So You Want To Study… Film and Television!

Hello all! This week’s “So You Want To Study” post, in fact, comes from yours truly.  I spent four glorious years studying Film and Television Studies at the University of Glasgow, and I had an absolute ball.  So today I thought I’d tell you all about it, in case you are considering taking the leap and studying it yourself!

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I like to think the incredible television show 24 is responsible for my decision to study Film and TV.  Sure, I’d loved films and television all my life, but it wasn’t until I watched that first series, seeing Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer for the first time, experiencing the revolutionary style of the show, and becoming consumed not only by the storyline, but by the entire process of the show, that I realised I was more than just your regular TV fan.  I was fascinated, watching the behind the scenes features on the DVDs time and time again, reading interviews with the producers and writers online, and writing my own little reviews (which the world never saw – I didn’t have a blog back then!).  I just thought it was incredible, and I remember thinking – I could keep watching and talking about this forever, and never run out of things to say.

The first thing I’ll say about making the decision to study film and TV, is that you have to figure out whether or not you are interested in the technical side of things.  This will decide which sort of course you should apply for, and will therefore affect which university you attend.

I, however, wanted to write about films and television, learn about the history of these two mediums we take so much for granted nowadays, and explore the ways in which they interact with and influence our society.  I wanted to study different genres, and talk about different writers.  Basically, I wanted to do an English Literature degree, but studying the big and small screens instead of books.

So if you decide that sounds like the kind of course for you, keep reading! It was one of the best experiences of my life, and while I might have gone on to study a Masters in something different, I wouldn’t change those four years for the world.

False Perceptions…

One thing to expect from a film and television studies course is that, despite the fact it is a widely respected subject now, you will still meet the odd person who, when you tell them what you’re studying, will say: “Is that even a thing?!”, or “Yeah, because sitting watching films all day counts as studying.” Ignore them.  Films and television shows have a huge impact on our society, from the traditional notion of “Water Cooler” conversation pieces, to the way news is reported (which is particularly interesting in terms of politics at the moment).  Today, social media allows us to share in global television experiences, and even things like the certification process of movies is inextricably tied to our ideas of what is age appropriate – something which, I can tell you, has changed a lot over the years. The types of films and shows made in different countries can tell us so much about different cultures, and don’t even get me started on the gender and sexuality implications of what we see on screen (trust me, the Gender and Sexuality module, which was part of my second year course, was one of my favourites – we could be here all day!).

Don’t Study Film and Television if…

1) … you don’t like the idea of the way you view films and TV changing.  It sounds obvious, but once you study something, it becomes very difficult to view it in the way you did before.  Once you’ve broken down film conventions, TV trends, audience engagement, and all of the other things you will look into over the three or four years of your studies, it inevitably changes your relationship with it.  I’ve had people say to me countless time “But surely you can’t enjoy it if you’re analysing it all the time? Can’t you just sit and watch a film?”  The answer to that is, I don’t know.  In some ways, I don’t think I can just watch a film any more, but truthfully, I wouldn’t change that.  I LOVE talking about and analysing television (if you’ve seen my original YouTube channel, you’ll be only too aware of this fact!).  I still get completely caught up in the story of whatever I’m watching, but I do always notice the writing and the camera work, and I always question why certain decisions were made behind the camera. And nine times out of ten, I will go online afterwards and start reading up more about whatever I’ve just watched.

2) … you don’t like watching subtitled films.  This is one I’ve heard a lot – people saying they “just can’t concentrate on watching the film and reading the subtitles at the same time”.  If you choose to study film and television, you will be viewing subtitles on a very regular basis, sometimes doing entire units worth of foreign cinema.

3) This leads me on to point three – don’t study film and television studies if you only like Hollywood blockbuster movies.  They will make up a very small portion of what you watch over the years. You will watch a lot of incredible indie movies, as well as some very strange, often very disturbing films. Eventually you will become somewhat immune to these, but prepare to be slightly mentally scarred to begin with. Ever heard of Jean-Luc Godard’s “Weekend”? Yeah. That was an experience.

