Enriching Our Student Experience
This study trip to Madrid was undertaken by 21 final year students in Spanish and Portuguese Studies, AEL, plus 2 staff members. Although there was an open call to all final year students advertising the possibility of undertaking this specific trip, only this number enrolled for this planned activity and were included in the application for funding through JetSet. Most of the students in the group were enrolled in the final year optional modules SPA3022 and SPA3021, and almost two thirds of them had not been in Madrid.
Students who signed up to undertake the trip attended 3 preparation meetings in which we discussed the programme of activities, and in which they agreed to the conditions (as they would need to self-finance meals outside the programme, and contribute with 100 pounds each to finance some of the activities).
Thursday 15 February
A long day of travelling. As we took the bus to Dublin Airport at 07.40 for a take off for Madrid at 11.50. Arrival at Madrid at 15.25 local time, from where we transfered to Avani Alonso Martínez (3 star hotel, shared rooms). This hotel was chosen due to its price, its central location (within walking distance of all activities), its safety, and the marvellous buffet breakfast! At 20.00, we had tapas dinner al fresco in Plaza de Olavide (unfortunately, that night under the rain). During the duration of the whole trip, all activities were conducted in Spanish.
Friday 16 February
After breakfast (included in our hotel deal), we walked to Puerta del Sol square and had at 10.00 a typical chocolate con churros in la Chocolatería San Ginés, a local with cultural significance in Madrid’s literary history. Between 11.00-13.00 we had a guided walking tour through historical Madrid. At 16.30 and 17.00 (given the size of our group), we had the tours of the Casa Museo de Lope de Vega, the famous Spanish 17th-c. playwright, and at 18.00 we saw the play La fortaleza, written by contemporary female playwright Lucía Carballal, a rewriting of the classic El castillo de Lindabridis by 17th-c. playwright Calderón de la Barca. The play was staged by the Compañía de Teatro Clásico (the Spanish equivalent of the Royal Shakespeare Company). We ended the day having dinner at La Barraca restaurant, a Madrid classic, for which students had previously selected their favourite menu.
Saturday 17 February
10.15: walk to the Museo del Prado, commenting historical landmarks along the way (Spanish National Library, Café Gijón, 18th century urbanistic developments, with the fountains of Cibeles and Neptune).
11.00-13.15: guided tour of the Museo del Prado. Our guide was a university lecturer at Madrid University, who told us everything there is to know about painters Velázquez and Goya. Free afternoon and evening.
Sunday 18 February
Free stroll during the morning (oh, those amazing blue skies of Madrid!)
Transfer from the hotel to the Airport at 15.00. Arrival at Dublin at 19.55 local time. We arrived by bus to Belfast at 23.40.
Students and staff were covered by the University’s travel insurance for the duration of the trip, and there luckily there weren’t any incidents at all.
The whole group expressed their satisfaction with the study programme of the trip, both in relation to the cultural and linguistic content, and we were told by students that they felt that this trip was one of the highlights of their university years so far. I would like to add, that I felt exactly the same!
Dr Gabriel Sánchez Espinosa
Spanish and Portuguese Studies, AEL
In January 2024, the level 1 students in Introduction to Latin American Studies had the opportunity to work with Tara Munroe, Curator and Creative Director of Opal22 Arts and Edutainment (Leicester, UK).
Studying art and literature from the 1700s can often seem like a daunting task, and perhaps distant to the interests of students in the 21st century. However, having Tara Munroe in our class gave the level 1 Spanish students an opportunity to learn how our approach to early modern culture in Latin America and depictions of the human body, within specific social spaces and practices, is linked to the ongoing question of who controls the narrative in any use of images. Her exciting discovery, restoration and analysis of a series of casta paintings in Leicester Museum provided the core focus for the class discussion. Tara led us through an interactive, visual exploration of the issues, language, and power dynamics at play in these colourful vignettes of colonial life.
In addition, students had the opportunity to attend a special screening of the documentary ‘Casta: The Origins of Caste’ and public discussion in the Ulster Museum. Reflecting on the experience, Hannah, noted that:
“Tara Munroe came into our class last week to give us an analysis of Casta paintings from ‘New Spain’ (Mexico) during the 18th century, which was something that I found particularly interesting. With her help, the class had an amazing opportunity to look deeper into these paintings and grasp a real understanding of the different social and racial hierarchies which were present during this era. Tara was incredibly engaging, and I felt eager to participate in the discussions.”
