Graduation reflections: five reasons to study at Birkbeck as an international student

BSc Business Psychology student Gina shares how Birkbeck helped her meet people from all over the world and have a fulfilling university experience.

Gina, BSc Business Psychology student

Before coming to Birkbeck, Gina was worried that evening classes and lectures would mean that she’d miss out on traditional student life. Now returning for her Masters, we caught up with her on graduation day to find out what makes Birkbeck so special for international students (to head straight to the video, scroll to the bottom of this post).

1. Time to see London

As part of the University of London, Birkbeck’s location in the heart of Bloomsbury is just around the corner from the British Museum, Leicester Square and Oxford Street. Birkbeck’s lectures are in the evening, which means there’s plenty of time in the day to see the best of London.

2. Daytime Freedom

Gina chose Birkbeck because it gave her the flexibility she needed to develop her skills: “Now that I’ve graduated, I don’t just have a degree, I also have a  lot of work experience and life experience that I gained from having my mornings free to do what I want.”

3. The People

Before moving to London, Gina was worried that she might miss out on the traditional student experience by coming to an evening university. However, Birkbeck’s diverse student base ended up being one of her favourite things: “The unique thing about Birkbeck is that you meet people from all different walks of life … I met people all different ages and all different backgrounds and that was the best part about Birkbeck.”

4. Birkbeck Talent

In her first year, Gina went along to Birkbeck Talent, the College careers service, and found an internship with a financial consultancy, which opened a lot of doors to further job opportunities.

5. Student Central

Birkbeck students have access to the University of London societies at Student Central. Gina found that trying out Kung-Fu was a great way to meet new people.

Watch the full interview with Gina below.

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Making video work for you with Birkbeck’s Derek Jarman Lab

This post was contributed by Nick Eisen, an alumnus of Birkbeck’s Postgraduate Certificate in Journalism.

Birkbeck’s Derek Jarman Lab, runs four-day training courses that address the internet’s increasing demand for video in getting your message across. For an example of the Lab’s work see their video Ways of Listening with John Berger and Tilda Swinton.

The Lab says in its publicity that “Film can be a fantastic tool” and “can add greatly to the impact of your work”. As a Birkbeck alumnus working in media, I decide to try the course, which takes place over two weekends.

On the first morning, Managing Producer Bartek Dziadosz shows me to the Lab, in the basement of 36 Gordon Square (entrance round the corner in Endsleigh Place), a few doors north of the School of Arts. Also there are students Nikki and Liz, from Pittsburgh, and Yunus, a Birkbeck economist with plans, one day, to make a film about personalities in economics.

The day begins with an introduction to the equipment – lots to take in, but much becomes clearer with practice.

The afternoon brings classes on film theory referencing Roman Polanski’s Chinatown; an exercise filming a conversation between two gallant volunteers from the Lab team, Bea and Lilly; a class from Lilly on film production, and one-to-ones on the projects we have each planned for the course. Homework is to prepare shooting schedules for our pieces.

Shooting

Next day, we shoot. Nikki and Liz are making films about London; Yunus casts me as Alex from a Clockwork Orange in a tour of Anthony Burgess’s local haunts; I am filming an interpretation of the poem The Spider And The Fly.

Yunus and I start off at a Burgess local – the Duke of York pub. It’s shut. Yunus improvises by turning an interior sequence into an exterior one. He has me standing outside the pub, grinning and holding a glass of milk like Malcolm McDowell as gang leader Alex from Kubrick’s film of A Clockwork Orange. I am surprised how quickly I ignore strange looks from passers-by.

For my project, my main sequence is to speak the poem I’ve chosen to camera. I want to shoot this in a pub, but settle on a restaurant where the staff prove friendly.

Playing a human spider in a crowded restaurant doesn’t bother me. I’ve now grown used to acting strangely in public.

Yunus and I adapt to circumstances through the afternoon – that’s movies… !

Back at the Lab, Bartek downloads our work and gives a class on lighting.

Editing

Left - Right: Walter, Yunus and Liz

Left – Right: Walter, Yunus and Liz

The following Saturday, Walter, the Lab’s Head of Post-production, takes us through editing with a lesson on theory, then an introduction to the equipment – software and computers now, not the bulkier mechanical desks of yore – but we still talk about films and cutting, though celluloid and scissors have practically gone.

Practice brings increasing confidence, and Walter shows how intercutting and juxtaposition of images and sounds can resonate in surprising ways.

Paul, the Lab’s Head of Teaching, helps us with the further editing that comprises the final day, which ends with a screening of some of our work. Nikki has created a beautiful collage of London. Yunus’s use of effects and music suggests a vivid take on A Clockwork Orange, and my interpretation of The Spider And The Fly is kindly received. I can see how I would do it differently now, which of course is part of learning.

The Lab team have been friendly, patient, supportive and encouraging, making for a well-structured, rewarding two weekends.

Taking the course

At £250 (for Birkbeckers), this course is great value, particularly for those with audiovisual elements in their studies, though it’s a significant sum on a tight budget. So maybe start by confirming what you want from the course and how you expect it to give this to you.

To find out more, contact The Derek Jarman Lab.

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