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Reflections on completing a Master's Degree in isolation.

Dissertation writing over summer, especially when the world is reopening, is going to be a challenge. When I was doing my Undergraduate course, my dissertation was timed to finish before exams started, and it was overwhelming. So, I'm very grateful that we have the summer to focus on dissertation writing only, and my travelling tour of dissertation writing around coffee shops will begin!

Now that exams are finished and we are approaching the end of postgraduate courses, I have been feeling very reflective on having almost completed a Master's Degree, in almost complete isolation. When friends and family have asked about my course, I usually give a vague and brief update on how strange it is, but you get used to learning by yourself. In all honesty, when I applied for my course, this was not at all how I expected it to go. Even in December I was hopeful that the next semester would be in person, and we would be able to have face-to-face learning, but that never came to pass.

When I was applying to Manchester, I went to visit AMBS and I did a campus tour. The main reason I wanted to visit campus was to see if I could visualise myself being there among the current students, and if I could picture myself studying there. That was a huge reason why I picked to study in Manchester, the fact that I could see myself there. Yet, as we now know, it would end up being a solo study adventure in my room with endless Zooms and Teams meetings, and blue vision glasses. I still haven't met any of my lecturers in-person - graduation might be the first and only opportunity I get for that. And even though it has been a real adjustment and a challenge at times, this year has flown by and it feels strange to be coming to a close.

Something I have tried really hard to do during this year is acknowledge that I have done this mostly alone, as only recently I have been able to form friendships with coursemates and that shared experience has been a real loss. Not having conversations and debates in class, no shared assignment panic or note sharing, and by not meeting the lecturers our interactions have been online and we've missed out and there is no denying that. But I have also gained a huge amount. Adapting to online learning and having to have that self-determination and discipline to do it alone. Now that I'm applying for jobs I am leaning on a lot of skills I've harnessed this year, and I think its a huge benefit. Not only was this year a challenge but it was unprecedented and unexpected, and learning on the fly is a major skill. Something like this will probably (and hopefully) never happen again and I encourage you to sit back, applaud yourself and reflect on what completing a course in a pandemic has taught you and how you can put it into practicegoing forward, maybe then it will feel like the achievement it really is.