Why I chose to study History

Studying an arts degree seems pretty pointless to a lot of people. I go to the University of Warwick, a top-10 UK institution. The university is renowned worldwide for its success in getting students to into the Finance sector. Warwick Business School is incredibly competitive to get into, and our Economics course requires A*AA at A level.

Riding on the coattails of the University’s financial reputation are us arts students. Although it is still very hard to get into Warwick for arts subjects, for some reason we are bottom of the pecking order. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these two pictures:

 

Image result for warwick humanities building  Here is the Humanities building.

And here is ONE of the WBS buildings.  Image result for warwick business school

So why would anybody in their right mind pick to study a Humanities subject? I got the grades to get into the Business School. I could have studied Law. I could have studied Economics. But I chose History.

 

History is a diverse and wonderful subject, that I feel a lot of people do not embrace. It’s like tabloid trash, but from the past. I can read about the scandal of Ancient Greece, the affairs of Henry VIII. As a historian, you are literally valued on your ability to cast judgement on somebody’s action. Everything in History is about what YOU think.

And the great thing is, studying History at degree level means a load of lecturers and peers also want to hear about what YOU think.

I think arts subjects get a bad rep. Humanities degrees produce well-rounded thinkers, with the ability to reason and come to balanced conclusions. We study data, evidence, testimonies. We evaluate, we aim to find solutions. And, get this, the world is our oyster.

I don’t really know what I want to do when I leave university. I’ve decided to leave it as an open book. But the good thing is, with my degree, there is no expectation. I’m not expected to be a banker, a lawyer or a doctor. I have options and flexibility, and I think that is one of the best things about my subject. I’m not pigeonholed, and have plenty of time to think about the future. Mainly because I only have eight contact hours a week 😉

The Age of the Avocado 🥑

They’re everywhere. It’s like an invasion.

They’re on my Facebook timeline, in my housemates fridge, on my boyfriend’s Nando’s burger. The world is obsessed with avocados. Our generation are the Avocadian’s, and we are completely fixated on this green thing with a big ball in the middle.

“Hey, that looks like a normal and simple dinner, lets throw some walnuts on those fajitas.”

My beef, however, is not with this fruit/nut/seed. My issue is with what the avocado represents: the pinnacle of health and happiness. The sliced avocado is essential to a Tasty video now. You cannot touch a sandwich in Pret a Manger that has not been smothered in green mush. And my big question is- what is the big deal?

Toast is no longer a nutritious and healthy breakfast unless it’s covered in almond butter and chia seeds. ‘Nice Cream’ has replaced good old fashioned ice cream with a frozen banana imitation. We have become obsessed with supplements and proteins, and with ingesting random nutrients in odd ingredients that we think we need in abundance.”Hey, that looks like a normal and simple dinner, lets throw some walnuts on those fajitas.”

If you really do like the taste of spirulina powder, than be my guest.

And I myself am not immune to this healthy craze. For my (failed) ‘new year new me’ attempt at Christmas, I found myself ordering Spirulina powders and clearing the shelves of Holland and Barrett, desperately trying to associate myself within this sphere of ‘clean eating’. And it’s taken me till the end of January to realise that all of these health kick items have not only NOT enhanced my life, but have in fact made my lifestyle pretty sodding dull. My smoothies no longer taste like fruit, but like the dehydrated seaweed I’ve been throwing in to them. My toast is far less enjoyable now I’ve replaced Marmite with almond butter, and I’ve realised I really do like my white grain rice.

Please, do not get the wrong end of the stick with what I am saying. I am not, by any means, condemning healthy eating. In fact, I think it’s a very good thing that the Avocadian’s are more concerned about their health and their lifestyle choices than previous generations. I just think we’re taking it a little bit too far, throwing money at ‘health fads’ and concerning ourself too much with weird and wonderful food stuffs.

If you really do like the taste of spirulina powder, than be my guest. But please don’t make me eat it too.

Oh, and on a final point, do we really need an emoji for them as well? 🥑

 

DISCLAIMER: I like avocados (never thought I’d have to write this in a disclaimer statement), and have no personal problem with them. I’m referring to them as a symbol for clean eating, and fully appreciate if you like them too. 🙂

Prepping for Veganuary

Veganuary, for those who have never heard of it before, is an entire month dedicated to becoming a vegan for charitable causes. I, Katie Sewell, the Queen of Carbonara, have vowed to give up all meat, cheese and dairy products for the month of January. One train ride with a Vegan friend and I found myself nodding in agreement to the prospect of a month without animal products. It was only when I got off the train that I realised the sheer wealth of products I will have to go without.

