Case study

Masters student — Andrew Williams

After studying Modern History and Russian at the University of St Andrews, Andrew took a year out to gain some work experience. He's now studying Russian and Post-Soviet Politics at University College London (UCL)

Tips for choosing a Masters

  • After undergraduate study take a year out to get real life/work experience.
  • Ask yourself why you want to do a Masters. Do you love the subject or need a Masters for your career?
  • Decide whether you're prepared to sacrifice a social life for study, because during busy periods you'll need to.

Why pursue a postgraduate course?

Two reasons:

  • for most of the careers that I'm looking at it's a necessity
  • undergraduate study didn't quite satisfy my desire to learn about Russia and neighbouring countries.

Why did you choose this course and institution?

The modules on offer were the most varied and seemed the most interesting. Academics running the course are also the leading experts in the field and can offer unparalleled insight.

I chose UCL because of the academics, the school's top-class reputation, and the fact that being in London makes it easier when looking for jobs.

Did you take up further study straight after your first degree?

No, I took a year out to work for the American JDC (an NGO) in Kharkiv, Ukraine. This allowed me to develop my language skills and acquire genuine professional experience.

How are you funding your studies?

  • parental help
  • part-time work
  • savings
  • Student Finance.

What is the course teaching you that your first degree did not?

The content of the course is different and very up to date. Although we engage with academic texts, this is not at the expense of discussions about relevant developments in the region. It has also taught me to properly interrogate texts, i.e. in terms of identifying subconscious bias in the author.

The course has also afforded me the opportunity to do a coding module for use when analysing data, which is supremely useful.

What does the course involve?

It involves a series of lectures and seminars on a variety of modules, such as Russian Politics, Russian Foreign Policy, International and Regional Politics of Eurasia, the Making of Modern Ukraine, and Understanding and Analysing Data.

There's weekly readings and research in preparation for seminar discussions with one major piece of coursework for each seminar.

My Masters dissertation will look at threats against independent media in Russia. Using one newspaper as a case study, I want to find out whether there is a pattern as to when their journalists receive death threats. If so, what does this show us about the 'pressure points' in the Kremlin?

How does postgraduate life differ to undergraduate?

It's more work focussed. However, I should add that London is very different to St Andrews. In London, my whole life doesn't revolve around the university. In St Andrews it was impossible for that not to be the case. Therefore, I can't say whether my ability to do more outside of university is as a result of postgraduate study or change of location.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of further study?

  • Advantages - Great interaction with genuine experts about a topic in which I am specifically interested. The other people on the course are also knowledgeable and excited to learn, which improves the whole seminar experience.
  • Disadvantages - The cost of study would be prohibitive were my parents not helping me financially. Even then, having a social life in London is difficult, while also paying for a postgraduate course.

What areas of work could you go into?

Either political risk or international organisations. Regardless, I would like the focus to be on the Russian-speaking world.

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