Hello everyone, my name is Carys and I am studying MA Interpreting and Translating here at the University of Bath. I did my undergraduate degree (in modern languages) at a different university. Oh yeah, and I also live with mental illness.
I don’t want to pretend my illness didn’t make me hesitate over the idea of doing another year of university. My symptoms worsened at university, and I have a lot of bad memories associated with my undergraduate years. But, this time last year, I knew my dream career needed a Masters qualification. But was I ready? I had to answer this question before making my final decision. In this blog are some of the factors that helped me recognise I was ready for postgraduate study. I hope it helps you to answer this question for yourselves too, if you are also in a similar situation.
I was worried moving to Bath would mean a repeat of my first year of university, which was a very difficult time for me. But I recognise I’m a completely different person now and I know my limits and triggers, and I am sure you are too. I looked back at my achievements on my year abroad and in final year, and realised that, overall, I managed to balance my health priorities and the workload very well, even if I was ill at times. I knew then that I could manage my condition, and this time round I am much better equipped to face the change and uncertainty that comes with a new university.
- Student support services
I always look into the types of student support on offer at prospective universities: Are they portrayed by the university as a crucial element of the institution? What is the balance between professional and volunteer-run services? Are they actually decent!? Bath was no exception to this. I felt like the university took my extra needs seriously, and everything I sought assistance with was accessible, stress-free and handled with empathy.
With pre-existing health conditions, a lot of support can be sorted before you even arrive in Bath. For example, you can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance over the summer, and the Disability Service offer phone consultations in September so extra university support is all in place when you arrive. You can also register at the medical centre in advance and make sure you arrive with enough medication for the first couple of weeks. This reassured me a lot as I find myself struggling the most at the beginning of the year, so it meant I was supported during this period too instead of waiting several weeks for the support to be put in place.
- Considering other universities:
Being honest, I didn’t consider Bath as my first-choice university to begin with, because of health reasons. It is the best one for my course, yet other factors out of the university’s hands pulled me in other directions. The first direction was my undergraduate university: 25% off fees and the comfort of familiarity were very appealing to me. But I knew that, in the long term, change would be the right choice for me. I would be happier leaving the trauma behind, and the course in Bath was much more suited to my career aspirations. The second direction was location. Bath, in the south west, is a terrifying distance from the comfort, healthcare and family life in West Yorkshire, especially when my nearest university offered a very similar programme. But when I looked around the university in question, it didn’t feel ‘right’. Having lived independently before, including overseas, I knew I could do it again so long as I found the right accommodation for me. Accommodation was one of my priorities in Bath, and eventually I found the perfect flat for me in the city centre.
- Arrivals week nerves
Arrivals week is my most stressful week of the entire degree, and that is not an exaggeration! But I soon learned that postgraduate Fresher’s is much calmer and more mature than first year, and there is, as always, no obligation to attend. This time I respected my own boundaries and made myself the priority: if I was getting too stressed over an event, or I was too tired, I just wouldn’t go. I avoided alcohol for the whole week and still managed to enjoy all the events regardless. More important than the socials though, are the departmental induction lectures, which help to calm my anxieties once I understand a bit more about the university. I also found that people take postgraduate studies much more seriously than undergraduate degrees and are willing to work hard and help each other out.
- The Weeks that follow
As the weeks rolled by, I soon became used to how the university works and my symptoms once again began to ease as I settled in. Now, I can’t believe it’s already my second semester here in Bath, and I have loved every minute! I feel like I am thriving here, despite everything. I was ready, I made the right decision for me and everything else fell into place. I hope this blog has helped to guide you, and I wish you all the best in your decision making.