Leaving work to pursue a MSc – an international student’s perspective

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Leaving a stable job to pursue an one-year MSc at the University of Edinburgh was a colossal commitment for me. There were four major reasons that ultimately led me to this decision:

  1. Needed a breather from the routine. This was especially after working in the same organization for many years, the restlessness of doing similar tasks had gnawed away whatever passion I had for the job.
  2. Craved for mental exaltation. How can one not miss the excitement of getting fully immersed and learning something new without getting distracted and stressed by works?
  3. Unable to climb the career ladder with just an undergraduate degree. Have you ever found a absolutely stunning job description but you do not meet the higher education requirement? Ah yes, it is utmost unpleasant.
  4. Managed to secure a full scholarship. It was the deciding factor, since the tuition fee was always higher for international students.
If you are thinking about pursuing a MSc in the UK and currently looking for a scholarship, you should consider applying for a Chevening scholarship. Photo by Tan Win Sim.

After making the decision to pursue a MSc, there were several questions I had to answer:

  1. Most of the world’s top universities are located in the UK and the US, so should I pursue a MSc in the UK or the US? It was, however, not a difficult question to answer. Full-time MSc courses in the UK will take only one year to complete, compared to two years or more in the US. Spending two years or more pursuing a MSc without a stable income is simply too costly, especially if you have substantial financial commitment. So, I chose to pursue a full-time MSc in the UK, knowing that the program could be intensive and fast-paced!
  2. Should I resign from my job before studying abroad? If you plan to pursue a different career after graduation, you should certainly take the resignation route. I was concerned with job security, especially given the economic instability in 2019. It was not possible to make a part-time arrangement for my job, so I ended up taking an unpaid study leave after a discussion with my employer.
  3. Am I well-prepared to go back to school? After being away from academy for many years, I dread at the thought of dealing with scientific writing, statistics, assignment deadlines and examinations again. Although there is really no escape, it is possible to mitigate the anxiety. Have a look at various course structures and choose courses that offer reasonable workloads. Avoid having too many assignments or exams in one semester, without having to give up on the subjects you are interested in.
When was the last time you had to burn the midnight oil to study for an exam? Ugh, I do not miss it. Photo by Tan Win Sim.

So, if you are considering leaving work to pursue a postgraduate degree, let me share with you some thoughts:

  1. Get out of your comfort zone. Learn something new and exciting.
  2. Do not pursue a postgraduate degree just for the sake of getting one though.
  3. Have a five-year plan and a clear idea as to how a postgraduate degree will help you to achieve your goals.
  4. You do not have to quit your job to pursue a postgraduate degree. Consider taking a study leave or pursuing a part-time MSc instead.

Win Sim, MSc Environmental Protection and Management

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