4) … if you think it’s going to be easy. I once did an entire module on Children’s Television and spent five hours at a time watching and analysing In the Night Garden and Lazy Town  – in theory, that sounds like a breeze, but (aside from the fact that after an hour of Lazy Town you’re already close to losing your marbles), the critical theories involved are far more complex than you might imagine.  There are a lot of essays, even more reading, and, quite possibly because there are still some people out there who question the subject, your lecturers will be sure to really challenge you, so you have to be prepared to really put in the work. It so worth it though!!

What might you study?

Every course will be different, but the following list makes up the modules I studied over the course of my four years of uni:

In first year, we studied two large modules titled “Reading the Screen: Cinema”, and “Reading the Screen: Television”.  In second year, our modules were titled “History, Aesthetics and Genre”, and “Spectatorship, Audiences and Identities”.  Then, in our Honours years (3rd and 4th year), we were free to select  individual modules from a long list.  I chose: Film Analysis, Television Analysis, Contemporary Television Drama, Media and Cultural Policy, Asian Cinema, Screen Audiences, Screen Performance, Animation, Scotland: Film and Television, Children’s Television and, my compulsory Dissertation.

My dissertation was 12,500 words long, and examined the representation of familial relationships in teen television.  I studied Veronica Mars and Gossip Girl, examining the trend of complicated parent/child relationships on television aimed at a young audience.  I can say, hand on heart, I loved researching and writing my dissertation, and it makes me sad that I don’t hear more people say that.

I should also mention at this point that on my particular course, by third year there were a couple of more practical modules to choose, which involved some behind the camera work for the more practical-work-orientated students!

The best things about it?

One of my favourite things about my course was the passion everyone felt for what they were studying. In my experience, film and television students are an incredibly passionate bunch.  Yes, you will meet a few pretentious people along the way – but I’m willing to bet that’s the case with every creative subject. The love we all had for films and television led to fascinating conversations, lively debates, and some brilliant essays. Secondly, I got to write about such a wide variety of film and televisual texts, and discovered films and genres I would never have found, or given a chance otherwise.  But most importantly, it completely widened my horizons, gave me much more cultural awareness (not only of our own media and culture, but of cultures at an international level), and taught me so much about how interconnected our society is with what we’re watching on screen.  It also opened my eyes more than ever to issues of gender inequality and feminism, thanks to some of my absolutely incredible lecturers.

All in all, it was an amazing experience, and I was genuinely heartbroken when we graduated and it was all over. Aside from the course itself, I met some of my best friends during those four years , and it was our love for what we were studying that brought us all together *cue sentimental music*…

So, to any of you out there considering studying Film and Television Studies, I hope this post was helpful! Let me know in the comments if you are on a similar course at the moment, or if you’re heading off to study it after the summer!

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

Lynsey x

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So You Want To Study: Digital Media!

It’s that time of week again! Friday’s are all about sharing our experiences of studying different courses, and I’m loving posting these fantastic guest posts from students or graduates. This week’s post comes from Jilly, the lovely blogger behind My Name Is Jilly, who is studying Digital Media. If you like the sound of that, keep reading, and you might find that this is exactly the course for you!

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When you make the decision to study, either at College or University, it doesn’t always mean that you know exactly what you want to do with your life. After leaving school at the end of 5th year, I managed to get into University a year early to study a Bachelor of Arts degree in Digital Media. I’ve always been into media, whether it be watching the news or writing my blog, so I took a risk and decided to make it my career objective and to study it at University.

I wanted to study Digital Media because I had always had bad experiences with journalists. Having a family member who regularly featured in the news gave me exposure to the harsh reality of cut throat journalism. I wanted to aspire to become a better journalist than those I had encountered. I love to write, one of the main reasons I started my blog, and so I decided to go for it!

My course consists of Film Studies, Writing for the Media, Radio and also some design aspects. If you’re looking for a course which can give you a few career paths, then I would definitely  recommend Digital Media at the University of Stirling. The most surprising thing about my course was how much freedom we had, being able to choose what we could write about and the medium in which we presented information, in documentaries, radio shows and magazines. At school you are very much restricted in how you do things and I love how University allows you to choose what you’re best at and go with it.
The reality of Digital Media is that if you hate writing, it’s not the course for you. Even if you want to make documentaries or radio shows, the workload of writing is intense. Last semester I had over 14 essays due, totally around 10,000 words written which is a lot! Even when making documentaries, you must fill out risk assessments, schedules and treatments, making it just as heavy writing wise as making a magazine.

