Studying a Masters during a pandemic
I finished my undergraduate degree as the pandemic started. Ireland closed down for the first time due to Covid-19 the week following handing in my final year project (FYP), and the college’s Charity Week. From then, I’ve said that if anyone was at any of the packed events during Charity Week, I don’t think you’ll ever contract Covid-19. It went from ninety to zero in a millisecond; from going on a big, mid- semester blow out for Charity Week, and then to celebrate our FYPs- a 12,000 word project many of us had been working on for the best part of a year- being handed in, to pubs, clubs, schools, and Universities across the country closing until further notice.
I decided to move home immediately and see the final weeks of my undergrad out in the safety of my family home.
I had always planned to go on to do a Master of Arts (in Journalism), but the pandemic had put a large question mark over this path. As a result of Covid-19 I had lost my part- time job, so the idea of paying for a Masters degree as well as sustaining myself seemed near impossible. There wasn’t much help in terms of grants or bursaries. I reached out about one such bursary and had said how I was looking for a part- time job to assist. I was advised against doing a part- time job during studying at MA level, which was incredibly disheartening.
I decided to apply by the deadline and see what time would show; baring in mind I could always defer. Fortunately, my circumstances changed, and I secured a part- time job nearing the end of Summer. I was also over the moon to have taken on the role as Editor in Chief of the college newspaper for the year.
Online college was quite different come September to what I’d come used to in the closing weeks of my undergraduate. I guess by the end of the semester people tend to distance themselves anyway, to get the last of the assignments perfected and submitted. Whereas this wasn’t only a new academic year but was a new course to me also.
Naturally, it took a period of time to adjust to online learning, and although I would have loved to have been on campus for even one lecture, as a whole online learning wasn’t the worst thing in the world. The classes were all recorded, which made for an even more flexible timetable. I’ve recently seen a lot of people being on board with continuing on with blended learning- a mix of in- person and online learning, which I think would be a great idea to continue. The management where I work were very accommodating with my class- time, but the lectures being recorded would have been extremely beneficial to a student who didn’t have as flexible a work schedule, as you could catch up anytime.
Assessment for the course was very agreeable with me. There were no exams, which I don’t think was a massive change as journalism would be quite practical. One of the more gruelling yet rewarding and fun assessments were a series of news days our class participated in over the course of the academic year.
There was ones for radio, newspaper, and television individually, and we got the opportunity to take part in a news room simulation, and were required to pitch, create, and produce a story for each individual day.
The days were stressful yet rewarding, as we had the opportunity to put all our theory to the test and got a first- hand glimpse into what the industry we were training for would require of us.
Juggling a job whilst studying the MA wasn’t as difficult as I’d let myself to believe, which was probably helpful. I would recommend a certain level of organisation, and I always swear by my trusty planner, which definitely helped with my organisation and juggling the two.
All in all, there weren’t many drawbacks or negatives for me personally. I did find groupwork in this setting could show difficulty at times, particularly for the television Newsday where myself and another group member were meant to work together to produce a segment for a TV news broadcast. I was virtually left in the lurch and created the news package single- handedly- but, again, it’s a hurdle I came up to, and overcame.
Looking back, I’m delighted I made the decision to pursue the Masters programme during the pandemic, as it taught me extra things I may not have learned in a no-Covid world. I’m over the moon to say that I have passed all my classes in both semesters, and I am approximately one month from submitting my MA thesis, which will determine if I graduate with a Graduate Diploma or Masters of Arts degree.