Shamim Chowdhury

Shamim is a journalist and enrolled on the Foundation Certificate in English Literature as she craved a new challenge.  

'Before starting the Foundation Certificate in English Literature I was working as a broadcast journalist for an international television news organisation. My career had entered something of a plateau and I felt I needed a new challenge. I had loved English Literature at school, and for many years regretted not having pursued it at university. The thought remained with me for many years, and at the back of my mind I always toyed with the idea of one day completing an English degree.

'Then, some years ago, I found myself searching the internet for part-time courses, and stumbled across the foundation course offered at Oxford University. As I looked through the course contents I realised this was exactly what I had been looking for. Many of the books, plays and poetry on the reading list were precisely what I wanted to study, and the times of the lectures fitted in perfectly with my job. I realised I could fit the course in very well around my lifestyle and that travelling to and from Oxford would also be reasonably straightforward. However, I was nervous because it had been such a long time since I was a student, so I told myself I would simply attend the open day, intended to explain to prospective candidates exactly what the course entailed, and just take it from there.  

'The rest, as they say is history, and I haven’t regretted my decision for one moment. I thoroughly enjoyed everything we studied in the first year, from Dickens to the Victorian poets to Edmund Spenser and Shakespeare. I knew I would most likely never have read these texts had I not enrolled on the course and they opened up a whole new world.  However, I did find the course very challenging and there were times when I panicked about the sheer amount of work I had to get through, but during those times I simply reminded myself that this was exactly the kind of challenge I was looking for.

'After completing the first year I had to defer the second year because I was offered a job in Turkey. I am now entering the final stretch of the course and still loving every moment, even though it is still as challenging as ever! In the second year I have particularly enjoyed learning about theories such as colonialism, Marxism and structuralism and understanding how these can be applied to literature. The most enjoyable part of the course is reading books, plays and poems that in all likelihood I would not have otherwise read. But it’s not just the reading. I love how studying them on a deeper level, looking at broader themes within which they were written and learning about new approaches to literature within an academic framework.

'Having said all of that, at this moment in time, I don’t intend to pursue studying English Literature after I’ve completed this course. Instead, I will continue with my career as a journalist. For me this course was never really meant to be a stepping stone towards a career change. I took it up purely for the sake of pursuing something I’d loved for a very long time. I pursued it just for pleasure because I believe that is reason enough to do anything. That is why it’s been such an emotionally and intellectually fulfilling experience.

'For anyone who is planning to study this course, I would say go for it, but if you want to get the most out of it, you really have to dedicate a decent amount of time for all the reading and studying. You should also do a fair amount of reading around the material you are studying, not just the primary texts themselves. That way you will really get the most out of the course. Also, don’t get frustrated if you don’t grasp certain concepts immediately. That is the whole point of learning, and when you persevere and things eventually click, it’s the best feeling in the world!'

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BBC Radio Oxford

On Tuesday, 15th January 2019, four of our students, including Shamim, spoke to BBC Radio Oxford's David Prever on the station's Breakfast Programme about their experience of Continuing Education. The interview coincided with the formation of a new Commission dedicated to the furtherance of adult education, which met for the first time at Balliol College the previous week. 

Joing Caroline: Sue Brearley, Shamim Chowdhury, Caroline Withall and Richard Broadbridge, along with our Director, Professor Jonathan Michie.