As a little kid, I couldn’t wait to start school. My enthusiasm for the classroom never really dimmed and throughout high school, I always found a sense of comfort in achieving that perfect mark. I genuinely loved learning and putting all the theory into my essays, presentations and assignments. There was never any question I’d study at university and when I finally figured out what I’d apply for, I was again eager to learn. Unfortunately, my perfectionism came at the detriment of my mental health. When I graduated, I was sure I’d never be back. Study was done. I was learning so much in my workplace, I wouldn’t need to study again. So why, then, have I gone back to university to study a Masters?
Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a cross between Hermione Granger* and Monica Geller when it comes to studying, perfectionism and competing with myself to always improve. More likely, it’s because after three years working as a journalist in a regional city full-time, I’m finally starting to find my feet as a reporter. I’m taking on more complex stories and not trying to remember a million tiny style things I need to do every day. Now our newspaper style, my daily tasks, almost every aspect of my work has become second nature to me. Last year, I realised I was yearning for something a little more. You know, other than this blog which is a pretty wonderful side project.
I mulled over going back to university for quite a few months. My main concern was how I’d cope with the stress. Honestly, now I look back (having got my anxiety under control with medication) I realise I was in a pretty bad place at university. But not knowing how much better I could be meant I couldn’t see when I was spiralling into an anxiety free-fall. I was studying full-time with four subjects over three semesters a year, each which was mainly assignment focused. If I struggled with that, surely I’d find it hard to cope with study and full-time work on a random seven-day working roster with fairly unpredictable hours?
I was listening to an episode of Ctl Alt Delete when I finally decided to just do it. I started looking for courses that suited what I wanted; something a little different from my journalism Bachelor, but not too far from my realm of interest and experience. I also found this video from Jean and Sanne really helpful in confirming this was something I really wanted to do, as well as deciding what to study. I finally enrolled in a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) through Deakin University’s online campus.
I’ve just finished my first semester and am sure I made the right choice in hitting the books again. My focus will be on the editing, publishing and critiquing side of the degree, rather than creative writing (which was something which sold me on this particular course). Writing essays again after three years of news writing was fairly daunting, I must admit. But by the time I got to my final assessment piece, it was like I’d never left university. The best thing was, I didn’t feel like a fresher again. I know how to write a good essay, but for me this course is all about improvement. I want to learn to research and analyse deeper, to develop a more nuanced understanding literature and writing and, of course, open up career options outside journalism (although I’m keen to be a roving reporter for a while yet).
My main worry was how I’d cope with my anxiety. Although I had some stressful moments, they were more to do with work pressures than my academic ability and that’s something I know I can work on throughout my degree. I also decided to prolong my course by taking just one subject a semester. I decided I’d rather take longer to do the course and (hopefully) achieve higher marks and really focus on each class. I don’t know if it’s the fact I’m in a much better place with my mental health, or that I can cope well with fast deadlines after three years on a daily newspaper, but I definitely found myself handling this first semester much better than I ever did at university full-time. Already I’m excited for my next subject, which is good because I only have three weeks off and it is filled with plenty of blogging, reading and another exciting project.
Have you studied a Masters or gone back to study after time off? What made you decide to pick up the books again? Do you have any great study tips?
*I couldn’t resist a little nod to Hermione in Philosopher’s Stone in the title of this post.