What does an MA Geography degree at Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences actually look like?
By Izzy, MA (Hons) Geography and Social Anthropology
As you’re nearing making your decision to move to uni, there may be a few questions on your mind about what a Scottish degree entails… Using my own experience from studying MA Geography and Social Anthropology, I will break down for you what my past three years at uni has looked like.
I drove up with my Dad and brother on the first day of freshers, which was a Saturday, and I remember the buzz within halls filled with people excited to embark on their new adventures. We then had welcome week, where you get to decide exactly what it is you want to do. Around this time, you have a meeting with your personal tutor to discuss what extra modules you might want to study. As a joint honours student, I got one extra module per semester, however regular MA Geography students get 2 electives per semester. (A bit of advice here, have a look at PATH or the DPRS subject finder before coming to uni just to get a feel for what subjects beyond Geography you might want to enroll on. I chose the Architectural History year long course and loved it!!) There are also lots of society fairs on during this week, and societies allow you to meet even more like minded people – definitely go and see what’s out there. I started doing intramural netball for Geography in first year and that enabled me to meet people on my course, and eventually find my way into joining GeogSoc!
With welcome week being fairly relaxed, the next week is when you receive your timetables. One of my favourite memories was finding out who did my course and walking to the lectures together, all of us excited to learn. Lectures, though they may be online, are a great way to interact with people who you will end up spending the next four years with! – The picture below was taken on Arthur’s Seat, when all of my 1st year halls did the hike.
First and second year have a very similar structure, in that academically they don’t count towards your final grade. A perk of this is that you can spend your first two years enjoying yourself, and learning what university requires from you. Likewise, you can do modules beyond the school of geosciences which can aid your studies but also help engage you! First year core modules are Human Geography and Physical Geography, and if you do single honours – Fundamental Methods. Even though I didn’t do Fundamental Methods, you learn key skills which are super useful as you come into your third and fourth year.
YEAR ABROAD – I know a lot of you will be thinking about this opportunity to swap your third year in Edinburgh to go somewhere else in the world. Though I didn’t get to go due to the COVID19 pandemic, the year abroad team were so helpful in my journey for applying. This is a process you go through at the end of the first term in second year, and does require a lot of commitment. The uni has so many partner institutions all over the world so you really can go anywhere! If this is something you think you might want to do – make sure you get good grades in the first and second year, it is really competitive and you have to show why you would be a good ambassador to the university.
I have just finished my third year and this is where the ante is upped. The honours options are so interesting, and you finally get to go beyond the basics. For instance, I did a philosophy geography module called ’Nature of Geographic Thought’ with Tim Cresswell, which was fascinating and helped me broaden my perspective of how Geography can be more abstract. Some other modules include, Capital, Land and Power all about Edinburgh’s landscape and historical contentions for space; Geographies of Health (particularly poignant now), and Geographies of Food. You also have core modules which are Key Methods – a really cool coding module, and Research Design – where you begin to brainstorm for your dissertation. A great thing about studying at Edinburgh is that you have more time to work on your dissertation and you receive so much help to make sure you can be the best you can be.
Fourth year is fairly similar to third year in that you have the same honours modules to choose from and you end up studying with third and fourth year students. Your dissertation is 40 credits, so it’s double a normal module in terms of grade weighting.
As I am moving into my fourth year, I am so lucky to have had the past few years in this beautiful city. Edinburgh University culture places a lot of importance on the community side to being here, and there are balls, ceilidhs, charity fundraisers and sports matches galore. These events will be a welcomed break from the hard work and will make sure you have fun throughout the year regardless of academics. My advice – do as much as you can! Say yes, get involved and you will have the best four years of your life!