university life

Comfort food always helps in a crisis, so here’s a very cheap recipe to keep you going.

IMG_2953

Hello everyone.

As we struggle with the uncertainty and disruption to normal life that the Coronavirus pandemic has brought I thought it might be nice to share some basic ways to cope with isolation and a reduction in social interactions.

I am staying at home as much as possible but have stocked up (sensibly, not by panic buying) on the basics for everyday life. I love to cook and have been cooking since my teens but I recognise that quite a few of my students either don’t cook or can’t cook. When you are relying on takeaways and ready meals a crisis like this can look even more daunting.

So, starting today I thought I’d post a series of simple meals that anyone can make (so long as they’ve access to a kitchen that is!). If anyone else from the History team at Northampton wants to get involved and post their own recipes, the more the merrier! Who knows by the end of the crisis we might have enough for our own recipe book 🙂

Today’s is one of the simplest soups know to mankind – leek and potato. It is tasty, healthy, and super easy to make. It will take you 30-45 minutes so within an hour you’ve got a great healthy (and very cheap) lunch or light supper.

Drew’s Leek and potato soup 

IMG_2965

You will need: 

One gas or electric hob ring.

A largish saucepan.

a chopping board and sharp knife.

A blender if possible (stick blenders like this one are ideal). NB don’t worry if you can’t blend your soup, it’s lovely as it is. IMG_2961

1 large leek

1 medium sized onion

1 large or 2 medium sized potatoes

About 1 litre of vegetable stock (made by adding boiling water to a veggie stock cube) – you can use chicken stock if you prefer but it won’t be vegan or veggie.

About a tablespoon of olive oil (you can use sunflower or vegetable oil just as well) and/or a large knob of butter. (Butter will make this richer but its not vegan).

Salt and pepper and (if possible) a bay leaf or two (these are easy to get from the shops and last for ages so they won’t go off).

Wash your hands !!!

Ok, to start with peel and roughly chop your onion . It doesn’t have to be too fine. Then slice the leek lengthways and separate the layers. You can now wash it under the tap holding on to the end where the root is. Make sure you get all the dirt out.

Now chop the leek in to slices about 1cm think. Again, don’t be too worried about perfection here!

IMG_2955

Finally peel and chop the potato (above) into 1-2cm sized pieces.

 

 

You’re now ready to cook. 

Hate the oil and/or butter in the saucepan and quickly add your onion. Don’t have the heat too high, you want to gently soften the onion not burn it. When it is beginning to look a little translucent add the leeks. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until the leeks look nice and soft and have reduced down in the pan. Stir them from time to time so they don’t burn.

Now add the chopped potatoes, stir so everything gets nicely mixed together and pour in the stock.

IMG_2958

Add some salt (a large pinch should do it), a grind of black pepper, and a bay leaf or two.

IMG_2959

Bring to a gentle boil, turn the hurt down and simmer for about 20-25 minutes.

The idea is to make sure everything is cooked, the leeks and onion are soft, and the potato is beginning to break up. Test it with a spoon (right). IMG_2962

The soup is now pretty much ready to eat. You can taste it (be careful it will be very hot – potato really retains its heat – so wait a few minutes) and add some more salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

Take out the bay leaf (you can eat them but they aren’t nice to eat!)

At this point you can ladle it in bowls and eat but I prefer it blended so take it away from the heat, let it cool for five more minutes and attack it with a stick blender.

Be careful that the head of the blender is always under the liquid or you will pebbledash your kitchen (and yourself) with hot soup!

Once you’ve blended it for a few minutes it will be mostly smooth but check for escaped potato cubes. If you want to be really fancy you can pass it through a large sieve for super smoothness.

IMG_2964

Now all you need is a bowl (or two or three if you are feeding others), a spoon, and perhaps some bread. This recipe will make enough for 3-4 hungry people so you can either eat seconds or let it cool, cover, and keep it in the fridge and have for lunch tomorrow or the next day.

Enjoy!

Drew

oh, and when you’ve done…wash your hands again.

 

 

 

 

Farewell Park and Avenue (and hello Waterside!)

IMG_6199

On Wednesday this week I will be moving into my open office space in the Learning Hub at the University of Northampton’s new Waterside Campus. I’m pretty excited about the change because I’ve been down to Waterside and it looks fantastic. In fact it has exceeded my hopes so far and I hope and believe that this is going to really place Northampton on the university map.

But it wouldn’t be right to make this change without looking back at the time I’ve enjoyed at Park (and Avenue) campus over the years. For me its been quite a journey as well; I arrived on Park campus in September 1996 as one of the first new freshers on Nene College’s new BA History degree.

I’d decided (at 33) to finally get around to taking the History degree I should have taken at 18 had ‘life’ not interfered with my A levels. I was certainly older than some of the tutors and many (but not all) of my peer group. We were a good year I think – not too many troublemakers and mostly hard workers. We had no e-books then, no access to journals online either, so everything we read we read in the library or were given by the lecturers (who must have spent half their lives photocopying!).

I haunted the library because it was easier to work there than at home in my shared house. Eventually they must have taken pity on me because they gave me a job. Now I was stacking shelves and soon issuing books at the counter (yes, there were no automatic issue machines then folks). I also got a job at Waterstone’s in town so I had my book supply completely covered!

I got involved in other things at university, did some volunteering at the local school, interviewed the VC (Professor Gaskill) for the SU magazine, but mostly I studied. That paid off because I graduated with a first class degree.

I’d been inspired by the tutors that taught me, one of whom (Cathy Smith) is still here, as Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Education and Humanities. Cathy, Peter King and Elizabeth Hurren encouraged me to stay on and  do a PhD. I finished that in 2006 and became one of the first year of new doctorates awarded by the University of Northampton. Previously degrees had been awarded by the University of Leicester but now we had the power to confer our own.

