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7 ideas on how to choose a degree programme during a pandemic

Date:02 December 2021
Author:Leslie Willis
Voice Technology student Leslie Willis
Voice Technology student Leslie Willis

It’s almost 2022 and the pandemic is currently rather surging than soon-to-be history. Finding a degree, whether Bachelor or Master, is tricky enough without these special circumstances. So, how do you choose a degree when living with a virus has almost become the new normal and measures are changing all the time? The first generation of pandemic first-years has taken their paths already, so here you are with 7 ideas from somebody that has been part of it too (that’s me, Leslie, hi!).

#1 What do you want to do?

What a big question, right? For a long time I was determined to study Arts and Cultural Management, bring people together, have them exchange about and through art - and in person. Then everything changed and I could not really picture myself doing that when people have to wear masks all the time, when there still is a risk to get infected but also when rules change all the time. So, I took a stroll around the internet and tried to find something I could be similarly interested in.

When you are asking yourself “What do I want to do?”, the most important thing is to choose something that you are passionate about. What captures your interest no matter what? What do you always end up telling your friends and family about, because you find it so important and interesting? Where is your fun-fact expertise based? Following those hints can definitely help you make a good decision (in case this actually exists). 

#2 Panini-Times = Podcast-Times

During the panini, a lot of people could not pursue their actual hobbies, because of Covid measurements, so they found new ones: Baking, sports, knitting, music, and -of course- listening to (or even starting their own) podcasts. Overall, there was a huge increase in podcast listeners, check this out. I certainly was not exempt from this and became obsessed with a podcast called En Claire which was all about Forensic Linguistics. That is, applying linguistic knowledge to criminal cases. Dr Claire Hardaker, who is a forensic corpus linguist at Lancaster University, discusses various cases that include literary detection, language mysteries, cryptography, codes, and more. Just give it a listen, I can wholeheartedly recommend it! 

This podcast has also led me to investigating possible career paths that focus on the potential of linguistics. I ended up googling “Master Forensic Linguistics” and the results led to where I am now: The MSC Voice Technology at RUG Campus Fryslan! Apparently, Forensic Linguistics is one of the many things you can connect to Voice Technology. I was intrigued by the idea of combining linguistics with programming, and thereby acquiring a new skill that I might unite with my interest in art. Voice Tech in museums anyone?

What is your favourite podcast, and why? What kind of interests have you developed during the pandemic? Is there a program that touches on the same content? Then that might be one path to follow. 

#3 Is This Pandemic-Compatible?

My original plan, as stated above, was Arts and Cultural Management; In my personal opinion: Not so pandemic-compatible. Of course, online events have become a thing. However, that was not what I was looking for. 

That certainly does not mean that you should not enter a specific field because there might be restrictions: If you want to go for it, do it! For me personally it just seemed so far from what I had wished for, so I followed equally strong but different interests. 

The application deadlines for Master degrees I was interested in were between March and May 2020. That also was the time where the whole world was under lockdown, there were curfews, and you know the rest of the story. How would I have known whether it would end a few months later or go on for years? That in mind, my discovery of Voice Technology was my go-to option, which I knew I could pursue online in any case.

Apart from this, Leeuwarden is a small city where general Covid risks might be lower than in huge metropoles. I didn't really take that into account in advance, but now that I am here it feels a little safer - and it is SO beautiful! 

#4 Reach out!

If you want to get a sense of what it’s like to study the program you are interested in, do not hesitate to reach out to people who are in that situation. For a long time, I thought that you must be an insider, or know people in certain places already. Turns out that there are plenty of Email addresses on the internet, and you can reach out to whomever you want. Be aware that you should not arbitrarily spam professors of programs you are interested in though, and check whether there are online open days. Reaching out and asking for a connection to a current student of a program of your choice is very possible! LinkedIn can be equally helpful. 

#5 Apply, apply, apply!

Application processes are stressful, so take your time to prepare. Make a personal schedule. It is a process, as so many things in life. Excel can help! Create a table of all the programs you are interested in, the pros, the cons, and crucially: the deadlines and what kind of application materials you need. Some programs might ask for letters of recommendation. Be sure to sort out who to ask and ask them on time - not just a week before your application is due. Also, personal statements are a common requirement for applications. That is, a letter in which you describe why you are interested in the program, what makes you an asset to the program and what previous experiences have led you to apply. Such an essay can and will take time. You might start with keywords, then figure out some statements, back them up. Then, change everything again, have people who know you well read it, adjust the draft. The more degrees you want to apply for, the more adjustments you might have to make to your personal statement. You see, that is nothing you’d do in one day. 

From experience I can say that time runs faster than you want it to - especially when it comes to applications. It is definitely advisable to make your personal priority list in advance. Admissions for all the programs can vary so you might have to say yes to something before you know about another decision. 

#6 Study Abroad During Covid?

.. is totally possible! However: BE AWARE OF COVID MEASUREMENTS! Add a column in your beautiful Excel table where you note down what precautions you have to take before you go abroad (if you want to go abroad), whether there are restrictions or requirements for entering a country. Be also aware that restrictions are changing all the time and depending on how far away from home you’ll be, you might have to wait until you can visit your family again. This is just something you should have in the back of your mind.

#7 Was this the right decision?

Well, you know what, there is no right or wrong. My decision to sign up for this master has led to:

  • meeting the best group of classmates
  • living in a beautiful city where all my friends are just 10 minutes away
  • being at a campus that makes you feel at home-ish 

So to the question: “Are you confident about your decision?” I can say: “Yes, absolutely.” Hindsight is a magical thing. 

This might get philosophical now, so get on your fanciest (fake) glasses and have a glass of wine: You might have encountered this phenomenon yourself already, but no matter what happens in life, you will always think and feel about decisions differently after you have made them. Does that change something about the decision itself? Nope. Just go ahead and sign up for what makes you go ‘AHHHH THIS IS SOO COOL!”

*DISCLAIMER: This is not necessarily the right way. There is no right. Just one way out of plenty.

About the author

Leslie Willis
Leslie Willis

I am Leslie, 23 years old and currently studying the MSC Voice Technology at Campus Fryslan. Before I studied in Germany which also is where I am from. I’m a language enthusiast and I love music and coffee ..and ginger beer!
(l.willis.1@student.rug.nl)