Thursday 12 September 2019

Postgraduate Students During Fresher's Week!

Anna talks about being a postgraduate student during the first few weeks of the year.
-Anna Doherty

What is a ‘fresher’? According to Cambridge Dictionary; ‘a student who has recently started studying at a college or university’. A ‘fresher’ is any student starting at a course at a university. Including postgraduate students.

I am not saying that as a master’s student I wished to be identified as the stereotypical fresher – four years into higher education I was well and truly passed the late nights out, the heavy drinking, the lie ins and the lack of routine, and I was definitely not prepared to adhere to the command to ‘Down it Fresher!’. However, as a student embarking on a one-year postgraduate degree, myself and many of my peers were beginning as many others were at the university; a new course, new people to meet, a new living situation and many of us hadn’t been to the campus.

This is largely overlooked when it comes to universities and their approach to new students. Postgraduates are seen as older and self-contained with no interest in engaging with wider university life or activities. With increasing associations between stress levels and higher education, there is more of a need to ensure that all members of the university student body are catered to, especially during the first few weeks.

It’s now a year since I began my MA at the University of Leeds and I’ve realised that one of the only things that prevented me from feeling lonely was the fact that I had signed for a room in a house of third year students who were still in their undergraduate hype and that I had got a job in the student’s union, literally placing me at the centre of university life. These set of circumstances forced me to become a part of the student community, but for others this was not the case.

My course mates commuted from Manchester or York every day because they either couldn’t afford to move away on the postgraduate loan or they were anxious about moving to a new city, without the security of accommodation that was ensured at undergraduate. Many had begun courses that were far removed from their undergraduate and struggled at adapting to new writing, referencing and learning styles. It became apparent very quickly that for many undergoing a postgrad it was more of a chore than the title of ‘Fresher’ brought to other new students.

What can be done to improve the experience of postgraduate students during these first weeks? Engaging with the student’s union as a postgraduate student is a good way to break loneliness and isolation. Understandably for commuters this may be hard, but look out for events and you can start to feel a sense of belonging. Getting to know course mates during those first few weeks can really help you later down the line. Postgraduate life can be really lonely, especially given the research element and the amount of time spent self-motivating, therefore finding others that will meet you for a coffee break, help you find materials or just sit opposite you in the library can go slightly towards helping improve your experience.

Finally, make small changes to ensure that you are putting yourself first; allow time to get a coffee on the way into class, ensure that you miss rush hour driving home, get a nice set up at home to ensure that work can be done in any environment and make sure that the work doesn’t become your life! I know that the investment into your education is more autonomous in the case of a postgraduate degree but it’s important that your mental health comes before anything.

Hi guys, I'm Anna and I'm a sub-editor for the Student Minds blog as well as a Master's Student from the University of Leeds. I am passionate about breaking down barriers to accessing support, regardless of who you are and let people know that having ill mental health is nothing to be ashamed of!

Find our how you can look after your mental well being here

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