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My transition from UG in English to PG in Politics

One of the questions I repeatedly asked myself before applying to study at postgraduate level was, “am I capable of making a subject switch at such a high academic level?”.

During my time as an English Literature undergraduate student, I had been lucky enough to be able to study electives in social policy and I found myself increasingly drawn toward more political fields of study. While I thoroughly enjoyed studying English Literature, I was keen to pursue my interest in politics by studying it at a postgraduate level, if possible.

However, I was not sure that I was up for the challenge of beginning my academic journey in politics at such a late stage. I was concerned that the other students on the course would be miles ahead of me, not only with respect to the content of the course, but also with respect to the writing style and verbal communication skills required of a politics student.

Overcoming fears

Ultimately, I made the decision to ignore my fears and pursue a postgraduate degree in a completely different field of study to that of my undergrad – and I couldn’t be happier that I decided to do so!

Continuing study at a postgraduate level generally consists of one of two things; either you specialise in your undergraduate subject area, or you switch subject area. This is important because, while this reflects the reality that there will be people on your postgraduate course that have three years’ worth of academic experience in the subject area under their belt, there will also be plenty who are completely new to the course – and I have certainly found that to be the case!

During the first few weeks of my postgraduate course, I met people with backgrounds in a range of different academic disciplines, from business, to history, to English like me! While there were also a few here and there who had studied a degree based in politics at undergraduate level, I was definitely not alone as a student who had made a subject switch.

Support is available

More importantly, universities are well aware that students make subject switches all the time when transitioning from undergraduate to postgraduate study. In order to make this transition as smooth as possible for students, universities have plenty of provisions in place, (including things like essay writing workshops and introductory modules specifically curated to equip all students with the background knowledge and skills to excel on the course).

Now that I am coming to the end of my master’s programme, I can confidently say that I am so happy that I was confident enough to pursue my interests and branch away from English Literature.  I have not once felt that I lacked the skills or knowledge to do well on my course, rather I have gained insight and experience into a field of study I had previously thought beyond my reach.

No matter how many times I doubted myself before applying for postgraduate study, or how many times I questioned whether switching to a new course would be a good decision, it is important to remember that it is always an option, you just have to be confident enough to do it!

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Read about Bethany’s journey to study at Durham here

Bethany Mellody

Hi! I am Bethany, a master’s student at Durham University studying Politics and International Relations. I am currently a member of Durham’s postgraduate college, Ustinov. Though I also used to be a member of Trevelyan College during my undergraduate degree in English Literature, which I also completed at Durham.
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