Queen Margaret UniversityMEET THE POSTGRADS: Alice Thomson – MSc in Sexual and Reproductive Health

MEET THE POSTGRADS: Alice Thomson – MSc in Sexual and Reproductive Health

Alice, tell us a bit about yourself.

“I’m a qualified nurse with a Nursing degree, but I knew I wanted to further my education through postgraduate study, I just didn’t have a fully formed idea of where or when. I approached QMU for information about their Master’s programmes and I’m now at the Institute of Global Health and Development studying for my MSc in Sexual and Reproductive Health which I started in January 2020. 

Are you enjoying your course so far?

Honestly, having had the experience of QMU, I’m so glad I came!

What was it about QMU that made you choose to study and settle with us? 

“I originally came from a really big institution. That experience was great, but for my postgraduate study, because I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do after my studies, coming to a smaller institution had more of a community feel and I really liked that.”

“Everyone seems to know everyone here, and all the staff. If you have an issue they are always very forthcoming. For example, I’m not doing a postgraduate degree in Nursing because I’m now in the Global Health and Development Institute (IGHD) but nursing is my background, so if I ever have a question or want someone from the Nursing department to help me, I can have that, so really it is that community feel that is important for me. Everyone is there to help, no matter if it is in your specialism or not, people are always willing to point you in the right direction.” 

Did you speak to anyone else at the University or attend any events before solidifying your decision to apply?

“I wasn’t able to attend an Open Day because of work, but I managed to set up a tour of the campus, because although it’s only an hour commute for me, I’d never visited the University before thinking of applying. It was a lovely big green open space, and so welcoming, with so much to do because it is so near Edinburgh. I had a quite a few email exchanges with the IGHD team, making sure it was right for me and everyone was super helpful.”

“I was a January starter, so I wanted to make sure that was the right fit for me as well because it’s not the easiest time starting mid-year but everyone was really helpful just making sure I was making the right decisions, that everything was right for me and for my studies. I never felt pressured to start in January, it was what I wanted to do. Everyone let me weigh up all my options and really think about it.”

You’re now coming to the end of your postgraduate studies, is there a particular highlight? This past year’s obviously been a bit strange, but if there is something you can share?

“I think, for me it’s obviously not been the most conventional year, it’s maybe not been what I had expected, but then again it hasn’t been for anyone. But I was lucky because when I started there were only eleven of us on our course and only four of us had started in January and I think a highlight for me was that before COVID-19 really started, we had actually gotten to really know each other and gotten quite close through the small class sizes. You never felt pressured in classes because you were all just friends. It wasn’t like being in a massive lecture hall with hundreds of people that you’ve never spoken to. You knew everyone, we would go for dinner after lectures together. Obviously that didn’t carry on throughout the year because of COVID-19, but then we did all still catch up and have those conversations and I’d say I’ve made some really good friends, as much as I love my course as well.”

“Everyone at QMU is just so nice. Even the lecturers who were all trying to plan things before summer which then couldn’t happen due to COVID-19, they still tried to arrange things for us - like socially distanced picnics in the park. Everyone was just so friendly. The small classes really allowed for that. You didn’t feel like just another person, it was more like a group of friends.”

Have you found that there have been challenges with your academic journey so far? If so, has the university been able to help you overcome them? Or have you taken steps yourself - obviously this has been a particular year with the COVID-19 challenges. 

“I was lucky in that we had the majority of our first semester in person, in class, up until March. Then we went fully online and after that we did blended learning. The jump from fully in person to fully online and blended was a lot to begin with, but everyone was very understanding because they were going through it too. The university was having to sort that jump as well and they were incredibly supportive, making sure everyone had everything they needed to do it. We are quite heavily international student-wise, I’m a home student but there are a lot of international students on my course who maybe weren’t able to travel over so a lot of our classes were online and the University was really good at working out how to interact with both. It never felt as if it was that much different. You couldn’t do group work the same way, but you were still having discussions as if it were a full class even with half the students being online, so I actually think it was dealt with really well and the lecturers have been supportive through it all.” 

“One thing that has stuck out for me through all of this has been - because I am a nurse and I work clinically still – is that that support has really been there in a big way throughout COVID-19. It has been a stressful time for everyone, and I’ve spoken to students when I’ve been out working who have been pulled onto the front line and everyone was always checking up on them and on me. I can’t speak for everyone at the University, but really my lecturers all checked in on me, my support tutor checked in on me, asking me “How is work? How are you finding balancing all that?”

“At the beginning (of COVID-19) when people weren’t sure if I was going to be pulled in to work full time or not the University was good at sitting down and going through all of my options with me, how we could work around it, they were very supportive.” 

So, we now find ourselves in “lockdown 3.0”, and coronavirus has been the number one topic of conversation for the past year, so I have to ask: What have you been doing to keep yourself occupied during this time, apart from studying and working?

“I binged Bridgerton on Netflix and everything else on there over the past couple of weeks! I mean, there’s not much else going on and the weather’s not great. One thing I’m quite late to the game on is The Queen’s Gambit. I want to watch that too.”

This article is extracted from our recent QMU podcast episode. Listen to our QMU podcasts on our Spreaker page.

In the podcast Episode 6, Nic Terrell of QMU’s Student Recruitment team interviewed Alice and Charlotte [hyperlink to Charlotte’s story], two of our postgraduate students all about life as a postgraduate student at QMU, their personal experience of their courses and the highlights and challenges they have faced.

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