Why did you choose to take a History MA programme? and why did you choose Sheffield particularly?
I wanted to an MA in history for years, just out of pure interest and not with any specific career goals in mind. I chose Sheffield because of their American History program which offered exactly what I was interested in most.
Has your experience so far been what you expected?
It has exceeded my expectations from the first seminar I attended! I was looking for an intellectual challenge and that is exactly what I received. But the whole experience, especially learning from excellent professors, went above and beyond my expectations!
Are there any modules that you have found particularly enjoyable and why?
All the American History modules I took were excellent and eye-opening; I even audited 2 extra classes. The Approaches to the American Past as well as the Civil War and Eighteenth Century British-American Colonies classes were the ones I enjoyed the most.
If you've undertaken any extra-curricular activities, what do you feel these have added to your time here?
In my second year I decided to take full advantage of the many extra-curricular activities the university had to offer. When possible I tried to help out at the history department during open days. I joined several student societies such as the Swing Dance and Burlesque Society, and I was president of the Secular and Atheist Society with which I organised a 3 day convention on freethought and human rights. And I attended various interesting guest lectures and presentations from a variety of different departments.
What is your experience of studying as a mature student on the MA programme?
As a mature student it felt wonderful to be back in the academic world, even though I have a great job, the intellectual challenge was just what I was looking for at this point in my life. After having been out of academia for over a decade, it did take me a little time to get used to scholarly texts again and get my mind into the right frameset again, but apart from that I don't think there was much of a difference between me and recent younger graduates.
What is your experience of studying for the MA part-time?
As I work as a freelancer it was fairly easy to arrange my hours around the MA. There were times though that the workload of the MA was quite significant and not always that easy to combine with a demanding job due to the scheduling of mandatory classes and elective classes.
How have you found studying on the MA programme and in Sheffield more generally as a non-UK student?
As I did my undergrad degree at a UK university, I was already accustomed to UK universities. In comparison to Belgium, where I'm from and studied at undergrad level too, I found that studying in this country to be less stressful yet more intellectually engaging. The use of seminars rather than lectures encourages you to really participate in the debate and challenges you to think about subjects in new ways. All the staff, both professors and support staff, have been incredibly helpful, were very approachable and were keen to see you succeed; this was quite different to what I was used to in Belgium. The Tuesday evening research seminars with speakers from all over the world provided a good opportunity to discover other topics and the subsequent trips to the pub gave us a chance to socialise with other students and academic staff.
Do you have any plans for after you finish?
I would love to continue studying and pursue a PhD at some point. In the meantime, I'm back to work as a freelancer and am looking into ways on how to incorporate my love for American history with my day job.
What do you like about the University/living in Sheffield?
Sheffield is an amazing city, while it has all the advantages of a big city it hardly has any of the disadvantages. It's so open and green, safe, right by the Peak District, friendly, great places to go out, ... You're quite likely to want to stay here after you graduate. As for the university and the History department, I would definitely recommend it!
Would you recommend studying at Sheffield to a friend?