When I was in high school or even before I completed my undergraduate degree, I never thought I would start postgraduate study. My goal in academics was always to complete a degree in a great university and find a nice job with high pay. If you are reading this blog, I guess you already know more about postgraduate studies than I did. Even if you don’t, I’m sure you will after finishing this.
Papers, papers, papers
Sounds boring, but this is the part which differs from my UG studies the most, especially for people who do an exam-based degree as I did. In my UG studies in Hong Kong, all the modules were assessed by exams or group projects, only one or two modules required essays, and the dissertation did not exist. I didn’t read nearly as many academic papers as I am currently in my master’s studies.
From the start of my master’s program here, all the assessments are about critical analysis. We are required to read a lot of papers and discuss if the arguments are reasonable and reliable and decide which ones to use in our essays to support our arguments. Professors no longer extract all the information from textbooks and papers for you. Instead, they provide directions and guidance, and you are expected to read and explore yourself to gain insights. Of course, they still provide support when you need it, but it’s more about ‘you’ leading your own studies.
The lectures are different as well. Instead of large lectures with 300+ students, in MSc Behavioural Science, we have around 20 students for the programme, and a lot of discussions are encouraged not only in the seminars but also during the lectures.
Formals and college events
Besides academic studies, the most important part of my PG life is enjoying the collegiate system! Compared to UG, PG has a smaller and warmer family, and it’s easier to get to know each other.
In St. Chad’s, we had formal dinners nearly every week, and the Middle Common Room organised regular events, including Alnwick Castle and the Jubilee Party. Not to mention the largest event in our college calendar – Chad’s Day. During the day, we have Bailey Parade, which colours the whole Bailey into Chad’s green colour, Cathedral Service, Midday run and more. It was definitely the most memorable event I had in Durham.
Different from a 3-year UG program, PG usually only lasts for a year. Therefore, it is really important to plan beforehand. Whether you are working or doing a PhD, or even if you don’t have a plan yet, it’s time for you to book a free one-to-one appointment with a careers adviser from the beginning of the program. This not only makes your life easier and less stressful when you graduate but also a good chance for you to have some topics with your new friends and classmates! I hope you all enjoy your life as a PG student, as it is a short but surely fruitful year!
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