Sport, I have met some amazing people who have supported me with my training as well as becoming friends with them away from the gym! One of the main group of friends I have met are the MASS (Muscle & Athletic Sports Society) groups, especially the MASS ladies. We train together and meet up outside of the gym.

Aside from this, there is always somebody willing to help you in the gym whether you know them or not. Whether it’s to take some weights and put them back, to spot you on your squats, check your form, or help your with technique. You don’t see many Olympic lifters in the gym, but that doesn’t stop me feeling welcome. No matter what you do in the gym you have endless support and equipment provided to allow you to achieve.

Not only has the gym helped me to lifter heavier and get stronger, it has also made me a stronger person and individual. The gym has helped me overcome personal difficulties that I once believed I would never overcome. I can’t imagine what I would do without it.


One thing I will miss about UK is its immense green, blue skies and fresh air. It's the world I immerse myself in to think of nothing.

After my final presentation, my friends and I dashed to Port Meadow for some serious nature-bathing. The scenery is picturesque and air is fresh.

Literally living the 'sound of music' moment 😍

Alice in wonderland vibe
Shotover Country Park is another zen world to immerse yourself in. It's full of surprises - small rabbit-like paths, large flat fields of daffodils, muddy terrains, exclusive forest of bluebells, etc.

Broad paths
Get lost in the green. (Photo credits:Woodland Trust)
Cycle to Harcourt Arboretum to soak in the amazeballs bluebells and colorful flowers. It's free for students!

Bluebells galore

Oxford is surrounded by the picturesque Cotswolds. Burford is a charming medieval town, easily reachable by a bus from Oxford city centre. Take a long walk through the Windrush Valley to discover points of no return.

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Walk the steep pavement in Burford (Photo credit : Experience Oxford)
Or head further to Castle Coombe to soak in the beauty of the cottages. And a little bit further to the unforgettable poppy fields near Stonehenge.

So pretty! (Photo credit: Cotswolds Adventure)
There you go, so much green to feast your eyes after all that strenuous computer work.

Meanwhile, the architecture school is busy preparing for the End-of-year exhibition.
Save the date!

27th May - 5th June @ Abercrombie