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What can you do with a Classics degree? A conversation with Sahra Merali-Smith, Teacher of Latin and Greek



"The breadth of modules available to study allowed me to meander through to various aspects of Classics that I had never even considered, like Archaeology of the Near East, and early Greek Philosophy.


I even did a module in English Literature and specialised in some Elizabeth Barrett Browning, which was lovely. I was left to explore and find my individual path, and I had so much support along the way."





The conversation about what to do with a Classics degree often revolves around options other than teaching. However, many Classics graduates choose to teach as a career after their degree, and lead fulfilling and successful professional lives. I was very happy to chat about the joys of teaching with Sarah Merali-Smith, who is one of those teachers: dedicated, enthusiastic, and a powerhouse of ideas and projects!


What aspects of your degree did you enjoy the most?


Greek Art.


Looking back, was your degree what you expected?


Not at all! The breadth of modules available to study allowed me to meander through to various aspects of Classics that I had never even considered, like Archaeology of the Near East, and early Greek Philosophy. I even did a module in English Literature and specialised in some Elizabeth Barratt Browning, which was lovely. I was left to explore and find my individual path and I had so much support along the way. I also had never even contemplated staying on to continue my studies further but I felt I just had too much to read! I completed a Masters degree in Ancient World Studies and loved every minute. I felt as if I had finally found my calling.


If you could go back and speak to your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give her about choosing a degree?


Consult more experts in the field, mentors at school, admissions teams at universities, ask lots and lots of questions. You are not alone. There is lots of support out there!


What was your first job after finishing your degree?


Teacher.


And what other jobs have you had in your life, related or not to your degree?


Museum educator, Museum tour guide, private tutor, and director of summer schools. I really enjoyed my part-time work in the museums and even now, in my spare time (not that I have much!), I do the occasional tour of the British Museum for small groups of adults. I also still tutor in my evenings and weekends. And, I run The East London Classics Summer School, which has been running now for 4 years. We run a 5-day summer school and a 2-day Easter school for GCSE Latin students. The course is open to students from all backgrounds and schools and for those students who are in need of financial assistance, I offer half and full bursaries depending on need.


I am a huge champion of students who want to study Classics, and I want to try to create opportunities for students that are easy and comfortable. Classics is a subject that some feel is elitist and I want to try to break down that barrier and allow accessibility to all, in the small way that I can. You can read more about us at eastlondonclassicssummerschool.com.


In your professional career, what learnings from your Classics degree have been most useful?


Skills for critical analysis, conversations with experts in the field, introduction to the subject at large, independent study, writing skills.


Do you consider that anything you learnt was useless?


Not in the slightest. Every moment was valuable and looking back, I feel so fortunate and pleased that I made the most of the opportunities available. I also did a lot of messing around as well and met my now-husband!


How does classics inform your work as a teacher?


Directly. I teach Latin, Greek, and Classical Civilisation at every level.


Would you do it again?


In a second.


To find out more about The East London Classics Summer School, visit their website:


ELCSS Summer School Brochure

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