2016 · Advice · Education · Life · personal essay

What it’s really like to go back to education, by Kirsty Hewitt

When it takes you almost four months to sit down and write an article, you know that your Master’s course has probably been a little more demanding than you originally thought it would be.  That said, returning to study has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I am now well on the way to my chosen career, due as I am to start my PhD at Glasgow in October of this year.

I shall begin with some background.  My undergraduate university awarded me a joint degree in English and History, from which I graduated in the autumn of 2011.  Whilst I very much enjoyed my studies, I did not make the most of being a student.  I was horribly homesick for the duration of my course, and almost cripplingly shy, so I came away with just a handful of good friends.  Whilst I wanted to go onto a Master’s course from there, I could not face moving away again.  I decided to move back permanently to the comfort of my family home, and ended up in freelance proofreading – an easy job, but not one which I could face doing for the foreseeable.  In the spring of 2015, after ending a long-term relationship which was doing nothing for me some months before, I felt that I was getting back to my old self, and could seriously think about applying for some courses.  I selected just three Universities which were within commuting distance, and accepted my place on the ‘English Literature: 1850-Present’ MA course at King’s College London almost as soon as I was offered it.  I spent what felt like the entire summer reading social history and literary theory books, some of which came in useful with my chosen modules, and some of which, frankly, did not.

(image courtesy of Kirsty Hewitt)

Living only an hour from London on the slowest train I could (and did) catch, the commute was doable, and from the very start, I did not feel as though I was missing out on much by not being based where the majority of other students were.  One of my best friends was commuting in too, so we were able to send each other WhatsApp messages every morning at around 7am, bemoaning the cold and/or the time.  Usually both. 

My first term began in September, and we were straight into the swing of things from our first day.  We were given an induction (somehow, myself and two friends somehow ended up going to the wrong room, and sitting through about twenty minutes of the induction for foreign students before we realised our error), and were able to meet more people from our course.  I soon got into studying again, and the slight worry which I had about readjusting to the student lifestyle was abated almost immediately. 

Studying at Master’s level is markedly different to the work at undergraduate.  For one term-long module alone, I had almost twice as many books to read as I did in an entire year of my undergraduate degree, even when you take into account my two subjects.  The essays are longer, averaging about 3,700 words apiece, and the referencing system is a lot stricter than I remember it being.  I found that the best way to fit everything in and still to have a social life was to read ahead, and through doing this, I consequently ensured that I had done lots of essay preparation far in advance.

I have no more lectures now, and just have my 15,000 word dissertation to contend with, but I am excited about the prospect.  I am researching something which I am passionate about (Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, and the female consciousness), and King’s has offered me a wonderful support network, both in terms of lecturers and course convenors, and my friends.  I am extremely fortunate to also have the backing of my wonderful family and boyfriend, who have been invaluable in ensuring that I am making the most of everything during this new stage of life.

If you are thinking about applying for a Master’s course, don’t let anything hold you back.  Yes, it is expensive – almost £9,000 worth of fees, and then the twice- or thrice-weekly peak time train tickets, and what feels like constant Oyster Card top-ups – but it has been worth every penny.  I have no regrets.  I have made friends for life, have learnt from some wonderful lecturers, and could not now imagine my life without this period of further education.


Kirsty Hewitt is a book blogger and YouTuber, and is currently studying at King’s College London. You can find out more about her here.


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