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A day in the life: ASNaC

ASNaC is one of the most unusual courses on offer at Pembroke.

Standing for Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, it allows students to combine their interests in history, language, literature, art and more. Here, Tonicha Upham (2014) describes a day in her life as an ASNaC student at Pembroke.

Wednesday 21st January 2015

9am Get up, slowly. I’m not generally a fan of mornings, so I’m lucky that my timetable as an ASNaC is devoid of 9am lectures. I spare a thought for the scientists and the rowers as I sip my tea and eat breakfast.

9.20am I check my emails and the news to keep tabs on any stories – local or national – which might unfold over the course of the day; when I’m not otherwise occupied with Old English verbs or Pictish regnal lists, I’m Deputy News Editor for one of the student newspapers. The weekly print edition comes out on a Thursday, but I need to start thinking about potential stories ready for the news meeting on Saturday.

9.30am Finish getting ready for the day. Check I have everything I need.

9.45am Brisk walk to the Sidgwick Site ready for my first lecture of the day.

10am Anglo-Saxon history lecture. This week the lecture is looking at the later period, specifically the years 1000–1014, and the Viking raids during the reign of ᴁthelred the Unready.

11am Insular Latin Literature. During this session we work through translations of various pieces of Latin literature produced in Britain over the centuries following the coming of Christianity. This week we’re continuing with the Navigatio Sancti Brendani (The Voyage of St Brendan), about the journey of an Irish saint.

Fullscreen capture 29012015 10200912pm Morning lectures done, I join some fellow ASNaCs on a pilgrimage into the city centre. We venture through King’s College and eventually arrive at our destination: ‘The Crêpe Man’, better known as Cambridge Crêpes. After much deliberation, we make our crêpe-related decisions, get our loyalty cards stamped and retreat to Pembroke.

12.20pm The kettle goes on whilst we finish our crêpes in my room. ASNaCs are an especially rare breed of student, and I’m the only first-year ASNaC at Pembroke, so we try to do a lot of socialising within the department. Last weekend the ASNaC society held its annual black tie dinner, and every Monday we have a society lunch in our common room. As we drink tea today, we make arrangements to go to the theatre together next week and discuss the possibility of another movie night.

1pm We go our separate ways, all ready to start an afternoon of work. I set myself up at my desk to dictate some notes for this week’s essay, on De Excidio Britonum (The Ruin of Britain), written in Latin by a respected monk, Gildas, in around 540AD.

CamUniLibrary3.10pm I take a trip to the University Library to collect some of the books that I need for the next round of note-taking for my essay on Gildas. This takes some time – the UL is a very big place…

3.50pm Having made it out of the UL in one piece, I walk back to the English Faculty with a bagful of books.

4pm Final lecture of the day. This one is Brittonic history, and we kick off the term by looking at the Romano-British Legacy in Wales and Cornwall.

5pm Walk back to Pembroke. Check for post and, once back in my room, check the menu for dinner in trough. I don’t eat in trough every night, but it’s nice to take a break and chat with friends while I eat. Menu checked, I unpack my library books and set them up on the desk ready for this evening’s work.

5.45pm I’m drawn out of my room by shouts of “Trough, anyone?” from downstairs. Those of us who want to eat in trough tonight head to the next staircase and repeat the call, before making our way to the hall for tea.

6.15pm After tea, I return to my room and put the kettle on whilst I fire up the computer. I settle down to take some notes on Gildas. Frequent tea-making breaks.

11pm That’s enough of Gildas. I have a quick snack, before moving on to some Old English translations. I’m in the middle of a translation of the Battle of Maldon right now, a poem written about a 991 battle between the Anglo-Saxons and an invading Viking force. The Anglo-Saxons lost, heroically. Tonight, I’m finishing my translation of the pre-battle speeches.

12.30am I call it a night. It’s been quite a productive day, but fairly relaxed as I still have plenty of time before my essay deadline at the start of next week. I don’t have a lecture until noon tomorrow, so I set the alarm a little later than usual.


If you are interested in finding out more about ASNaC, see the Department website. You may also be interested in Tuesday’s blog, in which we featured Tam, a Pembroke graduate student studying Old Norse within the Department of Lingustics.

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