What is it Like to Study Classics & Ancient History?
In a few years you might look back on your time at university and think "that's all ancient history now". But before you decide what to study, check out some real life stories of students who studied Classics & Ancient History at university.
Click the names below to read their stories, or simply scroll through:
- Will – Ancient History at the University of Bristol
- Joe – Ancient Mediterranean Civilisations at the University of Edinburgh
- George – Italian and Classics at the University of Edinburgh
- Dot – Classics at the University of Edinburgh
20 year old Will studies a BA in Ancient History at the University of Bristol. Having lived in the country all his life, Will took a year out to travel the world prior to university, in order to gain some valuable life experience before moving to the largest city in the South of England, outside London.
What inspired you to study a Classics & Ancient History degree?
I suppose it was just my natural questioning instinct. I was always aware of this quite abstract and broad term of “Romans” or “Greeks”, but had never really gone beyond that vague label. I wanted to know 'who are these mysterious cultures, and why are they relevant to me?' What I have found is that these topics are as enigmatic as they are interesting.
The very foundations of so many modern concepts lie in these cultures, but what make it more thrilling and beautiful are those concepts which are now alien to us, like the religious systems, the slavery, the unashamed debauchery. I have a thirst for knowing, and so what better project to fill my time than a field where so much is translucent and still up for debate.
Why did you choose to study at your university?
Bristol is just spot on. It’s the right mixture of academia and leisure. The clubbing scene is unmissable, just as the old buildings, libraries and museums are too.
Landmarks like the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Will’s Memorial remind you every day that you are studying and living, in so many senses, in a truly historic and yet progressive city.
What do you like about the course?
With a course like Ancient History, you have got to love the subject, and that helps bring a bit of esotericism to the degree, that is, the idea that the few who are there are there for a reason, and that I know interesting and obscure facts about the archaic world which i can then pass on to others.
What are you learning about?
In First Year I did units on Rome’s transition, Roman and Greek Literature, Roman Religions, Alexander the Great and Ancient India. It is a veritable smorgasbord of history.
What learning methods does your department employ?
Apart from this we have lectures, which offer a broad stroke over a topic, suggesting reading and research, and then follow up seminars which go into aspects of the lecture in more detail, and in considerably smaller groups. This allows contact with others on your course which opens doorways to new friendships or interesting discussion.
What aspects of the course do you find difficult? Does the department support you well?
Knowledge is not going to be handed to you at higher education, and so when I thought I was behind on base knowledge I just read up on a topic.
How do you fund your studies?
Apart from that, my rent comes from my student loan, and I work in all holidays in order to make money for going out and leisure activities.
What about the social side of things at university, does a Classics & Ancient History student find much time for it? What sort of things do you get up to?
There is a Classics & Ancient History society, which arranges social activities like movie nights and bar crawls. The small seminar groups have allowed me to make some pretty sturdy friendships with fellow Ancient Historians, and so I would say it is a very social course.
What do you plan to do once you’ve graduated? If you’re moving on to postgraduate study please tell us about your career ambitions as well.I have always felt like writing television would be amazing. Things like Peep Show, The Office and countless others have impacted so much on my life recently, and if I could wield the power to make others feel as happy as those shows have made me I would be a happy man.
How has your department supported your career aspirations?
This I believe is essential for a person in the writing world. No one wants to re-read the same book, re-study the same ideas, re-experience the same old thoughts or the same old formulaic TV programme. Variety is required to keep us satisfied.
Joe is studying Ancient Mediterranean Civilisations (MA Hons) at the University of Edinburgh. He says "I am a generalist by nature so the breadth of my course, as well as it being a Joint Honours between Archaeology and Classical Studies, suits me particularly well."
What inspired you to study a course in Classics?
I had a firm grounding in Classical Studies, having taken it up to Advanced Higher in school at Madras College, St Andrews. It was always the subject I was the most passionate about, so this degree was perfect for me.
Why did you choose to study at Edinburgh?
The city of Edinburgh is incredible, with so much culture and history, and more importantly with a wonderful atmosphere of relaxed liberality which makes you feel at home straight away. There was really no other place that I wanted to go.
What do you like about the course and your university?
The whole university milieu is unbelievable, and if I had my way (or the money!) I probably would have spent the rest of my days studying a host of diverse undergraduate degrees and squeezing the most out of what university has to offer.
