- Course: MA Modern and Contemporary Literature
I grew up in the South of England and then headed North to Liverpool for my undergraduate degree in English. During my final year at university I applied for a place on a graduate scheme with the British Council and then went on to spend the next year living and working in China. Although I had joined the working world, I felt that I wasn’t quite ready to draw a line under my ‘official’ education. I had already deferred my place at Leeds, so I decided to apply for a scholarship. I was lucky enough to be offered the John Barnard Scholarship which covered the fees for my course and contributed to my living costs as well.
I wanted to stay in the North for a little longer, but I wanted to experience academic life in a different city. The University of Leeds jumped out as an obvious first choice – I loved that the course was flexible, the modules stimulating, and the academic staff inspiring. I had also enjoyed small and personal tutorials as an undergraduate and I was keen to study somewhere with a similar ethos and atmosphere.
I was drawn to Modernism as an undergraduate for a number of reasons but what really grabbed my attention in the first instance was T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. It is a poem that is ostensibly incomprehensible but, the more you pick it apart, the more its nuances and riddles become strangely mesmerising. It reminded me what I have always loved about studying literature: that a literary creation touches every reader differently and, over the years any piece can take on new meanings that even its creator may not have intended.
What I enjoyed most about doing an MA was that the level of discussion really jumped up a level from undergraduate. Tutorials were two hours long which was important because they tended to whizz by in a blink of an eye – chock-a-block with original and thought provoking debate, and sometimes even a cuppa and a biscuit. As English can be quite an isolating subject I really enjoyed these weekly meet-ups, as well as the opportunity to get together with friends afterwards. I also particularly liked that our cohort was small and very friendly so there were lots of opportunities to meet new people and get involved with activities like helping to organise the annual MA conference. As the dissertation process lasted the whole year, it allowed me to really get stuck into my subject in a way that the rushed undergraduate semesters never quite did. Writing my 16,000 word dissertation also gave me the opportunity to produce something truly original that I will always treasure.
The University is great, with amazing facilities and friendly, personable and supportive staff who will always find time for a chat. If you’re wondering whether it’s worth the extra year in full-time education, I would say that you definitely won’t regret it. It was hard work but it felt great to be studying at a higher level and I feel so much more educated and academically entrenched in the areas I chose to pursue. The way you structure your course is also really flexible which meant I was able to study quite a bit of Victorian literature, despite the fact it didn’t fall under my degree title.
Leeds is a huge city and has something to offer for everyone. It’s great for shopping and going out, but it has so much more to offer that just that. I enjoyed hunting out the many beer and food festivals, finding interesting cafes hidden away in the arcades, driving out to Ilkley Moor for the odd early morning hike, and visiting other nearby places such as York and Howarth where the Brontë family lived. I made a lot of really close and like-minded friends in just one year as well.