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MA student Hannah Seaton weighs up the pros and cons of studying a postgrad in a new city
Choosing to do a postgrad rather than entering the big scary world of work is a huge decision, and deciding where you're going to do it is as important as what course you're going to do.
Meeting new people
You probably already know what it's like to move to a new place where you know very few people, and just how daunting/exciting it can be. The main difference between an undergraduate and postgraduate course is the sheer amount of work and time it takes up; you don't necessarily have the time to spend hours getting to know people outside your course through societies and sports teams, which means making new friends can sometimes be tricky if you’re moving somewhere new. Some postgraduate courses also have few contact hours and involve a lot of independent work, so you might not get the opportunity to get to know your class mates too well (especially as many courses will only be a year long).
On the other hand, though, if your course is very busy and full on you're most likely going to make some incredible friends because you’ll be spending so much time together. I study a master’s in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and we are required to be in university pretty much every day (including weekends). In such a short time we’ve all become quite close, and because we all do the same course we have a lot of similar interests, so the social life is almost as hectic as the course itself.
Housing is also a big part of your postgrad course. Some universities have dedicated postgrad halls or flats, but many don't. There are lots of opportunities for houseshares with other postgrads on websites or housing events run by the university, but that does mean moving in with random people again (a bit like your undergad first year). Sometimes this works out really well and you can make great friends with people outside your course, but there's also a chance that you could live with some people who are very difficult.
One of my course mates, Max Goldbart, has experienced this. “It's very disturbing when I wake up at all hours with my door being kicked,” he said. “Not good when you have an intensive course to do.”
This obviously affects whether you go somewhere new. The difficulties of moving in with people who you don't necessarily get on well with can affect how well you perform in your degree, which is incredibly important. If you move in with people you already know in the same town or city where you studied your undergrad, you can focus more on your course and concentrate on your work with (hopefully) fewer housing worries.
I went to Cardiff University for my undergraduate degree, had a year out and returned for my postgraduate course, which made finding housing much easier than if I had gone elsewhere. A few of my friends returned for a postgraduate course at the same time, so we all ended up living together. We also knew about the best places to find a house, unlike people I have since met on my course who went to a different university, didn’t know the best places to live, and now live miles away from all the other students!
A fresh start
Having said all that, there are of course positives to going to a new place. You get the chance to explore a new city and everything it has to offer with the benefit of a student lifestyle, and you get the opportunity to start afresh. Staying at the same university you went to for your undergraduate degree can make your year as a postgrad seem like a strange continuation of your first degree, when in reality it will be very different in terms of the amount of work and the people you spend your time with.
Ultimately you need to decide what’s more important to you: familiarity or a fresh start. Staying in the same place like I did can be very beneficial to your course, as it's easier to focus on your degree in surroundings you know and with people that you are already comfortable with; but on the other hand, moving to a new city for your course can bring new adventures (and hey, after three years in the same place you might be ready for a change).
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