The BAME English Meet Up is a student led project founded by myself, Yinka-Maria Olaniyan and lecturer Nicola Abram. The programme promotes students from all years to engage in informal discussions, meditation activities, graduate panel talks and study advice. The programme is centered around university life and studying English Literature as a BAME student. The idea of the project builds on a previous project which ran last year within the Department of English Literature called the ‘A Thousand Words: Student Life Through a Lens’. The project aimed to investigate what university looked like through the lens of a BAME student. Themes of ‘voice’ and ‘identity’ emerged from the project influencing the idea of the BAME English Literature Meet Up encouraging students to voice their experiences and use their identities as BAME students within the classroom and in generating ideas in essays.
The planning for the project started over the summer with many emails sent between Yinka, Nicola and myself. Trading ideas for session topics, design plans for the poster and generating ideas for graduate talks and literary guests. The first session was run by Yinka and I. We had an amazing turn out of not only first years and second year students but also third years. I was surprised at how many third years attended and benefited from the 50 minute slot to relax, engage in conversation and reflect on how far they have come since first year. The session flew by because every student was so engrossed in trading anecdotes, laughing at how similar our experiences were, asking each other questions and eating pizza. My favourite sessions so far has been week 1 meeting many BAME students within the Department of English Literature grouped all in one place, week 4 speaking to graduates who studied English Literature asking them about their university experience and their lives post graduation and week 7 having a meditation and reflective session with Shirley Antis helping us to visualise our journey since A level, what we value as success and where we see ourselves in the future. After the week 7 sessions I felt refreshed and ready for my next set of assignments. Clearing my head for 50 minutes really helped to remind myself of my academic abilities and of life post graduation.
It’s been an amazing opportunity to help Co-Found and run the BAME English Literature Meet-Up. The project has inspired other Departments such as Modern Languages to create their own equivalent of the BAME Meet-Up. So many students from other degree subjects have to ask to come along to the sessions and bring their friends. Each week I see familiar faces and have sparked conversations with first years who have implemented the advice given from third years into their essays and seminars. I can’t wait to see the outcome when the year is finished. To anyone that is interested in coming along. Please do! Be a part of our little community and share your voice and your experiences. You do not have to be a BAME student to come along we have had sessions where students have joined to hear from others and share their perspectives. University is a challenging place both academically and mentally, so projects like this are so important to remind students that you are not alone and we are on this journey together.
By Georgia Courtney-Cox