Second Impressions-Returning to University

After Months of planning, applying and organising I finally found myself returning to University as a Masters study at last. Through all the paperwork, stress and excitement to get stuck in I was sure I knew exactly what to expect. I knew the transition from Undergrad to Postgrad would need me to increase my work load but I wasn’t prepared for this.

After my goodbyes and a nervous train journey I had made it to Bournemouth. I was thinking of all the work I would be getting stuck in with, the skills I would learn and the progression from student to researcher, finally becoming a “real scientist”. I also had the time to look back on my arrival at my last University for my undergraduate degree. Im certain that my undergrad started similar to everyone elses. Arrive at halls and instantly be greeted by your new flatmates, all equally eager and excited as you, plenty of helpful guides, leaflets and events to go to. Peer guides telling you where and when to be at places for everything, and of course too much partying and too much drinking. But the experience as a postgrad so far; has been a far cry from the freshers experience.

My arrival was without ceremony, arriving by train, I had to get myself orientated and head around the Uni buildings and offices to sign contract, pick up my keys and pay a absurd amount in rent. Once the paperwork was sorted I came to my new home for the time being, postgrad halls. A spartan room with little more than a bed and desk; what more does a researcher need! I had arrived on the Friday so was unable to meet my supervisor or colleagues until the Monday. This, I thought, gave me plenty of time to meet some people in the halls, and maybe see the beginnings of the new freshers week for the undergrads and maybe have a few drinks before I had to get serious on the Monday. But postgrad halls are nothing like the halls of undergrads. They are absolutely silent. I thought since arriving that maybe the halls were empty and I was the only person in the building. Save for the sounds of the occasional door shutting I heard no one for days. Eventually I met one PhD student in the building. He explained that I was the last to arrive in the building. Everyone just keeps themselves to themselves and does their work. Since then I have met a few other students in my halls. Three to be exact. Its a very multicultural house which seems to be a trait of postgraduate studies. I was impressed that everyone seem to be such diligent students and researchers but I must admit the quiet soon became unpleasant.

So I explored the town on the weekend, learnt my way around the place, replied to emails, visited the campus to see where I will be working; the whole time I didn’t meet a soul. It was like a ghost town. No students had really started freshers week yet. It has begun now. The streets awash with hungover, regretful undergrad. It like looking back to a few years ago. I finally met my supervisor and several of the faculty staff and was given a place to work. All the members of staff seemed to get along so well together and the PhD students were treated as individuals, something rarely seen as an undergrad. The atmosphere in the faculty is fantastic. As someone who has wanted to work as a researcher for years it is superb to be able to see how it works from the inside. But now the hard work really begins.

It didnt feel like it during my time as an undergrad. But  the education is so heavily guided. Be at this lecture, learn this topic, write this report and heres your degree. My Masters does not feel like that right now. I have been told that this is the stage when you learn to become an independent researcher. I was also told by the deputy dean that the only difference between a Master by Research and a PhD is the duration. I strongly agree with both so far. At this moment in time I am extremely motivated to knuckle down and complete a superb bit of research for my Masters. I was thinking I would maybe like to follow on to a PhD and after seeing how the PhD students work I am confident this is the path I shall pursue. But for the time being, I have never spent so much time studying.. I dont think I have really stopped since I started at 6:30am on Monday. I am glad I finally get to work in the field I have been pursuing for so long. Fingers crossed I gain the skills needed to become worthy of undertaking a PhD.


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