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My Postgraduate Experience, Philippa Taylor – MA English Literature

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

I chose to do my MA in English Literature at Cardiff because of the variety of module options available, with courses on offer in everything from medieval to contemporary literature. I chose to follow the flexible ‘Open Pathway’ option, since this meant that I could choose whichever modules caught my imagination, and now, coming to the end of the year, I feel very fortunate to have been exposed to such a wide range of literature. This has provided me with the in-depth, contextual knowledge that I would need to pursue further academic study in a variety of literary fields. I also found Cardiff a very friendly university when I came to visit, and I was keen to become part of such a welcoming community.

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

Throughout the year, my module leaders and my dissertation supervisor have been incredibly supportive, encouraging and generous with their time, feedback and wider-reading suggestions. My subject knowledge has increased a great deal, and the weekly Research Methods seminars have helped me to develop the specific skills and confidence required to present a convincing argument. The residential weekend MA conference at Gregynog Hall in February was also a wonderful opportunity to present a paper for the first time in a relaxed, supportive environment. Although embarking upon the dissertation has been daunting at times, the fortnightly workshops throughout the summer have been an invaluable chance to clear up any queries, ask for advice, and to catch up with other MA students who are all in the same boat!

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

I have found Cardiff a very friendly, welcoming city, with plenty of museums, cafés, restaurants and cultural events. It is also ideally situated to access the coastline or the mountains if you want to escape the city for an afternoon! I live in a rented house in Cathays, which I share with other postgraduate students, and it is conveniently only ten minutes walking from the library and the building in which I have all my seminars and meetings. All my fellow MA students are extremely friendly, and there is a real sense of community since everyone shares a similar passion for the subject, and we are all going through the same challenges together. We often go for coffee or lunch after seminars, and this is a lovely chance to escape the library and to relax a little. The events organised for postgraduates during Freshers’ Week were also a very helpful, relaxed opportunity to meet people from other courses across the university.

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

There is certainly far less contact time involved in a postgraduate degree, as is to be expected, and this has meant that I have found there to be more emphasis on self-organisation and motivation. Nevertheless, there are regular seminars and reading groups which are part of the taught programme, meaning that there are always frequent opportunities to see fellow students, share ideas, and have a coffee and a chat. The increased focus upon independent research in the postgraduate programme has been enriching and rewarding, and I have found that, with fewer classes and lectures at the university every week, I have had far more time to do in-depth secondary reading before seminars, which has given me a lot more confidence when contributing to discussions.

How did you fund your postgraduate degree?

I was very grateful to receive a Masters Excellence scholarship, and this has helped partially to pay my tuition fees. I also worked for three years following my undergraduate degree and before starting at Cardiff, so I have relied on these savings to fund the rest. The university’s Jobshop is a great source of part-time work to supplement finances during the MA.

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

In the future, I hope either to carry on to a PhD in English or Comparative Literature, using the subject knowledge and research skills which I have acquired during my MA here at Cardiff, or to go into teaching, for which I would also draw on all that I have learnt during the year. The MA has given me confidence in presenting my ideas both in written and spoken form, and this will be invaluable experience for whichever path I take.