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Lecturer at Boston University (London) and NYU (London)

Why I chose to attend Leeds Trinity

I chose Leeds Trinity because it seemed small and cosy enough to engender a real sense of belonging but also connected enough to a big city and University. I was not disappointed because I definitely felt part of a community but a short bus ride also took me to the Brotherton library where I spent many happy hours.

Varsha Panjwani main image.

My best memories from my time as an undergraduate

When I think about my time as an undergraduate, some distinct memories that come to mind are:

  • getting goose-bumps while discussing Antony and Cleopatra in Dr Alyalís seminar because I was so excited and inspired by her module
  • bonding and laughing with a fellow student because we both tried to carry far more than humanly possible uphill from Morrisons to our halls of residence
  • feeling touched by Dr Simpson (who was the Head of the Department then) getting to the examination venue bright and early in the morning because she wanted to wish us well in person before our final-year exams
  • learning to cook pasta from Italian students on the Erasmus Exchange programme and learning minimalist fashion from a fellow Japanese student
  • muddy but head-clearing walks in the woods

Overcoming challenges

The biggest challenge I faced were weekends. When I was an undergraduate, there were very few overseas students which meant that a lot of the students would go home or go to visit their friends over the weekends. This spurred me to get a weekend job at the campus library which helped with the other big challenge – finances.

How the course has supported my career

My English Literature course supported my career in higher education in every possible way but it also created a very peculiar problem: I had enjoyed all my modules so much that I wanted to specialize in everything from nineteenth century novels, to modernist poetry, to Shakespeare.

I had such a tough time choosing between these strands for my MA - I suppose it was the best dilemma to have! Even though I ended up choosing Shakespeare, Dr Uglow and Dr de Gay’s teachings on feminist literature have proved very useful over the years and Dr Hardwick’s passion for Chaucer has taught me how a lecturer’s enthusiasm for a subject can be infectious.

The department was also very responsive in terms of pastoral care. My personal tutor Dr Storer was kind and patient about the many dilemmas that I brought to his office door in my three years as an undergraduate. Dr Simpson worked with the administration to create a new English single honours degree because a fellow student and I felt that that would be the right course for us. Dr Alyal wrote hundreds of references for my applications and I am embarrassed about the number of times she took out time from her very busy schedule to advise me.

Biggest career successes so far

In 2016, I co-convened a multi-grant winning international academic conference and a public film festival, ‘Indian Shakespeares on Screen’ in partnership with Asia House, BFI Southbank, Inox India, and Bollywood directors. I have also published in leading international journals such as Shakespeare Survey and Shakespeare Studies and in prestigious essay collections such as Shakespeare, Race and Performance and Shakespeare and Indian Cinema. The career successes that make me the happiest however are when my students achieve their successes whether it is overcoming their fear of Shakespeare or securing a dream job.

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My podcast series about women & Shakespeare

The podcast links on spotify and via my website feature conversations with diverse women directors, actors, writers, and academics who are involved in making and interpreting Shakespeare. In the conversations, you can find out both how Shakespeare is used to amplify the voices of women today and how women are redefining the world's most famous writer.

My advice to others who want to be a lecturer

This is one of the few professions in which you do not have to sell all your principles to keep doing your job passionately and you will feel rewarded when you make a positive difference in people’s lives through your teaching!