I really enjoy occupying the Classics and Ancient History stall at our Open Days at the University of Birmingham. Typically, we each take a 1.5 hour slot, and during that time we get to chat to our lovely student helpers (typically, enthusiastic current UGs on our various degree programmes) and, and this is the real thrill, talk to prospective applicants at the very beginning of the journey which may take them on to a Classics BA and beyond.
Today’s conversations were as diverse and fascinating as ever; one of our student helpers said that having the chance to relive her own Open Day trip, and to reflect on how far she’s developed, was in itself a big bonus. We are all, as I tend to say a bit portentously, on a learning curve, and it’s exciting to re-encounter those at the beginning. I had conversations about the dizzying breadth of history we engage with at Birmingham, about the perils of ignoring language learning opportunities, about the delights of joint-honours programmes, and the wild world of opportunity offered by modules such as the Study Tour, and the final year UG Dissertation.
I was quizzed on why I prefer Cicero to Caesar, on pedagogic styles, on whether one can audit a range of modules if one is just interested in almost everything, on the role of Classics in the 21stC, on the fragility of the Classical canon as it has come down to us, and all sorts of other things. Really, it’s these conversations that provide the sauce which keeps me alert to the delicate relationship between what we do within the academy, and how our endeavours to demonstrate the excitement and potential opportunities which classical antiquity offers matter deeply for civilisation as a whole.