After doing some research and speaking to the teaching staff, QMU graduate Becca Young knew that the MA Applied Arts and Social Practice was the one for her, even when she lived miles away from Edinburgh. In this testimonial, she tells us all about the course, the student experience and how to make the most of your time at university!
Why did you choose to study at QMU and what attracted you to the course?
I completed my undergraduate degree in Textile Design at Falmouth University, and while I loved making, I realised that I wanted to focus less on commercial design and more on the wellbeing impacts of the processes of creating. I spent some time researching options for post-graduation and found the Applied Arts and Social Practice masters here at QMU. It seemed ideal, being a course focusing on working with people in a variety of art practices, based in a small university with a historic focus on people and community.
What did you enjoy about the course?
"I found the whole course enjoyable; it was wonderful to spend time with my course mates, with everyone having different creative specialisms and backgrounds, and bringing new perspectives. There was a fair bit of freedom to explore our own interests, with really supportive lecturers, and opportunities to put into practice what we were studying."
Were there any particular course activities you found especially interesting?
I really enjoyed our ‘The Only Way is Ethics’ module with Dr Anthony Schrag, it made me ask ‘why’ to a lot of things that are ingrained in society, and appreciate why people are different, and why they might behave in different ways.
How did your lecturers support your learning?
Our lecturers were really supportive and reactive, especially Anthony, who took onboard our thoughts and ideas. As a course, we did not have a representative to raise concerns to staff, but we all took part in the meetings, and were actively listened to and encouraged to share thoughts as to things we thought were going well, and what we thought could be changed.
What challenges did you face with the course and/or university life? How did you overcome them?
Coming from a creative degree with a large emphasis on practical work, sketchbooks, and visual imagery, I found the transition to a more traditionally academic course challenging, especially with the different types of assessments, like presentations, essays, literature reviews, and projects. To help myself feel more confident with these tasks, I made the most of the Effective Learning Service, both with the guides they provided, and being able to book in sessions with them for my work to be looked and suggestions to be made of how to improve. I also made sure to make use of the time the lecturers set aside to speak with us.
Did you take part in a placement as part of your course and if so, can you tell us a little more about that experience?
While I didn’t take part in a formal ‘placement’, I did take part in a community project run by QMU to increase and strengthen the bonds between the university and the local community. Me and two of my course mates worked with CraigmillarNow to help create a digital archive of oral histories from the community of Craigmillar and Niddrie. As I had come from living in Cornwall, with no real understanding of the communities in Edinburgh, it was a really beneficial experience to learn about the area and the people nearby to the university.
Additionally, during my time at QMU I volunteered with a community organisation in Livingston; their activities coordinator was looking for someone with textiles knowledge to start a sewing group, and I was put in contact with her through another student on the Applied Arts and Social Practice course, I worked with the organisation for around 9 months until I had to leave Edinburgh. This role was initially voluntary, but I was then employed on a freelance basis to help the friend who had initially introduced me to the group begin a tapestry to celebrate 60 years of Livingston. It was a fantastic opportunity to put into practice all the theory I was learning on the course, as well as develop my own practice.
Do you have any advice for students who might be interested in this course?
Ask questions! The lecturers are all great and really helpful. If you think you’d be interested, just speak to them. I really enjoyed my time on the course, and being able to speak to lecturers beforehand, during the application process helped me realise it was for me, even when I lived 500 miles away from Edinburgh!
If applicable, which university services did you use to support you through your university journey and how did they help you?
The Effective Learning Service (ELS) was amazing, they were so helpful when it came to assessments and how to tackle them effectively, their time and patience was really appreciated. They are a fantastic service to use, even if you are familiar with writing essays, it doesn’t hurt to have a second set of eyes on your work!
Did you attend an online or in person open day/offer holder day before coming to QMU?
"As a covid student, I didn’t attend an open day or offer holder day, but I did go up for a tour of the campus, it was a really good opportunity to see the university, its halls, and the local area. Being on campus highlighted the community nature of the university and helped me realise it was definitely for me."
What’s your ‘top tip’ for making the most of being a student?
My ‘top tip’ for being a student is to take yourself out of the university bubble, go and see what life is like in the communities you live in, spend time with people from all backgrounds and life experiences. My time working in Livingston really helped to shape my work and grow as an individual, and I genuinely think I am a better person for it. The friends you will make at university are going to be amazing, but they don’t all have to be students like you!
What was the most valuable lesson you learned at university?
My most valuable lesson from QMU is to take time, recognise that you will change, and try to appreciate the little moments during this process. It might seem overwhelming at times, but I promise you’ll look back on it with so much love.
Can you tell us a bit about your life post-graduation? (your career path, notable achievements, etc)
Post-graduation, I didn’t find a job prior to my accommodation running out to stay in Edinburgh, so I moved home but I found a job working as a DT Technician in a secondary school, which I have done for a little over a year now. It is a very practical role, but also a lot of working with people, both supporting children in lessons, and staff members.
It has taught me that although it is a different place than I expected to be, the lessons I learned at QMU during my masters are still applicable, and that studying at QMU made me a more understanding person. Although it is great if you go into a job that uses what you studied explicitly, even if you just take the implicit lessons and personal growth from your time at university, it is still a really valid and significant experience. We are all on our own paths, going in different directions, so take your time.