As someone who’s been to Durham as an undergraduate and now as a taught masters, life is quite different. While this may not apply to all postgraduates, particularly integrated or research-based postgrads, my experience this year has been poles apart from my undergraduate degree.
Firstly, the structure of the year has transformed. At undergraduate level, students usually study around five or six modules worth 20 credits. Comparatively, I’ve been working termly this year, with five modules in the first term, two modules in the second term, a module abroad in the Easter holidays, and my dissertation and a final module in the third term. I’ve also had lectures until 8 pm alongside lectures on Wednesday afternoons (as an undergrad no lectures or seminars take place on Wednesday afternoons, it’s usually reserved for extra-curricular activities. This is all due to the need for modules to be more flexible. While this has worked well for job interviews and more manageable to balance work and personal obligations, the flexibility means it becomes difficult to structure the day – particularly the evening lectures. Many hobbies and pursuits are taken up in the evenings, it has become challenging to build a life around the degree.
However, the increased autonomy means you engage more in your academic interests, alongside it being better for your well-being (as I do enjoy a lie in!). The free time has allowed me to focus more on exercise, time with friends in our last year at Durham and volunteering. The postgraduate community at Durham has a variety of events and societies to get involved with. Amongst the Middle Common Room (MCR’s) there are formals in each college at different times of the year available for postgraduates, this is a great way to meet people from the PG community. There has been everything from a murder mystery formal at St. Cuthbert’s Society, a burns night formal at St. Aidan’s (with a ceilidh of course), and a formal at Castle.
The multicultural environment of postgraduates allows you to engage with a wide variety of individuals and backgrounds. Most people on my course, in particular, have worked in industry, looking to switch career paths or others have taken a gap year before committing to a Masters. Consequently, the lectures and seminar leaders treat you differently. In some departments, postgraduates have access to common rooms. In colleges, MCR’s have their own rooms and facilities. These supportive settings create a more informal environment for academia.
Overall, postgraduate life has been a great way to transition and prepare further for work. Equally, being a postgraduate at Durham has meant finding new passions, meeting a more diverse range of people and a network for life.
Download our interactive postgraduate prospectus here.