Things QE taught me: Surya reflects on life as a pupil as he prepares for role lecturing at the Sorbonne

Things QE taught me:  Surya reflects on life as a pupil as he prepares for role lecturing at the Sorbonne

Having completed his English degree at Oxford, Surya Bowyer has spent the last year taking a Master’s at University College London and has now been nominated by UCL for a post at the Sorbonne.

Surya (OE 2007–2014) is in close contact with fellow QE alumni – “There’s a group of eight OEs that I have very regular contact with, and we have a tradition of going away together each summer,” – and he retains very fond memories of his School days. “I think one of the most important things QE taught me was to treat people with respect and never forget my manners. It’s a very useful life skill.”

In addition to the OEs he holidays with, Surya meets up with others from his year group “both by chance at university, and on purpose for intermittent catch-ups at the pub. As a year, we have a pretty large group of people who seem to be fond of each other, which I’m thankful for. Even when at a new university or stage of life, when you find yourself having to make new friends, it’s always nice to be able to also catch up with well-known faces every once in a while.”

After completing his BA at Keble College, Oxford, Surya wanted to branch out beyond English into more interdisciplinary work, so he chose UCL’s European Culture and Thought MA. “UCL has been great. There was a shift in teaching style and the shape of the workload, in that Oxford had us writing one of two shorter essays a week, whereas at UCL I had to complete two 6,000-word pieces of coursework each term. I found myself particularly enjoying the freedom to pursue more of my own interests in the MA,” Surya adds, though acknowledging that the critical reading skills he had developed at Oxford also proved indispensable.

He will work at the Sorbonne as a lecteur: UCL sends one person to Paris each year for this role which involves teaching undergraduate English majors at the Faculté des Lettres (also known as UFR). “I’m told they usually send doctoral research students, but somehow I got the nod,” says Surya.

He hopes to take advantage of the opportunity both to improve his French and to gain experience of lecturing at a university. “I’m seriously contemplating applying to do a PhD and trying to go into academia, and I think having the experience of teaching for a year will help me determine whether this is the career path I indeed want to pursue.”

Surya returned to QE last year to talk to Year 11 about the virtues of studying English at university and to conduct mock university interviews. Looking back to his own School days, he recalls with affection certain characteristic sights and sounds: “The noise of the atrium at lunchtime, with people constantly banging on lockers as they play cards or scramble to finish off some work, sticks in my mind.

“I particularly enjoyed my time in the Sixth Form, with the added responsibility and depth of work. The inter-house rugby and tug of war competitions also have a warm place in my memory, probably because Pearce often won.”

In his spare time today, Surya enjoys visiting museums and galleries, as well as going to the cinema and watching football.

“I think that if I do end up going into academia, it would be important to me that the work I do extends a little beyond the walls of the university. So, over the last few years I’ve also been attempting to improve my ability to write critically in a less academic context and tone.” Surya’s own website holds a collection of his published reviews and non-academic essays.