Emma Blyth

Emma Blyth graduate profile

Trainee English teacher

Graduated in 2017 

Former BA (Hons) English and Drama student, Emma Blyth, answered a few questions for us about her time at Birmingham City University and what she has been doing since she graduated.

Hi Emma.  Did you always want to study your chosen subject at university or did you change your mind when you were researching/applying?
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My favourite subjects at school were English and Drama; they were what I enjoyed the most and what I was the most successful in. I loved the world that opened up when I studied them; history, politics, social commentary, psychology, language, theatre, performance… So, when it came to deciding what I wanted to do a degree in, I basically decided not to decide and to do them both! The great thing about Birmingham City’s English and Drama course is that it brings the two subjects together harmoniously, and I was able to cater my course by picking modules that really suited my own interests.

What challenges did you face while studying here, and what support did BCU/your Faculty provide you during your degree?

One of the biggest challenges for me personally was confidence in my writing ability. I did well in my A Levels but after starting university, the jump in expectation felt huge. Every time I had a written assignment to do, I felt anxious that it wouldn’t be good enough. But the support at the School of English was incredible. Every member of staff makes themselves available to students for one-to-one tutorials to offer guidance and support; they really are a very approachable staff body! Another challenge was definitely feeling alone in a big, new city but from the Welcome Week activities that encouraged the staff and the students to get to know one other, to the famous Pizza socials around Christmas and other events, I really felt at home.

In what way do you think BCU developed you as a person for you to flourish in your chosen career path?

BCU really taught me the value of knowledge; I went into it already loving my chosen subjects but I left with a huge wealth of information on such a wide variety of subjects that I knew that the job I wanted to do would be to encourage that thirst for knowledge in young people. As a teacher, I think that’s invaluable.

Did you gain any relevant experience whilst studying at BCU that allowed you to easily adapt to your job role?

One of the great things about studying with the School of English was that there was always something extracurricular to get involved in, such as; conferences, as an organiser or participant, creative writing events or, my personal favourite, workshop days for visiting secondary school groups. While I was studying there, we hosted a ‘Harry Potter’ workshop day for some year eight students from a local secondary school. This included an overview of how one might study the books critically, how we would study the films from a media perspective, and then a few drama activities. It was a lot of fun and had a huge impact on me choosing my career in teaching.

What key skills have you been able to take into your job role and how have these helped you excel?

Part of the assignments in English and Drama were presentations, which were, essentially, very short lessons on specific topics. These encouraged the development of skills such as spoken communication, condensing large and complex ideas into teachable, understandable chunks and being able to answer questions we hadn’t necessarily prepared for; all incredibly useful skills for a teacher!

If you have any advice for anyone who is studying the course you studied, what would you say?

First and foremost, do the reading. I know that seems like a given but you’d be surprised at how many people try to get away with not reading in an English degree! It’s really obvious, to both your peers and lecturers if you haven’t done the designated reading for the seminar. Plus, it makes the lecture and seminar easier to follow so really, you’re doing yourself a favour.

Secondly, talk in seminars – and out of them. Discuss what you’ve read, listen to other people’s ideas and ask questions to lecturers, no matter how silly you think they are. The Academics in the School of English are incredibly knowledgeable and are usually always up for a discussion about their subject.

Finally, get involved. Attend the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing (ICCW) events, attend poetry readings and pub quizzes, go to the Summer Shows, or even take part in presenting at them, and get a job within the school like a Student Mentor or a Student Ambassador. I participated in all of these and regret none of it.