by Angeliki Tsolka
Nowadays, the job market has become really competitive. A person has to obtain as much education as possible to find a good job and become successful. Many start a full-time Master's degree course after their Bachelor's or gap year, others are not afraid to start it many years after their undergraduate studies.
The most popular destination for masters in Europe is the UK. Students have the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in a country with a rich culture and a diverse environment. The quality of teaching and research is high and many UK universities have important research facilities, e.g. the University of Manchester or the University of Leeds. Through the teaching students are encouraged to be creative and independent and they develop their critical thought and gain confidence. Moreover, international students are able to improve their English.
But for obtaining all the above, effort must be paid by the students too. Many hours of studying, communicating and co-operating with other new colleagues, from everywhere in the world. Stress, happiness, disappointment, competitiveness will be parts of many aspects of the Master's programme. Here are some tips that can help someone to survive through the rough, but rewarding two years.
First and most important is the fact that the programme you choose should meet your requirements and it is something that you will enjoy to study and help for the future, not because you find it interesting. A lot of times, many people enroll in programmes and then they realize that it was a mistake. It is good to discuss beforehand with some of the programmes' tutors. Most of them are friendly and are willing to chat with new students and help them decide. Do not forget, it is your future!
The fresher's week
Before the official start of the lessons, all of the universities have a fresher's week. Take advantage of this week to meet new people, make new friends, get involved in unions or any sports. All this will help you especially in the difficult days of the programme. You can arrange to see friends and relax, go out for a drink, chat about your problems or thoughts you have or even though, they may be able to help you in an assignment that you may have problems.
Do not forget, after studies you can visit their countries or do something together! Any kind of sports e.g. tennis, boxing or even dancing can be used as a pressure valve. Of course, make friends from each class. If you miss a lecture, you can keep up by getting notes from these friends. Exchange phone numbers emails (both personal and the one the university provides).
Also, most universities offer workshops that will help you with your studies. They include workshops for improving your English, how to write essays and reports, and anything else that might be relevant to your studies. By attending them, you will be able to answer some concerns and questions, understand how British universities work and how you must work in your new environment, in order to avoid frustration and stress when the time for assignments comes.
Although, some students may be familiar with the system, attending the workshops will help for improvements. During the academic year and especial at the end, seminars are organised by the universities for CVs and careers!
Many professors do not lose time, they give assignments from the first week and set deadlines. For being organised and keep up with the load of work, it is recommended to buy a small calendar-notebook. Write down all dates. Some deadlines may overlap! No reason to panic. When the first assignment is given, do not lose time. Start doing some research. Questions will definitely occur and do not hesitate to ''bother'' the professors.
They always provide their email, to help with any concerns, answer any questions when they are not in class or out of office hours. But also to book appointments with students if they are still struggling with their work. So, from the beginning of the Master, it is good to start to know each professor. By this way, they will recognise you and see that you are really interested in their lecture and the education they provide you. Do not hesitate to express your opinion or ask questions. It will help further with your studying, research, and the exams.
The most stressful period of an academic year is the exams session. Some postgraduate programmes do not have exams but have many assignments instead or vice versa! Most universities provide online past papers for every module. After the study, start from the past papers and try to answer the questions, without cheating yourself! Ask a friend to come and help. You can help each other, even if you are not in the same programme. Ask one another questions from past papers. If all friends are having exams the same period, buy a cheap recorder or download a recording program from the internet. You can record yourself and hear it afterwards to check. If any questions occur, do not forget to ask professors.
Exam period does not mean, stay indoors and study from early in the morning till late at night. If the weather is bad, take a break every 2-3 hours, watch some TV, chat with a friend or family, read a book, do whatever relaxes you and then start again. If the weather is good, take a walk, go for a quick lunch outdoors with a friend but do not lose the sense of time.
Organise your time
See which modules are more difficult or have more gaps and questions and start with them. Put a timeline to yourself in order to cover all the material or the necessary parts. Leave time to make revisions. Try to avoid looking for notes at the last minute, because other colleagues will need them. Make the last revision the night before and sleep early in order to wake up fresh.
A couple of days before the exams check the university's policy for the exams. What can you have with you and what not? For instance, there are certain types of calculators that you can use, attending an exam without the correct one will be a disaster.
At the end of a postgraduate programme, a dissertation is necessary. This means you will develo a research project totally on your own. During the academic year, you will discover subjects that will interest you. Keep a note of them. When you have found the subject, approach the professor that you think that will be more helpful or have information to provide. Try to start as soon as possible because you will never know that amount of work that is needed.
Try to do most of the work early, in case you need to meet other people or do questionnaires, in order to make an appointment or find a lot of people to ask. Usually, the presentation occurs in the middle of September, so have holidays in July until the beginning of August, in order to have the end of it to finalise the project. Remember always keep in touch with your supervisor!
In conclusion, all the above tips may differ for each person. For some students may be helpful whereas for others may not. Many of them are advice from other students, friends and family members you attended a Master's degree course in the UK and helped me survive!