17th September

6. Follow your interests

One last thing, Hannah - it is important to get involved in things outside the seminar room or the lecture theatre.

I know it's harder now because students have to work as well as study. But get involved in the student societies, or the student newspaper or things going on locally in terms of campaigns, or be active in the student union. Those things can be life-defining, the beginning of something that will be important for the rest of your life. It's true for people I've known. When I was a student there was a guy in the year below me called Rob Stringer. He studied sociology. He was a truly awful student - shocking, by his own admission. Rob loved music and partying and as an extension of his twin passions he was elected the student union social sec. He organised gigs and events but being involved in the union was the start of something for him. He went on to work in the record business initially as an A&R person (artists and repertoire) developing new acts. Now he's very high up in Sony/BMG and one of the most powerful figures in the music industry. But it all began for him in the Goldsmiths Union. It doesn't matter if you think working for Sony is a good or a bad thing, what matters, I think, is realising that really useful knowledge can be learned in all sorts of places and not just found on your course reading lists.


Finally, let me try and sum up. Take time to read, think and
doubt. Ask questions and get feedback. The time invested is never wasted because you are investing in learning to think for yourself. This will give you more than just good grades: it will help you establish your own commitments and bearing in life. Make sure that you attend all your lectures and seminars and be present in them physically and intellectually. Many students just don't turn up even though the cost to them is high financially and academically. Listen hard and with care but don't be gagged by the seeming grandeur of clever people. It shouldn't take long to see that even the most brilliant lecturer is in fact all too human with the same weaknesses and foibles as anyone else.

"The external view is that the university is radical: the internal reality is that it is conservative."
Kerr, Clark (1963)

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27 September