What studying a masters during a global pandemic taught me

Amy Fahey – April 6, 2021

How my MA year started vs. how my MA year ended were very different. Despite studying in the midst of a pandemic, I am so grateful for the overall experience. I explored a new city, made new friends, developed a new sense of independence and of course mastered the art of studying from home. Having my time on campus come to a halt in 2020 taught me so much and made me appreciate the little things.

Looking back at my first day, I remember stepping into my first lecture at Cardiff University knowing nobody and feeling very overwhelmed. I was very close to dropping out because I couldn’t convince myself that this was what I actually wanted. Little did I know that a year on, the people in that lecture were going to be my support system and the degree I now hold has opened up so many more doors for me. Over the past year all of us students have had to adapt, reflect on our life, and deal with additional stresses as a university student (as if there weren’t enough already). If I could give you three tips from my rollercoaster MA experience, they would have to be…

1. Make the most of your time on campus –  you have much more independence so don’t be afraid to branch out and join societies and clubs still. Even though the work is more intense, I remember my class times were 3 hours a week (so worth the hefty investment). I had so much time spare that I didn’t want to just fill it with studying. I volunteered, worked part-time and explored a whole new city. When campus shut down in March 2020, I moved home and couldn’t help but feel upset that I was not making memories with my new friends and absorbing every last bit of the university culture. Seriously you never know when the world is going to shut down so throw yourself into the experience and take every opportunity!

2. Don’t doubt yourself –  Everyone is coming from different academic backgrounds so you’re not expected to all be on the same level. Building relationships with your classmates is super helpful (especially when you find yourself studying from home on zoom 24/7 with no idea what’s going on). It is very easy to think that everyone else is more advanced than you, or that you’re falling behind but that’s just your negative thoughts, not reality! Use your friends as much as you can –  organise study groups, create a WhatsApp group where you can all ask questions (trust me no question is a stupid question). As soon as the pandemic hit, I’m not even joking, the group chat was hitting about 15 questions A DAY (mute please).

3. We don’t like to talk about it…but…the workload is heavier BUT much more manageable! I really recommend getting yourself into a regular routine to avoid feeling stressed and overwhelmed (…personal experience). Let’s face it, it is hard to stay focused and motivated when the world is in a pit of despair, but I came to love the word “routine”. Don’t overwork yourself and dedicate time to let go and have fun! I went from doing pub quizzes every Thursday to doing zoom quizzes with my course friends every Thursday! Even though I was studying from home, I really valued this virtual time with my friends.

If you’re in the mindset of ‘do I…don’t I’ about doing a Masters 100% DO IT. Even though I was on campus for a whole 7 months, they were the best 7 months. The jump from being an undergraduate to a postgraduate may seem daunting but I actually enjoyed my masters more! You have so much more freedom to express yourself in your work and actually be in control of your schedule! Not to mention…there are so many opportunities waiting for you on the other side.