This academic year marked the start of my second year of my part-time MA. Although I have already completed half of my course, this year has been less like the transition between years I experienced as an undergrad, and more like starting over in the same academic department. I’d like to share what it feels like to be left behind when your full-time coursemates finish before you.
When I came to Sheffield in September last year I was new to the city and the university. It took me a while to get used to not only the hills and the campus, but also a new Germanic Studies department and a new level of study. The camaraderie I experienced as a languages undergrad had suddenly disappeared with just four of us studying at MA level, which focuses on independent study guided by your own academic interests.
However, by the end of the last academic year, thanks largely to taking part in societies, a school-wide research seminar module and Facebook groups, I finally felt settled: I had made a good circle of friends, managed to raise my profile within my department and was thoroughly enjoying my course. Through my part-time job and travelling on foot, I had some initial bearings around the city and had acquired those famous Sheffield leg muscles!
As this academic year started much remained the same: I’m studying in the same department, doing the same part-time job and living in the same city. On the other hand, a great deal has changed. The circle of full-time MA friends dwindled after mid-September when they all handed in their dissertations, with just a few still living in Sheffield. The number of MA students in my department whittled down to me alone, which I probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway since I’m working independently on my dissertation for the entirety of the year, with my supervisor’s help of course!
In that way, it feels like I’m starting a new course and have to adjust again to new faces around the school and a new way of studying. My research has got off to a good start, but it feels like there is a lifetime separating what I’m doing now with handing in my dissertation in the summer.
To make the most of this year and ensure I don’t become a dissertation-zombie, I’m trying to make sure I stay involved in my department, attending any research seminars I can and keeping in touch with staff. I recently wrote a blog post for the school’s postgraduate blog, have joined SingSoc to meet people and give my mind some very important down-time, and am taking part in a coding course for female students in the newly-built Diamond. I’ve got a lot to complete this year with my research alongside my commitments at work, but I’m determined to make this last year as an MA student at Sheffield as worthwhile as possible!