Graduate stories: Francesca Root
After four years in a LANS degree, the day you get your final results is a strange one.
There’s a lot of emotions flying around. I managed to get a First, with a major in English Literature but pretty much double majored in Sociology as well. It didn’t come easy I’ll tell you that! I also got the award for the “most improved student”, which in a serious way is a beautiful award because it rewards fluidity, and in a funny way is great because it recognises our right as young people to “pull it out of the bag” so to speak: to make mistakes, to be volatile, and to grow.
When I started my LANS degree, I never saw myself doing a masters. But here I am, having just completed an MPhil in Sociology at the University of Cambridge, a subject I had never studied before I began my degree at Birmingham. But that’s what LANS does – it allows you to surprise yourself by ruling nothing out. When I applied for my masters funding was always a concern, but with the new postgrad loan combined with a bursary from my Cambridge college, Clare Hall, I was able to cover at least some of the costs of the study. There are lots of funding opportunities available, you just have to make sure you apply for them in good time as they often have deadlines earlier than the applications for the courses themselves.
Interdisciplinary is also a serious buzzword in the academic world, so if you’re considering continuing into higher education, the skills and knowledge you get from a LANS degree are recognised as something very “now”, as well as something that is needed if we are to answer the bigger questions of the future. As society becomes more integrated, connected and fluid, the need for ways of thinking that can cross disciplinary borders – particularly between the arts and the sciences grows ever more desperate. Think of something like climate change: whose effects, causes, and solutions transcend and move between the boundaries we construct between social, political, scientific and technological systems. This is where LANS students come in.
I decided I wanted to continue studying after Birmingham while on my year abroad at Amsterdam University College in the Netherlands. I found my flow, but more importantly, I discovered the passion I had for topics in the social sciences that I had never considered studying before. I came back from Amsterdam for my final year at Birmingham determined to do the best I could do with my new found knowledge, interests and drive. The main reason I chose to apply for a masters is that I felt that for me, personally, I had only recently got that intellectual ball rolling and I was interested to see what I could do with it. A year on and an MPhil under my belt and I am ready to drop the ball now for a while at least! The best advice I can give to those thinking of doing a Masters (and honestly, you don’t need to think about this until fourth year) is take a gap year. After four years, you’re tired. You won’t actually lose anything by taking a break for a year between degrees – if anything you will begin that Masters with a reserve of energy that, believe me, you will need if you’re going to really give it your all. No one told me that, and it’s my only regret that I didn’t. To sum up: there’s no rush.
As for my future plans, I am currently taking some time out of research to work and focus on some personal, more creative projects that I’ve wanted to get going for a while. I have met some great people this year in Cambridge, and in my spare time I’m currently designing and editing the blog for a new research group at CRASSH (http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/programmes/re-interdisciplinary-network). I am thinking about continuing onto PHD, but not for a few years at least. For now, I’ll be living and working, trying to find my place amongst it all. My ultimate advice for LANS students? Plough your own field, don’t look back, don’t be afraid to fail and have some fun.