Having Tara join us in the class provided an important opportunity to learn from someone who is directly engaged in working with communities across the UK to promote the understanding of Black History and encourage discussion around uncomfortable questions and challenges facing us in the 21st century.
Dr Fiona Clark (Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies)
An opportunity for students to have a ‘hands-on’ experience of working with Latin American-based textiles and gain from expert knowledge.
The optional module, ‘Protecting Paradise’ convened by Dr Fiona Clark, investigates different modes through the arts, broadly titled, can engage with significant issues in society and particularly those relating to environmental issues. We consider examples of Latin American film, textiles, and fiction as part of this exploration and emphasis is on praxis and ‘hands-on’ engagement! Thanks to the Education Fund in the School of Arts, English, and Languages, we were able to bring Roberta Bacic, curator and specialist in the arpillera tradition to be part of our class and to run a workshop. This class links in the Conflict Textiles exhibition that runs in the McClay Library, QUB, and database hosted by the CAIN archive, Ulster University. Below, Carolyn, one of our students reflects on her experience of the day.
“On Wednesday 1st November 2023, Chilean arpillera specialist, Roberta Bacic, travelled to Queen’s University to share her extensive knowledge and experience with craftivism. Students of the Spanish Level 2 ‘Protecting Paradise’ module have been learning about the emergence of arpilleras - textiles initially created with re-cycled, household materials as a form of protest in Chile. Students were privileged to listen to Roberta’s first-hand account as they discovered a more genuine appreciation for craftivism and furthermore, to understand the context and stories that come with each arpillera made. They were given the opportunity to investigate the artwork in person, engaging in a comprehensive discussion and analysis of the arpilleras whilst grasping the significance of specific colour and material choices used. Roberta introduced the room to the basics of arpillera making with an exciting hands-on experience, inspiring students for their own arpillera to be submitted as part of their module’s assessment at the end of term.” (Carolyn McDowell, level 2)
On Friday November 3rd, Kabosh Theatre Company hosted a walking tour performance of the audio play Quartered by the playwright Dominic Montague. Students met in the Cathedral Quarter in the city centre and were guided around the streets as they listened to a narrative about queer life and love in the city. The narrative highlighted significant landmarks in Belfast’s queer history as a means of making and remaking the city spaces and histories through queer eyes, and as a means of asking the listener-walker to move almost in the shoes of the narrator as they described the way that they navigate, as a gay man, the often threatening and homophobic spaces of the city’s interiors, outside the relative safety of what’s known as the ‘queer quarter’.
This event was, on the one hand, a way of offering students an opportunity to engage with live (or relatively live) theatre in the city, given that many of these students come from disciplines other than theatre. On the other hand, we used the performance as the basis for a reviewing workshop which took place the following Monday. Students were asked to write a short review of Quartered and these reviews were used as the basis for the workshop in which we considered what it means ethically and practically to review queer and feminist work in a context like Belfast. Students found the process quite challenging but for the most part the challenge was instructive. A follow up event had the playwright Dominic Montague come to QUB to talk about the work with the students and about his career as a playwright within the local theatre industry. The event provided rich opportunity for students to consider theatre practise in Belfast, the practise of reviewing in an arts context more broadly as well as engage with some of the pragmatic issues of a career in the arts in Northern Ireland.
On Saturday 21 October 2023, Dr Steven Wilson met with some of our students who are currently spending their year abroad in France or Belgium. The visit provided an opportunity for students to share experiences and advice with each other. Many of the students had taken Dr Wilson’s second year module, FRH2032 Paris, City of Modernity, so we had a walking tour of some important cultural sites in central Paris they had previously studied (the Eglise de la Madeleine, Place de la Concorde, Jardin des Tuileries, Louvre and Pont des Arts). After lunch in a café on the banks of the Seine, there was an opportunity for further discussion and guidance on any practical issues students were experiencing in adjusting to working or studying in France, before an afternoon visit to a museum.
The students in DRA3067 Participatory Performance Practices attended Kabosh theatre company’s walking tour Quartered on 11th Oct. We all gathered outside The Dark Horse and put in our headphones before embarking on a walk which gave us a different perspective on familiar streets. The audio experience, written by Dominic Montague, explores the LGBTQ+ experience of Belfast. In the module we have been exploring different ways through which audiences can participate in performance and this experience focused us on the acts of listening and walking. As the students are starting to develop their group projects for their practical assessment, it was hugely beneficial to gain an experiential comprehension of participatory methodologies. Through the action of walking we considered the changing face of Belfast and its layers of silenced histories, as well as how experiences of place are informed by the identity of the individual moving through them. A bonus for the students was finding out that their tour guide was a past drama student at QUB!
