A student from Ipswich has swapped harmonies for hieroglyphs and achieved high academic success in his Egyptology studies at Swansea University after an early career as a prog rock musician.
Greg Saunders received a First Class BA Honours degree at a Degree and Award Congregation for the University’s College of Art and Humanities, held in the City and County of Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall today (Monday, July 14) watched by his proud family including his mother, brother, sister and brother in law.
Greg, who moved to Ipswich from the Scottish Borders at the age of 12, said he had developed an interest in Ancient Egypt after watching an old black and white horror movie. He said: “I remember being terrified after watching an old Mummy movie, but that morbid interest quickly became fascination for the subject, and led me to join the Egypt Exploration Society as a 14 year old.”
However, he later abandoned his formal studies to become a full time composer and bassist, playing with the progressive rock bands SoH and the Ferangs and touring extensively in Denmark, Germany and the UK, even playing a gig at Stonehenge. He also worked as a taxi driver in Ipswich which he could fit around his music commitments.
However, Greg decided that as being a musician became less important, that he would to change direction and go back to his early interest in Ancient Egypt. Following an access to Higher Education course, he enrolled in the Single Honours Egyptology course at Swansea University in 2011, winning the prestigious Louie Tarpo prize in Egyptology in 2013.
Greg said: “I still enjoy playing music for fun, but am now committed to studying Egyptology and now that I have completed my bachelors degree, I would very much like to continue my studies to Masters level if finances allow.”
His tutor Dr Martina Minas-Nerpel, Reader in Egyptology at Swansea University said: “From the very beginning it was obvious that Greg is an exceptionally talented, dedicated and hard working student. He not only excelled at his language modules but also his modules on culture, religion and history.
“For his dissertation, he examined an unpublished funerary stela, which dates back
c. 4000 years. Stelae are stone slabs used in the ancient world as grave markers but also for dedication, commemoration and demarcation. Greg translated the hieroglyphic inscription, analysed the iconographic details and presented a cultural interpretation of the object which is kept in the Petrie Museum in London.”
A Swansea student who had never left Wales before starting his American Studies course found that studying abroad was such a positive experience that he helps other students to study overseas and is now planning to teach in China.
Twenty three year old Christian Dennis, who is originally from Morriston, and is a former pupil of Morriston Comprehensive School, is graduating with a BA Honours degree in American Studies at a Degree and Award Congregation for the University’s College of Art and Humanities, held in the City and County of Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall today (Monday, July 14). Christian will be supported at the event by his proud mother and sister at the ceremony.
Christian said that a major motivation for his choice of American Studies was that the third year was spent studying in the USA, at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. While many students find that a period spent studying abroad has a transformative effective on them, Christian felt that the contrast with his life was even greater as he had not travelled overseas before.
He said: “Although the prospect of moving to another country was exciting it was also a bit scary. However, people were so friendly and kind and I really enjoyed having the chance to study and socialise with the American students and other international students from many different countries.”
On his return to Swansea University, Christian decided he would volunteer for the International Development Office as a Peer Advisor to help prospective students consider the benefits of a period of times spent abroad.
Now he has graduated, Christian has more plans to travel the world. He said: “I’ve really been bitten by the travel bug and am now planning to move to Hunan in China in August, where I am to teach English and after that I want to go to South America to teach too.”
Sian Impey, Head of Internationalisation at Swansea University said: “Many students have either never thought about studying overseas or are daunted by the prospect. Christian worked really hard during our Open and Visit days to really engage with prospective students and by recounting his experiences and giving them practical advice, he helped to inspire some students consider studying or working abroad. I’m so happy that Christian found his experience a positive one and wish him all the very best for his future travels.”