Friday 25 November 2011

Something's Got to Give

MA results were published this week meaning that there are a lot of happy and relieved history students floating around at the moment! It also means that a lot of us are looking back at the past year and feeling immensly grateful that it was not a waste of time and hopefully reflecting upon everything we've learned and the way we've all grown as historians and researchers.

Its this mood of reflection that I wanted to touch upon. I came out with a pass which initially I was a little bit dissapointed with having maintained a merit throughout the rest of the course. It was my dissertation that let me down in the end as I suspected it might as it was written while I was working full time and waist deep in two separate PhD proposals - it was a stressful summer. I knew at the time that I simply wasnt giving the dissertation the time it needed to be a good, solid piece of research but I also knew that I was giving it all the time I physically could, short of abandoning sleep. So while i was dissapointed I was also accepting.

This in turn made me think of the choices we all make during our studies and the other things that muscle in on the time we would otherwise devote to learning. Finances are an issue that affect most students and thanks to recent governmental decisions its not something thats going to get any easier to manage in the near future. I have always worked as well as studying, having two jobs during my BA and working as a subwarden and in the SU to finance my MA. There were times when this was difficult (frequent 5am callouts to deal with drunk and often vommiting students being particularly trying moments) but on the whole it is definitely not something I regret doing. I got a lot out of working; i made friends outside of my course, gained experience and had something separate to my studies to spend time on which proved helpful for my sanity.

However when it came to writing my dissertation this summer I found that I had definitely bitten off more than I could chew. Taking on a full time job meant that i could stay in Leicester and access the library my supervisor and ultimately pay my rent, but also meant that I was devoting 36 hours a week and considerable thought and energy to something that wasnt my dissertation. Applying for a PhD at the same time meant that I had deadlines that seemed more urgent and more pressing to claim my attention. The result was pretty inevitable, I came out with a pass when really I should have done better. However my dissapointment has passed as I've been thinking about everything I gained from the MA beyond the mere qualification. I have grown and learned a lot in the last year, more so, I think, than all three years of my BA. I have been introduced to new conepts and methods that I never would have encountered otherwise and ultimately feel much more sure of my ability to start my PhD in January.

For those lucky few who receive funding, this is not something you have to worry about and, I wont lie, I hate you a little bit for that ... However there are definitely worse things than working to fund your studies. The moral of the story is just to be aware of your limitations and what is feasible in the ammount of time you have and not try and push yourself beyond either of those things. Something always has to give and you just have to be aware of what that thing will be.