So in my time I’ve seen Northampton go from being a HE college to a University College to a full blown university. And in 2006 Sally Sokoloff (the head of History) employed me on a part time basis to teach history. From student to tutor in 10 years!

I’ve seen the departure of some brilliant historians – Peter King, Matthew Seligmann and Matthew Hughes (now at Brunel), Elizabeth Tingle, Elizabeth Hurren (at Leicester), Tim Meldrum (who gave up history for business), Heather Shore (professor at Leeds Beckett), Matthew Feldman (fighting the good fight against the far right) and many others.

All of them have come and gone but the ethos in the history department remains the same as it was when I started as a student. Everyone is enthusiastic about their area of history, and they bring that into the classroom. Everyone cares about the students they teach. And (and this is unusual in academic departments) we all get on.

IMG_6251

Waterside is exciting but it is also challenging. It is a very different environment to the place we know so well. We won’t have offices like we have been used to, we’ll have to work harder to connect with each other and our students. But I’m very confident we’ll manage that and continue to deliver an excellent set of modules at undergraduate and masters levels.

So, farewell Park and Avenue and thank you for helping me find what it is I really like doing. I wasn’t sure what that was at 33 but 22 years (OMG!) later I’m delighted not only to be teaching in the History department but also to be leading it. And if you are starting a History degree with us this September then just think, you could be wearing my shoes someday. Well, you never know eh?

Drew Gray

Top Tips for New University Students: From a Soon to be Second Year History Student

University is hard, and it’s hard to know how to prepare for it. To help, here are my top tips for new students. I made these tips from lessons I learnt from my first-year experience.

1. Know how much money you have.

Emma Tyler 5

I know this sounds simple but it is very important. Before coming to university, I would advise every student to have a conversation with their parents or guardians about how much money the student has with their maintenance loan and whether their parents can give support financially on top of that.

Remember, every student’s situation is different.

Also, make sure you remember to do your student finance at the end of each year, you don’t want to get to 2nd year and have no money: Student Finance England

 

2. Use social media

Before I came to university, I joined the University’s Fresher’s Page: University of Northampton New Students. This meant I could ask questions to staff members easily and also meant I found other people doing a history degree.

We created a Facebook group chat of every history student we found so we could get to know each other a bit.

Social media can also be used to get to know the history department, such as following lectures on Twitter or by reading posts on this history blog. Here is a link to the Fresher’s group for this year University of Northampton Freshers Facebook Page

 

3. Write lists

If you’re moving to go to university and are living in halls, lists are essential when packing. Before I moved, I walked around my parents’ kitchen writing down any utensils that I thought might be useful.

Emma Tyler Blog

Even if you’re staying at home while you’re studying, make a list of stationary you might need, documents you need to print out for enrollment and what you need to do before classes start.

Asking parents or friends to help with this can make it less daunting, and means they can suggest items which you may not have thought of.

 

4. Get involved in Welcome Week

Welcome week is your first week at university after enrollment, and you’ll be given a welcome week timetable for history students. Welcome Week includes activities where you can meet other people on the course and the lecturers.

You will also be visited by students in other year groups and those from the History Society.

Emma Tyler Blog 2

Welcome Week is also when university led activities such as Fresher’s Fest and the society fair are held. Welcome week really helps you get used to university and makes classes less scary, so I would definitely make the most of it. Here’s what was on offer in my year: Guide to Welcome Week

 

5. Classes themselves

TV and movies paint a picture of university which is confusing, and I had no idea what classes were going to be like. This isn’t really a top tip, but a clarification.

Seminars are like A Level classes, there is work set which has to be done before the class and it is a group discussion.

Lectures are much more formal, as it is where lecturers teach you the content for the seminar the following week. It’s in lectures that notes are important.

Our university is moving towards more blended types of learning where the distinction between lectures and seminars are less obvious, but there will always be times to listen and times to interact.

Emma Tyler 4

Note taking can differ from module to module, depending on the style of a lecturer’s presentation, the assessment type or how comfortable you are on the topic. You will find how you best make notes with, but the History Society will be holding events to help students with this throughout the year.

 

6. Weird Feelings

Stressed student holding books, anxious, anticipation of finals

To finish up this blog post, I’m going to list some of the stages and feelings I’ve had during my first year. This means that you know that if you have them, they’re normal:

Title Translation
Am I ready for this? This was the week before university, when I was wondering if I was ready to move out or if I was ready to have adult responsibilities like buying toilet paper.
Where am I? Who is this? What is this? Campus is huge and it feels different to how it does on open days. Luckily, there’s a map on the Northampton app if you need it. This year, we’ll all be lost as it’s a new campus so don’t worry.
This feels like a school trip. I genuinely thought that university felt like a school residential trip for about 2 months. There’s no real explanation for this, it’s just kind of an odd feeling.
Wait I’m going home again? I had this when I went home for the Christmas break, when I had to adjust to human sleeping hours and not having the library on my doorstep. The first holiday at home is the hardest, and your relationship will change with your family if you live away from home. (Don’t worry though, it happens to everyone).
Okay I think I’m getting the hang of this. This is when you feel like you know the way to class, you know how to write an essay and you know how to adult. Everything is good.
I can’t… I just can’t deal with exams. They come around quicker than you think, and I made the mistaken of not having good notes. Revise little and often, get help from your lectures and please remember to turn up to them.
Now what? First year finishes after exams (unless you do resits) so you now have 4 months to kill. Have fun with it!

Good luck to all new university students and if you’re coming to study history at Northampton, see you in the next academic year.

Emma Tyler, BA Hons History Student, University of Northampton