MEC: learning to question our world and spark real change in it, by Katy Ensch, MEC student

By Katy Ensch, 1st year MEC student.

Well, undoubtedly 2020 is a strange year for everyone. Although approaching 25 years of age this has also been my first year of University. However, despite the lockdown and everything else going on in the world, I’m really happy with how it’s gone. And I’m already excited to start the second year of my degree: Media and Environmental Communication BA (Hons).

Getting back into education and truly embracing everything the course has to offer has been a challenging, exciting, and overall liberating process. In this first year, I’ve gained some wonderful friends, who’ve made me laugh hysterically along the way! And best of all, I’m finally feeling a sense of purpose; because I know why I’m here on this course and what the point of it is.

Selfie. Three young white women against pink background.

Me and my housemates for next year – Gemma (left) and Abbie (right), Brighton

I never planned on attending University; instead I spent my younger life dreaming and planning on becoming an actress. I used to live for the stage, and so upon finishing sixth form collage I had one plan and one plan only: go to drama school, become an actress, be a star! However, after a summer of travelling I decided that I wanted to see the world and travel for a while, with a view to circling back round to acting eventually. Well, several years and countries later I’d done plenty of travelling and not much acting. But travelling had woken another passion: nature. Having experienced places of such natural beauty, their people and natural heritage, I began to reflect on how much we take this Earth for granted through our everyday mass consumption. Our human impact on the Earth is causing so much change and deterioration, which slowly begun to devastate me. I realised that I had to do something, so I began to consider what I could do to help.

Landscape photograph

Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa.

I enjoyed acting and it was what I’d always wanted to do, but that was it and by this point that just didn’t seem like enough. I no longer saw the point in acting and figured I could make more of an impact as myself rather than by playing a character. If we only get one life and one chance to make an impact then I wanted it to be for something more important, something greater than myself. So then I was stuck for a while, I wanted to help communicate environmental issues, but clearly I’m no scientist, so what could I do?

That’s when MEC came along.

It really seemed like the perfect answer, but I’ll admit that it took me a while to get into the course. I loved the practical side of it, but at first I was caught off guard by the torrent of theoretical knowledge that I’d, perhaps naively, not expected. However, the transformation in my appreciation of Critical Approaches to Media was astonishing, as it quickly went from being my least favourite module to my favourite. For context, you’re expected to read (in depth) between 30 and 50 pages a week for Critical Approaches to Media.

Portrait of five women talking around a table

Lectures are followed by seminars, where students discuss readings in small groups.

My first year at university has allowed me to think critically about how our media portrays environmental issues, which really is the crux of the course. I’d never properly considered media representation before; I assumed like many people do, that the media simply reports the facts without much intervention. Now at the end of my first year, I understand the profound impact the media has on how society interprets the many issues in our world (and how social variables such as gender, race, class, and ideology all play a role too). I can now comprehend the pivotal role of media industries in shaping humanity’s response to the climate crisis. Therefore, I feel more passionate than ever to contribute to the effective communication of environmental issues.

This may not have always been my plan, but I couldn’t be happier being part of a course that I not only enjoy, but I also really feel has a point to it, that is equipping us with the critical skills to question our world and hopefully spark some real change in it. I can’t deny that there’ve been times where I’ve missed the stage, but there’s no greater feeling than focusing on my love of this Earth and how we can help it. I’ve been lucky to enjoy some pretty cool adventures along my way in life, but University is my biggest adventure yet, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me!

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