"Winning the Dean’s Award, and having the opportunity to represent the history department in Prague as one of the Award’s ambassadors drawn from across the Faculty of Arts and Humanities was a transformative experience for a number of reasons. On a personal level, having my academic achievement formally recognised has given me a tremendous sense of accomplishment and served to boost my confidence. Maintaining good grades throughout the year involves fully engaging with the subject and sources, as well as actively seeking out feedback from the lecturers and tutors; then putting in the extra work to assimilate all of this communicatively in coursework. This takes time and effort, and to have this lead to such a fantastic opportunity is extremely rewarding, not to mention a great motivational springboard from which to enter the all-important third year.
I was initially a little nervous about going on a trip with people I knew nothing about, as well as some imposingly titled university staff members. However, after the first short period of hesitant conversation, it became apparent that everyone was both friendly and interesting. Despite the What is History and Visual, Material, and Oral History modules making me aware of interdisciplinary aspects to history, I was really surprised at the level of blurring between many of the subjects represented. Not only was it great meeting students and staff with similar academic interests and passions, but it was really illuminating to hear about how each subject used and thought about the same theories historians employed. This experience challenged my preconceived ideas of other subjects, as well as making me think of different ways I can approach my own research. It also helped me place the relationship between the history department, faculty, and University into a better understood context. This last point is something I feel will be valuable whether I continue into further levels of education, or use similar experiences in a transferable manner in professional employment elsewhere.
The trip itself was fun, interesting, and really insightful. While all subject interests were catered for, Prague easily offered an overwhelmingly historical bias. As well as having privileged access to historic sites, such as the truly beautiful Strahov Monetary library, we were fortunate enough to have first-hand accounts from its Communist past. Having taken The Bipolar World module and researched the Velvet Revolution for an essay, seeing the key sites and talking to someone who had lived through it created an almost tangible connection between the two. This was a moving experience, and engendered further research aspirations. There were also ample opportunities to experience Czech culture and cuisine, and I am looking forward to visiting the country again soon.
The trip also led to developing inter-personal skills through a variety of great experiences, ranging from negotiating the city on Segways, having a beer and a BBQ while floating down the Vltava, and navigating the local nightlife; with the first reunion imminent, these experiences are set to continue, as well as create future networking opportunities."