Amy Fox

Writer. Editor. Bad at blogging.


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Concrete: UEA to defer Syrian students’ fees

The University has said that it will be deferring fees “where possible” for Syrian students that are struggling financially, but it will not waive fees altogether despite a petition of almost 300 signatures.

SyriaSyrians protest Assad’s regime in Times Square, NYC last March. Photo: Flickr / asterix611.

Pro-vice-chancellor Prof. Nigel Norris met with representatives of the Union of UEA Students (UUEAS) and Syrian students to discuss the matter last Friday (22/3). The students have been assured that they will not be automatically expelled if they are unable to pay.

A statement from the University said: “All cases will be looked at individually and fee deferrals agreed where possible. A member of staff from the Dean of Students’ office is meeting each of the affected students individually and discussing appropriate options and support with them.”

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Concrete: Police warn of potential thefts over Easter

Home Run is asking students to remove any letting agency billboards from outside their houses during the Easter period.

Police warn of potential thefts over Easter

Photo: Albert Bridge

Norfolk Constabulary have warned the Union of UEA Students that previous years have seen an increased number of break-ins during the Easter holidays.

The Union’s Student Support Services manager Jo Spiro said: “Billboards with ‘Student Properties – Rooms to Let’ are an easy way for opportunistic thieves to decide which house might be easy to break into and where they might find multiple laptops and TVs.

“If your house will be empty over Easter ask your landlord or agent if you can temporarily remove the billboard.”

For more advice and information go to ueastudent.com/housing.


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Concrete: Chief executive resigns from Union

The Union’s chief executive Derek Bowden has announced that he will be resigning from his position in order to start a new job at Essex County Cricket Club.

In a statement released on 4 February, the Union stated: “The Trustee Board would like to thank Derek for his hard work during his 18 months in charge, particularly with regard to the reduction in the organisation’s budget deficit.

“The date of Derek’s departure will be confirmed once a successful handover to an interim Chief Executive can be arranged.

Bowden will be taking up the post of chief executive at Essex County Cricket Club early in the season, which officially begins on 10 April.

Speaking to essexcricket.org.uk, he said: “I’m really looking forward to joining the team at Essex and working with them to create the success that Essex Cricket deserves.”

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Concrete: University refuses to fly Pride flag

The Union of UEA students has said that it feels “great disappointment” over a decision by UEA not to fly the Pride flag in February to mark the beginning of LGBT+ History Month.

In an open letter of response to the University’s decision, LGBT+ officer Richard Laverick said the Union felt that flying the flag “would send a clear message to LGBT+ students, staff and visitors, that they are most welcome and can expect to be treated equally and respectfully on campus. Furthermore it would strengthen its commitment to ensuring the safety and rights of its students, regardless of sexuality or gender identity. Finally it would signal to all people its unwavering stance against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.”

In the Union’s LGBT+ student experience survey last year, 83% said they wanted the University to fly the flag. Other institutions to do so in previous years include the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich City Council, Norwich Castle, East Anglian NHS Trust, The Co-Operative, Wadham College (Oxford University) and the University of Reading.

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Concrete: First buses want your complaints

The 25/25A bus services were late 15% of the time from October to December 2012, and as often as 40% on 14 December, the final day of UEA’s Autumn term.

Chelsea de Silva, regional PR & marketing manager for the South East and Midlands, cited several reasons for the delays when speaking to Concrete in December. Most of the problems related to the “teething time” following the system change in September. “One of the biggest issues we’ve had, not just on the blue services but on all of them, is drivers understanding 1) the routes 2) the new ticket machines, which were brought in August/September … at the moment it’s just taking time for our drivers, some of whom have been with us 25-35 years, to go from one system to another. And it just so happened that that came in at the same time as the network revision. So that, tied in with the learning of the routes, meant there were massive gaps in between buses of late running.” Additional training for drivers has been provided.

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Concrete: UEA accommodation

Looking for a place to live can be stressful, but it was especially difficult for one Japanese student transferring from Into this summer.

“[UEA] said they can see I have already applied for a room, but they said I have to wait. But other students had already got a room,” said Katy*. Despite believing she had correctly applied for accommodation, she was simply told to wait whenever she got in touch with the University to ask about its progress.

With national visa delays from the UKBA meaning she could not even reach the UK, Katy called on friends for help. However, confidentiality rules meant they were also unable to find out any information regarding the status of her application.

Once term began, Katy had to stay at a friend’s house when she finally reached Norwich, and find a house with strangers through Home Run. Despite an accommodation guarantee for all international students, she was never officially rejected from UEA accommodation to her knowledge, meaning living arrangements were left until the last moment. Following the experience, she admitted: “My image of UEA has changed.”