In our course, we don’t have exams in first or second year. Instead, we do a graded unit which sees us making a documentary, magazine, film or online content. Although this means you don’t have the pressure of exams, the workload means that you have strict deadlines which cannot be changed, meaning that organisation is key to pass the course.

All of this aside, I would’t change my course for the world as I feel like I’ve already learned so much in the such a short space of time. If you have any more questions which I haven’t covered please feel free to contact me!

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Thanks so much to Jilly for writing this post – I have to admit, I’m now seriously intrigued by her course, it sounds as if it would have been right up my street! Why can’t I just stay at uni forever and go and study course after course?!

Hope you’re all having a lovely day, and if you have exams this week I wish you lots of luck!

Have a great weekend!

Lynsey x

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How To Deal With Feeling Overwhelmed At Uni

While uni is brilliant fun, and a time to make new friends, go on fun nights out and (hopefully) learn a thing or two, it’s no secret that studying at university is a lot of work. Whatever course you’re on, and whatever stage you’re at, sometimes things can just get a little bit overwhelming, and the stress of course work and exams, sometimes combined with things like juggling a part time job with your studies, or feeling homesick, can all become a bit too much.  So, if you’re feeling a bit anxious and overwhelmed, it’s important to find a way to destress! Here are a few things I found useful over my time at uni, to take my mind off things during the most hectic times of year!

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Go for a walk:

Never underestimate the power of going for a short walk. If you’re feeling worked up and stressed, putting the books to one side, picking up your iPod (or whatever you listen to music on!), and going for a walk around the block can really help to calm you down. Exercise releases endorphins, hormones which can have a calming effect on the body and mind. These hormones are shown to improve self-esteem and combat stress, so taking time out for a twenty minute walk not only is good for your physical health, but can have a great effect on how you feel mentally too!

Listen to music:

Listening to your favourite music can have an absolutely incredible impact on how you are feeling. For me, it’s one of the things that can have the biggest effect if I’m feeling anxious – listening to mood lifting songs (for me, it’s usually a bit of cheesy pop music, but go with whatever works for you!) can make me feel so much better. Concentrating on positive lyrics, or upbeat melodies can distract you from the anxious feelings you’re having, which leaves you feeling more relaxed when you eventually get back to work.

Try meditation:

If you had told me a couple of years ago I would find meditation so beneficial, I would probably have laughed at you. I had a complete misconception of what basic meditation involves, and I’m so glad I bit the bullet one particularly anxious day and downloaded the HeadSpace app. There are lots of meditation apps out there, so go and have a look for the one that sounds like it will work best for you (try a couple if they’re free downloads!), and give it a try! HeadSpace encourages you to take ten minutes each day just to sit, focus on your breathing, allow thoughts to come and go, and really increase your focus on the present moment. It sounds a bit out there, and it certainly won’t work for everyone, but I know that for me, and a few of my friends, it really does! I think a lot of our stresses in life come from concentrating on the future (what if this happens, what if this never happens, what if things don’t work out the way I expected…), which we can’t control, so learning to focus more on the present is important!

Watch an episode of your favourite television show:

As a self-confessed television addict, this is one that works an absolute treat for me every single time. Spending time with your favourite characters can be a brilliant distraction, and especially if it’s a show you’ve seen before and know well, you don’t have to concentrate too much on what’s going on. You can just get caught up in the storyline and get a bit lost in another world – one where whatever it is that has stressed you out doesn’t exist! Then, by the time the episode has finished, you’ve calmed down, and are feeling refreshed and ready to get back to it. Obviously this is a short term solution, but one that I totally recommend.

Sleep it off:

Sometimes, when things have got on top of you, there’s nothing else for it but to head to bed and sleep it off. When you have a lot of work to do, it can be tempting to try to just power through, no matter how you’re feeling, but that usually just results in feeling worse! And, let’s face it, you can’t do your best work when you’re feeling overwhelmed! So sometimes the best thing to do is to head to bed, watch a couple of episodes of something on Netflix, or read a couple of chapters of a good book, and go to sleep. Tomorrow is another day, and you might just find that a good night’s sleep has you waking up with a much clearer head and a more positive perspective!

