Published: January 15, 2021
In July 2020, I received an offer to study an MA in Journalism at Sunderland University. After a year of travel blogging in South America, the program seemed the perfect way to build on the writing skills I’d picked up and realise my dream of being a travel journalist. But a week before the start of term, doubt set in...
Did I want to commute from Newcastle every day? Would my CV not look better with a masters from a traditional red brick university? Could I, as a lifelong Newcastle United fan, really see myself graduating on the pitch at the Stadium of Light?! The third one settled it for me, and a hasty application to Newcastle University was sent off.
Thankfully, Sunderland’s programme leader who I had met earlier that summer emailed me, reminding me that Sunderland’s course is accredited by the NCTJ and left the door open for me to change my mind. I’m glad I did! Thrown in at the deep end straight away, the first term saw my course mates and I getting to grips with shorthand, video journalism, and learning everything there is to know about media law and court reporting in England and Wales. That was on top of finding stories, interviewing sources, and writing for the university’s publications SR News, Sports Byte, Fashion North, and Northern Lights. All over a four-day week!
A masters isn’t easy, and like most people on the course, I found it difficult to balance my social life and part-time work with such an intense study programme. Plus, Journalism isn’t just something you can switch off from as soon as you leave the Media Hub. Thankfully, the support network of lecturers and students got much of the group through stressful and difficult times.
Alice Wilson, who now works as a trainee reporter at Northants Live after completing an MA in Journalism said: “I found a really supportive and friendly network studying at Sunderland. I didn’t expect to make friends with my coursemates but I made some of my closest ones there! The experience and expertise of the lecturers was matched only by their willingness to help and their passion about not only their subject, but also us doing well. It was a really lovely place to learn and spend time.”
A global pandemic meant a year no one could have foreseen. However, the skills we’d picked up and worked on in the first term and a half meant we were equipped to pass NCTJ exams and consistent support and classes from shorthand tutors Elaine and Pauline helped me (and a few classmates) to pass our 100 wpm exams – still an essential in Journalism, no matter what some people will tell you!
The final term saw us putting all of our skills together and working on final projects of our own choosing – with course members choosing anything from an award-nominated walking and hiking magazine, to a series of articles about conspiracy theories. Though I’ve now graduated from the University of Sunderland, I’m still in touch with course mates (who are definitely now friends) and lecturers, who have been there to offer support on pitching articles to major publications, getting work experience, and generously sharing their contacts. I’m also being supported by the university’s Digital Incubator in launching my freelance journalism business.
With help from the University of Sunderland, I’ve been published in my dream publication, Lonely Planet, as well as Metro, and regular freelancing with northeast business magazine BDaily. Looking back, I’m not only pleased with the choice I made, but proud of my degree from the University of Sunderland. I feel prepared to work an industry that is more important than ever right now. And I still haven’t had to walk out onto the Stadium of Light!
MA Journalism graduate