The Beast from the East and Storm Emma are wreaking havoc with the UK: it’s freezing, snowing, blowing a gale; and I have started the final two modules of my MA in Linfoservagement.
Final. Two. Modules. (Apart from the ‘D’ word that is, let’s not go there…). In your face Weather.
Despite the Autumn semester outstaying it’s welcome somewhat, I managed to survive largely unscathed and have begun my final tentative climb up the steps of Mount Dissertation (argh, the ‘D’word!), ready to throw myself into the fiery lava pit which awaits (all metaphorically speaking, of course).
The general consensus of my cohort seemed to be that last term was quite hard: in my case, a combination of off-the-field issues piled-up which added to the sense of feeling slightly overwhelmed, which sounds melodramatic, but really is just a way of expressing that there was a lot going on and I (along with everyone else) was glad to escape unharmed and pretend none of it happened anyway.
That’s not to say that the modules weren’t enjoyable, far from it: investigating how things are organised, and thinking about the way in which ‘knowledge’ is generated, expressed, harnessed and shared was thoroughly interesting. What this term did flag up though was the potential gap between what is required, what you would like to accomplish, and what is practically or pragmatically attainable depending on circumstance.
That’s been one of the principle challenges for me as a student this time around: balancing my own expectations of myself and what I feel I can achieve, against what my aims and reasoning for doing the course were in the first place; as well as factoring in the impact of external factors, some of which are/were beyond my control.
On a completely unrelated point, I recently stretched the boundaries of my comfort zone by attending a meet-up with several people from my course held at the National Art Library in the V&A.
I know, right? Actually meeting fellow distance-learners. And talking to them.
Of course, I then went home worrying about the impression I made, particularly my decision to have a glass of a wine when they opted for soft drinks… but anyway, it was a fun afternoon’s visit and great to put faces to names.
Maybe the last point isn’t wholly unrelated after all: doing any form of academic study or CPD activity forces you to examine yourself, your skills and motivations, and to consider the way you interact with others- be it in a social or professional context. It also exposes you to new challenges to overcome, like increased constraints on your time or the added mental and physical pressure which can potentially impact your health and wellbeing.
I’ve realised over the last 18 months that I’m not the same student I was 8 years ago when I started my UG degree, nor more than a decade ago when I went to University the first time around. I have a different job, different tolerance thresholds, different interests and different ways of thinking which means I’m experiencing higher education in a different context.
That’s not to suggest it’s less satisfying or rewarding: it’s just, well, different. A less daunting prospect of a ‘D’ word.