The Peer Mentors for the School of Arts, English and Languages (AEL) ran a Build-A-Bear Workshop in March. The workshop was chosen following the success of the same activity last year. The event took place in The Great Hall and each student was given a different soft-toy animal along with stuffing and a heart. The event was a great success and was very well attended. The Peer Mentors were delighted to create a relaxing environment in which fellow students could take a break from their studies. The workshop also provided students with the chance to meet others from different degree pathways or those in a different year group. This event received praise from the students in attendance and the Peer Mentors are very thankful to those within the School of AEL without whom this event would not have been possible.
"The AEL build-a-bear workshop was not only a wonderful way to take a break from the busy semester but also a lovely time to chat to people from my school and catch up over a fun activity! The peer mentors were so kind and helpful throughout the session, making us feel very welcomed and at ease. A well-organised and thoroughly-enjoyable event for all!" - Kathy
As part of their medieval studies, postgraduates in English participated in a trip to the medieval towns of Ghent and Bruges, in Belgium. Both cities were important centres of commerce throughout the middle ages and are therefore replete with fascinating buildings, monuments and artefacts that afford a unique insight into the lives of ordinary people.
In January 2023, Chilean artist and sculptor, Tere Chad,travelled to Queen’s University Belfast to take part in classes with level 2 and level 3 Spanish students and to offer a ‘Woven Hug’ workshop open to anyone in the University.
The classes in Latin American culture focus on the role of the arts in highlighting issues around the environment and sustainability, and benefited from hearing directly from a Latin American artist about how these themes impact her work and how she has engaged with colleagues and communities in Spain and Latin America to open discussions and share ideas. Inspired by the tradition of arpilleras, hessian-backed textiles from Chile, and using repurposed materials, Tere Chad’s work seeks to bring together communities through sustainable practices and promote the tradition of textile art with a particularly 21st-century dynamic.
Her workshop also engaged with the ongoing exhibition in the McClay Library that forms part of the Conflict Textiles collection curated by Roberta Bacic in collaboration with the School of Law, and with the upcoming events in the Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart, where Tere and her colleague, Mexican scholar, Cordelia Rizzo, will take part in further community textile projects.
Becca Redmond kindly agreed to reflect on how taking part in the class and workshop enhanced her experience and opened up new avenues to be explored.
A creative heart and a sustainable mind
‘As part of a combined degree, I have the joy of studying both Geography and Spanish, so I couldn’t resist from selecting Dr Fiona Clark’s ‘Recycling Cultures of Latin America’ module in my second year.
As someone with both a creative heart and a sustainable mind, it beautifully combines some of my biggest interests including environmental consciousness, climate justice, culture, and art. As an extension of the module, I had the opportunity take part in an upcycling workshop with some extraordinary Chilean Artist, Tere Chad, and arpillera curator, Roberta Bacic, which was both enjoyable and insightful.
Roberta taught us the history and importance of the Chilean arpillera; how one can not only use art to build communities, but also as a powerful, political language or tool of resistance, to protest repression, violence and uplift voices that can otherwise go unheard. Whilst Tere on the other hand, got us thinking and feeling, discussing how important it is to disconnect from screens and reconnect with the world around us, whether it be the soil under our feet, the abundance of resources at our fingertips or the relationships that are forgotten or dismissed whilst scrolling. This environmentally sustainable project of embroidery and upcycled fabrics brought together a room of contrasting personalities and backgrounds, yet in the end built a collective art piece and a community of common interests and ideas, so, I would encourage all new students to get involved.’ By Becca Redmond (level 2, Geography with Spanish)
Photos by Harry Thompson.
An ECUCFD grant enabled students taking DRA2013 Directing and Design to attend a performance of the new political musical, “Propaganda” by Conor Mitchell at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, in November 2022. Unusually, the theatre also arranged a pre-show backstage tour which was of great benefit giving the theme of this module. The Lighting Designer for the production, our own Production Assistant Mary Tumelty, also attended adding an extra level of technical detail to the tour. 20 of the 22 students taking the module took up this offer and 8 of these chose the production as the subject of their final essay.
Most of these essays highlighted the radical nature of the design. One student noted: “Mitchell’s original script has a concept based around surveillance and the use of propaganda, which the actual play realises in interesting and visually spectacular ways such as the use of searchlights, the orchestra pit, and the levelled stage, which create a meaningful and unforgettable environment for the piece’s events to take place upon”. The fact that he had previously had the opportunity to explore the backstage environment undoubtedly heightened his appreciation of this radical design approach.
