What I Learnt During My Master’s Degree

Absolutely nothing. I jest!

Around 1,300 days ago, I tweeted “About to start my Master’s degree wahoo!”. It is safe to say that I still do not have the faintest clue as to why I decided to embark on a Master’s degree, however, in just under 2 months time I will be presented with the opportunity to wear a graduation gown, with an additional green trim to it, which totally justifies spending an extra year in Hull.

Despite consuming enough bottles of energy drinks to fill the Grand Canyon, or any other vastly oversized body of mass (resisting the urge to make a Yo-Momma joke here), I seem to have come to the end of my little tenure in this city, one which I have called home for the last four years.

With that in mind, surely there must be some valuable lessons that I have learnt along the way, lessons that could be imparted via a blog post?

In fact, I have just come to the realisation that I am almost 400 words into this blog post and I still do not have a clue what, if any points I am going to make in relation to its title. Let’s just hope that I have an ephiphany half-way through, so without further ado (hey, that rhymes!), I present you yet another list. This time, detailing the lessons that I have learnt during my fourth, and final year, undertaking a Master’s degree in Computer Software Development:

1. Work Smarter, Not Harder – I still do not have a clue as to how my degree will be graded, but one certainty is that as I became more competent with my workload, my productivity peaked. I learned how to multi-task and plan coursework better. If you can call starting a piece of coursework 24 hours before the deadline planning that is. The background reading has augmented exponentially throughout the Master’s year, at least that is what the PowerPoint slides stated at the beginning of the semester. On a serious note, when you are working “smarter” and not necessarily harder, you will come to the realisation that a big part of this is knowing when you have gathered enough knowledge, regarding a particular aspect, for you to be able to churn out a few thousand words and throw in the odd reference or two. Which is exactly what doing a Master’s degree is all about.

2. Quitting Is Not An Option – Unless if you are French. Then it is totally acceptable, and it is the taking part that counts. However, for those of us who are not, and to paraphrase Tupac, even the rose grows from the pavement. Regardless of how tough and frustrating it can be seeing your peers tweet about how their dissertation is SO hard, whilst you are in the process of having to compile a 400+ page portfolio on Code Similarity Detection, an important fact that you have to remember is that you have got this. Unlike the undergraduate degree, I did not even cry once. Nonetheless, there were numerous attempts, having had look through my outgoing Facebook messages folder, whereby I messaged friends stating that I wanted to give up. But I did not, because I am not French. Pursuing the MEng route meant that I had already obtained a Bachelor’s degree, which was the one of the few prerequisites for undertaking a PGCE course, which was always a nice fallback to have. Even if I did give up, my future career was still taken care of.

3. Master’s degrees are an exercise in self-torture, but you will love it – This point overlaps with the previous two points, and rightly so. You will always be working – both literally and figuratively. Literally in that being a Computer Scientist(or whatever your area of specialism may be) will take up almost all of your time. Both by necessity, and much like Stockholm syndrome, you will learn to love it. Frequently, you will have more work than is humanly possible for anyone to complete. There will be weeks whereby there is not enough time to read a book adequately or to read every article assigned to you– this is normal. As an undergraduate, I was always a month (or more) ahead in regards to my workload, and was able to fit in extra work; at the Master’s level, there simply is not enough time. Hence the importance of effective time management. Figuratively because it changes your outlook on the world and the filter by which you see, hear, smell, and taste everything with. As a Computer Scientist, I am very interested in gadgets, emerging technologies, and the impact it has on people’s lives as a result of this (the sociologist in me comes out regularly), and I am always, even unconsciously, analyzing things around me – you will be too. This full immersion—like they say is the best way to learn a language—is the best way to truly become a scholar. And it is fun. Not all forms of torture inflict pain.

And there you have it. Three facts that I have learnt during time at the University of Hull, or at least the first three facts that popped into my head at the time of writing this blog post.

On a final note, university changes everything. If you have an opportunity to undertake a Master’s degree, take it. An extra £9,000 worth of student debt won’t do you that much harm.

Until the next blog post, which will be titled “What I Learnt During My PhD” if my content output rate is anything to go by, either that or I will have moved out of Hull. And if so, then thanks for the memories. Are there any crucial points that you feel as if I have missed out? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

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