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Concrete: First years to receive Higher Education Achievement Report

Students starting UEA this year will be the first to graduate with a Higher Education Achievement Report (Hear) alongside their degree qualification.

The Hear takes many different aspects of students’ time at UEA into account. This includes a breakdown of all modules taken across the degree, including retakes, but will also acknowledge awards, extracurricular activities and sports achievements which have been verified by the University.

The report will be an electronic document which follows a standard format across all of the 109 universities who have already signed up to adopt the system.

Students will be able to view the report throughout their degree, with a view to encourage them to stay motivated and start thinking about employability as soon as possible. In a blog post for the Guardian, University of Leicester professor Bob Burgess, chair of the steering group introducing the Hear, said: “At a time when students have just started to pay higher fees, the Hear is a clear example of how universities can provide greater value. For employers, it offers the chance to see in more detail what students have achieved at university and make comparisons between job applicants.”

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The Tube and the Tate: 5 things I learned in London

So after my initial coming-to-London post which, reading back, is laced with just a whiff of an oncoming breakdown, I realise I did not publish anything for two weeks. Probably looks a bit worrying, but I can confirm that I was not swallowed up by the hungry jaws of the city. I even got used to my breeze blocks and empty flat, although I never met the owner of the muller corners in the fridge. I can only assume that there actually was a yoghurt-loving ghost in the room next door.

In truth, I just got so caught up in the day-to-day process of going to work, meeting friends who lived or worked nearby, then going home and going to sleep, that blogging was put on a back burner.

Unlike the Olympics, empty seats are a blessing which you taunt you only by their absence.

However, I am back now, and there’s only a week before I’m back at uni in Norwich and things really do get busy. So here’s some things I learnt in London while I was there:

1. I can read pretty much anywhere.

At peak time in the centre of London, the tube is pretty full, and no one around you is happy about it. Sure, there are some tricks to ease the growing sense of claustrophobia (such as going to the end of the platform and getting on the oft-neglected final carriage). However, sometimes even they don’t prevent you from being squashed in with a bunch of strangers. But even in the smallest of spaces, I could still find room to turn the pages of the first book of my pre-reading for third year: Belinda by Maria Edgeworth (1801). It’s not too bad – it has lots of disease and unhappy marriages, and even some controversial mixed-race unions. (Racy stuff.) Plus, I can now confirm that the questionable decisions of our heroines Belinda and Lady Delacour were just as baffling and socially uncomfortable pressed up against a stranger’s back on a packed Piccadilly train than they were in my room on my own.

2. The Tate gallery is infinitely more fun whist playing spot-the-dick-symbolism.

Now, I’m not one of those people who regularly dismisses and mocks modern art for being “worse than my two-year-old’s”. For one thing, I don’t have a two-year-old. For another, that’s clearly balls, and I actually think a lot of it has the potential to be more emotional and interesting than more traditional stuff.

“Gothic Landscape” by Lee Krasner, painted after her husband Jackson Pollock died in a car crash, was probably my favourite.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s not even more fun to point out every phallic symbol you can find amongst all the other pretentious art critics.

3. Camden Market is as good as everybody says.

Slightly overwhelming when I first stepped into the market, I was soon swept up in the atmosphere and tempted to buy everything I laid my eyes on. Maybe it was the magic of the first time, but I would still rather find something there than Primark. My only complaint was that, for some reason, the legendary Goths who apparently spend all of their time there must have got tired of tourist season and found somewhere more hip to hang out. Sad face.

4. Even the booze is better.

Chando’s may sound like a cross between the two most unappetising words in the contemporary English language (“chunder” and “Nando’s”), but it is actually a pub just off Leicester Square, and it was a beauty. I always feel a little awkward at these fancy hipster pubs which sell a hundred different types of independent beers. I’m not exactly a connoisseur of these things, and the pressure of wanting to order something cool is only added to by the fact that, without my glasses, I can’t read the labels of most of the stuff they sell anyway. Am I supposed to ask the bar staff for recommendations? Make something up which so that they think I know about even more obscure and independent beverages than even they stock? Point at the nearest thing and yell “PINT OF THAT” in a sheer panic? I don’t even like beer anyway! In the end, I usually cave and order vodka and coke because I know that everybody in the world is going to stock it. Then I shuffle back to my table in the shame of my unoriginality. But at Chando’s, their independent hipster vodka and independent hipster coke made it completely worth it. No cheap Asda knockoff and 2-for-1 diet cola will be the same again.

5. If I could find a flatmate, a flat and a job to fund myself after graduation, I’d probably be happy.

Any takers?


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Breeze blocks and single beds: I must be back in halls

From the window I can see a bike rack and an air conditioning machine. I am surrounded by breeze blocks and sitting on a narrow bed. Down the hall, there is a stack of about five different ready meals with my name on them.

