The Great University Adventure: Open Day

Hey, you remember how in August I told you I was going to go to the open day for my local university? And that I was thinking of doing a Creative Writing MA? No? Okay, well go and read this post first, then.

So fastforward to last Saturday. It’s the day of our friend’s funeral. And also? It’s the postgraduate open day for the University of Kent. Yes, it was a very strange day. It was also so, so wonderful.

Let me tell you the most amazing thing first: I wasn’t that anxious.

Okay, this isn’t 100% true. On the day before, I could barely do anything because I was feeling so many things. This is probably primarily the funeral looming, but I was also so nervous about how the open day was going to go. I wasn’t nervous about going specifically though – even though it was a brand new place. That’s pretty astonishing.

Rather, I was nervous about it not being what I wanted. Because in the few months that have passed since I made that decision to pursue this, I’ve come to really, deeply want to go. But I also didn’t know if this university was going to fit for me.

I figured the anxiety about going somewhere I’ve never been before was just going to come on the day. This anxiety is usually tremendous, given that I feel anxious even about going to places I know really well. It didn’t. I didn’t even feel very anxious when we were there. Not even in the room full of people, or when I was asking questions.

I felt a bit anxious. It wasn’t completely gone. But I was able to do all of these things, and I can’t tell you how weird and wonderful that was.

I learned quickly that I’ll have to specialise early on.

When I first looked at this I’d wanted a course that covered a bit of everything – but it looks like that’s not really what a MA course does. Where I’d wanted to study all different kinds of writing, I’m instead going to have to specialise. I’ll be picking primarily between fiction and poetry – pretty early on. I can actually do it immediately, if I want to.

And whilst that’s not exactly what I went into this wanting, I’m okay with it. I mean, at this point I’m pretty sure that prose is my one true love. But I had wanted the opportunity to learn a bit about other kinds of writing, including the ones I’ve never tried, like script writing.

And whilst initially I wasn’t sure about that, I think now I’m okay with it. I want to learn to be good at the thing I want to be good at, after all. There’s nothing stopping me from studying these other kinds of writing in different ways.

It’s possible for me to fully fund it using student loans.

I talked a bit about this in my initial post, but in the UK we have government loans for undergraduate degrees where you don’t have to start paying them off until you’re earning a certain amount (around £21k), and then it’s a percentage of your income. Then, at a certain age, anything remaining is written off.

The government recently bought in postgraduate loans, which are exactly the same (and add onto your existing student loan amount), except they can now apply to masters degrees. This is how I’m able to do this at all. And the amount? Not only covers the course fees, but has a bit left over, which means it can also fund a semester abroad.

On top of that there are scholarships available – I’m only eligible for a couple, but am going to apply for them anyway. I’m also probably eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowance, which I’ve had before and offered other support like equipment and extra mentoring. I didn’t take advantage of it properly then, and I mean to this time round.

Oh…and the course includes doing a semester in Paris.

I’d like to reinforce at this point that I have not, in fact, been replaced by another person. I recognise that as a person with anxiety severe enough that I’m terrified of going to places alone, or to places I don’t know, the idea of living in a foreign country where I now barely speak the language is mad.

It’s also incredibly exciting.

So this course involves the first term being here at home, the second term being in Paris, and the third term back at home doing my dissertation. The classes are still in English in Paris, you’re just studying at their centre there.

I went to Paris for my 18th birthday, and I absolutely loved it. I was so afraid, but I loved it. One of my most wonderful memories is climbing the Arc de Triomphe at night and looking down the roads, which sparkled with street lights and looked completely magical.

We also got lost down streets of second hand bookshops that were open at 2am, and walked all the way round the city. I want so much to be able to have experiences like that again. And the idea of being brave enough to do that alone? I’m also pretty excited by that.

So now, I just need to actually get into the university.

I can apply straight away, so I’m going to start working on it this week. It involves giving a writing sample, and explaining my experience – because I don’t actually meet the academic requirements (thanks undergraduate degree done mid-breakdown!), so I have to make up for it with professional work. Fortunately, I probably have enough to counter it.

Then I’ll do applications for scholarships and other things that can help whilst I’m there. I don’t know when I will know for sure that I’m going – it means both getting in and getting the loan 100% confirmed. Though there’s no reason for them to refuse me the loan, it’s essentially guaranteed – as I meet all the limits.

What I do know is that I’m going to blog the whole thing, from what doing the application is like through to actually going. So if you’ve ever wanted to know what doing a MA in Creative Writing is like? Or doing a MA when you’re 31 and most of the people around you are probably in their early twenties is like? Or what studying abroad when you’ve got severe anxiety is like?

Well, just stick around. Because I’m super excited, and I hope you are too.

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