“This term has simply flown by.” Clichéd though it may be, it always seems to be true. So much has happened in such a short space of time! In this post I will talk about my thoughts on the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study as a masters student and the observations from my first term here at Warwick.
1. Shifting priorities
Previously during my undergraduate degree I remember that I based my priorities on the experience of university as whole. I thought about how I was going to make new friends, what societies I wanted to join and how I would balance a fun life at university with my studies. I’ve realised now that those priorities have changed somewhat as I start my masters degree. Forging relationships is still important (more on that in a moment) but my focus has had to centre primarily on my studies and how to financially support myself throughout the year. On the latter, it is important to note that unlike the undergraduate loan which was for me three separate loans; Tuition Fee Loan, Maintenance Loan and Maintenance Grant, the postgraduate loan, as it stands now, works differently. It is one lump sum divided into three instalments throughout the year which covers the tuition fees for your one-year masters course and the remainder for your living costs. For me this year, this has left me with just under £2,000 for living costs for the whole year and thus prompted the necessity to find ways to supplement the loan given. In short, this year I had to put a lot of consideration into how I spend my time and money.
2. Beginning from square one
In every sense, I’ve had to start from scratch in a new setting: wandering aimlessly around a new campus, navigating the demands of a new course and generally negotiating the level up from undergraduate to postgraduate life. I have to say I haven’t finished exploring all of the campus yet as there’s so much to see and so little time to do it in. My course in French and Francophone Studies has less modules, promoting more independent study (with A LOT of reading material) and the classes are a lot smaller than expected. What shocked me the most is the realisation that not all universities use the same referencing system and so now, after four years of mastering Cardiff’s Harvard referencing, I have to unlearn it to make space for a new referencing system used by my department. Overall, the experience of “being new” again has taught me perseverance to keep going even during the initial weeks of feeling lost and sometimes out of place. And it is also very clear to me that I am not the only one feeling this way. Whether you’re new to Warwick or not, thriving in a new postgraduate life is no easy feat. I am finding that because I enjoy the subject and the relative freedom of the learning process compared to that of a bachelor’s degree, I am more willing to overcome the challenges that come with my studies. It is worth considering whether the course you decide to take for your masters is the right one for you or if indeed you want to do a masters at all. The year you spend will be more difficult to overcome if you are not ultimately enjoying the subject that you have chosen.
3. Rethinking relationships
I have also realised that making friends as a postgraduate student is not the same as an undergraduate. Although starting university offers more independence than school, there are still ample, ready-made opportunities to meet people and to potentially make long-lasting friendships for three or more years with the people you meet on your course, societies, flatmates etc. In some ways those opportunities remain the same for postgrads, but you may find that you might not have time to go to societies or you might not see people on your course as often due to smaller classes or reduced contact hours (as in my case). It is time to find creative ways to meet new people. So do not neglect those Welcome Week events at the beginning of term as it was through these events I was able to meet the most people and am still in contact with a couple of them. The SU and Postgraduate Hub always have something going on to meet more people outside your course. You might require more patience than you initially thought you would as everyone is busy with their studies and getting to know people might take time. Don’t give up, you will get there.
So these are some musings over the first term, about what it is like to transition from an undergraduate to postgraduate study. Look out for further reflections in my blogs as the year progresses.