Find out what life is really like at Durham University

PostgraduateStudent experience

Life as a Master’s Student

I studied English at Durham as an undergraduate and not long before graduating, amidst third-year fears of ‘what to do next’ I got the opportunity to return to do an MA. Obviously I jumped at this chance! I have always been interested in doing further study and the chance to continue on straight away at Durham seemed perfect; it’s a brilliant university for English, the course was exciting, many of my friends are here for their fourth years and it is where I live and work too.

I began the year happy that I would get to extend my university experience while also getting to experience something new. As I found out I would be continuing on in June, my friends had all signed houses so I had to live with a different group for the first time. I signed up for a spare room in a lovely house and met the girls beforehand. This was the first thing which was a really different experience as I am so used to living with friends. It has upsides and downsides: my friends aren’t around all the time and I get major fear of missing out, but then I get much less distracted and when I do see them it is more quality time than just wasting time and procrastinating.

Hard at work writing my research proposal

Hard at work writing my research proposal

Another major change is the course itself. I chose to do a taught degree in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature (but because that is a mouthful I usually just say English!). To start with there are so many new people from other universities, so I have had plenty of opportunities to meet new friends which has been great as that isn’t something I had really done since Fresher’s. I also no longer have lectures; everything is seminar based, and you take modules based on interest rather than fulfilling requirements which means classes are really dynamic, interesting and engaging.

Some of this is also down to the ‘research-led teaching’ of the department, which means our tutors are still exploring these topics too so there is a lot of freedom. As my focus is on contemporary fiction the reading load has been very heavy, but I could never complain that studying entails curling up to read with a novel and a cuppa! One module also involves film and TV narratives so I’m also getting to watch series like True Detective and Breaking Bad for my degree which is brilliant.

Ellen 2

It’s not just geographers who colour in…

Outside of academics, I have returned to the same college of my undergrad: Trevelyan. It has been lovely as I can get involved with the MCR (Middle Common Room, a kind of mini union for postgraduates in college) and meet loads of other new students. However there is also a nice sense of community among fourth years, as many of our year have now left, we are a smaller but perhaps also tighter knit group. I’ve always loved being involved in college life and so ran for Social Secretary on our Executive Committee, which would mean organising our formal dinners and any other social events, as well as helping the Social Committee organise our big, college-wide events.

Returners at the first MCR formal!

Returners at the first MCR formal!

After a tense week of voting I was so happy to hear I was elected, and since have been hard at work to organise a research presentation buffet. The responsibility can be a little daunting, especially when we have to meet the college officers next week! However, I am really enjoying the chance to be involved and organise fun events for us.

Even though I’m always on the go, it makes me so glad that I did come back and get to do it all over again, but in a new and much more exciting way!

Ellen Orange

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