• Tahuhu Korero

Experiences of Postgrad Students in History

Have you considered doing a postgraduate degree in History at the University of Auckland? Undertaking a one year honours, one or two-year masters or a three year PhD can seem extremely daunting if you don't know much about the program. Some people also don't know if it is right for them after having just completed three or more years of an undergraduate degree. It is for this reason that we have talked with three postgraduate students from each level, asking them about their experience doing postgrad at UoA.


If you are considering postgrad and have any more questions that aren't answered in this post, do make sure to send us a message and we are happy to answer any specific questions about how we have found postgrad. It is very different to undergraduate but it is extremely rewarding.

Honours - Alexandra Forsyth

My year doing an Honours degree has been the best, and most challenging, year for me, ever. I have had the privilege of working with brilliant supervisors who have helped me create my very own contribution to the discipline. The researching and writing stages of my dissertation were both equally daunting and rewarding.


I have also had the opportunity, and pleasure, to get to know some pretty amazing people. Both staff and students work really hard to foster a sense of community as well as sharing their passion for our discipline.


This year has also been full of trials and tribulations. I, like every other honours student, have had to grapple with complex epistemological questions and wade through seemingly endless readings. But, ultimately I have loved every minute of it!

Honours and Masters - Kathryn Cammell

Honours was a really important capstone for my Bachelor of Arts degree. I had never taken HISTORY 300, so this was the first time I was engaging in conversations about ‘what is history’ and ‘how do we do history’. I learnt as much from my peers as I did from the readings, and having a cohort who are struggling through the same challenges that you are is invaluable.


While you don’t have the same pressures of trying to juggle three courses and your dissertation in your MA, it feels even more difficult because you have to actively work to build a cohort and this is not always easy. It is rewarding to work on your own research topic and see your project grow, but it’s also difficult to stay motivated and focused when you are often working by yourself. I think your relationship with your supervisor(s) can also make a huge difference to your experience doing Honours or the MA. It’s important to work with someone who has a similar work ethic, is excited about your topic, and can also provide you with some emotional support on your journey. My advice to anyone considering postgraduate History is to absolutely do it - but make sure to choose the right supervisor for you and your topic, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your lecturers or your peers!


Honours and PhD - Sarah Russell

After taking a career break to raise a family I decided to pursue my lifelong passion in history by enrolling as a mature student in a Graduate Diploma in Arts, which I then followed with a BA (Hons) in History before commencing a PhD this year. I have found that the level of engagement with the subject matter has increased enormously at postgraduate level and being able to discuss the material in depth with like minded people, while receiving support and guidance by intellectually generous academic staff, has been a real privilege. I have personally been very lucky to have received very high quality supervision, which I am very grateful for.


One of the most exciting experiences for me starting the PhD is the fact that I am doing “real” history now and working on a project that is adding to knowledge in my area. But it hasn’t all been easy and I have found juggling study with children to be enormously difficult at times. This is where having a genuine passion for the subject, and the projects you choose, can help you to push through those difficult times. Life as a mature student can also be quite isolating as there aren’t that many of us around, so you really have to take the time to engage with the younger students too. I must add I have found the younger students to be pretty amazing people and they give me a lot of hope for the future of history and the humanities. Overall, I have absolutely loved studying history at the University of Auckland, which is why I have kept on doing it! My advice to anyone, and in particular to mature students who are considering postgraduate study in history, is to take the time to find a supervisor who is a good fit for you on a personal and academic level and then just go for it!

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