The title ‘postgraduate' can seem daunting and made me feel a little old – at least that’s how I felt when I started my Masters degree! I am studying for an MSc in Clinical Neurology; something which I thought was more relevant to my undergraduate degree in Psychology when I first applied. At the time, my interests lay in the mechanisms of the brain and how it changes in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, psychosis and schizophrenia.
I applied for my Masters degree with this in mind, but when I started I was surprised that the course was much more focused on medicine and, in particular, specialising in neurological diseases which are poorly understood and heavily researched. These included motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia, epilepsy, traumatic brain injuries - to name just a few - and a vast combination of treatments for each and every one of these diseases! To be honest, I found the transition difficult and received a disappointing grade in my first exam.
When I look back, I hadn’t appreciated the jump from undergraduate to postgraduate. There’s more required of you and you're more independent in your study. You have to do the extra reading, there’s no reading list guiding you through like there is during some undergraduate degrees. Be prepared to push yourself to a new level if you undertake a Masters degree in a medical subject, though I imagine this applies to all subjects and disciplines as well!
Work/life balance during a postgrad degree can be difficult. I was in lectures more than I expected. I had clinics, dissection classes and journal meetings along side these too. This made it difficult to see my friends during the day, but I found it relatively easy to make time during the evenings, as long as it wasn't during exam period. I also found that balancing my course with a job could be difficult at times, but again, I managed this by working for the University - who were very understanding of any deadlines or assessments.
Despite the difficulties faced, the course has reshaped my interests and I have chosen to pursue a career in Neurophysiology, which I start in the coming September. My career choice is completely different to what I thought I wanted to do exactly a year ago and I couldn't be happier with my decisions. It’s important to be open-minded and recognise that your career plans may change as a result of your choices or you might not be doing what you expected to be doing on your course. Even with the challenges I have faced academically and financially this year, it has been worth it and I would do it all again.
Jade Cooper, MSc Clinicial Neurology