‘Where will you get protein?! Katie you’ll die!’

I love meat. I also love milk, and honey. And I really love cheese. I decided it would take something significant to make me give up my ‘Nara. So, in homage to my furry friend Trevor, a Labrador Retriever, I will be completing Veganuary for the Guide Dogs Trust.

My family did not take the news well. ‘Where will you get protein?! Katie you’ll die!’ I can’t say I’m surprised really by their reaction. I have mocked veganism for years, tagged my family members in various vegan memes and videos. I have always been outspoken in my disregard for the lifestyle.

I don’t know what selenium deficiency does to the body, but I’m not about to find out.

Reading about veganism, I can see that there are certainly some benefits to a plant-based, wholefood diet. During term time, I honestly eat atrociously. I can’t remember the last time I bought fruit that didn’t just rot away in my fruit bowl. I frequent McDonalds at least twice a week, and my favourite jeans are starting to get a big snug. So I have decided to view the month of January as a kind of detox, a chance to kick off the year on a high note.

In preparation for Veganuary, I have bought the following items:

Chia seeds: Proven to improve heart health, and give me my much needed Omega 3.Image result for chia seeds

Nutritional Yeast: For vitamin B12- a vitamin distinctly lacking in Vegan lifestyles. I’ve always wanted to eat fish food. Tell me that doesn’t look appetising.

Brazil nuts: Selenium and shit. I don’t really know why I bought these. I think it’s because I’m really worried I’ll become deficient in one of the smaller micro nutrients we’re supposed to consume as human beings. I don’t know what selenium deficiency does to the body, but I’m not about to find out.

Image result for brazil nuts

 

All of these have been sworn as ‘essentials’ by the Vegan Youtube Community. I’ll write a review on these once my month is over.

On the 1st of January, I will be trading in the likes of Camembert and bacon, for nutritional yeast and LOTS of veggies. Am I scared? Yes. Will it be worth it? Who knows. But I’m willing to give it a go. Wish me luck, I’ll be posting sponsorship links very soon.

Pining for Peroxide, a Can Opener and Steve the Cat.

After reading Armani’s recent article in the Boar this week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Her article focused on the how her Humanities degree hasn’t really lived up to the expectation set in the glossy Warwick brochure. Anyone who knows me well will know that me thinking, about anything really,  for an extended period of time is usually a very bad thing. But nevertheless, I have decided to do it anyway.

I got to thinking about the parts of university no one ever told me about. I’m coming to the end of my first year now, and undoubtedly feel much more settled in now than I did when I first started here, but I’m still in the process of adapting to a massive culture shock. And this is what has really stuck out to me:

Firstly, nobody tells you how lonely university is. And no, before you misconstrue that, this is not to say that I am sat alone in my room grizzling my tits off. I’ve met friends that I know will be friends for a very long time, and I’ve thrown myself headfirst into the societies I’m interested in. But when I’m in my room for the night, I can’t help but pine for the family cat. And it’s not so much that I want the cat itself, because poor Steve is old and decrepit now anyway. It’s more about what Steve the Cat represents: familiarity. In a strange way, and this is hard to explain and is probably a complete oxymoron, the constant noise and busyness of Warwick makes you feel alone. I feel like a very small person sometimes, which is amazing considering I’m well above 6 feet tall, in a very large sea of people (sorry to sound cliché).

IMG_6936 (1)

                              Yes poor GinGin’s really is that small, and I really am that tall. Love you, bae.

And I feel I may have mentioned this before somewhere else, but hey I’ll say it again because it’s important: no one tells you the strain university has on your mental health. No one warns you that you may find yourself in the kitchen at 3am, sobbing over a can of baked beans, all because you cannot find the can-opener. I’m a chipper person, I’m wired happy, and I know I am not speaking only on my own behalf when I say that having to ‘adult’ and actually start a degree is a bit of a plunge in the deep-end.

No one tells you that your physical health will be in tatters either. I’ve gone from a sprightly eighteen year old who would run around a busy restaurant for hours at work, to a constantly-tired nineteen year old who’s body screams internally every time she steps foot in the gym. I’m probably also severely malnourished of certain key vitamins (because let’s be honest, what first year do you know that buys fresh fruit, let alone eats it?).

12342846_1000833026646130_3329708756967386200_n.jpg

                                                              No further explanation necessary.

And I know this seems like a strange point to end on, but I really think my hair is a good indicator of the effect of university life.