That’s right, I have fulfilled a life-long dream and moved to London. The capital city. The centre of the UK journalism and media and all the things I want to be a part of.

Except that it’s only for two weeks and I’m spending it in student halls which really make me appreciate how good I had it in my first year at UEA.

For one thing, I had an en suite then. Let’s not just gloss over that like it ain’t no thing.

For another, in my first year of university I met people who would become some of my closest friends living just down the hall. There appears to be evidence of another human being living here (two muller corners in the fridge and some toiletries in the bathroom) but I have yet to see them and it all feels a bit deserted. When I arrived, the man at the desk hadn’t even heard of me. I am sort of beginning to wonder whether this entire building isn’t actually haunted, a separate dimension, or a figment of my imagination.

Basically, if Matt Smith doesn’t show up in a TARDIS pretty soon, I might start getting worried.

It’s okay though – tomorrow I am starting Even More Work Experience, and this time it is in London, so I have my best first impression outfit waiting, a tube map in my bag, and I have Google street-viewed the walk to the office more times than I can count.

Okay, twice.

And now I have to go and do the washing up. Because no matter where you go, there are always things with food in which need to be clean again. Life lessons, people, life lessons.


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Four girls, three days: dos and don’ts of Prague

You are in Prague for three days. You want to see as much as you possibly can. You don’t want to spend all your money. You don’t want to your feet to rebel against you and threaten to stage an uprising if you make them walk any further.

I can promise two out those three things.

Do: go on one a free walking tour.

They leave from the astronomical clock in Old Town Square, and they show you all the main landmarks – you can identify them by the bright yellow t-shirts and umbrellas which say “Free Tour”. It’s subtle, but if you look closely, you might just spot them.

Of course, by the time you get to the end and they ask you for tips, you’ll have developed a deep, meaningful love for your Hungarian tour guide’s accent and you won’t be able to say no, but it will be worth it. (Or maybe that was just us.)

Katie and Alice have tracked them down.

Don’t: try the trams without a map.

Once you figure out where you want to be and which tram will take you there, it’s all good, but it can be confusing. This is especially true on your first day, when you spend five minutes trying to locate the elusive Kouření Zakázáno stop on your map, attempt to ask someone for help through a shared third language, and finally realise that it translates to “No Smoking”.

Once you have learnt this valuable lesson, however, the trams are a great way to travel, and a pass for three days also includes buses and the metro (which, with its primary colours and A, B and C lines, is easy enough for even the most cartographically illiterate tourist).

The metro does not look this fun though.

Do: check out the Communism museum.

The history of the Czech Republic is fascinating, but more so was the humour with which this museum often presented it. Which isn’t to say that the past was not taken seriously – in fact, part of the museum was dedicated to the abuse of human rights in North Korea, reminding visitors that government oppression is still very much a reality in many parts of the world – but that it will not be allowed to define the present.

It’s a difficult atmosphere to explain. Perhaps the best illustration is the gift shop, which sold postcards featuring vintage-style propaganda artwork with catchphrases like “You couldn’t get laundry detergent but you could get your brainwashed”. Alongside exhibitions revealing genuinely horrific acts on the part of the Communist regime, the effect was surreal, but undeniably charming.

And that’s not to mention the candles shaped like a bust of Stalin’s head.

There was also no discernible logic to the display choices. (Photo by Katie Davies)

Don’t: spend two hours walking in the wrong direction in search of a giant metronome.

Situated in Letná Park, the metronome replaced the colossal statue of Joseph Stalin which was unveiled, after five years of work, in 1955 – just as he went out of fashion during the period of de-Stalinisation following his death.

The view from Letná Park is beautiful, but the metronome itself is somewhat of a disappointment when you walked a mile or two in the wrong direction, then back again.

If you reach the motorway, you’ve definitely gone too far.

Probably worth it for this though.

Do: eat at local restaurants.

Sure, it’s a tourism cliché, but it’s true. You did not travel all that way for McDonald’s, and the dumplings are not only cheap if you look for somewhere off the beaten track, they’re delicious.

Don’t: go to restaurants without checking a menu outside first, especially in the main tourist areas.

Otherwise you might end up paying the equivalent of £35 for four slices of cake and some water at a place in Wenceslas Square.

You know, for example.

Do: make sure you keep looking up.

The architecture is breathtaking and even local corner shops are often occupying a gothic or baroque-style building with so many elaborate windows and statues, you’ll wonder whether it’s all just a big game of “my wall has more cool stuff than your wall”.

Told you.

For other takes on the same trip, and the “No Smoking” story a couple more times:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Justine Czech-ed out Prague