Song for the day: Venus Fly by Grimes ft Janelle Monae
Yeah it’s ~that song off the advert but it’s so so good! Listen to it right now.
Anyway. As you might have noticed from ALL OF MY SOCIAL MEDIA (sorry about that), I am just over a week away from handing in my dissertation and finishing my MA in Literary Translation. This is both terrifying and a massive relief, and I’m here to tell you why a Masters Degree is Bloody Hard Work.
“No shit, Sherlock,” I hear you cry, and fair enough, it’s kind of implied that the next level up in academia is going to be harder than the one before it. HOWEVER, there are several aspects to the MA which kind of make the step up a LOT higher than the prospective student first thinks, especially if, as I did, you have to move to a new uni to do it at.
I did my BA in French and Spanish at the University of Hull. That meant 4 glorious years of drinking and living with friends. The first year in halls is expected. I’m fairly sure we come out the womb knowing that when you’re 18, you move into a building with 20 other people and drink for a year
unless like me you have social anxiety and cry in your room for most of it. My third year was spent abroad, where I went to two new unis, but as an Erasmus student there was precedent for that, and events and possibly friends from your course and then you have the time of your life. RIP Eramus grant fuck you brexit.
HOWEVER, my chosen career path was adamant that anyone who wanted to join it had an MA, and so in 4th year I began searching for one. The only uni in the country that did a translation MA specifically for those wanting to translate fiction books and not a legal document was the University of East Anglia. It’s one of the best in the country for its literature MAs, and so I ended up with a place on it.
This is where my problems started.
1. I needed somewhere to live. The uni’s options were a) get a place in our special post-grad halls that cost over £7k (!!!) and finish a month before your course does also home students rarely are allowed a place there OR b) try your luck with the housing market. Right, ok, thanks.
In Hull, there is literally a street next to uni that’s full of dedicated student landlord companies that you can go to and organise yourself a room for the year (or a house living with friends) (I miss you Accomodation Warehouse). In Norwich, they either don’t exist or are in some obscure street miles away from anything. I’m not sure what it’s like in other cities, but BE PREPARED TO SPEND HOURS ON SPAREROOM.COM. UEA do have a website for houses, but I was let down SO MANY TIMES. It was ridiculously disheartening. You can read about that here. I was so innocent back then. Even the househunt turned me into a ruthless bitch. Try and be one from the start.
2. Post-grad life is lonely. Not living with your friends anymore is hard enough, but moving in with complete strangers in close quarters is a terrifying prospect and it ends up like this. My coursemates shrunk from 100 to 7 – and only 3 of those, including me, were full time. Of the 2 other people doing the course full time, I only liked 1. Of the 1 person on my course who was bearable, 0 were interested in talking outside of class. Right. Ok. Join a club, I hear you say, and yes that’s probably what you should do. However, anxiety. I tried joining the newspaper but it was so, so cliquey. I lasted one meeting and legged it. I have spent 12 months being so, so lonely. I came home quite a bit, and have marathoned a LOT of Parks and Rec and Criminal Minds over and over and over. You’re thrown into a new city all alone and it’s fucking HARD. The one friend I had from my BA was doing a PGCE and had loads of new friends, but due to an Incident during my BA, my anxiety was too high to go round to hers much. At least coursework kept me busy because:
3. The nature of an MA course means that you get out of it what you put in. I had 4 contact hours a week, and was expected to do most of the leg-work myself. As it was a PGT course, which implies that you are taught, I felt a bit let down and very overwhelmed by how academic we were meant to be with no instruction. In my eyes, my course has NOT been worth £7k. Even if I summoned the courage to visit tutors in their office hours, they were in meetings. Masters courses are where you start independent academia, and there are no guidelines for this. Especially if you’ve come out of the MFL school and into the literature department. Essays are different. Research methods are different. Those of us who had a different academic background received no help for this. INDEPEDENCE. Don’t do what I did and slowly drown in your own perceived worthlessness when your first essay comes back with the worst grade you’ve ever had on it because you had to write an extra 2000 words than you’ve been used to in a different style.
So just be prepared, guys. You have a mountain to climb, but there are ways to do it easily. I have every faith in you.
Hope you’re all ok out there!