Reflections on 2021-2022: As a full-time Master’s student

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It has already been nine months since I started at SOAS, University of London for my MA in Gender Studies. I’ve finished my final exams, essays, and assignments, and all I have left to do is to write my dissertati0n.

Looking back on my journey over the past nine months, it was full of joy. This journey is one of meeting friends, further academic interests in gender studies, and self-discovery.

Here, I’m writing about my reflections on this year, and what I have learned, not just in my studies, but about myself too.

bedroom in student accommodation
(Thankfully, I have finished packing myself already— now here is an empty room for students next year)

Understanding your capabilities

This year, my journey was all about discovering my capabilities and limitations. I was gobsmacked by the fact that full-time master’s students finish their courses within a year. This means we only have a few months to complete our dissertations.

I’ve also experienced how intense the schedule for master’s students is since I became one. I started organising all the assigned deadlines for every assignment. I also arranged a ‘reading schedule’ to make sure I finished all the assigned weekly reading, taking into account my slower reading speed for articles/books in English.

Knowing what I’m capable of, and what I need to improve to achieve something has been my thing.

In addition, alongside this full-time MA, I also applied for the role of SOAS Digital Ambassador. Of course, this was the best decision I have ever made in my university life!

Meal cooked by students

Meal being prepared by students

Food from Bloomsbury Food Market

Take a step back

Even though I knew my limitations and tried not to exceed them, I sometimes felt exhausted from all the modules, readings, assignments, and tutorials.

I learned through my exhaustion that sometimes I need to take a break and do things at my own speed. Especially when lectures were available online, this meant I could watch the recordings from time to time.

Being a full-time MA student meant full-time participation in everything, and always giving 100%. Whilst I was skeptical about online sessions, they gave me the flexibility to take a step back and see what I was capable of (and what I wasn’t!).

SOAS broadened my academic interests

This year, my academic experience was not exactly what I expected it to be.

Before starting my degree here, my academic interest was sexual violence issues, and I was determined to write a dissertation on this topic. However, what I learned broadened my academic interests and expanded my knowledge. Without interacting with students from all over the world and the knowledge of academics from various backgrounds, I would not have chosen the topic I settled on for my dissertation.

I realised I didn’t have to fixate on one academic issue to be a master’s student. Instead, this offered me the chance to see the world we live in through so many different lenses.

Reflections on my year of study

Although I finished my year on the positive side, it wasn’t without its ups and downs. But, my year would never have been the same if I had chosen to do a fully online degree. I came across the theoretical questions for my dissertation, thanks to a tutorial I could attend in person. Plus, I wouldn’t have met my precious friends here if I had stayed in Japan.

I decided to defer my offer to 2020 due to the pandemic. From 2020 to 2021, I craved my full-time study abroad experience. There was, of course, an online option for my degree, but I chose to be in-person, face-to-face, and to have a new life in a country I had never lived in before.

This academic year has helped me grow so much, and I don’t regret any of it (even getting on an extremely busy bus during the Tube strikes). In short, my year at SOAS was quite hectic – in the best sense. And that’s exactly what I was looking for in 2020 and early 2021.

Haruna Kono is a SOAS Digital Ambassador, doing a postgraduate degree in MA Gender Studies. Their interests include sexual violence issues, reproductive health rights, queer in Asia, and massive love for anime, manga and idols. 

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