My trademark shiny hair, and I’m really not blowing my own trumpet here (look at the picture below, I had a field of golden wheat), is now a dull brown. And why is it dull and brown you ask? Because I can’t budget, therefore can’t afford the highlights I once frivolously let my parents pay for, and the shampoo I’m using is a shit brand that was on offer in Tesco.

lucious locks

                                                           So young, so naive, so FLAW-LESS.

So all in all, yes I miss peroxide. Yes, I really do need to find my can-opener, and learn not to cry in its absence. And Steve, you furry sod, I miss you too. But I’m having far too much fun to come home.

‘Bodice- rippers’ and ‘chick-lit’… Why is the biggest industry in literature so frowned upon?

Devilish rogues and women in need of rescuing… As the daughter of a published historical romance author, I decided to investigate the stigma attached to the romantic fiction genre. According to therichest.com, the Romance and Erotica genre generates $1.44 billion a year- overtaking both Crime, Science Fiction and Horror. So if this genre is, so clearly, a lucrative industry, it would suggest that there are many avid readers of it? And, if this is indeed the case, why as a society are we so reluctant to admit it?

The Fifty Shades of Grey hysteria that swept the nation accurately sums up the attitudes most hold about romance fiction. Hushed whispers and page- turning in secret…. one girl in my class at school even went so far as to cover the front of her copy in paper. But where has this embarrassment of ‘guilty pleasure’ reading stemmed from? Fifty Shades is not to blame for all the negative press romance fiction receives. It has been going on for much longer than that. It is an attitude that has been held by society for years- ‘trashy’ novels were around even in the Victorian ages, and the attitude attached to the ‘penny dreadful’ or gothic novel is still very much attached to the romantic fiction genre today. But where has this attitude come from and, more importantly, is it deserved?

Firstly, whilst delving deeper into this genre, it is apparent that the term ‘Romance’ is, in fact, an umbrella term for the equivalent of a Mary Poppins’ bag full of book genres. One look on the Amazon Romance section of the Kindle Store, and you can see this for yourself. Romantic fiction is further subdivided- erotica, medical, cozy mystery, historical, paranormal… And it doesn’t stop there. There really is something for everyone, so if werewolves and vampires are your thing? Chances are someone has written a whole series on it. Although the sub-categories behind the romance genre are so vast, many associate any one book from the Romance genre as just superficial, meaningless drivel with no plot. However, as the apparently massive market of secret romance readers will know, this is certainly not the case.

So what is to blame for the sudden mania in the world of new and upcoming romance literature? With Huffington Post reporting that 21% of Americans have read an e-book in the last year, based on a study by Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, we can deduce that the rise of the Kindle is at least partially to blame on its own for the popularity of the genre. Books are now much more easily accessible, with a library available at just the click of a button. The same report also concluded that, on average, e-book readers read eight books more a year than those who do not own a device. The accessibility of books could certainly constitute as evidence for the rise in romance fiction.

E-readers have also caused another subsequent trend- the rise of the self-publisher. According to publishersweekly.com, many have taken the attitude that if E.L. James can do it, so can they, and now 31% of e-book sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store are self-published.  This new lack of dictation by the main publishers on what is produced in the book market has led to an increase in all sorts of new and niche genre books. With the arrival of e-books onto the scene, it is apparent that there is a whole new avenue available to explore new and different branches of literature. The new power of self-publishing in the book world has also meant that publishers are playing catch up, to meet this new demand for gap-in-the-market book genres. This is evident in the rapidly growing genre of Male/Male under Carina Press- a subsidiary of Harlequin (one of the biggest romance publishers in the world), where a whole market of romance books are being written specifically for male readers.

So, to the real question here: why are people so ashamed to admit their love for Romantic fiction, when so many people are reading it? Perhaps the fear of the ‘Fifty Shades’ effect: being labelled as reader of erotic fiction, is too great a cause of embarrassment for most. In reality, the erotic fiction genre is only a mere fraction of such a huge market of reading, but it is the subgenre most associated with the whole Romance market. Perhaps the dodgy front covers of the majority of these novels, where women appear to cling onto the sheet-draped, long-haired male, is enough to make people sceptical of the true literary value of these books. The genre is clouded in stigma, believed only to be a genre read only by the Bridget Jones’ of the world who pine after fictitious perfect men, when in fact this is just not the case. I think (and clearly many others agree with me), that these books are not only fabulous to read in terms of the value of the stories they provide, but also fulfil a need that everybody has for genuine human connection. If we can root for the hero and the heroine to get together in film and TV, why is it so shameful to wish the same for the characters in romance novels?