Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Visit to City College Norwich

February 13th, 2010 · 1 Comment

My research is about the experiences of international students when studying in England. I am interested not only in hearing these experiences but also visiting the universities and places where these students spend their time. That is why, a few weeks ago, I arranged a meeting with Carolyn Fitzgerald, the International Student Adviser for City College Norwich. I wanted to ask her basic questions that an international student might have and at the same time have a chance to visit the College.

There are many things that I learnt while reading the CCN website. Firstly, I realized that the word ‘college’ does not have the same meaning in the UK than in America. ‘College’ in the UK constitutes the last two years of schooling, that is, high-school in America. At the same time, institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge University have ‘colleges’, which are constituent schools within the University. At first I panicked, thinking that I had chosen a place that would not help me with my research on international students pursuing an exchange the Higher Education system. Then, I realized that CCN in fact has both ‘Skill Academies’ (Financial Services, Manufacturing, Hospitality, Retail and Creative and Cultural) and Higher Education and foundation courses. Furtheremore, it has a significant number of international students.

City College Norwich is located on Ipswich Road, not far from the city centre. I arrived earlier than the time I was meeting Carolyn because I wanted to wander around the place for a while. The first thing that I could see is how different CCN is from UEA. I was surprised because the campus is much bigger than what I thought. There are many classrooms and the halls were filled with students. I definitely liked visiting CCN because it has a much more different feel than UEA, the same way UEA is very different to Cambridge University, as you will read about on my next post.

The meeting with Carolyn helped me enourmously. I feel most grateful that she gave me some of her time, especially when I am not even a student at CCN. She was very bussy that day. International students stop by her office constantly to ask for her advice on how to cope with student life, visa issues or financial matters, like a student from Ethiopia (I will keep his anonimity), who had a meeting with her right before me, and with who I started talking. Like most of the approximately fifty international students of CCN, this student had family, specifically his father, living in Norwich. This student chose to study at CCN, being much more affordable than UEA. After obtaining a two-year carer worker diploma, he is now pursuing a foundation degree on health studies. The best part is that my informat invited me to events where I will be able to interview other students from Ethiopia, Cambodia, Palestine, China and the Phillipines. Some are currently seeking refuge in England and are sent to Norwich and others from India and Sri Lank are recruited through an agent.

Further information on the experiences of international students and some other information that Carolyn provided me will be on the paper. For the meantime, I wanted to share a glimpse of what other educational institutions in England are like.

Hours: 4

Tags: Azul

A Stranger in Strangers’ Hall: When working in museums, make robots?

February 13th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Yesterday I offered to come in and help out at the museum, not really knowing what I would be doing. Strangers’ Hall for the past month or so has been having a “face-lift” aka conservation work done to it, among other things, so they have been closed to the public. The day I decided to come in and help out was definitely a whirl-wind day for the museum and I was glad I could be there to help!

I came into a place full of boxes, conservation equipment, paint buckets, school children, antiques, and my boss running around. This I have come to learn is normal for many museums, maybe not an everyday ritual, but definitely normal. After about an hour of running up and down stairs, following my boss around, and looking at antiques for a possible press release that was happening in about an hour, she decided it would not be the best idea to have the press come in that day. The press wanted to come in and take photos of either the conservation or the new activities planned for “half term” for the school groups. If the press came today, the museum would not have been at its most appealing, so it beat having to set up a “faux” childrens’ activities center in a half hour.

Instead, my boss plopped a big box down in front of me and said, “Make a robot.” From 8 years in working in museums, I can tell you I have never heard that in any of them. Apparently, the theme for the “half term” school events is ‘Spring Cleaning’ where they will be showing kids Victorian cleaning tools and teaching them about a servant’s day. The craft they wanted the kids to make though are I guess cleaning robots or machines, making some sort of invention. My job was to create a “robot” as an example among two other ones the staff made. Someone had made a washer with legs and someone else made some sort of Hoover. Staring at this empty box, I didn’t know what to make. After a few moments of looking through craft supplies, I decided to make some sort of trash converter with a conveyor belt and a screen. The end result was a “trash converter” that turns rubbish into food. Not one of my best art creations by far, but for coming up with something on the spot, I was pretty proud of myself.

This little project goes to show that anything is possible in museums. I think why I really enjoy working in museums is because there is always something exciting and different happening from day to day. Maybe it is not what most people would call, “living by the seat of their pants”, but I find it rather exciting. Now I am a bit curious to see what my next adventure at the museum has in store for me.

Hours logged: 3
Total hours: 5

Tags: Alli · Museums

A Stranger in Strangers’ Hall: The realization that I am one of the only volunteers under 60…

February 13th, 2010 · 1 Comment

For those of you who don’t know, I am volunteering at Strangers’ Hall, basically doing whatever odd jobs they have for me. My research paper is somewhat connected to my volunteer work in that I will be observing how small, local museums are run throughout Norwich, especially since many of them are run through one organization, the Norfolk Museum and Archaeological Services. Anyways, back to my day…

On Wednesday I went to a volunteer meeting at the Hall, since it had been closed for a month due to repairs, etc. From volunteering at a few museums before this one, I don’t know why but I always forget that I will always be one of the youngest volunteers. This case was no exception. I was the only volunteer there under 60 (not that I am complaining in the least, I love the company of a person from age 1 to 99). While sipping on my “cuppa”, I listened to their gripes and groans about CRB or the Criminal Records Bureau. Basically the CRB is a background check that allows you (or not) to work with children in any kind of setting. They were complaining about the fact that despite getting a CRB clearance for one museum or organization, you have to get an individual one for each place you have contact with children, which is obviously a pain. Getting this clearance also limits volunteers until they get cleared, so places oftentimes have trouble organizing events because of a lack of volunteers due to the CRB clearance. Unfortunately for me, like a few of you are also experiencing, I will not be able to directly help out with children activities because of how long the CRB takes. It just seems ridiculous to me that it both takes quite a while for a person to get cleared and that you have to get cleared for each place you work at. I learned that the CRB is a fairly recent development and I hope that in future years they will improve it immensely.

Another complaint I was listening to was the problems of running smaller museums through one large institution, like the Norfolk Museums and Archaeological Services. When having an organization like this, they oftentimes don’t focus on the individual needs of every museum but rather use similar regulations for all of them. Although a bit of a minor problem, the volunteers and staff were complaining about the hours the museum has to be open. Strangers’ Hall, although they are open until 4, want to have the guests out of the place by 4, thus having a final tour time. The museum takes at least 20-30 minutes to walk through its entirety (and I’d say that is rushing) so ideally it would be nice for the staffers to have everyone out by 4 and not have any stragglers coming in at 3:55 wanting a tour. Unfortunately, in order to even post a “last call” time, it has to be change by the NMAS, who regulates all the times. Sure those closing times might make sense for other smaller museums, but for Strangers’ Hall, which is a pretty large museum, it doesn’t quite work. This is obviously one of the problems of having so many smaller museums run by one larger entity.

On another note, it makes me sad though that there aren’t as many younger volunteers. Obviously I know that many young kids aren’t going to be as passionate about history and museums as I, but unless we get more youth involved, it will add to (I think, among other things) more museums dying out. In every single museum I’ve worked at, there has been a majority of elders who volunteer and run the place. And they are all so passionate about it. Yes I understand that many are retired and looking for something to do on the side, but why can’t youth consider doing this too? I think with having many older people running and regulating museums, they often lose touch of what might interest younger and future generations today. I hope for the future museums can find a way of balancing these two things in order for them to survive.

Hours logged: 1
Total Hours: 2

Tags: Alli · Museums