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Written by Vanessa Florio
Master in International Relations of the Americas

Postgraduate study is demanding, yet if you manage your time effectively from the outset there are plenty of opportunities to achieve an enjoyable work-life balance. Although it can seem as if it’s just you versus the library, postgraduate life can be fun and enjoyable if you know how to.

Being a master’s student myself, I can tell you that the course really does go by in a flash, but at the same time it’s also longer than you may think. In order to make the most of your time at UCL, it’s best to forward-think a bit when it comes to your course and spare time. It goes without saying that signing up for another year and more studying is a big commitment and postgrads are often pretty driven as a result of this. However, just because the learning environment can be a bit intense, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and explore the city as a postgrad. 

As a postgraduate student, you are getting ready to enter the next phase of your life: work.

You will need certain skills to make your resume stand out and ensure the employer takes a second look at your CV. One of the best ways to acquire new skills and have a great network of friends is by joining a student society. If you think student societies are all about parties and booze or mainly for undergrads, think again! UCL offers loads of opportunities for you to get involved in. Checking out the Union’s list of clubs and societies, joining Facebook pages and contacting mailing lists are by far the best way to keep in touch with what’s going on around campus. The union’s website has an exhaustive list of societies, and I’ve found that most of them maintain a pretty good online presence, so why not have a go at something totally different?

Here’s a tip: As well as offering lots of social opportunities and activities, there’s also the more serious, representational and campaigning side to the Union, which can be really great to get involved in as a postgrad, particularly if you want to have more of a say of what goes on at UCL and within the Union itself.

You are not all by yourself

Postgrads are said to get quite lonely at times. You spend a great deal of your time working by yourself and in addition to that, you are living in one of the largest cities in the world, which can sometimes affect your feeling of belonging to a community. However, as long as you plan your time well there is no reason why you can’t have an amazing year as a postgrad. The way I tried to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed with my studies, was by searching and then applying for a part-time job via the Union’s Jobshop website. I’ve been working as an admin assistant at the UCL Volunteering Service for ten months now, alongside my studies, and I can safely say that it was a great decision. Not only was I able to earn some money whilst studying but I also was able to work in a great team and to meet a lot of great, enthusiastic student volunteers. Working at the Volunteering Service twice a week really helped me to leave the academic bubble for a while to focus on other things, such as engaging with UCL students and managing their volunteering roles, which I believe enabled me to work even harder on my days off from work. It is crucial to not let postgraduate study take over your life, so my time at work allowed me to have a break from it, which always calmed me down. 

So, all in all, a postgraduate degree is hard work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an amazing year. The work is rewarding, and it is very much possible to have fun at the same time. So, while you may occasionally reminisce about the good ‘ole days of your undergraduate degree, don’t let it distract you from your brand-new adventure.