History student Jessica Turner wins at Henley

UCL History student Jessica Turner, who is graduating this September, was part of the UCL Boat Club’s Senior Women’s squad who won the Academic Eights at the Henley Women’s Regatta in June. The event took place over three days (with a time trial on the first day) and the UCL crew had to race Nottingham (their arch-rivals) in the semi-final, and finally Reading in a tense final. UCL History interviewed Jessica about her time at UCL and her rowing success, and this is what she had to say…

Jessica, how and why did you first get involved in the Boat Club?

“After I stopped gymnastics when I was 16 I never managed to find a sport that I liked, or was good at. I tried out for the UCL women’s basketball team and endured three traumatic hours of circuit training and being pelted with basketballs. I decided I hated ball sports and thought rowing sounded safe and you got to sit down while you were doing it. I don’t think I quite realised what I was letting myself in for!”

The crew in their new boat (previously owned by the Canadian Olympic team!)

The crew in their new boat (previously owned by the Canadian Olympic team!)

How did you manage your time so that your studies in the department were not affected by the training required to compete?

“This was very difficult. It was actually the hardest in my first year as I had no idea how much I needed to study to achieve what I wanted, and I could never have imagined how much training was necessary. After my year abroad I didn’t start rowing again until after Christmas, by which time I felt quite on top of my studies. By about February my schedule mostly involved getting up at 5.30am both days of the weekend, rowing until 1pm or 2pm and then going straight to the library.”

What did it feel like to win at Henley?

“It was the most incredible feeling I have ever experienced, for so many different reasons. We all felt we had sacrificed so much for the training this year; many of us were in our final year and had been racing most weekends throughout our exams. Winning felt like a validation of all of that hard work! It was also a very strange race as normally you can see who is winning during the race, but it was so close at the end that it took half an hour to figure out who had won. We had to row the boats back in and stay out of the sun in case we had to do a re-row, it was the hardest thing we had ever endured and quite a few of us were hysterical! Winning after that extra stress definitely made it more exciting and solidified our connection as a crew.”

The team with Sir Steve Redgrave

The squad with Sir Steve Redgrave

Now that you’re about to graduate, what is your stand-out memory of UCL?

“Adam Smith gave a lecture in the core course (informally known as ‘Plato to NATO’) in my first year on the two World Wars. It ended with him reading Aftermath by Siegfried Sassoon while showing pictures of the trenches. He slowly left the lecture theatre and the whole year just sat there in stunned silence because it was so powerful, I remember feeling so proud to be at UCL and excited for the rest of my studies.”

What will you be doing next?

“I am going to undertake a Master’s at UCL in Transnational Studies.”

What advice would you give to new students starting this September?

“Get involved in extra-curricular activities; having other things going on in your life will actually help your studies. Take advantage of every second at UCL, the time goes more quickly than you could ever imagine. Most importantly use and appreciate the time that your tutors will dedicate to you!”

Jessica holds the trophy after the team win

Jessica holds the Pricewaterhouse Coopers Cup for the Academic Eights


The department would like to thank Jessica for taking part in this interview, and to congratulate her and the entire squad on their victory. UCL Boat Club is currently celebrating it’s 150th anniversary, and if you’re interested in joining the club you can find out more on their website


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