In this blog post, graduate Chloe Anderson considers her time at Portsmouth and its influence on her career. Chloe comes from the Falklands Islands originally, so is probably the student who has travelled the furthest to study history at Portsmouth. As she writes below, she is now putting her history training to good use back home. We’re pleased that she offered to put this together for us, as it’s lovely to keep in touch with our graduates and to be able to share their success stories. Whilst some aspects of our course structure have changed since Chloe studied with us, the essential aspects she discusses (our approach, the support and encouragement on offer, the options for different types of study and work contributing to the degree) remain true.
Looking back almost four years on from my own graduation, I have no hesitation in saying that the BA (Hons) English and History degree was a stepping stone for my career and getting me to where I am today.
This undergraduate degree was the main reason why I decided to study at University of Portsmouth. Doing a joint degree allowed me to combine my passion for both History and English Literature. The best aspect was that when it came to choosing subject units in second and third years I had more flexibility to either choose historical based topics or try something completely different; like American or Enlightenment literature. The subjects not only focused on important historical events or concepts but on research techniques. This encouraged different sources of information to be studied and covered various research methodologies. The joint History degree increased my confidence in my own abilities (having continuous deadlines and seminar preparation will do that for you!) and made the learning experience that more enjoyable.
Though arguably one of the most challenging parts of the course, the final year dissertation and low amount of contact hours really helped to develop my organisational, research and writing skills. Balancing numerous deadlines whilst analysing primary sources and searching the library for secondary sources, made sure that I planned my day in advance and set myself goals/targets to achieve. The essay-based assessments also meant that I learnt to plan what I would write and really analyse the different sources and research methods in order to provide a solid argument to whatever point I was making.
On a personal note the University of Portsmouth provided a great supporting environment to learn, socialize and develop as an individual. For those rare moments where I wasn’t surrounded by piles of books in the library or writing essays, I took the opportunity to volunteer at the local Archives. Volunteering is a great way for students to develop new skills, contribute to their community, and make new friends. It was invaluable in gaining the practical experience I needed to apply for my chosen Masters course at University College London. Equally rewarding was that it also contributed to my degree as I used it as the focus of the LiFE (Learning from Experience) unit which I undertook in my second year – a benefit of doing the course. Moreover, the contacts I made whilst volunteering have continued to support me throughout my professional career and have acted as referees and mentors.
For those who are thinking about doing the course, are currently undertaking it or, are about to graduate, I can assure you that the skills and experience developed throughout this undergraduate degree will set you up for the next stage of your life. Whether you are fortunate to know what career you want to pursue or not, the nature of this humanities degree opens up many opportunities and provides avenues to many job roles.
Following my undergraduate degree I went onto complete a Masters degree at UCL, fully funded by a Commonwealth Scholarship, and qualified as an Archivist and Records Manager in 2017 at age of 21. I have been privileged to work in institutions such as the British Library and Royal College of Surgeons to help preserve and provide access to their historical collections. I am now a Records Manager in the Falkland Islands Government working to formulate and develop records management processes and procedures. My biggest accomplishment has been to write and implement a records management policy and see first-hand how my work has helped improve how a public authority manages its records. I continue to be engaged in history as I also work in the Archives in the Island to digitise, catalogue and transcribe material, ensuring that the past can still be enjoyed and accessed by anyone.
In many ways the skills I developed at Portsmouth are an essential part of the work that I currently perform in the government. The chief among them being the ability: to prioritise various deadlines; to work with people as I conduct staff training and advocate for records management; to research and gather information from government files and databases; to write arguments succinctly when writing business cases, policies, guidance documents and reports; and even to reference when writing research papers. In the long term I hope to return to education once again to undertake a PhD and the research skills I utilized at Portsmouth and later in UCL, will be necessary for this.
If you are interested in this line of work have a look at: https://www.prospects.ac.uk/case-studies/records-manager-and-policy-officer-chloe-anderson-fmara
Much like the lyrics from Billy Joel’s infamous song ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’, history has been a burning passion and interest which I have carried with me throughout my academic and professional life. For those studying with the Portsmouth History team this will be the case for many. As an alumni I recommend that you experience the whole of what Portsmouth has to offer; the time goes quicker than you like but I can guarantee that what you do and learn will stay with you for life.