Third year undergraduate student Nathan Sadd writes on his experience of studying for a degree in History and Politics at the University of East Anglia
Prior to 2014, I had spent eight years making a career playing music whilst also working in the plastics industry- injection molding plastic enclosures. I had no idea why I was there, let alone where I was going. At the age of 17 I had decided that A-Levels were not for me, and that it would be brilliant instead to join a heavy metal band. So that’s what I did, and I thought it was very, very cool.
During my time in work, I became very aware that I was gravitating toward the kind of literature you don’t normally find in an industrial environment (unless you’re in early-twentieth century Russia…). I began reading history and political theory with great interest, keeping a book jammed into the top shelf of my tool-barrow, and spending any spare second flicking through the pages. Around 2011-2012 I began realising that I truly loved reading and learning. I realised I had taken on a lot of knowledge that I couldn’t use at work, and I knew I wanted to understand the world around me a bit better. I wasn’t exactly sure where I wanted it to take me, only that I wished to read more. So I began to study a few A-Levels- albeit in a very casual fashion.
It was around Summer/Autumn 2013 that I found out about the UEA History Bridge Course, and began to think that I might pursue higher education in earnest. I started thinking about a career change.
Doing a Bridge Course at UEA was absolutely instrumental in convincing me to move on to an undergraduate degree, and I began my first year at UEA in September 2014, in my late twenties. I was a bit apprehensive at first- worrying what it would be like as a mature student. Would I be cast aside and spend my degree in the darkest recesses of the library, rejected in a hermit-like solitude? Not so. The UEA has both a large population of ‘oldies’ like me, and is also one of the most welcoming and comfortable places I have ever been part of. The campus is nice and the students and staff are nicer.
While I initially started studying a History degree, I found that I was increasingly gravitating towards Politics modules. It was for this reason I switched to History and Politics in my second year. Looking back on the breadth of study I have undertaken in the past two years makes me appreciate just how much I have learnt. From Social and Political Theory, International Security, International Relations Theory, Political Science and Modern Middle East Studies, to Imperial Russian and Soviet History, The Age of Extremes 1918-2001, and Nationalism and Communism in Yugoslavia, I have already been given the chance to acquire deep understanding of global history and political theory.
In the summer following my second year, I was sitting on a pretty decent first-class score and was able to secure a Civil Service internship the Cabinet Office Crown Commercial Service (CCS). Over the past few years I have developed an interest in pursuing the Fast Stream graduate program which I am currently in the process of applying for. I was given the opportunity to spend the summer working in the CCS Policy team doing some really interesting research on current issues such as Brexit and the Steel Crisis, whilst working closely with Senior Civil Servants and the Cabinet Office. The opportunity to work in a policy environment was superb, and has confirmed my interest in pursuing a career in the Civil Service.
Balancing life/study has certainly been a challenge ( my partner gave birth to our son shortly before my first semester!) but with a lot of hard work things are beginning to pay off. As I begin planning my third year dissertation on the Russian 1900s, I am also considering moving onto postgraduate study in International Relations after my time at UEA. My scores have given me the option of applying to some top universities, and it is pretty exciting to think about some of the options that have opened up for me.
Taking a moment to think back over the last few years, it is amazing to me just how fundamental my time at UEA has been in completely changing my life. In 2013 I really had no serious idea about what I was doing or where I was going. Today I have a small happy family, and the tools with which I can move onto a new career- either in the Civil Service or academia. There is simply no way many of the opportunities I now have would have been possible if I hadn’t undertaken an undergraduate degree at UEA. At the risk of piling on excess cheese, it has engrained in me a sense of the absolute importance of education, and I’m really looking forward with a sense of purpose to the next few years.
I’m still touring in a touring heavy metal band too, and I still think it is cool.
Nathan Sadd is a third year student reading for an undergraduate degree in History and Politics.
Image Credit: Nathan Sadd