Stephen Washington

Hispanic Studies and History BA

The two subjects work well together; my History modules give me a context for the language and cultural modules I take in Hispanic Studies.

Why did you choose Kent?

Kent is the UK’s European university and that, and its high rankings for teaching quality, attracted me. Being taught well by people at the top of their game was very important to me. I also thought Canterbury, with its culture and heritage, would be a good place to live.

Why joint honours?

I couldn’t decide between history and Spanish at school, so a joint honours degree appealed to me. The two subjects work well together; my History modules give me a context for the language and cultural modules I take in Hispanic Studies.

How is the course going?

It’s going well. At first it can feel daunting, but once you get into the subject and start to do the research, it’s fascinating. I am doing my dissertation on Spanish history in the 70s and 80s looking at the King’s role in politics and I am obsessed with it! There are so many resources: I have been on the CIA website looking at recently released reports and reading contemporary newspaper articles, it is fascinating. It is amazing that we are discovering new things about this period. To be a small part of that is exciting.

Our Spanish language modules are quite intense but you can see yourself getting better as you go along; when you return from your year abroad, the improvement is amazing. For listening and interpreting, we often work in pairs, while our speaking classes usually have just five or six students, which creates a relaxed atmosphere and makes it easy to join in. There is also a list of Spanish films for us to watch to improve our understanding.

Tell us about your year abroad.

Before you go, you get a lot of help from the Erasmus team at Kent, but it can still feel a bit scary. I studied in Toledo and there were other students from Kent there, which was nice. There was also an Erasmus student network where Erasmus students from across Europe met; it felt like a mini European community.

I stayed in a house with seven other students, three Spanish, three Portuguese and a Mexican; we spoke Spanish pretty much all the time so I was totally immersed in the culture and language.

You are taught in Spanish, and study with Spanish students so it is easy to get to know people. You definitely feel that you are a part of the School.

Did studying abroad change you?

Yes, for the better I think. In the past, I would shy away from speaking, particularly in history seminars, but now I am one of the most prominent speakers. My confidence has grown, so if I have something to say I just say it, I don’t worry about it. I think I have become more open and sociable, which is a good thing.

What about the lecturers?

They are enthusiastic about their subject and that draws you in and makes you want to find out more. They are also approachable and always happy to help.

And your fellow students?

We all get along; there is a really good atmosphere. I think learning a language creates a real camaraderie.

What about the social life?

The social facilities are very good and you do feel you are a part of a community. There are lots of places to eat and drink and I honestly think there is a society for everyone. I am a member of the Football Fan Society; it’s fun to hang around with people who have a similar obsession with football.

What next?

I may do a Master’s in Spanish history but have also applied to some graduate schemes. Further in the future, I may become a teacher; the quality of the teaching at Kent has shown me how valuable teaching is and how engaging you have to be.

What advice would you give to a prospective student?

Look closely at the modules, find out about the quality of the teaching and check if the teachers’ interests are close to yours. Make sure you pick a place where you will enjoy studying and enjoy living and you will learn a lot for the future.