Summer is here! This means the end of lectures, some (hopefully) consistent weather, and for me and my year-group; a long run-up to the final dissertation hand-in. With all my teaching now completed, I thought I’d take this opportunity to reflect on the year and share five things I wish I’d known at the start of my Masters – and five songs which go with them.
Your time is really in your hands
Time – Jungle (youtube.com)
Sometimes people flinch when I tell them I’m doing a Masters’, and they even do a little ‘ouch’ when I say that I’m doing part-time work too. There’s a fallacy that postgraduate studies absorb everything you do. I’ve had ample time this year to do what I’ve needed.
What I would say is: recognise that your time is really in your hands. I stepped into this year, cautiously worrying that I’d be chained to the library. In reality: the spread of my lectures has allowed me to do loads. I’ve held three freelance roles, continued actively bike riding, playing squash and writing for one of the university papers.
Different courses will have varying schedules, and the ends of terms have been tight for time, but you are in control. Postgraduate study lends itself to those who can get a good work rhythm.
Be good to yourself
Rest – Michael Kiwanuka (youtube.com)
On the topic of time, be good to yourself! A difficulty I found at the start of this year was taking time out for myself.
At the start and end of every term, I’ve had at least two essays due. This meant there was no easy way to block out holiday over Christmas and Easter. You really must be proactive in looking after yourself.
For instance, I took some long weekends off last term in a quiet period before deadlines. It really helped me not burn out and was a good boost for my wellbeing.
Yet again, you’re in control of a lot of your time, so don’t be hard on yourself.
Make use of the GSA and university societies
Squash has been the main thing I’ve done. Sport is fantastic for getting you out of the books and blowing off steam.
Reviewing films and music has also given me free tickets and experience in writing (which enabled me to get a role as a writer here!). The university experience is very much open to postgrads here at York.
(Yes, I know it’s a vague connection to the song, but I like the Kinks and the lyrics contain the word society.)
Make time to get outside and explore
Always Like This – Bombay Bicycle Club (youtube.com)
Yorkshire is gorgeous. Make time to get outside and explore. There are great bus links to pokey villages, and the River Ouse is delightful for strolls all year-round. I got a bike in first term and have not regretted it once.
If you cycle north, there’s a long Sustrans route that goes towards Haxby, and the smell of chocolate often wafts from the Nestle factory there. Not to be missed is the planet trail, which starts near the racecourse. This follows models of the solar system planets at scaled intervals along a dedicated bike route.
(Again, a loose song connection. I love York’s countryside areas and historic city centre, it’s ‘always like this’, and you can enjoy it on your [bombay] bicycle [club]).
The last stop on my list is a homage to campus
Campus – Vampire Weekend (youtube.com)
Here are a few places I only discovered this year that I wish I’d seen earlier:
- The postgraduate study area: top floor, Harry Fairhurst building. It’s less busy than other parts of the library, has big desks and a tea and coffee area. I wish I’d made more use of it in busy times!
- Student Co-op (Scoop): this is not a secret branch of the Co-op, but a student-run fair-trade shop in Wentworth. You can bring empty jars and fill them with flour, spices, nuts or chocolate, wholefoods style. They’ve also got wholesale priced soap, tins, Naked Bars and much more. Find them on Facebook.
- The Quiet Place, Derwent: near Heslington Hall, this is a lesser-known part of campus, ideal for a study break.