When Siân volunteered in a Bristol museum during her gap year, she did not anticipate an encounter that would radically influence her future studies. But then she met a visionary intersectional feminist whose teachings encouraged her future studies: listening to the hidden voices of marginalised groups. The encounter helped Siân decide on history as her undergraduate study, and Reading as her university of choice, with its diverse range of modules in different geographical and chronological areas.
Siân is particularly interested in gender history and the History Department has a wide array of modules to meet all such interests, including Demons and Demonologists; Women in Medieval History; Gender in Africa; Women in American History: From Slavery to "Second Wave"; Rebel Girls: The Influence of Radical Women, 1792-1919; and Battleaxes and Benchwarmers: Early Female MPs, 1919-1931.
"History at Reading is a leader in representing non-Western history alongside more traditional studies."
Siân was keen to further explore the theme of the unheard voices of history. The Department didn't disappoint here either, with its rich diversity of modules for its students to choose from including Anti-Semitism: Medieval Christian-Jewish relations and the Concept of 'Anti-Semitism'; Witches, Heretics and Social Outcasts: Europe and its Outsiders, c.1250-1550; and Slavery in America.
Through her module choices, she was able to tailor her degree to develop her subject knowledge in her area of interest. She also appreciated that the department strongly reflects and supports her own values, as Professor Emily West explains:
"Our Department at Reading has an equal number of men and women who are professors - it's unusual, and it's important. We're pioneering in that respect."
When Siân embarked on a semester in Florida under the University's Study Abroad scheme, the experience became a key influence on her studies and interests:
"I wanted to study history from a different nationality's perspective and in the US, I was able to study the history of human rights there. One of the attractions for me of joining the University of Reading was that it offered flexibility on its Study Abroad Programme. You can go for the full academic year, or just one semester. "
Siân was quick to appreciate other opportunities as an undergraduate at Reading. She won a place on the university's competitive and career-enhancing Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP), working on a digital history project entitled Hidden Voices: Enslaved Women in the South Carolina Lowcountry. The prestigious UROP programme offers a selected group of undergraduates the chance to work on research projects alongside top academics.
"UROP was a brilliant opportunity that enabled me to hone my research skills in a topic that is very important to me. It helped develop my presentation skills, and I networked with undergraduates throughout the university who are also passionate about research. I would recommend it to students who are keen to extend their research skills."
Advice for potential undergraduates
As she approaches the end of her BA History at the University of Reading, Siân reveals the extent of these varied inspirations and offered unusual advice for those embarking on any career. She suggests making a list of things that make you uncomfortable and to do them. Recalling some of the challenges from her own list that she plunged into whilst biting back the fear, she discusses how she has always been terrified of public speaking. Her solution? She volunteered to speak at a high profile event in front of hundreds of people: the University of Reading's celebrations to mark 100 years since the Representation of the People Act that gave votes to some women.
Siân praises the support provided by the History Department, particularly the distinguished, research-led historians who helped her on her journey. Aside from encouraging Siân's life-long passion for her subject and providing such myriad opportunities to explore and thrive, History at Reading has ensured she goes into her future with strong transferable skills and a wide range of future career prospects. But for now, the next leg of Siân's journey is more straightforward: an MA in History beckons.