Learning through trial and error: Kevin’s story


MA English Literature

A new university, a new course, and new assignments. I think that’s how the order would go in terms of preference, too. With the festive season behind me, the date of my first deadline was in full view. However, between you and me, I had spent the entire Christmas and New Year period believing (or choosing to believe) that I had only one deadline due at the start of January. Unfortunately, this proved to be incorrect. I found out I had two, TWO four-thousand-word essays to write in just one week! The challenge was on.

Prior to undertaking the research and writing these assessed pieces of work, I had, fortunately, had the chance to draft a copy of my ideas in an unassessed essay, several weeks before the due date. For me, this was wonderful. Listening to all the information provided in the seminar room results in a head full of information and the want to put all that information down on paper in one essay. Not possible. This is a perfect opportunity to get everything down you think you could work with, then wait to get a thumbs-up, or thumbs-down. Although I hadn’t read half of the books at this time, the unassessed essay also gives the tutors an idea of students’ writing abilities and areas where they may need additional support.

The feedback, ready in a swift turnaround, was printed off together with my essay, allowing me see where I could make improvements. The tutors also made themselves available to go over their suggestions face to face. This approach works better for me as I can scribble down all subsequent suggestions while they ruminate over my ideas. With the tutors’ abundance of knowledge in each of the units, their feedback—with the occasional tangent that might appear off topic—has proved to be greatly valuable when making connections between ideas. These unassessed pieces will be used to my full advantage next semester.

I’m pleased to say I managed to get both essays written before the deadline, and my sanity was still largely intact. I’ve learnt that the time spent in seminars, with the ideas and opinions of others being openly discussed, has—consciously or not—helped develop my own perspective in analysis. The unassessed assignments, which at first seemed needless, were an element of the essay-writing process that proved to be the cornerstone for each of my essays. Hopefully this will have come through in my work.

Bring on the next assignments.

Kevin is in receipt of the Postgraduate Financial Support Package, now the Leeds Masters Scholarships Scheme for 2015 entry.  To find out more about this funding, please visit here.

Enhancing and developing skills: Dhara’s story


MSc Psychological Approaches to Health

My first semester at Leeds as a postgraduate student has flown by! I’ve met some fantastic people and I’m really enjoying my studies so far. My course involves applying psychological theories and research to issues relating to healthcare. It uses an integrated approach and utilises aspects of biological, social and cognitive, occupational and health psychology. Teaching is through a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials, which has really helped me to apply the knowledge I have gained to real life examples.

I’m picking up and continuing to develop some great skills during this time. A Masters degree is intellectually stimulating and I’m really learning the importance of organisation, prioritisation and planning ahead. I know these will be invaluable for future employment opportunities. I am also enhancing my leadership skills and gaining a greater level of confidence through my role as Course Representative. I am responsible for listening to fellow students and ensuring that they are satisfied with the course so that I can accurately represent them at meetings held each term with members of administrative and teaching staff. In addition to this role, I am helping to organise an MSc Alumni Conference which will be held in January 2015. I am looking forward to this as we are inviting previous MSc Alumni to speak about their employment experiences which will provide current students with an interesting insight into the range of career/academic paths that are available to them.

Even though I completed my undergraduate studies at Leeds and was familiar with the libraries, I have found the Skills@Library sessions very helpful. I attended a Skills@Library session in my first semester which consisted of a presentation delivered by a member of the library team. This consisted of advice relating to time management, good essay writing tips and literature searching. This was an interactive session whereby I had the opportunity to write down my areas of strengths and weaknesses and share them with the group. As part of this session, I also received one-to-one advice as I had the opportunity to ask questions. This experience helped me to refine my existing journal searching skills and also helped me to learn new skills relating to time management and essay writing.

I’ve found the Careers Centre very useful too as they provide employability sessions and workshops with graduate employers that really encourage students to maximise their potential when applying for jobs and attending assessment centres. The Careers Centre website is also fantastic as it contains details of all the latest vacancies that are exclusive to University of Leeds students. I am currently exploring academia-related opportunities within the University of Leeds although I would also like to the opportunity to gain some experience relating to healthcare after my course. I am receiving regular emails regarding various work-related opportunities from the careers coordinator in the School of Psychology; which has helped me to find out more about the different options that are available to me.

I’m looking forward to my second semester at Leeds and anticipating the opportunities it’ll bring!

Dhara is in receipt of the Postgraduate Financial Support Package, now the Leeds Masters Scholarships Scheme for 2015 entry.  To find out more about this funding, please visit here.

You may also be interested to hear about the experiences of undergraduate students in the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Leeds; visit here to read more.

Practical application of theoretical ideas: Lise’s story


MA Applied Psychology of Music

The psychology of music is a broad research-based field of psychology which seeks to understand the diverse effects of music on people, and vice versa. It examines issues within learning, educating, performing, musical preferences, mass and individual consumption, association with products or advertising, synaesthesia (where music is associated with other senses) and therapy to name a few. It may seem like a niche area, but the applications of the field are closer to you than you probably realise, such as the use of music in advertising and marketing.

So, I’m about to embark on the second semester, and the work is starting to feel real. Last term was a deep-end learning curve, reading numerous research papers to critically analyse and discuss, getting to grips with qualitative research in small groups and trying to put into practise seemingly straightforward interview techniques. Even having assessed and interviewed people in my last job, keeping an awareness of whether questions are leading, closed or hypothetical and picking up on answers that can be questioned further without writing it down feels like learning to ride a bike on a busy motorway. Next semester I go it alone with the dissertation, alongside learning quantitative techniques and can’t see that learning curve letting up.

It hasn’t all been learning on the task – the Professional Studies module has provided a worthwhile insight into careful referencing and researching a topic as well as information and advice on applying for research grants and roles within academia. This is to be complemented next term with talks from the careers service and giving presentations. Having watched researchers give talks in the seminar series, it’ll be our turn to stand and deliver before the semester is out, in no fewer than three separate modules. Still, it’s great chance to hone the performance anxiety techniques that I’ll be writing about in the dissertation.

On the other side of things it was fantastic to get back into performance and I was honoured to play in the first concert of the year as leader of the symphonic wind orchestra. It’s been a long time since I have played in front of an actual audience and the youthful enthusiasm of the orchestra is infectious. I have also joined the union’s music society and the extra opportunities it offers are possibly the most exciting part of being at the university, opening up contact with high quality musicians not just from the school of music but the university more widely.

The course so far has been as challenging, varied and interesting as I hoped. The course staff members are available to share their knowledge and understand the diverse backgrounds of everyone on the course. As well as a glut of academic work next term, I guess it’ll be time to consider life after Leeds and hopefully bringing the benefits of music to community groups such as those for people with dementia. Best pay attention to that careers centre talk and make use of the service.

Lise is in receipt of the Postgraduate Financial Support Package, now the Leeds Masters Scholarships Scheme for 2015 entry.  To find out more about this funding, please visit here.