What about the social side of things at university?There is almost too much extra-curricular activity available through societies and sports teams alone, never mind Edinburgh as a whole. I have tried out many diverse societies in the last four years, from the Cheese Society, Canoe Club, Underwater Hockey and Opera Singing to History Society.
I have mainly been in the Chillout Society, and am now Treasurer. This society has allowed me to learn massage, and I am soon to get a qualification and begin teaching.I have also joined, and put a lot of work in to, SHRUB Co-operative, a new not-for-profit swap and re-use hub that works in various ways towards reducing the massive quantities of waste generated by the transient student population. I have recently been elected to a second tenure on the Board of Directors at our AGM. The opportunities this enterprise has opened up to me are too many to list here!
What do you plan to do once you’ve graduated?Luckily, there are a lot of options open to graduates of Edinburgh, even in a tough economy like our current one (touch wood!) I have been exploring the idea of doing an English-taught Master’s degree in a Nordic country. However, I am also thinking about applying for internships or graduate jobs in the third sector, where I can work towards something positive and feel a valuable part of a team.
Really I am focussing on my final year, and not worrying too much about life post-graduation: "You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present" as Marcus Aurelius used to counsel himself!
George is in his fourth and final year of a joint degree in Italian and Classics (MA Hons) at the University of Edinburgh. He spent the previous year in Italy on an Erasmus exchange, where he studied both Italian and Classics courses at Bologna University.
What inspired you to study Classics?
A couple of study trips to Rome and Pompeii, and two Italian exchanges gave me the chance to see Italy in the flesh. When I finished school, I still felt Classics had more to offer me, so I opted to study it at university where I could continue to enjoy working with this other language I'd grown to know and love.
Why did you choose to study at Edinburgh?I grew up in Edinburgh and went to primary school here, so always felt a strong affinity for the city. I actually applied to Oxbridge as well, but my heart was never really in it and they weren't happy about my joint degree application.
Edinburgh was accommodating enough to allow me to study a joint degree without any problems, far enough from home to be exciting, and diverse/interesting/fun enough to want to spent a good deal of my time here. In retrospect, I would have applied to nowhere else had I known what Edinburgh had to offer me.
What do you like about the course and your university?
In the last four years I've made new friends for life, done so many new things that I never thought I'd be able to do, studied languages I enjoy to a level I feel privileged to have been offered the opportunity, fallen in love, performed in concerts great and small; there's too much to count...
What about the social side of things at university?
I also joined the Untapped Talent Society (for forming and playing with bands) in first year, the Ballroom Dancing Society in second year, and played with two university-based production companies in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011. And I wouldn't have changed a thing.
Extra-curricular activities have helped lighten the load of academic work and made for a more complete and enjoyable university experience.
What do you plan to do once you’ve graduated?
Somewhere down the line I'd like to come back to the UK to teach Classics to young people, to give them the same chance to experience the amazing things that I had.
Dot is reading Classics at the University of Edinburgh. She loves learning new languages and reading literature, so Classics seemed like the perfect combination for her.
What inspired you to study Classics at Edinburgh?Choosing Classics meant I was able to fulfil my dreams of reading Homer in Greek and Virgil in Latin.
I come from North Yorkshire and I chose Edinburgh University as I'd heard from students that the Classics department was fantastic. As Edinburgh is famed for being the Athens of the North, what better place to study Classics! From Arthur's Seat to Princes Street, the city itself is a beautiful and inspiring place to study and live.This summer I spent a month at the British School at Athens, meaning that I got to visit ancient sites in Athens and the Peloponnese and talk to archaeologists, architects and lecturers. I was able to see sites that are closed to the public, walk round the interior of the Parthenon and run in the stadium at Olympia.
What do you like about the course and your university?I've loved being part of such a warm, friendly and supportive department and learning from lecturers who have expert subject knowledge.
I've also enjoyed studying here as, inside and outside of the Classics department, I've made friends for life.
What about the social side of things at university?In term time, I enjoy running in the Meadows and Holyrood Park and I'm part of PhotoSoc. Their workshops and trips give me a chance to be creative and meet other photography fans.
The society is also helping me to hone my photography skills for the next time I want to capture an ancient site.