So that’s it – my top five tips for dealing with feeling overwhelmed at university (or at any point in life, really!)! I hope you found that useful, and if you’re midway through your exams, I hope they are going well. Thanks so much for reading :)

What are your top tips for dealing with an overwhelming day?

Lynsey x

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So You Want To Study: Interior Design!

Hi everyone! It’s another Friday, which means it’s time for another “So You Want To Study” post! I’m really loving this series – I find reading through these posts when they appear in my inbox so interesting, so I hope you are finding them useful!

This week’s post comes from the lovely Abigail from Abigail’s World! Abigail is studying Interior Design, and so I hope this post inspires any of you budding interior designers out there to go after your dream career!

So take it away, Abigail!

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I’m currently a third year interior design student on a four year ‘sandwich’ course – which basically means that in your third year you can do a year long work placement (which is optional), but I really wanted to do it. I’ve always been into art & design from a young age and when I was doing my art and design ‘diploma’ in years 10 and 11, I went to look around some new houses that were being built in my home town with my parents, as we were thinking of moving house. As soon as I stepped into them I was just like ‘WOW’ these look amazing, and from that point I knew that I wanted to be an interior designer. Although it was houses that originally got me into interior design, and I’ve always loved interior accessories for the home (even now I’m still doing homeware wish lists over on my blog), I knew that at university and in work afterwards, to get really into it, it would be commercial interiors that I would be designing. I then went on to college where I studied fine art, textiles, history of art and English for my A-Levels (along with a night course of life drawing) which I ended up taking to university interviews, architecture being one of the subjects I studied in my fine art class.

I applied to 5 different universities, some closer to home than others, and after going to 4 out of the 5 interviews, I knew which ones I wanted as my first and second choices – I placed these two, which were the University of Huddersfield as my firm choice, and the Cambridge School of Art within the Anglia Ruskin University as my second choice on my UCAS.  After a lot of coursework and exams, and a lot of waiting, I finally found out that I’d got into my first choice of Huddersfield University *yay*!

So in September 2012 I moved away from home (just two hours drive away) to Huddersfield after only being away from my family a week at the most before. I’ve met so many people at uni both in halls (who I’ve lived with for up to 3 years now) and through my course, some who I know are friends for life, and that’s part of the reason why I know coming to uni has been one of the best decisions I ever made. I was quite nervous that within the first year I would have to learn so many different computer softwares, but as I got talking to people that were going to be on my course I knew that we were all in the same boat. And when it did come around to our one two hour lesson of the softwares a week I actually really enjoyed it and I have learnt so much – and even more now I am on my work placement as they use most of the same softwares!

During the first year, which is pretty laid back compared to the rest, we first started by doing a group project, which really gets you to know the people you’re most likely to stick with for the rest of your time there. At the start of first year, quite a lot of people did drop out of the course because they either couldn’t handle the work load and/or the university life or decided it just wasn’t for them. Personally, in my first year I did projects on designing toilets, a hotel, bar and restaurant and a few other things as well as having an exam on the technical side of the course and creating sample boards.

Second year got a lot harder and everyone got a lot more serious with their work. The nights out partying soon got less often for the majority of us! Instead, our nights were mostly spent in the library until the early hours of the morning – which although it sounds quite scary, and at the time I guess it was with the stress we all go through when a deadline is soon approaching, I’m glad I did them as I got to see the outcome of my work, and my final grade of that year which I was really happy with. Along with the stress of the deadlines, most of us also decided we wanted to take a year out to do the sandwich course by doing a placement in an interior design office. After a lot of phone calls, emails and one or two interviews, I finally got a place where I would be designing work places. I have absolutely loved my placement year so far and I have learnt so so much, I would really recommend it. I now have another year left of the course from September which I am incredibly nervous about as I’ve heard how hard and stressful it has been for others, but I am also looking forward to it, and designing something all on my own again.

