Category Archives: Dissertation Procrastination

To Masters Degree, Or Not To Masters Degree?

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While this is definitely me studying, it’s most definitely not my university.

I love my university. I love the people, my course, the campus, and the experiences it has given me. But the history department here is small, and the university itself is very enterprise orientated. So where does that leave me in terms of further study?

#SmallUniProblems

When I say our history department is small, I mean that the staff fit into two fairly average sized offices, and that I have come into contact with pretty much all of them throughout my university career. That doesn’t mean we’re all best pals or anything, it’s just small, and because it’s so small it’s very student orientated. My lecturers know who they’re teaching, the biggest module I’m in this semester contains around 40 people – but split (unevenly) over two classes, meaning that my class is still small. Therefore my university history undergraduate experience has been very personal and I’ve felt supported at every step. The discussions are informal and the doors are always open, and yet it’s never felt like the university you see on the big screen, or what you imagine you’re filling out your UCAS application. For my masters I am thinking of applying to much bigger universities, with large faculties and more than six modules on offer each semester. This has left me wondering how I would manage the transition, not only from undergraduate to postgraduate, but also from student focused to an academics lead institution.

Life after graduation?

This brings me on to my seconds point. My current university is very career orientated, taking on the task of preparing its students for the ‘real world’, and this works for them. In terms of humanities graduates, over 90% are employed within a year of finishing their degrees, and in our second and third years we have compulsory modules on graduate and employability skills. Now this is very useful, and I’m not for one moment saying that it’s not. I like being able to pop into the careers office for a chat about my CV or help with an application, and this kind of support is what makes students from all the different schools employable. Where I feel it falls down is the promotion of further study as a valid pathway after graduation.

Apart from a few fantastically helpful people, postgraduate study (that is not a PGCE) has never been presented as a proper option. It’s been on the outside of our corporate based careers fairs, and for the two compulsory career conferences I’ve had to attend for humanities, those representing postgraduate study have failed to attend for various reasons.
I know that if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. I also know that postgraduate degrees in this country aren’t cheap, but this is why I wish the promotion would have been there. So prospective students could discuss options for funding and financial support, and pick the brains of postgrads who have gone on to take a number of different courses at different universities.

At this moment passion is my driving force, and I am being helped by some amazing individuals so who knows where I’ll be this time next year. All I know is that I have loved (and continue to love) my undergraduate experience, I would have just liked a little less of the ‘you-will-graduate-and-be-a-successful-high-flying-business-person’ approach, and more of a ‘look at all these options you could be considering!’
But then again, I’m coming to the end of my last semester as an undergraduate.
Maybe all of this is just an existential crisis?

 

 

 

 

 

This is purely based of my own experience and an afternoon of thinking a little too hard.
Is your university particularly employment/academics leaning?
How have your options been presented to you, if it all?  

Stepping Outside That Comfort Zone

On Tuesday this week my university held its annual History  Undergraduate Dissertation Conference. It was a lovely day in which we could show off our projects to our course mates. postgraduates and members of staff in an informal setting. To add some excitement to the proceedings there were three forms in which we could present our research, a poster, 3 minute soapbox or 10 minute presentation, the best of each category winning a prize at the end of the day.

I really enjoyed hearing about everyone’s projects. It’s amazing that within a group of 27 students interests can be so varied, covering everything from modern political history to early modern medicine, from Victorian funerals to 1960s popular culture. There was also a mix of geographical locations being studied. Often I feel that at undergraduate level we are limited by our access to predominately British sources, but thanks to the digitizing of sources from other countries and different approaches/perspectives this is changing.

Although I’m enjoying my research and love talking the ears off those who ask about my dissertation topic, the conference was daunting to me. I’m not a public speaker. Sure I can dream about giving that perfect lecture one day, strolling about in front of a project screen with a clicker in my hand, but the reality is much different. Red face, shaky hands and wavering voice.

Why then, did I choose to present my work as a ten minute presentation?

My reasoning was simple, I’m proud of what I’m doing and I felt a ten minute presentation was the best way to showcase my work. I knew that no matter how much I prepared (and believe me, I was sooo prepared), I would face the same problems I always do when it comes to public speaking. But I needed to know that I could do it.  

To push me even further out of my comfort zone, shortly before my allocated time slot my supervisor made a terrifying suggestion. I should step out from behind the desk during the presentation, to engage the audience and remove the barrier between me and the rest of the room. Now I don’t know about anyone else, but a barrier between myself and the audience is a great thing. It helps to hide vulnerability and provides a sturdy object to hold for fear of passing out (over exaggeration).

But to my surprise, I stood away from the desk. I may have had a hand on the edge of it for the majority of the time, but I did it and survived. It wasn’t a brilliantly polished presentation, I stumbled over my words a few times, and the wavering voice, shaking hands and red face were ever present, but afterwards they were joined by a sense of achievement. Regardless of whether I won or not, the level of personal achievement that day was so huge that I would go home happy.

Now as it turns out, I did win! My presentation on County Meath shared the top spot with another about regulation of men in the EIC, and I couldn’t have been more proud. In fact, I’m still riding the high, which is why I have been able to write such a self indulgent post.
I promise normal service will resume tomorrow!

But if I ever need a nudge to do anything challenging, different or new again, I can always look back to the conference and at what can happen if I just take that little step away from the desk.

 

 

Dissertation Procrastination: Top Five Fictional Best Friends

Top Five Fictional Best Friends

In an attempt to stop myself from drowning under mounds of pressure and research, I’ve spent some time compiling a list of my favourite characters that fall into the ‘best friend’ or ‘sidekick’ category. If our favourite characters were real (and who wouldn’t want that) I would consider myself very lucky to have these people at my side!

So without any further ado, and in no particular order…..

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