Amanda Smith

MA Historical ResearchAmanda Smith

Originally from North Carolina in the south eastern United States, I graduated from the University of Richmond (Virginia) in 2012 with a BA in History. As an undergraduate, I spent a year studying abroad in the UK, which motivated me to return here for my MA. During my year out before coming to Sheffield, I worked for various museums in my home state.

I chose to study history at the University of Sheffield due to the reputation of the department and its research excellence, the large variety of modules available, its particular strength in the realm of history I focus on (early modern Europe), the flexibility of my course, and the assessment methods (no exams for me!).

I think the most enjoyable part about studying history as a postgraduate student at the University of Sheffield lies in the high frequency of events the department puts on regularly. Nearly every Tuesday, academics present their research in the Departmental Research Seminar, which is open to postgraduates and staff. Furthermore, there are informal socials nearly every week, along with various additional speakers, discussions, and master classes to attend. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about history through countless chats with professors and peers outside of traditional academic spaces, as well.

I think the most valuable aspect of my course is its flexibility. We are allowed to choose from modules which cover a wide swath of time and space, along with more career-oriented focuses. Options from other departments (such as English and Archaeology) are available, as well.

The teaching and study methods at the University of Sheffield are quite different from those I experienced as an undergraduate in the United States. However, I have not found the transition to be too terribly difficult. I enjoy my course’s emphasis on independent study, and I have found that planning my time wisely is the best way to minimize stress as deadlines approach. Teaching hours in the UK are typically lower than those in the US; most of my modules meet two hours a week at most. However, my lecturers and seminar leaders have been quite successful in eliciting meaningful discussions and thought provoking presentations, and I have found them to be very approachable if I have any questions or concerns about the modules.

The university’s motto is “Rerum cognoscere causas” or “To discover the causes of things”, which I think is very reminiscent of its attitude towards education. I think the most important benefit of studying at the University of Sheffield includes the opportunity to be a part of a dynamic academic community of people from different countries and with backgrounds in different disciplines who are constantly seeking new ways to build knowledge.

The best thing about life at the University of Sheffield – aside from its amazing academic community- is the shear variety of options available to students in their free time. There really is something for everyone at the university, and I have been amazed by the speed at which I have been able to settle in and make this city my new home.

After I’ve finished my course, I hope to either pursue a PhD in my subject or continue a career in cultural heritage or education with the added benefit of a Sheffield degree.

I would advise prospective students to try to make the most of their time in Sheffield. The city is buzzing with things to do, especially when it comes to the university’s vast array of societies to join. Also, take advantage of Sheffield’s location in the UK; many interesting places can be reached rather quickly and cheaply (London’s only 2 hours by train), so I suggest trying to travel as much as you can!


Read more about my time in Sheffield