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The Power of Studying the Past: A Q&A with a history student at UNE

When it comes to the past, there’s always more to learn — and there’s no better way to sharpen your research skills and broaden your knowledge of history than a certified course offering formal qualifications.

Inside History readers are a diligent bunch, but of all the history and genealogy courses they tell us about, one institution tends to receive particularly rave reviews from our community: the University of New England (UNE).

To investigate why UNE is such a special place to study history, Sarah Trevor gets the inside scoop from Kim Harris, a current student at the University of New England. She fills us in on what she’s gained from studying the past — and what you can gain, too.

IH: How long have you been studying?
Kim: I have been studying the Graduate Certificate in Arts for a year.

IH: What drew you to studying with UNE in particular?
Kim: I was drawn to studying at UNE by the Bachelor of Historical Inquiry and Practice (BHIP), which I completed in October last year. I liked the range of units that it offered and the freedom of not having to choose a major. I was also interested in the core units that it offered, which focused on historiography and developing key skills in research and critical thinking as a historian.

IH: What made you decide to undertake a graduate certificate?
Kim: I made the decision to complete a Graduate Certificate of Arts in the last year of my undergraduate degree so that I could continue my studies in Latin and Ancient Greek before undertaking an Honours year in Classics.

IH: Do you study on campus or off campus?
Kim: I have been studying on campus at UNE for four years now and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I like having immediate access to the library and other resources available on-campus.

However, I have found the best part about being an on-campus student is having the opportunity to attend face-to-face lectures and engage with academics and other students who have a shared passion for history.

IH: What are you hoping to pursue career-wise once you’ve completed your Graduate Certificate?
Kim: After completing my Graduate Certificate, I intend to do Honours and a PhD in Classics. I am hoping this will lead to a career as an academic — I would love to teach Latin and Ancient History at a tertiary level!

IH: What subjects/majors are you currently studying?
Kim: I’m currently completing a major in classical languages, doing units in both Latin and Ancient Greek.

IH: How are you finding history?
Kim: I am loving it. It is certainly not without its challenges, but I am glad that I chose to continue my studies in history beyond high school.

IH: Had you studied history before undertaking this Graduate Certificate?
Kim: Yes. I studied history all through high school and completed both ancient history and extension history for the HSC.

I have also completed a BHIP, which allowed me to studying a range of historical periods, including medieval and early European history and Australian history — as part of my historical inquiry core units I did some case studies covering topics such as World War I, the Kokoda campaign and the rise of feminism and democratic history in Australia —though I largely focused on ancient Greece and Rome.

Image courtesy State Library of Victoria.
Image courtesy State Library of Victoria.

IH: What’s been your favourite history unit so far and why?
Kim: I’ve been able to undertake so many interesting units in my time at UNE. My favourite so far was probably an ancient history unit on the Roman family.

I really engaged with this unit because it was an opportunity to look at history with a focus on members of society, including women, children and slaves, who are sometimes overlooked.

I also enjoyed being able to explore everyday aspects of Roman culture to see similarities and differences in our own social customs and behaviour.

IH: What’s been the highlight of your studies so far?
Kim: I’ve so far studied a year of Ancient Greek as part of my Graduate Certificate and it has been amazing to be able to explore such a different and complex language. The most incredible part of learning a language like Ancient Greek is reading the original texts of ancient authors, which is something I never believed would be possible before I started my degree.

IH: What are some skills you’ve developed throughout your Graduate Certificate?
Kim: During my Graduate Certificate I have explored a range of methods for studying a new and difficult language effectively. By employing these methods, I have developed skills in reading and translation. Learning another language has also helped to strengthen my understanding of English grammar and further develop my writing skills.

IH: Have you undertaken any research projects for any of your units?
Kim: Yes, I completed a minor humanities research project as part of my undergraduate degree. It involved working with a supervisor to choose my own research topic and create a question which I could base my reading and analysis on. This was an enriching experience and gave me insight into how a larger research project, such as an Honours year, might look.

It was during this project, which assessed the various perceptions of Augustus’ wife, Livia, that I decided I wanted to continue my Classical Language studies and undertake further postgraduate studies to develop my skills as a researcher.

A cast of a portrait of Livia. Image courtesy Giovanni Dall'Orto and Wikimedia.
A cast of a portrait of Livia. Image courtesy Giovanni Dall’Orto and Wikimedia.

IH: Why do you think it’s important to undertake formal tertiary study in history?
Kim: Undertaking the study of history at a tertiary level is important for developing skills in writing and research, as well as critical thinking.

I believe that studying history can go beyond knowing what happened in the past and that these skills can be a huge benefit to students, even those not necessarily intending to pursue a career in history.

I also think that it is important to understand how and why things have happened in the past so that we can progress and make a difference in the future.

IH: What do you like most about studying at UNE?
Kim: I like the opportunities UNE has on offer for its students. As part of my time at UNE I have been involved in tutoring first year Latin students, to provide an additional avenue of support for them while strengthening my own skills.

In 2015 I was also lucky enough to be able to do some work experience at the Museum of Education, within UNE’s Heritage Centre, and I am currently completing a project in the Museum of Antiquities.

I also appreciate having the opportunity to learn in smaller class groups, and being able to really get to know your lecturers and fellow students. This makes for a very supportive environment which I believe is essential for a rural university.

IH: Would you recommend UNE for other students interested in studying history?
Kim: I would absolutely recommend UNE to students who are interested in studying history. In the four years that I have been at UNE I have had so much support from academics across the School of Humanities who are always willing to give their time to answer questions or give advice.

There is also an incredibly supportive community of students studying history, ancient history and classics at UNE which I feel privileged to be a part of.

I have also been lucky enough to be involved in the formation of UNE’s Classics Association which is now officially up and running. For me, this really demonstrates that the community is only getting stronger and would be a great environment for anyone wishing to study history at UNE.

Image courtesy State Library of Victoria.
Image courtesy State Library of Victoria.

This is the first part in a blog series about studying history at UNERead the other two instalments here:


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