An MA in Applied Linguistics has been a part of my life plan for several years. However, I never expected to be doing it during a pandemic! Even though this year looked different than I had expected, I feel like I have grown and developed so much during my course thanks to a fantastic learning experience at Essex. Here are a few things I wish I’d known before I got started.

Study tip first: Don’t make too many documents for your notes!

In October, I thought the organised way to go would be creating individual documents for each week/topic for each module. Everyone has a slightly different system that works for them, but this one caused me a real headache when I was trying to synthesize research! What has worked for me is taking notes in a spreadsheet. I have columns for each theme I’m researching (for example, Language pedagogy or Language learning and identity). This allows me to filter one or more themes at a time when I’m writing a paper and has made the process much more efficient! If you want to get extra nerdy (which you clearly do if you’re reading this) then you can colour-code your themes for a visually satisfying set of notes.

Societies aren’t just for undergraduates

I had limited free time this year because I was working part-time alongside my MA. There were several societies that interested me (there is such a huge range that you’re bound to find something). In the end, I chose the Feminist Society (FemSoc). I fully expected to be (and was) the oldest person there, but the other members never made me feel that way. Instead, I found an amazingly inclusive and inspiring community who always aimed to learn more and do better. I truly think this enriched my experience at Essex, so I would recommend trying out a few societies when you start your course- no matter which stage of life you’re at.

Your professors will treat you like colleagues

When I was researching MA courses, I noticed that the Department of Languages and Linguistics at Essex made a point of referring to their students as ‘colleagues’. This has very much been my experience at Essex. The professors are naturally curious and passionate researchers and educators who are excited to hear about your thoughts, opinions, and ideas. This creates an enormously supportive and nurturing environment, which I believe allowed me to flourish as a researcher. 

You will make friends, even during a pandemic

Online learning definitely creates more of a barrier when it comes to meeting people on your course. You don’t, for example, have the opportunity to grab a quick coffee and have a chat after a seminar. However, the department will do everything possible to facilitate you meeting like-minded people, whether that is group work or social mixers. I have become close friends with several classmates and have been absolutely blown away by their warmth and support, not to mention all our in-depth discussions about teaching and linguistics. I finally met one friend in person last week, and we will all be meeting each other over the coming weeks. It feels amazing!

I chose the course at Essex both because of the diverse professors and because the University made me feel seen and cared for even before I accepted my offer. If you are considering studying within the Department of Language and Linguistics, I can’t recommend it enough.