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Alumni interview: Dr Sarah Hill

14 July 2014

Being an international student wasn’t in any way strange. If I hadn’t come to Cardiff to do the MA, I wouldn’t have known that it was possible to study popular music as an academic subject.”

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California native Dr Sarah Hill studied at Cardiff University before going on to lecture here.


Hi Sarah. What did you study and why?

I did an MA in Music, Culture and Politics; then a PhD in Music. I had a couple of degrees in musicology, and had been studying the Welsh language for a couple of years but I wanted to find a way to get both of those interests working together, and the MA in Music, Culture and Politics seemed like a good opportunity to see if I could.

What do you do now?

I’m a Lecturer in Music at the School of Music. I teach modules in popular music studies, primarily – my PhD was on Welsh-language popular music and cultural identity, so I’m the Welsh language officer for the School as well.

You must have enjoyed it to stay here! How would you describe your experience at the University?

If I hadn’t come to Cardiff to do the MA, I wouldn’t have known that it was possible to study popular music as an academic subject. I owe an awful lot to my PhD supervisor (and now my next-door-office neighbour), Ken Gloag, for pushing me in that particular direction.

Looking back, do you have a favourite memory?

I can recall one very clearly – the moment I decided what I was going to research for my MA dissertation – it was the moment that changed the direction of my entire career!

Did you work during your postgraduate studies?

For a couple of very happy years I worked at the Seafarers International Research Centre, a job I got through Unistaff. As an overseas student I was restricted in the number of hours I could work, and Unistaff were enormously helpful in enabling me to earn a little bit of spending money, and giving me a chance to experience life in other departments.

How did it feel being an international student?

Being an international student wasn’t in any way strange, because I had been an exchange student as an undergraduate and spent a year at the University of York. 

Did you face any challenges, from missing home to more cultural differences?

The year before I came to Cardiff I had spent 8 weeks at the University of Lampeter on the intensive Welsh Ulpan course, so I felt very little by way of culture shock when I moved here in 1997. There are certainly aspects of my Californian identity that scream out for home even now  (I can Skype with my family and friends, but I can’t Skype beautiful weather and delicious food).

Do you see yourself staying in Cardiff for the foreseeable future or do you have plans to go back to California?

I try to get home as much as I can, but it’s getting more difficult (and more expensive!) to do so now that I have two children in school. Maybe one day I’ll have the means to buy a little pied-à-terre in the [San Francisco] Bay Area, but that’s some years off still.