Let me know if you have any questions either about the course I’m studying or the university itself as I’d be happy to help. Abigail x

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Thanks so much to Abigail for taking the time to write this post! If you’d like to know more, you can tweet her at @AbigailsWorld94, or you can find her blogging away over at Abigail’s World!

Be sure to check back in next week for another instalment of this series, and there will be a new video live on my channel on Monday. This week’s video was an important one – I’d love your feedback on what type of videos you’d like to see, so pop over and leave me a comment if you get the chance, it would really help me out! :)

Have a lovely weekend everyone, and thanks for reading!

Lynsey x

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So You Want To Study: English Literature!

Afternoon everyone! It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another post in the So You Want To Study series! This week’s post comes from the lovely Lilith, who is here to share her experience of studying English Literature at university. I hope any of you who are considering studying English Lit find this helpful!

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When I joined first year English Literature at the University of Glasgow in September 2010, my course had well over a hundred students. So many, lectures were given twice in succession to accommodate us all. There’s no doubt about it —English Literature is one of the most popular of the arts and humanities courses.

But, it’s not a subject choice to be taken lightly. It’s not an easy option and certainly not one to take if you “can’t think of what else I’d do.” What the study of English Literature is, however, is mentally challenging and rewarding. It’s a discipline that will make you see yourself, others and the world around you in a whole new way. No, seriously.

What made you want to study English Literature?

I’m one of those incredibly annoying people who always knew what they wanted to study. As soon as I learned what university was and what English Literature was I put the two together and I knew that was the path for me. By my sixth year, I had no other plan B in mind. I loved writing, reading, books, thinking critically, argumentation, research and analysis. Sound like you? Read on. Chances are you’ll make a fab English Literature student.

Expectations vs. Reality

I had many many fears before leaving home to go to university (they would be a whole other blog post). A key one was that I really wasn’t qualified to be there. I was terrified everyone would be streaks ahead of me and I’d never catch up. Everyone would have read Camus in the original French and be quoting from Ulysses. Why did I feel this way? It was totally irrational.

Let’s be honest, there will always be people who have read more than you, this is true. There are people who will have read less. And people who have read the same. And also, of course, there are people who will just have read, written, experienced different things. The study of English Literature isn’t really about quantity. Don’t think of others as your competition. Engage with each other, Learn from each other, teach each other. You will develop confidence in your own abilities and you’ll find your footing very quickly.

What is the workload/assessment process like?

English Literature at university is not like English at school. The main difference is quantity of work and the pace at which you’re expect to work. Remember at Higher when you spent six months studying Sunset Song and knew more about Chris Guthrie than you did your own best friend? Not so at university.

You study a text (novel, poet, a play) a week. You are expected to have read it (shock), understand its key themes and be able to talk about it in a tutorial. You may return to it later for an essay, a short verbal presentation or an exam or you may not.

In first and second year you’re given primary texts to read and won’t need to deviate much from this list. A lot of first year is learning the basic skills required for your degree: Close reading, understanding literary themes and contexts and having an overview of literary periods.

Later on, you’ll be encouraged to think more widely, engage with texts more critically and they’ll be much more of an emphasis on original essay ideas. Thinking outside the box and approaching things just that little bit differently (as long as you can evidence your claims) will always serve you well.

You’ll still probably have a core reading list but as long as a text falls within the general time period you’re studying, it’s probably okay to study. Just always check with your tutor.

On average I had one or two essays per semester per module. The first usually around 2000- 2500 words and then a final one of up to 4000 words. Although in the first couple of years the word count was a bit less. At the end of the semester (either December or May) I had a two-three hour exam where usually I had to write two essays in that time.

What’s my advice for handling the pressure?

The work load is fast paced and it can be tough. For that reason forward planning is essential. Get ahead, try and be at least a week ahead with your reading – a necessity particularly if you have a Monday tutorial. That said, there will be times where you might need to skip a week and you just don’t have time or the inclination to read the novel for that module’s weekly tutorial. This is okay. Just don’t let yourself fall behind massively. Also, go to the tutorial that covers that text anyway. You might pick up something useful for another text, essay or even module. Also, never underestimate the power of the to do list.

What was my favourite bit?

