What I Miss About My Bachelor’s Degree
|Date:||24 July 2020|
This January, I graduated from my bachelor’s programme International Relations and International Organisation. Exactly one week after receiving the glorified email that I obtained all 180 ECTS from my bachelor, I dived straight into my master's degree in the same field but specialised in European Integration. Now, six months later, I’m already halfway through my master’s. Time is flying by, and with only a half year left in Groningen, I nostalgically look back at the beginning of my student life four years ago. While I am thoroughly enjoying my master’s degree and looking forward to the rest of it, there are a few key things that I miss about being a bachelor’s student.
1. The size of the classes
The anonymity of a bachelor’s is great - classes with 20 to 30 students, lectures with 250 students. I reminisce about the days of slipping into a lecture a little bit too late with friends and sitting at the back or joining a lecture alone and befriending the random person sitting next to me. Where small classes and more guidance from professors in a master’s degree is great for personal development, I sometimes miss being able to sit at the back of a class and hope that I don’t get called on. That is no longer possible (or desirable) in a masters degree.
Aside from the size of lectures, I also miss the lectures themselves. In my bachelor, almost all courses had one main lecture and a small seminar per week. This meant that every week, you got to go to a lecture hall and just sit. There is something about being able to just sit, listen and absorb knowledge. My master’s degree only had one lecture in one block, and the rest of my courses are all seminars, which are in-depth and absorbing, so requires a lot of concentration.
3. The variety of courses
My bachelor’s degree was extremely interdisciplinary, with courses ranging from law, economics, a foreign language and political science. Each person has their own preferences for which course suits them the best, and through my preferences, I was able to figure out what direction I wanted to take in my masters. While it’s great to really be able to only focus on what you enjoy, the diversity of a bachelor’s degree helps you realise what you like and dislike.
4. The workload
Of course, the workload of a bachelor’s degree is tough - but in my experience, the master’s is tougher. I was one of the classic “study everything one week before the exams by reading summaries” student for a greater part of my degree, which was enough to get by. My bachelor’s degree required a lot of self-study, but not as many weekly assignments as I have to do in my master’s. The flexibility of the bachelor’s workload allows you to plan in how you want to study and when - which can also be dangerous as it leaves the possibility to leave everything to the last minute and not actually thoroughly study.
5. The people
Generally, most bachelor’s degrees are bigger than the master’s degree. This means that there are far more people to meet and talk to, and you all follow the same programme for three years meaning you get to know people quite well from shared seminar groups or your favorite seats in the lecture hall. What I enjoyed most about the people of my programme was watching how everyone evolved throughout the programme. Since it is such a multidisciplinary programme, there are a lot of different directions you can take. Because of this, a lot of my friends started becoming more interested in the business side of politics, and others went off to the Human Rights side of International Relations. On the other hand, what is great about a master’s is that you are with likeminded people who all enjoy the same things, which allows for in-depth discussions about your shared interests. What’s also refreshing is that there are new students coming from different universities or who have completed an internship before starting the master, which allows for different perspectives and experiences.
At the end of the day, we always want what we can’t have. I’m pretty sure a lot of bachelor’s students don’t agree with me, but maybe there are a few other master’s students who do! Moral of the story, enjoy whatever you are doing now because you’ll probably end up missing it once you move to the next step in your (academic) career.