Studying Media in England and Loving It.

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English: Quadrangle, Newcastle University Cate...
The Quadrangle, my favorite part in the campus.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been in Newcastle, England, for two weeks now. I’m an exchange student and although this title would imply I am doing some serious studying, I’ve been pretty much spending my days as a tourist. No, I have not skipped school- Newcastle University has one great week of introductory meetings and lectures for international students, followed by a week of total freedom to roam the streets of the “Toon” (Newcastle) and go to their numerous day trips outside town. So all I did for two weeks was to get accustomed to the campus and the town, figured out where to get this and that, visit York, and had chips on the Tynemouth beach. As awesome as all this might sound, you get really tired after a while. At least I did. I really wanted to start school, which is exactly what happened this week.

So after some good pondering about what courses I should take I decided to study in the Media and Communication department. I would have been allowed to take one course (out of three) in another department, and I considered Literature, but it so happened that what I would have liked either clashed with my schedule or had pre-requisites. So Media it is! Now for the weird part…

Four or five years ago I can say I was living under a rock. I didn’t watch TV unless it was documentary I was interested in. I didn’t really read papers (it took some time until I learned Swedish but by then the habit had been lost). I somehow navigated my way through life without watching news or being particularly interested in media. But somehow, I realized later, news found their way to me. It could have been the Internet, talking with friends who would bring up the subjects, passing paper stands, or listening to the radio while cooking. Even though I made no minimal effort to read what the hell was going on in the world, I was still vaguely aware of the most important events. Was media so sneaky that it had squeezed under my rock? Well, yeah. Obviously. And once I was aware of that, I became interested not only in reading media but I especially wanted to know how the information was reaching me despite my best efforts. Even after I picked up the habit to read my news online on BBC and CNN, I was still subjected to things like the Kardashians, weird celebrity gossip I didn’t care about, or music I wouldn’t torture my worst enemy with (wouldn’t you like to know who I’m thinking at here). And trust me, they don’t cover the Kardashians, who sleeps with who, or Bieber (opsy!) on BBC. This idea that no matter what I did, I was still subjected to media and that this was out of my control made me feel quite manipulated and it seriously worried me.

Cultural studies students at Newcastle University on an ordinary day…

Then, last year, some courses at my home university were focusing on cultural studies. I would have never picked them up myself but I had to take them as they were part of my programme and I am so glad they did. It was like I had been asleep and just woke up. Studying media made me so much more aware of how society is shaped by it, and more importantly how I am influenced at a conscious level or not. So yep, besides literature I really like getting my share of university credits in cultural studies. And here I am, in England, studying the very things that years ago left me indifferent: Advertisement and Consumption, Themes and Issues in Contemporary Media, and Globalization and National Identity. Sounds complicated? It is, in a way. But once you get it, once you understand the message, it’s like a veil has been lifted from your eyes. I mean…I see things so differently, and more importantly I read literature differently, which is going to be such a great help next term when I will have my dissertation.

It’s funny how people change their attitudes to different things like literature, fashion, media, or education. I would have never thought twice about a Marks and Spencer advert; now I could probably write an essay about it (which I will have to eventually). I guess they’re right when they say that knowledge is power…

At this point I’m just glad I ended up in a country I really dreamed of studying in, with people that are very nice and welcoming, studying things I’m passionate about. I know I once said I will blog here about books and education, and I’m aware that the latter never really happened. So as I see things now, there will be lots and lots on education in the next months.


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