I absolutely loved my degree so it’s actually very hard for me to choose this. I would say it was research and writing essays. I loved finding original ways to look at texts, feeling ideas click into place to form my argument, saying the unsaid, finding new territory. This all came to a head in my fourth year when I did my dissertation. I felt I’d finally found my niche and it was so so good.

What was tough?

I faced a strong feeling of impostor syndrome. There were simply weeks where I would sit in tutorials and not feel clever enough to be at university. Everyone else’s ideas seemed more mature, more fully formed, more exciting, more original. Most of the time these feelings are completely in your head. Secure yourself with the feeling that almost everybody gets them.

What am I doing now?

I graduated from Glasgow University with a First Class Degree (proudest moment ever, not going to lie). I applied for a Masters in Modern Scottish Writing at the University of Stirling in July and deferred for the year.

I’ve spent the first part of this year out September-January working in an art gallery and theatre which had been my student job. In January, I was lucky enough to land myself a role as junior copywriter for a small content agency here in Glasgow which has turned out to be the perfect job for me in so many ways.

After my Masters I’d like to do a pHD and I’m passionate about pursuing academia as a career. It combines my two passions – teaching and writing. So here’s for the next chapter…

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Thank you so much to Lilith for a brilliant post! English Literature is a subject I know a lot of people are interested in, so I’m sure this post will be a great help to a lot of readers! If you have any other questions for Lilith about her experience, you can tweet her over at @lisforlilith

As for The Student Switchboard, I’ll be back again on Monday with another video, and there will be another “So you want to study…” post this time next week!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely weekend!

Lynsey x

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3 Differences Between Undergraduate and Masters Study!

Hello all! Today I thought I’d talk a bit about what I found to be the main differences between studying my undergraduate degree, and studying a Masters.  I’ve mentioned enough times before that I had an absolute ball on both of my courses, but jumping into my Masters was certainly a learning curve, and so I thought I’d share my experience of that with you! This post, then, contains the three biggest difference I found, and how they impacted on my experience.

As a quick side-note – don’t be put off by points one and two.  It sounds intense, and it is, but it is so, so worth it!!3-differences-between-undergraduate-and-masters

1. The Workload

This is an incredibly obvious one, but the workload at Masters level is definitely a step up from undergrad! This will differ from course to course, but generally the amount of work you have to do will increase during postgraduate study.  In my case, I had seven modules, all done over the course of nine months (September to May), each with an equally intense workload. That meant assessments and/or exams for each in December/January, and the same again in April/May.  The April/May period was the most intense, with over 25,000 words worth of assessments, several group projects and an exam within the space of three weeks! This was followed by a 12,000 word dissertation between June and September.

What this taught me:

Time management, organisation and self motivation.

2. The Amount of Class Time

This is obviously connected closely to the first point, but I noticed a massive increase in the number of hours I spent in class between undergraduate and Masters! I was in class five days a week, pretty much 9-5, with the odd hour here or there free, which was a shock to the system after the relaxed timetable I’d had before! Again, this will vary depending on the course, but expect to spend a bit more time in the classroom again!

What this taught me:

Prioritising – the time outside of class becomes precious, and it’s important to use it effectively, both for studying and unwinding.  It also taught me that balancing a part time job with a Masters can be tricky!

3. The Dedication

One really positive thing about postgraduate study, which I mentioned in a recent video, is the fact that at this point, pretty much everyone who is on the course really wants to be there! Something I have a post planned on for some point over the next few weeks is how difficult it is to figure out what you want to do with your life, at any time never mind when you’re just seventeen or eighteen! A lot of people end up going to uni because they think it’s what they should do, or they aren’t really sure what else to do, and that can land them on a course that isn’t right for them. That lack of passion comes across, and can affect things like group work and even class morale.  At Masters level, however, people have already been through their first degree, so actively making the choice to come back and study some more suggests that this is something they are genuinely interested in, and means people will really work hard.

What this taught me:

That collective positive energy is great for keeping you going at some of the more stressful times of the year! When the whole group is striving to do well, it pushes you to do your best, and focus on the end goal (even when you’ve been in the library for what feels like a year of your life!).