Underlining the value of seeing a live performance another student commented: “When watching the play rather than reading it, concepts such as exposure in an elusively naturalistic setting begin to reveal themselves. We see actors placed on different levels, always visible to the audience, always acting, even when they have finished their scene and are walking backstage. We also see gradual exposure in the actors performances.”
Throughout these essays, students wrote about the design and technical elements of the production with an authoritative command of detail that was clearly enhanced by the opportunity to see backstage before the performances, showing that this was money well spent.
David Grant, Module Convenor
“This fieldtrip to Carrickfergus formed the basis for a module-level collaboration between my MA-level Documentary Practice course and the MSc in Advanced Architectural Design and PgCert Cinematic Architecture, which are under the auspices of Dr. Gul Kacmaz Erk of QUB Architecture. The fieldtrip was the corner stone of a joint assignment between our respective modules, rooted to an ambitious regeneration project for Carrickfergus, being run by the Mid and East Antrim Borough. Students were formed into ten interdisciplinary teams, each of which was assigned a specific aspect of the regeneration plan. Their task was to collaboratively research their assigned aspect and ultimately produce a one-minute research film presenting their findings in an engaging, narrative format. The assignment requires core skills from both the Broadcast and Architecture/Planning spheres and thereby occasioned deep and sustained interdisciplinary collaboration between the students. Travelling as a group (of 52 students) to Carrickfergus enabled my students to encounter key experts involved in the project at Carrickfergus Town Hall; visit various areas involved in the regeneration (Civic Centre, Northeast Bastion, Shaftesbury Park, Railway Station, North Gate, Market Place and the Statue of King William); and initiate their team-specific research on the ground.” Dr Don Duncan, Lecturer in Broadcast Practice
‘It’s a great honour for us to be invited in the Carrickfergus field trip and walking tour. I am very glad that we were given the opportunity to see those historical attractions and shoot a film around the Carrickfergus regeneration project. I love the Carrickfergus Marina, promenade, and harbour view. With a long and fascinating history, in Carrickfergus lies the an articulate, audible voice of the past.’ – Hanling Cao, MA Media & Broadcast Production
‘Carrickfergus was a beautiful city from its castles, its shore to the town itself. Little was known about the city before our trip, but with explanations from the experts with the visionary scenes all over the city, everything was explored. Carrickfergus's rich history might occasionally be a little overwhelming. Over the course of 800 years, an astounding amount of tales, artefacts, and built heritage have been accumulated and lost.’ – Omar Elshater, MA Media & Broadcast Production
‘This trip to Carrickfergus was really eye opening to the work that is involved in regenerating a town and the efforts that local councils will make in order to make their town tourist friendly and a better place to live. The talk that we attended with the local council here was a positive and educational experience and I enjoyed how helpful they were when answering any of our questions. It is clear to see they are really passionate about the area.’ – Emily Keegan, MA Media & Broadcast Production
In November 2022, AEL Education Fund enabled us to have a Liberal Arts social, bringing together students from across all four years of the degree programme. Over pizza and drinks, students got to know each other better. This community building was continued in coffee mornings during the second semester, allowing everyone the chance to ‘check in’ with each other and with academic staff. Socials like these are particularly important in an interdisciplinary subject like Liberal Arts, bringing students together from across all disciplines and allowing for an exchange of ideas and experiences.
The corpus stylistics workshop introduced students to some free, online tools that can support research on how the English language is used by real speakers. Working through a series of exercises, using real language data and online or freely-downloadable tools, the workshop was a great success, with over 30 UG and PG students from across AEL in attendance.
“I am just writing to give you some thoughts on the Corpus workshop we had yesterday, which I thought was very interesting. I thought everything was very thoroughly explained, and the exercises given to us definitely helped me, and I am sure everyone else as well, to gain a better understanding on how we can conduct this analysis.
