A Postgraduate Degree? Why I chose St Andrews for a Masters, by Elaine Teng
February 26, 2013 Leave a comment
As I considered my future during my final year of college last year, I was certain of only two things: I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue on to a Ph.D. and I wanted to live in the U.K. One was a long-standing wish from childhood and the other was a serious question of career. With these criteria in mind, the University of St Andrews M.Litt program seemed like an ideal choice. It would not only allow me to further explore my academic interests in modern European history, but it would also give me the chance to live abroad in one of the prettiest corners of Britain.
When I first arrived, I had a few hesitations: everyone and everything I knew was so far away, and I was to spend only a few hours a week in class — quite a change from the American system. Soon enough, however, I began to relish the independence the program afforded me. Sure, I only sit in class for about three and a half hours a week, but I spend many times that number reading to prepare for those classes. This was a great preparatory transition towards a Ph.D. program in which the work is totally and completely independent aside from meetings every two weeks or so. Not only did I learn that I did indeed have the focus and self-motivation necessary to lead such a life, but I realized I enjoyed the independence of research work.
Nonetheless, I still relish the comfort of weekly class meetings with my peers, which are not only opportunities to hear what others have to say and to discuss and develop my own ideas, but also time to bond with people of diverse interests and different backgrounds. I have met people from all over Europe and North America through the program, many of whom have shared experiences and insights that have broadened my view of the world and history as much as time spent in the library.
Outside of class, the School of History’s multiple seminar series also provides ample opportunity for discussion as well as exposure to exciting fields of research and potential areas for exploration, from everyday life in Fascist Italy to forced migration in the Middle East. We also have the invaluable opportunity to acquire or deepen the language skills necessary for our fields of research, as St Andrews offers reading classes in a variety of different languages at various levels.
Looking back to my reasons for choosing St Andrews last year — the location and the program — neither has disappointed. This seaside corner of Fife is actually one of the most beautiful places I think I will ever live, and the M.Litt year was one of the best ways to figure out whether or not a career in academia is for me.