My Time Studying a Master’s in Modern and Contemporary Literature
Written by MA Modern and Contemporary Literature student, Nadia Chau.
My time here doing MA Modern & Contemporary Literature at The University of Manchester has been a bit challenging but certainly rewarding.
Despite always being interested in modern and contemporary critical theories, which drove me to apply for the course in the first place, I was extremely nervous when I received the offer. Throughout the whole preparation process before coming here, I could not help but have many self-doubts – as someone whose first language is not English, I was anxious about not being able to grasp the course content as well as my classmates, and being not as articulate as other native speakers when I am speaking in class.
And I would not lie, at first, it had been challenging for me to adapt to this new learning pattern. Back when I was doing my undergrad degree in Hong Kong, we mostly only had lectures, where teachers do most of the talking. But here, most of the modules provided in MA Modern & Contemporary Literature are seminars that put emphasis on students’ discussion and participation. For instance, for the module ‘Queer Cinema and Beyond,’ we would have one hour of discussion in class where students take all initiative, followed by another hour of instructor-led discussion, and a small group discussion session in the last hour. Despite appreciating the freedom given to students, I found it a challenge for me to speak up in class at the beginning. The other challenge for me would be doing the readings. As humanities students, we generally need to do lots of readings, and sometimes, I am not sure if I have misread the concepts and ideas being illustrated.
Luckily, the teachers and classmates I have encountered on this course are very supportive. The teachers are always there to help me when I reach out to them and talk about my struggles. For instance, last semester, when I told my instructor I had had difficulties understanding the readings, my instructor suggested that I go to their office hour sessions to have further discussions on the topics. In those sessions, they clarified the key concepts in the readings, and helped me better understand the ideas in those topics, for which I am extremely grateful. My classmates are all very friendly and always encourage me to speak when we are doing group discussions. Under their influence, I became more confident in speaking and started to speak more in class.
And once I have gotten used to the learning pattern, I find this new learning experience rewarding. I have had so much fun exchanging ideas with my classmates, who do not come from the same culture as I do; and despite that the readings from this MA are difficult, they are extremely rewarding as well, as they all illustrate some important aspects about our world/culture, and studying them provides me so much insight, and also inspiration for my independent research. Moreover, I get to experience new things through studying this MA. Over the past few months, I have been to field trips (to John Rylands Library and an archive centre in Wakefield), and I have also watched a contemporary performance called Split Britches: Last Gasp at Contact Theatre (sponsored by our school), and these are all eye-opening experiences for me.
All in all, I would say studying MA Modern & Contemporary Literature at UoM is a rewarding experience, and the challenges at the beginning are totally worth it.