Sadie shares her experience in changing to a new department for her postgraduate study. Last year she decided to take the leap into postgraduate study, stuck between choosing the MA Sociology, which she studied at undergraduate level, and the MRes Sexuality and Gender Studies.

The MRes had a lot of differences to my undergraduate subject and it was set in an entirely new department and school within the University. In the end, I decided to choose what I was most passionate about and just go for it! Here are some things that I learnt when moving to a new department for masters

Self-doubt is normal

Starting my new course brought up a lot of self-doubt. “Was this the right course for me?” “Am I out of my depth?”. Starting a postgraduate course can feel pretty daunting, especially if you are changing subject. In these moments of worry, it can be easy to doubt yourself and the skills that got you to this point. Try not to panic. Remember, one of best parts of doing a postgraduate degree is challenging yourself.

Step out of your comfort zone

Remind yourself why you are passionate about your subject. What excites you about the course? One of the things that interested me the most with the MRes in Sexuality and Gender Studies its interdisciplinarity. This means that there was plenty of opportunities to study areas my undergraduate degree did not cover, such as music and art. Whilst I might not know much about these topics, I was looking forward to the challenge. The first step I made when I first joined the course was heading to the university’s enormous library and exploring the literature.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Talk to your supervisors or teachers, they are always there to help. When I expressed my worries about changing discipline to my supervisors, they gave me reassurance and plenty of resources. Lecturers often have office hours where you can drop in and have a chat. This is the perfect opportunity to ask questions!

Research the department

Have a look into the department and see what support and resources are available. Luckily, at Birmingham each department has their own section on the website, so you can familiarise yourself before you join. Often, they will share department events and news here too, so you can stay connected to your school or college.

Remember what you’ve learnt so far

Just because you’re studying a new subject doesn’t mean that everything you have learnt is lost. You will find that many of the skills you have from your undergraduate will come in handy in your postgraduate study. Even if it seems that your course is a million miles away from what you’ve done previously, things like time management, research skills, and writing skills are all useful to know.

Connect with others

Your wellbeing and personal connections during postgraduate study are extremely important. You might find that people on your course have similar worries or might have advice to share. I encourage you to talk with your peers, make group chats, and be social. You can also connect with students outside your course by joining societies and taking part in extracurricular activities. You can find a list of student societies on the Guild of Students website.

Ultimately, it can feel daunting starting a new course, especially if you are changing department for postgraduate study. But you’ll find that so many people are in the same boat as you and there is plenty of support available at the university. Have fun learning something new! 😊