Cardiff - the city, Funding and Finance, Student Profiles

My Cardiff Postgraduate Experience – Rachel Price Tate, MSc Genetic Counselling

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

After finishing my degree in Medical Genetics, there were many things that attracted me to the MSc Genetic Counselling programme here in Cardiff. The course itself is highly specialised and extremely well regarded within the field I want to work in.

I knew that I would be getting a high standard of teaching as the course was led by well-respected clinicians but I wanted to make sure I would be happy whilst studying here. Before I applied, I attended a couple of Open Days to get more of a feel for the University and chat with some current students. I had an overwhelmingly positive impression of the University more generally after this and knew it was somewhere I would feel comfortable.


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

My experience of my postgraduate programme was really positive. I was ecstatic when I was offered a place on my course and luckily the programme lived up to my expectations. My MSc Genetic Counselling programme was very varied in terms of learning experiences so as well as the more traditional lectures and seminars, we also had interactive counselling sessions, clinical and community based placements as well as an ethics residential in the Welsh countryside. The programme itself is well structured and there is a great deal of support available from course directors and personal tutors. I was lucky enough to be part of a very small year group (only 10 of us!) which may sound daunting but I found that it meant that the people teaching us were able to get to know us well and this really enhanced my experience here.


How was your experience of living in Cardiff, in terms of the city, social life and accommodation, specifically as a postgraduate student?

I have absolutely loved my time in Cardiff – so much in fact that I am currently trying to find a job here so I don’t have to leave. The city itself has got a lot going on for students, locals and tourists alike. It seems like there is also something happening here – lots of sporting events (Cardiff goes especially mad for rugby), music events, festivals… There is great nightlife here too with a big range of venues to suit all tastes. It’s an easy place to have a good social life as there is a lot happening and it’s all nice and close together.

For a capital city, it’s surprisingly compact and I have found that I’m able to walk pretty much everywhere I need to go. I’ve lived near the Cathays campus and can walk up to my lectures at the Heath Park campus. I can also get into the city centre really quickly (it’s a five minute walk from the Cathays campus) as well as down to Cardiff Bay in about half an hour. This makes it easy to get stuck in to what Cardiff has to offer, outside of University life.

As much as I have loved living right in the centre of the city, one of the great things about living here is how easily you can get to the beautiful surrounding countryside. It’s pretty easy to get to some beautiful places such as the mountains, waterfalls and coastal areas from Cardiff which is great if you like walking, climbing or just getting out of the city for a while.

In terms of accommodation, I have lived in private accommodation whilst I’ve been here and found this to be pretty straightforward. There is also a postgraduate house-hunting event run by the Students Union to help new postgraduate students meet housemates and find suitable housing through the University’s letting agency.


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

One of the main things that stands out to me about my experience of my MSc compared with my BSc is the far smaller class size.  During my previous degree I sometimes felt a little lost in a vast lecture theatre of hundreds of students.  The smaller class size also pushed me to engage with the course material far more than I had during my undergraduate studies and really developed my confidence in expressing my ideas to my peers and tutors. Overall, I had an incredibly good experience of the programme and it has confirmed to me that I want to continue into a career in Genetic Counselling.

I also found that the expectations are quite different at postgraduate level. My course was fairly structured but there was still a great deal of independent study required and I felt far more encouraged to think creatively and independently than at undergraduate level. This was a little daunting at first as I was used to very rigid assessments but I have found that I am now able to think more flexibly and apply the knowledge I have to different situations, rather than just memorising a lot of scientific information. Whilst it has certainly been more academically demanding, I have definitely enjoyed the challenges of a postgraduate level course and have found the experience a lot more satisfying.

My experience of the University itself more generally has also been more positive. I have felt more included and involved in University life here and feel more updated with what’s going on at the University. There is also a lot of support here for students, some specifically for postgraduates, such as counselling services, financial advice and careers services. I have found that the University is keen to promote these and makes it easy to find support when you need it. Although I’ve not had any significant problems during my studies here, it has been really good to know that there is support available if I needed it.


How did you fund your postgraduate degree?

I funded my postgraduate degree in a few different ways. In terms of my fees I mainly relied on the savings I’d built up working before moving to Cardiff.  I was also able to fit in some work during my studies to help with living expenses. There are lots of opportunities for part-time work around your studies, for example I signed up with the University Jobshop which gave me the chance to take on some casual/part-time work. This worked out particularly well as I could choose to work as and when I had the time, and choose to focus more on my studies during busier times. As well as being flexible, I was able to take on various types of work such as bar tending, admin work and tutoring, all of which I really enjoyed.


How do you think that your postgraduate degree is helping prepare you for the future?

My MSc Genetic Counselling degree is a direct training route into my ideal career as a genetic counsellor so it is fulfilling my career-based needs pretty well! More generally, I feel that this postgraduate degree has provided me with a lot of skills and opportunities for personal development that will be invaluable in the future. I undertook many short community and clinical placements in both years of my course and developed the ability to adapt to new situations, quickly build professional relationships and learnt to talk with people from many different backgrounds. The academic aspects of the course have also significantly developed my research, analytical and creative skills. I have also had many opportunities to attend conferences and events with the top professionals in my chosen field which has given me a more rounded understanding of my desired field and begin to make some professional contacts.