Managing Your School Work
Merette Kennedy on how to make your postgraduate studies - and mountains of school work - appear less intimidating.
You did it! Your undergraduate year is behind you. While for some this will mean graduating on to finding careers and putting school behind them, for others, like you, this means your postgraduate year is upon you. Congratulations!
I travelled from Boston Massachusetts to obtain my postgraduate degree in the field of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Limerick in Ireland. Sounds complicated right? When entering a postgraduate year, even the course names can be a bit intimidating. But I am here to tell you why and how the work of a postgraduate student can be exactly the opposite of intimidating.
Day one is a clean slate. Utilise this day to prepare yourself with the material you’ll need - books, pens,notebooks, folders, maybe even a calculator depending on your subject. Most universities however will provide you with a list of things you will need for your particular subject.
I promise, once you get your supplies, you will feel prepared and motivated to start your first day.
Many universities have organized groups or meetings for incoming international students. These meetings are extremely helpful and highly recommended. Not only will all of your questions be answered, but you will get the chance to meet other students who are in the same boat as you.
Now that you are armed with a bag full of books, a class schedule, a map of the campus and an open mind, you are officially ready to begin your work as a postgraduate student.
They have to start sometime! My first day on campus was full of bustling students walking this way and that, maps out, schedules in hand, trying to find out where in the world their classes are. Everyone is lost and everyone is nervous, and even if they don't look it, I assure you, they are.
Reminder: nerves are good! It means you care. This is an important time, because not everyone chooses to go on and pursue postgraduate studies. The workload will indeed be more intense than what you are used to, but there is one very important thing to remember; this year is up to you.
Remember in high school, or maybe even in college, when you didn't read the material you were supposed to for the next day? Or remember when you pretended to search through your bag for a paper you did not write? We’ve all been there. And your teachers were not happy am I right? One thing I experienced in a postgraduate course is that your professors and teachers will not care in the slightest if you do not do the work. They will just grade you accordingly and may not give you a second chance.
If this scares you, it shouldn't. You have the freedom to discover your own methods of completing your work. You have the trust from your professors that you will do the work and get it done in the way that suits you. That does not mean it is wise to not study for a test. You have chosen to do this, you have spent money and left your home behind. The sacrifices have been made, and you most likely will want to succeed academically.
Homework is a part of student life, and even bigger part of postgraduate student life. In fact, I would go ahead and say it is more important than the classes themselves, but I don't want to be held responsible for your attendance.
Your professors are there mainly to give you the tools to do most of your work on your own. There is also the dreaded end of year dissertation, or thesis, that will be constantly in the back of your mind. But there are a few things you can do to make homework more organised and bearable.
One of the things I found extremely helpful was to make sure I set aside organised time to go to the university library and get work done. You will most likely be living with other students and therefore there are always distractions. No matter how much you tell yourself you will concentrate and not join the party downstairs, let's be on the safe side and make sure there is always time to do work in a place that enhances your concentration.
For some who learn better in a group setting, there are always study groups around. These can be extremely helpful as you can gain the points of view from other students and sometimes it helps to just speak with others who are going through the same thing. You may find that something you found confusing in your work, is also confusing to others, and you can help each other.
Aside from school work, study groups can also help increase your social circle. I know this is not particularly advice on school work, but hey, we have to have fun don’t we? The thing to realize is that if you are prepared to do the work, are motivated and interested, you will find it easy enough to keep the pressure at a minimum.
My final, most important piece of advice: Do not lose yourself to the stress of the school work.
I believed myself to be a hard worker throughout college. (Well, most of it). And when I decided to move to Ireland to get my postgraduate degree I was nervous, but ready to work.
Those who move on to this part of education are most likely pursuing something they want to do with their lives, and hopefully something they love. So you are entering into a year, with thoughts of your future ahead of you. This alone, should help ease your nerves. I saw far too many students lose themselves in stress, and it is very important that I relay this message to you; as long as you try your hardest, you will be OK. I found that I could easily find a balance between life and my school work, and I have never had a better year.
Work hard, study, make friends, have fun, and I assure you your time abroad as a postgraduate student will be a success.
For more study tips, visit one of our earlier blogs: 'How To Study Effectively.'