Reflections on Studying the Past – Meddyliau ar Astudio’r Gorffennol

Deciding to study postgraduate history at Swansea was one of the best decisions I ever made. From the variety of modules on offer to the guidance and support of the staff to the number of resources available, studying history at Swansea University was as enriching as it was rewarding.

Following the completion of my undergraduate at Swansea University, I decided that I wasn’t quite finished with my studies in sunny South Wales. Thus, I made the decision to continue my education, enrolling in Swansea University’s postgraduate MA history course.

I was initially hesitant as due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the bulk of the course would take place via online seminars and classes. Despite the unfortunate circumstances of not being able to work and socialise on the gorgeous beachside university campus, the dedication and support of the university staff mitigated the negative effects of online learning. Lecturers and staff were available at a moments notice to meet to discuss any problems, ranging from small issues such as formatting or referencing to big issues such as essay structuring and assignment deadlines. The medium in which teaching operates may change, but the reliability, knowledge, and guidance of the history staff at Swansea University is sure to remain at a high level no matter the conditions.

When it came to studying, the depth, variety and quality of modules on offer was second to none. One of the main qualities of studying history is its versatility, one morning you’ll be musing the writings of American revolutionary figure Thomas Paine, later that afternoon you’ll be engaging in a philosophical debate around historical monuments and their place in modern society before finishing up by collaborating on a group project revolving around one of the finest photographers of the 20th century, Raissa Page. From analysing The Great Cat Massacre and its relevance to postmodernism to researching and developing actual history at the Richard Burton Archives, the variety available in postgraduate history at Swansea is second to none.

There is an apparent step up in degree of difficulty from undergrad to postgrad. However, the support of the staff, as well as the fascinating range of topics to study, means that you get as much out of the masters as you’re willing to put in. The challenge presented is not one that is meant to gatekeep the higher levels of academia for exclusivity’s sake. It acts as a rising tide, improving your skills in whatever field you specialise in. If you feel overwhelmed to begin, that’s expected. But as time goes on, the more you read and study the classes and conversations become more engrossing and easier to understand. Moreover, you are here because you’re passionate about history. Thus, you and your classmates bring their own expertise, experiences and enthusiasm for whatever historical topic they specialise in or find interesting. One of the best ways to learn was by simply chatting to fellow students.

The best bits of undergraduate study are heightened when studying a Masters. The emphasis on seminars and smaller classes helps cultivate an environment of incredible closeness and debate. Moreover, the enthusiasm for history that your lecturers and fellow students possess is infectious. Although there are tough and challenging moments, deciding to study history at the postgraduate level was one of the best decisions I ever made.

By Matthew Bowen. Matthew is a recent MA history graduate You can follow him on Twitter here: ‘@MatthewJBowen7‘ and check out his work on the blog, Wales Since 1939‘ 

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