Applying after a break

Starting as a postgraduate is a weird time. It’s extremely exciting, knowing that you’re giving yourself a chance to continue exploring the subject you enjoy, but it also feels like going backwards. It’s a return to University—a place you’ve already experienced—that, after being out of education for any time, carries with it a sense of trepidation; a question of how it will translate to the sort of person you are now.

The point is it does translate. At least it did for me, and I wanted to use a series of blog posts to share the ways in which I approached starting and applying to a postgraduate programme that helped me transition out of work and back into education. Please remember, this isn’t a guide on what to do when you come to University. By no means use the following posts to do exactly what I did. Rather, see them as a mode of thinking about University again, in a way that is probably different from your initial experience as an undergraduate student.

If, like me, you are keen to undertake a Masters, but also are unsure of how it’ll work after you’ve stepped out of education (for however long), I’d recommend thinking as I did.

The primary way that I began to think about returning to University was through questioning how I could best cheat, or stack, my circumstances so as to improve them since graduating. I came to the conclusion that, instead of taking the programme I was interested in full-time (as many students do), I should do the course part-time. This took the edge off the “taking time out of work” side of education and it meant that I could work alongside what I wanted to do. This ultimately complemented my studies. I discovered that both work and University offer modes of escape from one another and, alongside this, provide periods of reflection. University gives you the opportunity to consider what you want to do for work, while a job offers the chance to think about the sort of work you’re doing for University.

Taking the MA part-time wasn’t the only way I stacked my circumstances, however. I also chose part-time to find new work, not to continue with the same work. Having previously laboured for twelve months for a company in a similar profession to one I’d worked in for four years prior, I decided that the job wasn’t for me. Instead, I resolved to use returning to University as an opportunity to start fresh with work; a chance to explore other avenues available within, or around, the University. This was perhaps one of the best decisions I made after applying (and during my application) because it added a layer of changeability to the experience. The part-time programme didn’t become something I’d do for two years alongside something else; rather, it became something that would work in conjunction with whatever else I wanted to do. Naturally, I was fortunate enough to have the financial circumstance to make a decision like this—and it’s definitely not something everyone is going to want to do—but it’s how I made the programme work.

If, like me, you are keen to undertake a Masters, but also are unsure of how it’ll work after you’ve stepped out of education (for however long), I’d recommend thinking as I did. Be it around work or other personal circumstance, ask yourself where you currently are, and reflect upon how doing a postgraduate course is going to affect that. One of the best things about returning as a postgraduate is that it’s a great time to change again.

Emma has studied foreign languages in Italy, where she is from, and translation and interpreting in Spain. She is studying the MA in Translation Studies at Birmingham as a distance-learning student.