*I just really liked the rhyme and pun. I couldn’t think of anything else more positive.
Greetings from the second-last-week-of-Masters-classes-sweet-jesus. To add my voice to the masses, I can’t believe how fast it’s gone by. It’s a Tuesday evening in Stratford and the most exciting thing that’s happened to me today was finishing a first draft of an essay due next week, ordering a lasagne in the Garrick Inn, and realising that I HAVE MS PAINT ON MY LAPTOP, and HEY, WHY DON’T I USE IT ON MY BLOG.
1. I am 23 on the 27th of this month. I am almost two years off living for a quarter of a century. Which is kinda cool — I never got why people got so wound up about not being asked for ID once they got past a certain age. I’m also waiting for the whole panicking-about-what-I’m-supposed-to-do-with-the-rest-of-my-life thing to kick in, but before then, there are essays. And dissertations. And BritGrad (come to BritGrad! Ah, you will. Please?). And stuff. More present things. I had a performance exam last Sunday, so at least there’s potential for a ‘Will perform two select monologues from the Shakespeare canon for money’ cardboard sign. As well as the pointless Shakespearean performance history trivia that has wormed itself into my brain over the past few years. I can tell you when the Swan Theatre opened or when Kathryn Hunter played Lear for five pounds!
2. As represented by the work of art above, it is really cooooold in Stratford. In March. Sometimes it feels like I never left Ireland at all, what with all the indecisive weather. Not pleased with these turn of events, as I did not plan on WEARING WINTER GLOVES IN MARCH.
3. Thanks to the other half, I now have tickets for Richard II at the Barbican this December. One also recommends quite highly A Life of Galileo at the Swan and also looks forward to Hamlet and As You Like It at the RST, as well as the SI Players’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream THIS WEEK (break several legs, guys!).
4. I think I have a dissertation topic. It’s formulating and is still quite embryonic, but I’m genuinely quite excited about it. More anon.
5. Here is a horse. I drew it for you.
It’s slowly dawning on me that this post was an excuse just to draw amateurish pictures on Paint. Bet you loved it anyway.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that my annual report would be the most impressive thing that you’ll see this year, but it’s nice to see how far the blog has come. (And there are fireworks too!) I’m personally glad to see that ‘Women with Asperger’s syndrome’ was a particularly popular post, and of course, one is always very happy to see that picture of Mick Jagger from Bent again.
However, it has got me thinking about the year itself. At this present moment in time, I’m pretty much halfway through my masters degree, I’m in the UK, it’s my first Christmas as a postgraduate student, and also it’s my first Christmas HAVING TO WORK OVER THE BLOODY HOLIDAY PERIOD. You can add a optional ‘Gah!’ after that last bit, if you so choose. I’d like to think that at this point, I’ve adjusted more to what is expected of you as a postgraduate. I feel that I’m almost settling into a groove of sorts, knowing what level to work at. Well, maybe — we’ll see what happens when the final essays for this semester come in, how second semester pans out, and when the dissertation kicks off next summer. But in general, this year has been all change, change, change. In more ways than one.
There are *some* constants. I’m happy to announce that I’m still in love with Shakespeare, in fact I probably love him even more now. I’m happy to announce that the friends and family I care about are still here, whether they are still in Ireland, reside in the UK, or further away. And I’m happy in Stratford, which has been almost a new beginning of sorts. I know I’m starting to sound like a Stephen Gately song, so any better turns of phrase will be very much appreciated in the comments.
I haven’t had any major problems with 2012 (it still has one more day to completely mess around with me though). I’m hoping that this time next year, I can say the same about 2013 (don’t mess around with me either, please). I hope all of you have as much fun as you can possibly muster in 2013, just as long as you don’t go too crazy on the pink lemonade while you’re at it.
As of last Tuesday, I officially became Emer McHugh, B.A. (NUI), and became an alumna of NUIG. I saw my friends, my other half, my family, hugged and waved at numerous people, paraded around in academic robes and struggled to keep my hat on my head. I didn’t realise how much fun a day it would be. And then I hopped on a bus at 1am, flew out to Birmingham at 6.30am, and arrived back in time for class at 1pm that afternoon.
Welcome back to Postgradland.
I have been immersed in Postgradland (or as it is officially known, a Masters degree in Shakespeare and Theatre at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon) for about five weeks now. I’m glad that now I can focus on something that I really do love, and that I can commune with people who share that same love. The novelty of that wears off in the first week, which is not necessarily a bad thing — it’s just second nature for us all to talk about Shakespeare and early modern theatre, and to natter about what we find so interesting about it.
At the same time, nobody prepares you for what a Masters or any form of postgraduate course entails. No-one tells you what to expect. NOBODY. I’m not asking to be spoonfed here, but after talking to fellow new postgrads, I’ve come to the conclusion that the first few weeks of a Masters is the equivalent of wading around in a deep lake that you thought was just a shallow pond. (Poor metaphor, I know.) It wasn’t what we expected it to be, but I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. We just went into it blindly, I think. But there’s a sense that maybe, just maybe, we should have pulled one of our lecturers aside, or someone who has gone through it, anyone, and asked a bunch of questions.
So this is for those of you who are contemplating doing a Masters degree. I’m not trying to put anyone off, but these are just my own observations.
1. It is a lot of work. Biggest ‘duhnoduh’ statement, but it is true. You may have six hours a week, but you do have work to complete for those six hours. If you’re a humanities student like yours truly, most of it will be reading. Which is not a bad thing. But there is generally a much shorter timeframe for you to do that reading. So, to quote one of my English lecturers at NUIG, ‘you’ve really got to like reading’.
2. You may feel that you can’t do the work. But that is OK. What was crucial for me was knowing that others felt the same way. Whether they were in the same course as me, whether they were in the same university, whether they were back home in Ireland or here in the UK. A great piece of advice from one of my best friends was that eventually, you catch up to the pace of what is expected of you. That same person has just received his results from his Masters, and he’ll be graduating from his M.IT very, very soon. I’m very proud of him. He also makes a mean cup of tea.
3. You’re not special anymore. Remember when you were the only kid in your seminar who actually talked and took an interest? Remember being the only one who answered questions in your lectures? And over the years during your undergraduate degree, as you attend classes and accumulate good grades, you have slowly built up a very good reputation for yourself. Well done you, but it turns out that you weren’t the only one. More than likely, your fellow classmates didn’t just sign up for this course out of idleness and are there because of their ability, interest in the subject, and intellect. And yes, you may not feel special anymore, but that’s something you need to get used to. It’s also something you can use to your own advantage too, which leads me onto to my next point.
4. You know what’s the coolest thing about doing a Masters? The people. I know it’s something I keep reiterating again and again, but it is true. Especially if you’re interested in something that is quite specialist, like Shakespeare or the eighteenth century. It’s incredibly nice to be surrounded with folk who want to talk about whether Aaron from Titus Andronicus is more sympathetic than Richard II in the pub, or whether that production you saw at the RSC the night before was better the second time you saw it. The lecturers and seminar leaders are just as eager to talk about such topics too. And for once, you’re not the only would-be academic in the room, and those who don’t want to be academics still care about what they’re studying too. For me, that’s just heartening.
So there you have it. While I’m at it, I should refer you to my dear friend Patrick McCusker’s post on a similar topic (albeit it deals more with studying for a Masters abroad). In general, I recommend his blog The Neverending Blog: Part II. It’s funny, insightful, and quite thought-provoking.