Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic

Greetings, prospective fellow ASNaC. Gathered below are the basic details of what it's like to study ASNaC at Cambridge, and more specifically Peterhouse.

The Course

The course is three years long, but many of us feel that this is not enough, and stick around for a fourth year and an MPhil. In your first year you'll get to choose six out of ten paper choices: four history, five language, and one on old books (also known as Palaeography and Codicology). As most people approach the subject without having studied it before, a balance of history and language papers is generally recommended, but there's nothing to stop you focusing on the history side or the language side if you know what you like. More commonly people tend to choose between the Germanic side (Old English, Old Norse and their associated history papers) and the Celtic side (Medieval Welsh, Medieval Irish etc). Insular Latin and Palaeography as yet remain neutral territory. The usual lack of prior experience also means that the courses are generally taught from a beginner's level. In the case of Palaeography, it probably won't feel like that, so check out Michelle P Brown's glossary of terms on the British Library website to pick up the technical vocab.

How the course is taught

Lecture-wise, compared to other arts and humanities students, your timetable's going to look pretty full – particularly if you favour the languages, as for those you have both a class and a lecture each week. In your first year you'll only have one supervision and an essay to write for it a week, but watch out in second year - it's not unusual for people to spend their first and second term on two or even three) essays per week. You probably won't have much time for wider reading outside your supervision work, but any you can do will be extremely useful.

In terms of the social side, your timetable will also be packed; the advantage of studying in one of the smallest departments in the university is that you'll get to know everyone quickly. ASNaC lunch and ASNaC pub once a week will help with that, but Lord of the Rings marathons, mead-drinking, black-tie dinner and a yearly trip to somewhere appropriately ASNaC are also on the cards.

ASNaC at Peterhouse

On studying the subject at Peterhouse: brace yourselves. Basically, everyone you meet will study pretty much any subject except ASNaC. If there's one ASNaC a year at Peterhouse it's regarded as something of a minor miracle. Two in a year is nearly unprecedented. On the one hand, this means you'll hardly ever have to fight someone for a library book from the Peterhouse library. On the other, there are hardly any ASNaC-related books in the Peterhouse library. Have fun searching in the enormous university-wide libraries, people!

Advice for applicants

Potential applicants: read widely. Don't be afraid to take an A-level or two that doesn't seem to be ASNaC or even art subject related (although I'd get as much essay-writing practice as you can - you'll need it) Love your subject; enthusiasm will see you through the interview fear. And relax. My subject interview was the most enjoyable part of the application process; getting to talk to experts on the subject you love is nothing short of awesome. And finally; if you say you've read something on your SAQ, re-read it before the interview. No one should have to make up their opinions on a poem about a monastery cat on the fly (trust me).

Advice for offer-holders

Freshers! Don't panic. Between the Vikings, the battle-hedgehog (he looks like Hugh Jackman - nobody knows why), more Arthurian legends than you can shake Excalibur at and the possessed lettuce, you're going to have an epic three years.

[Updated 21/04/2014]