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FAQsGeography and PlanningMy postgraduate experience

Ellen, MSc Sustainability, Planning and Environmental Policy

13 June 2017

Why did you choose to study a postgraduate degree at Cardiff University?

The first aspect of Cardiff University that captured my interest was the vast array of modules I could choose from in my postgraduate course. From theoretically-based modules to technical modules, Cardiff University ensured I could study what interested me during my undergraduate degree of Geography in addition to subjects I hadn’t studied before, like transport! Upon attending the postgraduate open day, it became clear that the staff were very proactive, welcoming and forthcoming with their advice, such as identifying the best places to live as a postgraduate in Cardiff. Finally, the city itself boasts access to everything you could wish for as a student: affordable drinking spots, lots of high street brands and tourist attractions (such as Cardiff Castle and Principality Stadium) for when friends and family visit.

How was your experience as a postgraduate at Cardiff University, in terms of the programme?

It offered a very gradual introduction to the three branches of my postgraduate degree. During both first and second semester the course offered 2 optional modules and 1 core module. In order to make sure we were confident in the optional modules we had selected, the school of Geography and Planning offered a couple weeks where we could attend lectures, workshops and seminars relating to all the optional modules – then we could chose based on experience.

In the first semester, lecturers ensured they went over the fundamental aspects of each module, for those students who were new to the fields of the environment and policy. Although I had covered much of this before during my undergraduate degree of Geography, it was very useful to re-cap subjects, theories and scholars that I hadn’t touched on in over half a year. Overall, the work load wasn’t too difficult at all as the school had made sure our deadlines were spread evenly across the term and with a variety of assessment formats such as individual presentations, group presentations, essays and reports. I enjoyed first semester a lot, particularly the Sustainable Transport Policies module which I have now based my dissertation on.

Second term involved more individual work owing to the modules I chose, this allowed me to specialise even more so into what interested me. For example, during my Regeneration and Development report I could chose the scope and decided to opt for a transport and low carbon-based project. I found this semester slightly harder than first semester as you are left to your devices a bit more, however when I needed help I knew I could (and did) see my lecturers for one-to-one advice.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my programme, and feel much more confident in what I want to pursue career-wise than I did to start with owing to the diverse modules I studied.

How was your experience of living in Cardiff, in terms of the city, social life and accomadation, again specifically as a PG?

Having lived in Glasgow for my undergraduate degree, there were many times where I was overwhelmed with its sheer size. Moving to Cardiff meant everything was far more accessible and it took less time for me to navigate the city – this made it easy for me to feel at home. I really have been impressed by the way Cardiff has created a great balance of city living and rural the idyll. As a postgraduate it’s really important you allow yourself some ‘relax time’ and this can easily be achieved by picnicking by the castle, meeting friends in a beer garden, and hitting the town for a stint of pub golf! All these activities can be done easily and affordably in Cardiff. In fact, Cardiff is great for postgraduate student accommodation; when I started searching for places to live the low prices were what stood out to me. I live in a studio flat for ‘young professionals’ which means I can enjoy a night out but leave the noise to there – and return to a quiet space.

What was different about your postgraduate experience at Cardiff University compared to your previous degree?

The independence of postgraduate life is very clear for me, relative to my studies as an undergraduate. This means you have to be self-motivated to attend lecturers, but you feel so rewarded for doing so as the lecturers recognise you, your interests and are very willing to help if you need it. Owing to the smaller classes, you feel much more able to ask questions and engage in debates that were perhaps not that enticing in an undergraduate course of over 100 students! Being a Masters student also means you can truly study what interests you in terms of choosing the subject and scope of your assignments.

How did you fund your postgraduate degree?

I have been funded by the new postgraduate loan, provided by Student Finance England. This covered all of my tuition fees and most of my living costs.

How do you think that your postgraduate degree is helping prepare you for the future – job aspirations, career development, future study, etc?

From studying my Geography undergraduate degree I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the field of sustainability but I just didn’t know what subject and how technical I wanted to go. So this postgraduate course has allowed me to study so many subjects (such as sustainable food, transport, urban planning) that I have crossed off some options whilst ticking others as future careers. My main focus now is sustainable transport, I enjoyed the module so much in first semester that I have based my dissertation on it and my future career choses will be based on sustainable cycling and driving.

Having completed an internship for an environmental consultancy firm prior to attending Cardiff University, I realised that my chances of obtaining a position in industries such as consultancy will be heightened by obtaining a relevant and high-quality Masters degree. With Cardiff University as a Russell Group university in addition to the School of Geography and Planning repeatedly being one of the highest ranked schools in the UK, I have no doubt this will be boost my opportunities in the near and far future.