Theology and Religion PhD student Faith Van Horne started her course in Autumn 2020, during the height of lockdown. Studying in 2021 was very different as the University of Birmingham campus returned to in-person learning and meeting. Here are her highlights from the first term back on campus:

The first big change was seeing the rush of people and busy stalls on the Green Heart during Welcome Week. It was so refreshing to be able to walk up to a table and have a conversation with a group representative in person—as well as tasting the food from all the vendors! The Fitness Fair at the Sport and Fitness Centre was also bustling, as clubs welcomed people to attend taster sessions for in-person classes. I joined the karate club and have benefitted so much from both the physical activity and social connection. If you haven’t yet, you might check out one of the more than 50 sports clubs here. Or you can join one of the more than 500 student groups. Whatever your interest, there are so many ways to connect.


I also led my first seminar as a postgraduate teaching assistant this past term. Connecting in the physical classroom with first-year undergrads, exploring the big questions of religion together, was a joy. The shift to meeting my supervisor in his office as opposed to over Zoom was also helpful. Bumping into people working at the ERI Building, where my department is housed, sparked conversation and connections as well. It’s those chance in-person meetings that I missed so much during my first year.

As a postgraduate researcher I was thrilled when Westmere House reopened for study and events. In addition to the Researchers’ Suite at the Main Library, Westmere is another space for PGR study and connection. As a Westmere Scholar, I was privileged to help (re)connect PGRs with work and social events through the University Graduate School, both in-person and virtually. The games on the lawn at Westmere, as well as the Christmas party, were great for meeting other PGRs. The return of postgraduate mixers at Joe’s Bar thanks to the Guild of Students is also a good way to connect.

The Westmere building

The University continues to find creative solutions for both in-person and virtual interactions. For example, the International Students’ Welcome was hosted physically in the Great Hall while being streamed live. Students all over the globe had a chance to ask questions and interact with online polls and questions. The University Graduate School also continues to offer in-person socials as well as virtual sessions like ‘Shut Up and Work’. Whether you are distanced and wanting virtual connection or craving in-person interaction, this year at the University of Birmingham has had so much to offer.