Case study

Masters student — Joshua Robinson

After spending a year in Russia as part of his undergraduate degree, and working there in various jobs, Joshua chose to study the International Masters in Economy, State, and Society (IMESS): History and Society Track at University College London (UCL)

Why did you decide to pursue a postgraduate course?

Having lived and worked in Russia for the past few years, I wanted to hone my language skills and develop my knowledge of Russia and Eastern Europe to a more advanced level. The region is an incredibly dynamic place to live and work and Russia is a country that never fails to surprise me.

I applied for the IMESS programme to acquire research skills, pursue a substantial piece of individual research on a subject I'm passionate about, and enhance my knowledge of the region and its languages to progress my career in journalism.

What was the application process like?

The IMESS programme has a different style of application to other courses due to its breadth, and the fact that it's a two-year course with a year spent in Eastern Europe.

I was asked to describe my motivation for the course and preferred partner university, but also to outline a research proposal for a potential future thesis.

Why did you choose this postgraduate course and institution?

The opportunity to study the language at Masters level as well as including a year of study abroad particularly appealed to me.

I chose Poland for my second year because it's an interesting comparative case for the subject of my dissertation research and learning about different countries in Eastern Europe provides broad and invaluable contextual knowledge to better understand the area.

How did you fund your postgraduate study?

I won an IMESS scholarship that covers the course fees and a grant that contributes towards living costs. I took out a postgraduate government loan to pay for the remaining living costs over the two years. I also work as a freelance journalist and teach English to a few students to supplement my income.

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

The course is interdisciplinary and engages with a wider range of disciplines such as political science and sociology that weren't part of my Bachelors degree (in history and Russian studies).

The Masters Russian language course is taught through media, real news, academic and government texts and interviews, which is an incredibly engaging, current and relevant way to tap into the language beyond the textbook.

Tell us a bit about the course.

The course is an advanced interdisciplinary engagement with Eastern Europe, allowing you to specialise in a single case or generalise across the region.

Language learning is mandatory, and UCL provides a broad choice when it comes to languages – there's no language prerequisite for the course, as most languages are offered at beginner, as well as intermediate and advanced levels.

Students spend their second year at a partner university in the region. The cornerstone of the IMESS degree is a 20,000 to 25,000-word extended dissertation undertaken in the second year.

How is the course assessed?

The course is primarily assessed through coursework, although some modules require exams. Language study is assessed through written assignments and oral presentations.

How does postgraduate life differ to that of an undergraduate?

You're certainly much more of an independent learner - you really get out of it what you put in. The standard for assignments is higher and requires more work, but you're able to undertake real research and engage with your chosen subject to a much more advanced level.

What tips would you give to others choosing a Masters degree?

  • Don't rush when choosing a course or deciding to undertake postgraduate study. There's no pressure to take a Masters course straight after completing your Bachelors degree. In fact, my professional background has only served to enrich my studies.
  • Consider why you're doing the course and what you hope to get out of it - whether it's professional development, pursuing a subject you're passionate about, or a combination of both.
  • Make the most of it. Look at courses that give you the most exposure to a range of modules and opportunities for learning in different areas so you can find and hone your academic interests.
  • Remember that departments often have dynamic extra-curricular elements that are important to factor in. Here at SSEES (School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies) we have many student-run societies and the famous Post-Soviet Press Group. This is a great way to engage with fellow students and keep up to date with critical developments in the region.

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