Postgraduate Study During The Pandemic

Wondering what your time at Queen’s will be like as a postgraduate student during the Pandemic? Gabbie Dancer helps you find your feet.

I’ve been a Queen's student since I was an undergraduate in 2017. Yes, right now the world looks a bit strange, but I have just started a Masters in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics (HAPP). Many people told me that the jump from undergraduate to postgraduate is huge and difficult. I can tell you from experience, it’s not that bad! Lecturers understand this is probably your first time doing a postgraduate course, and that everyone will likely be coming from different disciplines.

1. Going from undergraduate to postgraduate is not as scary as you think

The first couple of weeks were spent making sure that everyone had the same basic knowledge, with every student having different perspectives in debates due to their different undergraduate degrees. I never felt like anyone knew more than me or that I was unprepared and from the beginning, lecturers make sure to get to know you and that you get to know your peers.

Not only does this help to tailor lectures to your interests, but it also makes you realise that everyone is in the same boat and everyone is feeling the same things!

"Getting to know your peers and lecturers like this helps the transition between undergraduate and postgraduate feel more smooth and far less stressful."

2. Meet people early (even if it is online!)

I am sure you are concerned how social your time at Queen’s will be. My one golden piece of advice is meet your peers early! A good way to do this is to join a Facebook group called ‘Queen’s University Belfast Postgraduates’ and write a small post about where you are from and the course you are starting (or wait for someone on your course to post). I did this and I created a group chat with two course mates who commented, and we all started to get to know each other months before term started.

Since then, we have met new people on our course and similar courses, and the group chat has grown and grown! We were able to have a few meet-ups before lockdown and we are now all able to keep in contact to keep the social side of university alive (if not quite in the way we had expected!), which, of course, is a very important part of university. Quiz or games nights online are always a great way to get to know each other.

"No-one else will understand what this year will feel like for you better than your course mates. I have found it so comforting when I felt like I’ve been struggling a bit to reach out and find that my peers have the same concerns." 

3. Don’t worry – at least try not to :)

I know it’s easier said than done, but try not to worry. Queen's has many different methods to ensure that the impact on learning is as minimal as possible. Before the second lockdown here in Northern Ireland, extra tutorials were added for some modules to allow us to be in-person each week with social distancing, some modules ran a rota method where every other week tutorials are in-person. Queen's has maximised the amount of safe, face-to-face teaching possible which obviously helps with making this strange year feel more normal!

Until January (maybe longer depending on Government guidelines), all classes have moved online to Microsoft Teams. MS Teams is easy to use and Queen's have a lot of resources to help you get to grips with it too if you are unfamiliar.

Myself and some of my peers were concerned that with classes being online, learning would feel slightly isolated. Lecturers are so relaxed about the online learning environment, many of them encouraging us to turn our cameras on so they can see any pets, family or flatmates that walk into frame! It has created such a relaxed, communal feeling, often difficult when you’re seeing each other through a screen.

4. The social side of university doesn’t completely disappear 

Another brilliant element to online learning that Queen's have added is the Virtual Wellbeing Café. There are different channels, and webinars and events about a variety of ways to connect with students in a time where socialising is more difficult! There are also channels for health and even a HAPP book club. You can even go speed friending!

Most clubs and societies are also running events, even though many have had to be adapted due to Covid-19. On that note, starting a new degree, whether it is straight after an undergraduate degree or a return to university after years out, can be daunting, potentially more so now with Covid-19.

Queen’s has so many places and people to help you through your time as a student, ranging from the lecturers and tutors themselves, to the student officers and the Students' Union, to the Student Guidance Centre and the Disability Team. No matter what you need, there is someone who can help you.

I hope my tips are useful, and that you are looking forward to joining Queen’s.

We will see you in January!

Find out more about Postgraduate study at Queen's, courses, and the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics (HAPP).

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