Flexible learning: how I make postgraduate study work for me

About halfway through the second year on my BA (Hons) Education Studies with TESOL Pathway, I began to consider alternative ways to progress on my pathway.

I chose my undergraduate degree because it followed on nicely from the Level 3 Diploma in Specialist Support in Teaching and Learning in Schools, that I had just completed at the University of Derby Buxton Campus. That course was really based around being a teaching assistant in primary schools, but I wanted to open up my options further, with a view to teaching abroad. Initially, my intention was to take a year out teaching abroad before going on to do the PGCE.

My other classmates were all applying to do the PGCE and through listening to them, together with my own experience from different types of work placements during my dip3 and BA, and talking to our lecturers about the different roads we could each travel, I realised there is a whole world out there just waiting for us to join in. So, working alongside staff in our International Centre, I applied to teach abroad for a year in Spain and to do the MA Education, knowing with this way I could choose yet another pathway to gain more knowledge and experience.

Teaching placements in Spain have age restrictions that stop at 30, which meant I was refused the placement. This initially felt like a setback – but I was accepted onto the MA, which I began immediately following my BA, without taking a gap year.

I am now studying full-time on the MA Education degree with the Leadership, Coaching and Mentoring Pathway. This degree can also be done part-time. My choice of postgraduate course seemed a natural flow to me, as it followed on from my BA and I wanted to remain in the education sector. Plus, on the MA Education, as with the BA Education, you have a choice of pathways, so you can enhance your studies in the area of your interests. For example, my future goal is to teach adults on well-being courses that I create myself, which is how I chose my pathway.

I approach my studies as I would a full-time job, which means putting in the hours to give myself a better opportunity to learn as much as I can from my degree. This of course, comes with its own set of sacrifices as I cannot put the hours into paid employment that I previously did. However, I have learnt the art of being discerning of what I want and what I need in life. Such as, I need those boots to keep my feet warm and dry in winter but I don’t need another pair of heels. Cotton bags are cheaper than changing fashion bags with the seasons and last for years, even when carrying a heavy load of books. Walking is good for your health so do I really need to pay that bus fare to town, and these small changes mean I can afford to work less hours.

Joining the University’s Student Employment Agency (SEA) also means most of my paid work takes place on campus, such as working as a Student Ambassador on Open Days. By doing this, I am working where I study which makes it easy to move from the library to work and back, freeing up other time to spend with family and friends. Also, I have found that sometimes they do like to come and see where you live (yes, university really can feel like a second home), so they are occasionally willing to visit you for a cup of tea, a chat and even sit quietly with a book of their own while you get stuck into your studies. If it works, why not!

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