Embarking on a MA last September was an exciting yet terrifying experience. My head was full of questions and concerns such as would I make friends? What would Reading University be like? How easy is it to fit in as a Postgrad? Will all the bars be full of freshers and am I too old to go out?
Life is a Masters student at Reading has been one of the best experiences of my life but there are some things I wish somebody had told me before I started – little bits of advice that sometimes took me longer to figure out than I wish they’d had. So here are my top tips for any postgrads starting at Reading University this September.
Extra curricular activities
Do some extra curricular activities. This may seem a waste of time and pointless as a postgraduate student but honestly, its fun, important and will enrich your experience so much. It is really helpful to meet some people outside of your course, which is exceptionally difficult it you’re not in halls / going out 3 times a week like you do as an undergraduate fresher. Attend a professional track course, join a sports team or write for the paper! Do something that’s not related to your studies. I promise it will help you keep sane even if the time commitment seems a bit much!
Make friends with everybody on your course. Don’t be that person that sits at the back of the class and doesn’t talk to anybody. I have made friends with so many different people this year, from all over the world and all different ages. It has been such an enriching experience and it may not have been the case if I hadn’t immediately socialised with the people on my course.
Organise social activities
Try to organise social activities around your time on campus. If, like me, you commute to campus and work part time it might seem virtually impossible to attend any social events but I promise you it is possible and you’ll find that many people are in a similar position to you so will very much appreciate this. My friends and I, for example, went to the pub (Park House Bar – it’s great, cheap and really cute) after lectures on Tuesday for an hour or so because it fit with everybody’s schedule and was the best way for us to all become such great friends.
Cope with your commute
Learn how to cope with your commute (if you have one). So many of you Masters students are probably commuting to campus and it can seem like one of the hardest things about doing your masters degree (I’m not even exaggerating – traffic in Reading is hideous). So, my advice to you commuters would be to find the best ways to cope with your commute from day one. Discover podcasts, find out which route is best, and invest in some good headphones. I promise this will make the year much, much easier.
Remember why you started
Remember why you decided to do your masters. Sometimes throughout the year you may feel exhausted, overwhelmed and fed up and as a postgraduate you may find there’s less support for these feelings and perhaps many more of them then you experienced as an undergrad. So it’s important to remember why you started and what you want to achieve. Giving yourself a little pep talk every now and again is always a good idea.
Enjoy yourself. Whatever you reasons for doing a Masters, a career break, a change in career, or a continuation of your studies. The time will pass so quickly that you’ll blink and suddenly you have three weeks left before your dissertation deadline. Enjoy the lectures, make the most of the library, and socialise whenever your busy schedule allows it.
Your Masters year will sometimes feel absolutely impossible and at other times, the best thing you’ve ever done. Make sure you find a rhythm that works for you and make times for yourself and the other parts of postgraduate life that don’t just involve your subject and assignments.
Written for and publish in the University of Reading’s Spark Newspaper.