So that’s it. All done. A BSc in Politics and International Relations. When I saw my exam results this week my reactions were relief (because I felt a bit glass-half-empty after the exams in May), joy (at getting three results over 70%) and pride at the overall First Class Honours degree I was awarded.
I won’t use the cliche “journey” but lots of aspects of my life have changed since I started the degree. Unlike full-time students that get sucked into the bell-jar of academia and pupate into “real world” graduates four years later, those of us studying through the University of London International Programmes have to blend studies with our daily realities. My academic studies – like many other distance learning students – was squeezed around the changing fortunes of one-and-a-half jobs, family commitments and curveballs like house moves.
It is coming to end of my first year since enrolling into the MA programme in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies. My interest in refugee issues took off when I was interning with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I had the opportunity to work closely with refugees, and the experience led me into a world I had never imagined – an unfamiliar world where children have no access to education in public schools; where children and their families are subject to arrest and detention; and where healthcare is expensive and unaffordable with the situation made worse by the fact that refugees and asylum seeking people have no legal rights to work in Malaysia.
As the word count counter on the bottom left of the laptop screen hit 5000+, I found myself exhaling in relief. Countless hours, days, weeks spent in deciding on a topic, developing a proposal, planning research, and many bouts of stress later, I was finally ready to hand in the final draft of the end of the module assignment.
As a distance learning student of the MA in Education program, I am in my second term and upon successful completion I would officially be halfway through the program not counting the dissertation. As I think back to my first blog, outlining the start of my journey as a distance learner, I couldn’t help but wonder at how much I had learned, not just academically, in just a few short months.
Anytime you come home from a holiday and have to immediately use the words plumber and electrician you might feel like closing the door and heading straight back to your summer idyll. Long story, but it comes down to having no light in my office and no functioning sink in the kitchen. I knew when we returned that things were going to get a bit hectic but did not expect the need to wedge home repairs in to my schedule.
My professional office is based at home, thankfully. It gives me a great deal more flexibility that would be difficult to do without, even if I have no lighting and only limited espresso at the moment. And I did a lot of reading and studying along with my ordinary work while enjoying a change of scene. Still, the phrase Exam Registration Will Open On August 25… is right up there with requiring a plumber and an electrician upon opening the door after a few weeks away. That sinking feeling in the stomach is exactly the same. Repairs are underway as I debate the merits of registering for exams in October or waiting until May to sit my first paper.
This post is written by Hannah, Deputy Chair of the Student Voice Group
Hannah enjoying a well-earned post-exam break at the Glastonbury Festival
Having just completed my LLB with the University of London International Programmes, I am grateful to be climbing out from the depths of exam stress and seemingly endless hours of study. As fellow students, I’m sure all readers are well aware that the rigorous programmes of the University of London can be arduous and that the intense study they require can at exam times can be quite isolating.
However, my experience and journey through the LLB has been brightened and coloured by engagement with other students as well as academics and staff from across the International Programmes through serving as a student member of a committee. These support networks have been key for me and have helped me during difficult times to remember the positive aspects of study which, outside of exam season, is surprisingly a very rewarding and enjoyable pursuit! Continue reading
Hello readers and colleagues!
I know… it’s been a while since our last conversation but I’m back with some potentially interesting thoughts for you.
How to plan your studies? How to make sure we begin the new academic year in the best possible way? It sounds like a subjective matter but there are some general considerations that apply to almost all of us.
We should take advantage of this relatively quiet period – academically speaking – to carefully devise a basic plan. In my brief experience, I learnt the earlier we start planning (i.e. structuring our studies), the better our results and the more enjoyable the journey.
There is nothing like a bit of physical work and a DIY project to develop a sense of satisfaction. This weekend I planted three flower beds and installed outdoor furniture including a wonderful swing with a canopy. The big, old fashioned porch swing at my grandparent’s house is my favorite summer spot. We are substituting a flowering crab apple tree for the porch here in our seasonal, suburban idyll, but somehow the idea of a lazy afternoon swinging in the shade is incredibly appealing. Hopefully we made a lovely bower, a quiet place to enjoy the seasons. I plan to settle in to the wonderfully plush pillows with my puppy, watch the canna grow, and work on the units in my Western European legal history study guide at every opportunity.
It’s the long Memorial Day weekend here in America, and the official beginning of summer, according to local custom. Many of my friends and neighbors are enjoying mini-breaks and holidays but Jaeger and I are taking a different approach. Since my new little dog has spent more than half of his young life in an animal shelter he is happier right now with structure and a plan to control the variables. We decided to stay at home and use the time to catch up on some long neglected tasks, organize some runaway household projects, study, relax, and contemplate.
This week I have been thinking about the importance of challenging myself. You might think that enrolling in a postgraduate laws programme is a sufficient challenge, but it really runs deeper than that, especially in self-directed study in a discipline that is rather new, at least for me. Challenge can represent different perspectives. Goal setting and obstacles can both be viewed as challenges. Over the last few weeks, we have had some changes in our family, which really started me thinking about challenges and how we manage them.
Jelly Bean on a happy day
First, I must share some sad news with all of the wonderful friends of Jelly Bean who so warmly embraced my canine study buddy. In March our sweet Jelly Bean died after a brief but severe illness. A very good friend who manages an animal shelter happened to be visiting on that gloomy day. She told me about a young dog who had been at her shelter for over a year. His story is much like Jelly Bean’s in that respect.
Here in the USA we are celebrating the centennial year of the National Park Service. President Theodore Roosevelt along with leaders like John Muir, Charles Young, and Stephen Mather worked to establish the park system. Quite fortunately, though coincidentally, I just returned from a business trip to Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is an absolutely extraordinary place, inhabited for over 11,000 years by Native Americans and first protected in 1872 as a national park by President Ulysses S. Grant. It is a fabulous place to see wildlife and is home to some of North America’s iconic species like Bison, Elk, Wolf and Grizzly Bears. The change of scenery offered a welcome diversion, even if it was for business rather than pleasure. It reminded me how much a small change can provide a very different perspective.