Outfit 005 | Master's, Semester One

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I wanted to do a little post gathering together some of my thoughts on the first semester of my Master’s course (and I've popped in the last of the Copenhagen pics, too). To be honest, it ended up a bit whiny. Oops! This is probably going to be one of those things which is more for me than useful for you guys, but I hope I can be even the tiniest bit helpful to those of you who are looking to do a postgraduate course and asked me some questions.

For those of you who asked about the application process, I personally found it relatively straightforward so I’ll run through it quickly here. I only applied for this specific Master’s (in Contemporary Literature, Culture and Theory) because it was the only taught MA in London that properly interested me. I wanted to do a taught course because I felt unprepared to go into a long dissertation by myself for a year and thought it might make a bit of an easier transition to do specific courses. Also I wanted to try a different uni with different priorities and specialities, and expand my repertoire within contemporary literature. A term in, I’m a little conflicted about this decision but ultimately I still think it was the right choice. I’ve thought a couple times that doing a fifth year of courses is maybe a bit restrictive, but I’ve learnt some new things and it’s been interesting trying out a new range of courses. I was nervous about the equal focus on theory and culture as well as the literature, but its been these aspects that have really broadened my existing knowledge. 

 
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Anyway, I knew I wanted to move home to London, so that narrowed my search down considerably, so I got a personal statement together around this time last year and sent it off along with one of my essays and references through the King’s Apply system (I didn’t have to do UCAS or anything like that). For me the whole process was super quick and easy, but unfortunately that means I don’t have much knowledge about applying to other universities with different courses. The most important thing though, is to do lots and lots of research and make sure the content of the course fits your interests, but also might expand them within a suitable range, too.

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Firstly, the useful bits. In terms of the workload and the difficulty of it, it’s hard to judge whether it’s more intense. Because the course has a heavy emphasis on theory and culture as well as literature, there were times where the reading was heavier than it was during my undergrad. I was reading two books a week plus compulsory theory, which was often incredibly dense. However, this varies from course to course within the programme; this semester I have a course which is only theory-based, so there are no lengthy books to read, but sometimes it can take a looooong time to get through a piece of theory. I also don’t have mid-term essays and instead have longer ones at the end. This can make it easier to emphasise reading, but at the same time coming up with my own title and concept for the last essays was quite tricky when I am so used to being given a selection of questions.

Is it more difficult? Again, it’s mostly just different rather than identifiably trickier. I haven’t received my essay marks back for the two essays I just did, so I don’t know if they are going to be marked to a much higher standard (I suspect the answer is a combination of yes, and it’s a different university with different tutors). The theory I’ve read has definitely pushed me harder than that which I’ve come across before, but I was quite used to doing that kind of thing during my undergrad; it’s more that they’ve given me more material to get my teeth into. I think my thinking has improved maybe, but it feels more like a natural progression, rather than a huge jump. 

Oh man, there have been some difficult aspects to this last semester, though. In many ways it felt like first year all over again, with big highs and lows. I underestimated the effect all the ~change~ would have on me. I don’t say any of this to put you guys off doing a Master’s because in lots of ways the experience is very specific to me and my situation, but it was certainly tougher than I thought.

First of all, I reallyyy missed Edinburgh and my friends. Having just come out of a different uni experience, I was constantly comparing the two. I do think perhaps it would have been a good idea to take at least a year between my undergrad and the Master’s; to put some space between me and Edinburgh, let those four years settle and let me get used to living in London again. Also, I think I was still kind of exhausted when I started. I don’t know if this is an excuse I’m making up or whether it’s valid, but I feel like there’s something very intense about studying, and after a busy summer as well I felt a bit mentally worn out by my final year.

London is a wonderful city, and it’s my home. But it is busy. Being back here I felt like I suddenly had loads more stuff going on, even though ostensibly I was still doing the same things: YouTube and university. I found myself making a great group of friends and getting to know them all was really fun, but it was easy to neglect my work. It was like jumping straight into a third/fourth year workload but with first year social priorities. And it’s kind of important to do both (especially seeing as I was living at home and could have easily found myself feeling quite alone in my work). In Edinburgh I was either in the library working or having fun with my friends. Zak would visit on the odd weekend but not when I was super snowed under with uni. But in London I have my family and Zak around all the time, which is amazing and it’s so nice to be able to spend more time with them after years of only sporadic visits, but it also makes it much harder to set boundaries and balance social and working life, along with friends as well. I’m also making some time every few weeks to go and see my Edinburgh girls, because missing them is a lot and long distance friendship is hard!

 
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I also decided to launch this blog, which added another element to my YouTube world. I had said that moving back to London I’d like to get more involved in work and do more jobs, especially as I’d have Zak around to help me more often, but stepping it up added a lot to my plate. All of these things are so positive and I’m so pleased to be home for lots of these exact reasons, but I found I was suddenly struggling to balance absolutely everything, and I still feel like I’m working it out. This is probably why I had to take a little bit more of a relaxed approach to Vlogtober and Vlogmas, and I found it hard to keep up with everything. I wondered constantly why I was doing the same stuff, but it felt so much more difficult, and I was concerned I’d become lazy or inadequate. I think it took me a little bit of time to work out why that was.

However, beginning this term I am starting to relax into it a little more. I’ve accepted I’m not going to have a routine like I used to have, and that lots of days will be different, and that requires more organisation on my part. It also makes things exciting! I’ve learnt not to beat myself up if I can’t accomplish the ten things on my to-do list, and that lots of the pressure I was feeling came from myself to do everything and be everywhere at once. I want to focus even more on my academic work, try to upload videos and write blogposts when I can, and take each day as it comes. It helps that a few of the pressures (making new friends, launching the blog) are behind me now, too. I still find myself getting overwhelmed, but it’s a lot more manageable. 

Essentially, my first semester of my Master’s was a total whirlwind from start to finish, and I think it was for everyone I met, too. It’s a big change, whether you’ve taken a year or more out of university or not, for countless different reasons. I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to pursue further education, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I can live at home here in London and get to reacquaint myself with one of my favourite places. I’ve explored loads of new parts of the city and met so many new people, which is a real privilege.

If you’re looking to pursue a Master’s degree, I imagine lots of this is somewhat irrelevant. However, my main advice would be (rather generically), don’t be too hard on yourself, recognise that it’s going to be quite a big change (and accelerated, compared to the few years of undergrad). Make time for fun and rest, and use it as an opportunity to build on what you know (i.e. throw yourself into the work too). Please do share your experiences down below as I’d absolutely love to read them, and I will be sure to keep you updated on the next chapter. 
 

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