Why did you choose to study a postgraduate degree at Cardiff University?
I initially chose the course based on the module diet that was available to read about on the University’s website; in particular, the Gender and Sexuality pathway of modules and a general focus on women’s literature as a whole cemented my decision. I was also pleasantly surprised that all of the module selections were optional with an ability to forge your own timetable based on specific personal interests – my undergraduate course was full of obligatory modules I didn’t have any passion for, which lead me to lose interest. This has, I am happy to report, not been the case at Cardiff.
How was your experience as a postgraduate at Cardiff University, in terms of the programme?
I have thoroughly enjoyed the first year of my part-time course, finding both the staff and student body to be a wonderful group of people who make room for my academic pursuits to flourish. The modules offered were varied and different to any I had seen elsewhere, with all of the lecturers I had the pleasure to engage with ensured that their reading lists were intersectional and avoided tradition. Communication with course leaders is consistent and information regarding dates, times, changes and updates is distributed in a timely, considerate manner. Reading lists and preparatory information for classes are always made available to you both in physical copy and online in advance. The extra-curricular opportunities were a significant positive for me, in particular attending a lecture by Jack Halberstam, a well-known queer theorist, and discussing his newest book in a reading group with Jack himself and some PHD students!
How was your experience of living in Cardiff, in terms of the city, social life and accommodation, again specifically as a postgraduate student?
My partner was already attending the university as a medical student prior to my moving here – together we were able to find a lovely flat in a good location by the SU with one of the many lettings agents in Cathays. Rent is particularly cheap if you snag your accommodation quickly, but be sure to check with the university before signing your contract, as the union offers a free read-over service to avoid rogue landlords. Being added to a Facebook group with all of my coursemates before induction week meant that we were able to introduce ourselves to each other beforehand, so we’d all have at least one or two familiar faces on the first day to tag around the fresher’s fair with.
It also meant we could arrange a trip to the pub the day before the course started, where I met two girls I’d now consider to be my closest friends! The city is cheap and cheerful, with all of the amenities you’d expect in a capital and more. There are plenty of opportunities for part-time work around if that’s something you’d need to help support yourself, and if you’re into gigs and going out the SU and loads of venues in the city offer both. As part of the LGBT community myself, the queer scene in Cardiff is very active; there are a range of hangouts, meetups and pub/club nights to suit all identities.
What was different about your postgraduate experience at Cardiff University compared to your previous degree?
I studied for my undergraduate at a campus-based uni, so Cardiff’s various buildings being distributed around the city took some getting used to, though there are plenty of maps and signs around to help you out.
Everything is still in close proximity and surrounded by supermarkets, cafes and coffee shops, as well as the Students Union itself which is in the middle of everything. The teaching has been more effective in its delivery, and of a higher standard – it feels like Cardiff’s staff actually care about your personal successes and are willing to support you in your struggles. The student services offered both in term time and outside it have proved invaluable, with the Jobshop scheme standing out specially: regularly being updated with new opportunities for volunteering, studies and paid work helped me to earn extra money without spending hours trawling the internet.
The workshops offered by the School have also allowed me to learn ways in which my writing can be improved (even to as basic a level as correctly using a reference system or writing the perfect bibliography), which is something my undergraduate degree lacked. Before coming to Cardiff, I always felt that I had never really had the rubrics for academic writing at university explained to me in layman’s terms, and these workshops offer chances to return to basics without making you feel patronised or unintelligent for wanting to attend.
How did you fund your postgraduate degree?
I am a recipient of the Masters’ Excellence Scholarship, which means because I was successful in applying for this, I have £3000 taken off my total fees for the course. As I study part-time, I also work part-time as a freelance transcriptionist; I also formerly held a part-time retail job that I started alongside the course, but will commence my new job in September as a Support Worker at the Uni itself.
Working alongside the degree is necessary for me as it helps me to feel more secure in my finances, but this is the case for most students nowadays. The majority of the texts required can be accessed through the library or online, and in my experience module leaders provide handbooks with necessary texts for the week at the start of the course, letting you know well in advance which books you need to get.
How do you think that your postgraduate degree is helping prepare you for the future – job aspirations, career development, future study etc?
The weekly research methods classes have been a godsend in coping with the jump from undergraduate to postgraduate studies, as well as polishing my essay-writing skills. The various discussions on writing, giving presentations and conference papers, studying effectively and preparing for the future have bolstered my confidence and improved the cohesiveness of my essays. The encouragement of and reassurance about PHD studies that we have received has led me to believe that I should consider extending my academic career further, which I’d never really had the confidence to think about at a genuine level previously. It has also convinced me that, even if it is not my full-time job, I want to continue learning and – potentially – writing in an academic capacity in the future, and maybe even go on to lecture myself, if I can.