Since we have talked about using Corpus Stylistics in my essay, the workshop definitely taught me how I can incorporate this method into my analysis.“ -Janis Lai, UG Year 3 student in English with Creative Writing
“Really enjoyed this workshop, which provided a great introduction to using corpus methods. As a PhD student interested in using corpus methods in my thesis, this workshop was an invaluable chance to practice using CL software and searching various corpora in-person!” - Katherine Vage, PhD student in Linguistics
‘The field trip to Derry allowed students to physically and sensually experience the ‘sites of memory’ that we have been studying in our MA module ENG7365 ‘Trauma & Memory in Irish Literature’. In particular, it complemented our analysis of Seamus Deane’s Reading in the Dark, which is set in Derry, spanning the period from 1920s to the outbreak of the Troubles. The novel details specific sites of memory which contain the post-memory of traumatic events; these include the An Grainan fort, which we visited and, in its location, architecture and mythological resonances, it made a notable impressions on the students. Given the importance of post-memories in our curriculum and this year’s Bloody Sunday anniversary, we also visited the Museum of Free Derry, and students were able to encounter the post-memories of that important event in Northern Irish history through the materials, footage, and testimonials exhibited therein. Overall, this trip productively complemented our curriculum by offering the students important insights and understandings into post-memories of recent Northern Irish history, as reflected and represented through literature.’ Dr Stefanie Lehner, MA Module Convenor and SL in Irish Literature
‘The train journey to Derry allowed us to see some of the best sights the North Coast offers. An Grianán Ailigh was one of the highlights of the trip. After leaving the Fort we experienced an incredible contrast; leaving one of the most ancient sights in the North West to visit the Museum of Free Derry. The museum chronicles the more recent, living and tragic history of the city. The group was extremely grateful to Dr Stefanie Lehner for organising the trip.’ - Thomas Murphy, MA in Irish Studies
‘I really enjoyed my day trip to Donegal and Derry! I loved the time at Grianan fort and really connected with the other students who went too! I think it really put some of the texts on my module into perspective by experiencing the history of the north as well.’ – Danielle Blee, MA in English Literary Studies
‘The Masters Seminar field trip to Derry/Londonderry gave me the exciting opportunity to underpin my studies for my Masters Thesis in Media Design with the context of the history of Northern Ireland. Especially the excursion to the Museum of Free Derry and the old hillfort "Grianan of Aileach" above Belfast gave me deeper insights into the history of Northern Ireland. The surroundings and landscape around the city, unknown to me until then, unfolded before my eyes as we took a taxi after our arrival at the train station up to a hill on which "Grianan of Aileach" stands. Dr. Lehner had previously given us an excerpt from the novel „Reading in the Dark“ by Seamus Deane in which exactly this fort and the area were featured. This novel had been part of the seminar literature of her Master's course. After a short drive back to the city centre, we went over the city wall down to the so-called "Bogside" neighbourhood. Here we walked past the historic crossing with the wall that says "You are now entering free Derry" and visited the Museum of free Derry. At the museum we were given an intensive introduction to the history of Derry/Londonderry and a tour of the museum embedded with very easy comprehensible videos, short lecture, texts and impressive photos to learn about the events of Bloody Sunday. All in all, I am very happy to have had the experiences and impressions of that day and I am glad that they are helpful for my further progress in my Master's thesis.’ - Lisanne Conradt, Visiting MA Student from Germany, Bergische Universität Wuppertal
Final year students in Professor McCusker's Caribbean Cultures module were delighted to talk to Dr Emily Zobel Marshall @EmilyZMarshall, granddaughter of Joseph Zobel and Reader in Postcolonial Literature at Leeds Beckett. We discussed Emily's relationship with her grandfather, the importance of La Rue Cases-Nègres in Caribbean literature, and the pernicious effects of the pigmentocracy. We also reflected on the continuing legacies of slavery, all highly relevant against the backdrop of Kate and William's tour in Barbados. Thanks so very much to Emily for her fascinating insights.
A successful day out was had on the Trail with expert guides Deidre Galway (guitar), Jason O’Rourke (concertina) and Annette Collins (dancing). Deirdre is the guitarist for the well-known Belfast band Realta while Jason is a grandee of the local scene with several successful albums to his name over the years. Annette is a dancing instructor with Belfast Trad, based at the Crescent Arts Centre.
We began our trip in The Second Fiddle in the Cathedral Quarter before taking in a stop at Belfast’s Assembly Rooms (home of The Belfast Harpers’ Assembly of 1792). The guides told the students about the route of the Farset river, under High Street, which gave Belfast its name. In McHugh's Basement we had a dance demo from Annette and some of our students learned how to dance the polka set.
MA and PhD students from the Centre for Translation and Interpreting braved the weather on their way to Titanic Belfast on the 9 March 2022. Facilitated by the AEL Education Fund, the trip was designed to enable Translation and Interpreting students to learn about audio description and audiovisual translation in a real-life context.