I hope you enjoyed that post – I felt inspired to write it after filming my “My Masters Experience” video a couple of weeks ago. If you’ve gone through the undergrad to post-grad transition, what were the biggest changes you experienced?

Thanks for reading!

Lynsey x

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So You Want To Study: Creative Writing!

Hello everyone! Hope you’ve had a great week.

This week’s “So you want to study?” post comes from the lovely Beth from Toasty Writes. She wrote about a subject which has a special place in my heart, and her post gave me one of those “I wish I could go back and do that too!” moments – she’s studying creative writing! So, if this is a subject you’re considering studying, this is the post for you!

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For me, the decision to go to university happened very quickly. I had abandoned any plans for a career in dance after realising that I just didn’t have the heart for it, and had no idea what to do next. ‘I know,’ I thought one day, ‘I’ll do a writing course!’ and set about applying for a Creative and Professional Writing degree.

Some people go to university with a set career path in mind. Others want to focus on a particular area and see where it takes them, and I definitely fall into the latter category. I have always enjoyed writing, ever since I could hold a pen, and I have always written, whether it was stories for school, an angst-filled teenage diary, or, eventually, my blog. Studying Creative Writing seemed like the next logical step.

What happens in a Creative Writing class?

Instead of the traditional lecture/seminar set up, classes take the form of workshops. People bring in their writing, read it aloud, and then everyone is invited to comment on it: What worked? What didn’t? What did you love? What could be improved? It’s as terrifying as it sounds, although it does get better (I still have to jiggle my foot under the table when I’m reading, to let out the nervous energy, but it scares me less than it used to!) You then go away and re-work your writing, taking constructive criticism on board.

As well as honing our own writing skills, we also spend a great deal of time reading. You cannot be a writer without being a reader, and we’re encouraged to read as widely and as often as possible. Breaking out of your comfort zone helps enormously — I try and choose books I might normally overlook — and we’re also given plenty of material to read together in class. Often, a piece of writing might be inspired by what you’ve read: it could be a technique a writer has used, or the way they’ve structured the narrative, or the setting, that grabs your attention.

Expectations versus reality

I should note: the contact hours are minimal. I’m just coming to the end of my second year, and in the first term I had eight contact hours a week. In the second term, I had six. It’ll vary from university to university, but at mine you take four modules a year, and these are taught in weekly two-hour classes. Some of them end in January/February (hence why I only had six hours a week this term).

The danger is thinking that this means a Creative Writing course is easy. It’s not. Sure, you have a lot of free time, and can work around your own schedule for most of it, but during that time you need to be writing (or reading) if you want to get anywhere. The best work comes about through trial and error, through trying something out, submitting it for workshop, and then smoothing out the bumps, and that doesn’t happen if you go to the classes and then spend the rest of your time relaxing. It is important to take a break every now and then (the best cure for writer’s block, I’ve found, is to step away from the notebook/laptop) but you need to allow yourself the time to experiment and get better. If you have the passion for it then it’s definitely worth putting the effort in.

Workload/assessments

Examples of modules I’ve studied so far include: Starting to Write, Writing Media, Writing Fiction, Writing Non-Fiction, and Writing For Children. My university also offers a Writing Poetry module. Creative Writing is coursework based, and we usually submit portfolios of our writing for assessment. The word counts vary according to how many credits each module has. The word count for the 20 credit module I took this year was 4000 words, whereas the word count for the 40 credit modules I’m taking is 10,000 for each portfolio.

This sounds intimidating, but we were eased into it in first year, with portfolios of 3000-4000 words. It’s still a big jump to 10,0000, but there’s no reason why it can’t be achieved if you keep working at it. And by the time the dreaded dissertation comes around, you’ll be used to it, which should relieve some of the stress (I’m hoping!).

Beth-So-You-Want-To-Study-Creative-Writing


Thanks so much to Beth for taking the time to write this post – I hope it inspired some of you as much as it inspired me!

You can find Beth blogging over on Toasty Writes, and follow her on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram at the highlighted links :) If you’d like to write a post for this series, drop me an email at thestudentswitchboard@gmail.com

Be sure to check back in next week for Wednesday’s post, and another edition of So You Want to Study next Friday! And, as always, there will be a new video over on my YouTube channel on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Lynsey x

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