After graduating with a Sociology honours degree, I managed to move abroad, get married and have my first child all within the same year! This was a sudden and unexpected life change especially as I had planned to stay on to do an MA and PhD at Essex. I have still not ruled out returning to finish off my academic dreams. I have lived in Zürich, Switzerland since 2003, having had two boys born here. It has been a huge cultural shock leaving university to live in a society where there are so many rules, living in apartment blocks with shared laundry rooms and an allocated wash day one day per week, noise curfews, strange school timetables and the German language. Yes, the German language, which I have been grappling with ever since I arrived in Zürich with a rucksack on my back off an easyJet flight. It’s certainly been very challenging!
I originally came to Essex to study Literature which is my passion, having written poetry and had some published in various British anthologies. However, having got part of the way through my first year, I realised that I was being increasingly drawn to the Sociology department. Sociology at Essex was amazing. I can remember coming out of the lectures with my head buzzing and racing to get the books out of the library to read all about what I had just learnt. Each lecture was like going to watch a film at the cinema where you came out feeling inspired and enlightened. It made me more aware of the wider world around me and how as individuals we are much more affected by the influences of culture and society than we think.
We used to call the Sociology corridor “the hall of fame,” because it had so many names of professors on the doors and we realised that we were being taught by the authors of the Sociology text books we were using in class. On walking down this hall of fame one day, I was stopped by Ken Plummer who asked me why I was studying Literature and suggested that I should do Sociology instead. I took his advice and managed to satisfy my need for literature by being granted the privilege of choosing my own syllabus so I could continue to study Literature and Sociology alongside. That was before I did an American Studies class which cultivated a keen interest in the USA, American Literature and Native American studies.
Whilst a student I spent all of my summer breaks in the USA working at Mesa Verde and Grand Canyon National Parks where I met and worked alongside Native American people and spent time on the Navajo Reservation. This was an education in itself and inspired me to work at the Wolf Education and Research Centre in Idaho in my final year to carry out my dissertation about the reintroduction of the wolf in Idaho and its impact on the Nez Perce tribe and local ranchers. My dissertation won a university prize when I graduated and I still hope to turn it into a Masters degree by dissertation one day.
My time at Essex was fantastic and not only gave me the chance to learn skills such as punching a man in the stomach in the Karate club, learning to wield a sword in the fencing club, overcoming my fear of heights by flying a glider in the Flying Club at RAF Wattisham, riding the Cavalry horses known as the Army Blacks at the Colchester barracks in the riding club and lugging a ton of library books in my rucksack around the lake which served as a daily workout, it also gave me valuable experience and a knowledge base for undertaking research which is fundamental to any kind of writing.
I am now writing fiction in my spare time and finally found a niche for myself here in finance driven Zürich amongst all the banks, insurance companies and designer shops. I take part in writing workshops and belong to several writers groups and have just had two short stories published in award winning journals: “Secrets of the Bees” in the Grey Sparrow Literary Journal, Fall Edition 2012 (http://greysparrowpress.sharepoint.com/Pages/Fall2012ShortStoriesHodges.aspx) and “In The Meadow (Dans la Prairie)” in the Autumn/Winter Edition 2012/2013 of The Copperfield Review an international journal of historical fiction (http://copperfieldreview.com/?p=1318)