…or why you should go to the Classical Studies MA day!
No disrespect to Milton Keynes, but it’s not the first place that a lot of people would think of for a day out. However, as a student of module A863, the first year of the Open University’s MA in Classical Studies, I duly received my invite to the MA day, to be held at the OU’s Walton Hall campus in Milton Keynes.
The MA day is held in July and invites are extended to all students who are just finishing A863 (the first year of MA study) or nearing the end of A864 (the second year of MA study) and working on their final dissertation.
At the time of the invite, I was undecided whether I should sign up for the second year. The idea of more and more independent research was daunting and I felt that I should have at least a vague idea of a dissertation topic. I had no idea whatsoever, nothing.
The invite to the MA day therefore prompted a raft of questions: Was it worth going? What would I get out of it? Would I just find it confirmed my doubts? Would it be worth the investment of time and money? There is no charge for the MA day itself but I needed to organise transport and possibly accommodation.
I finally decided to go on the basis that it was better to have my fears confirmed and retire gracefully, rather than sign up for the second year of the MA and then find I wasn’t suited to it at all.
The agenda for the day arrived – first up a talk from an external speaker specialising in reception. Hmmm, my least favourite area of study! On the day I prepared to be mildly bored, but the speaker barely mentioned reception. Instead she talked about her journey from being a child with an assisted school place to accepting her current university research position – the highs and lows, the challenges and the successes. Her talk and the subsequent question/answer session made me realise how everyone has their doubts at some stage but if it was easy there would be no challenge in doing it, no feeling of achievement at the end. Many people, if not most, had doubts just like mine.
For the next session, second year students were offered a dissertation clinic, while a module tutor presented an ‘Introduction to A864’ to the first year group. This was so much more useful than the information on the OU website. After a brief overview of course content, the tutor went through the nature of the TMAs in detail and explained how they were designed to build up a student’s skills and confidence to take them step by step through to their dissertation. It was scary in parts, but once again we were reminded that an MA is not meant to be easy. I was left with the impression that the module would be challenging but, with application and support, it was also doable. I might even enjoy it!
After lunch, the day resumed with a couple of A864 students giving a brief outline of their journey through the course so far – how (and when) they chose their general dissertation topic, how it had been refined and developed, and how they felt now that they were part way through the actual writing. An open discussion then gave first year students the opportunity to ask the whole body of second year students whatever they wanted – about the course, the dissertation, the skills, the challenges etc. etc. The second year students were very forthcoming, opening up about the issues that they had encountered, how they had overcome them and what they felt was important to successfully negotiate the course.
This session then moved into smaller group discussions, with each group consisting of a couple of A864 students along with three or four A863 students. Again, the A863 students were encouraged to ‘grill’ the A864 students. It was easier to ask questions in a small group and I was really grateful to the A864 students for their personal responses.
Overall, the MA day was an extremely valuable experience. Second year students were overwhelmingly positive about the experience, and face to face discussions with them and the tutors demystified the second year of the course. It also made me realise that I wasn’t alone with my doubts and fears.
Is it worth going to the MA day? Definitely. Get there if you can.
Did I sign up for A864? Of course I did.