The prospect of enrolling into a postgraduate degree and resuming university life during a pandemic was something inconceivable prior to the turbulent year of 2020. However, whilst this appears daunting at first glance, the reality is much more straightforward. (If you were looking for a dramatic, fictitious blog, I’m sorry to disappoint you!)
If, like me, you place significant importance on staying productive (especially during national lockdowns where boredom can take over), now is the right time to embark on a master’s degree. Although it’s good to keep your options open, the current employment landscape is a troubling one. That being said, aimlessly applying for a master’s degree without any devotion for the subject is also ill-advised. However, if you have taken the time to look into a course but you are still undecided, take advice from someone who was in your exact position six months ago.
The Right Decision
Although it may occasionally feel like it, you are not alone; we are all in the same boat. During the first year of my undergraduate degree at the University of York in 2017, I distinctively remember creating a personal ‘Roadmap to Success’ as part of a career development module. I included a master’s degree path and considered the opportunity right from the beginning. Despite being enthusiastic about studying a master’s, I admit I was apprehensive that the degree and university life in general would be incomparable to my undergraduate degree and what I had been imagining for the past three years. Although I had experienced a glimpse of the impact of COVID-19 on my final undergraduate assessments, the prospect of beginning my master’s in this climate was unsettling.
Nevertheless, I didn’t let this detour my plans. I put my application forward and was later accepted to start the course in September 2020. This feeling of unease was settled almost immediately. And within the first week of my new degree, I knew I had made the right decision. The University has done everything possible to accommodate new and existing students. They’ve maintained a high standard of teaching and ongoing support, whilst continuing to abide by government restrictions to keep students safe. The University continuously update students with information about the coronavirus on their website.
A New Way of Learning?
During my first term, I have had a combination of learning online and on campus. Obviously, this university term has been like no other. Lectures and seminars on campus have been different, as expected. Despite wearing masks and socially distancing, I have been able to partake in the usual discussions with my coursemates (well, besides the occasional mumbling through my face mask).
The University promptly adjusted to this new way of learning. They introduced collaborative rooms for each module of my course. This allowed students to work together and join seminars remotely via online video/audio calls. Online learning has been intimate and engaging. ‘Breakout rooms’ have enabled smaller group discussions which have been fundamental to the success of the remote-yet-collaborative online experience. Whilst I enjoy leaving my flat and going to campus to learn, online learning has given me much more flexibility for other commitments. This has turned out to be the ideal combination of learning for me.
Coping with Boredom
As we have now experienced two national lockdowns in the UK, I feel many of us have perfected coping with boredom during quarantine. Personally, I have been keeping busy with university work by managing my time well, reading and completing assessments. Although the work can be challenging, it has given me something to focus on and helped me to maintain a productive and positive mindset.
Outside of my studying, I have enjoyed watching new films and series, and taking part in games nights and quizzes. This can be an excellent way to interact with your friends either in person or via video calls. I’ve even experimented with cooking and baking in my spare time. And believe me, if I can do it, anyone can. Exercise is also key to good health. Even during lockdown, walks or home workouts can be great to keep yourself and your mind active. If you live in York whilst studying at the university, I highly recommend going into the city whenever you can and visit York Minster.
However, this can be a difficult time for many. Rest assured, for those who are struggling, the University of York offer a range of support to help with your general wellbeing and academic life.
The University provide a support network, comprising of your college, academic supervisor, the Students’ Union and more. When I was deciding on which master’s course to apply to, I contacted the head of the programme and I was invited to a video call to talk through all the available options. As someone who is extremely indecisive, this was really helpful. I soon realised that the University always has someone available to help with any queries, no matter how big or small. Within the first couple of weeks, I also had an online meeting with my academic supervisor to check how I had settled in and offer the opportunity to book future meetings. Whether you want careers advice, a meeting with your supervisor or a chat with the Open-Door team, the University of York provides everyone with the chance to access support, which is crucial now more than ever.
If you want to access this support, visit the university website or explore the following links:
I hope you have found my personal experience of university during a pandemic interesting. If you are still undecided having read this blog, make sure to contact the relevant people at the university. They will put your mind at ease as they did with me, helping you to make the right decision. Good luck!
For more tips and advice, check out Megan’s blog on 5 things to know before starting your master’s degree
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