Nicole Whitton, Applied English
"Vampires is probably something I'm going to do my PhD on, if I do a PhD, I really loved it. I'm doing my dissertation next, and I'm thinking what better way to spend the winter than to just read vampire novels?"
What drew you to the Applied English course?
"It was the flexible start dates, because once I had the idea in mind to start, I didn't really want to wait until October, which is when most masters courses run. Also the course being entirely online, because I work full time and I've got a busy household.
I quite liked the idea of a masters programme being called ‘Applied English’, because I think it lends a certain work credential to it. I think sometimes when you say ‘I’m studying English literature’, people can think ‘How would that really help you in your career?’.
With Applied English, it really is all about the ways we apply English in various directions, so everything from professional workplaces through to English literature.
The opportunity to study some subjects that I would never have thought about studying before was nice, too. And I liked the pick and mix opportunity, where it's not a very fixed programme but instead you can select from a wide variety of topics. That was quite unusual and was another reason why I chose Nottingham."
Had you ever done any distance learning before?
"Nothing formal. I had done some Future Learn and some free Open University courses, but this is my first formal programme.
I didn’t really have any concerns about the logistics of distance learning. What I didn’t really think about was how important it might have been to be around other students. I did grow to sort of miss that, even though I am a little bit of a hermit!"
How has the university created a sense of community for you, as a distance learning student?
"There are regular chats and social calls and there's a lot of chatter in Microsoft Teams. We also have an in-person Summer School which is really nicely and thoughtfully put together.
There is that opportunity to get involved in the online learning community if you want to. If you like socialising, you'll probably get on really well with it. But it’s also perfectly ok to just crack on with your studies."
You can kind of dial up or dial down the social side to what best suits you.
What's the staff support been like? Any shout-outs?
"They’ve all been really great. Claire Humphries, on the admin team, works really hard and I think she does a great job.
In terms of the tutors, I really like Matthew Green’s area of expertise – he does Gothic, vampires, and comics – and I find him super easy to speak to. I also think Carina Hart does a great job. She oversees a lot of the production of the pod material. The quality of tutoring across all my subjects has been excellent."
What are you specialising in? And what have you enjoyed the most so far?
"I am doing English literature. As much as I would have liked to have gone down the applied route, almost all my pods are English literature.
I really liked Vampires. I’d never really read much in the genre before but I took the pod and really enjoyed it. I think it's just such a rich subject area.
I had a big gap between my undergraduate degree and now – and I had basically read chick lit and what’d I’d call 'comfort-books’ in that gap – my masters was a means to get back into critical thinking about literature and reading some challenging material.
Vampires is probably something I'm going to do my PhD on, if I do a PhD, I really loved it. I’m doing my dissertation next, and I'm thinking what better way to spend the winter than to just read vampire novels?"
How have you found the flexibility in assessment methods?
"In my first year, my first submission was pretty much all critical essay, except for a short story I wrote for Fairytale. That did quite well and I was then recommended to perhaps explore some more creative work in the second submission. So, this time around it's all creative work, except for one critical essay. I'm writing poetry, a short story, and I've made my own comic!
Based on how well I do in this assessment, I'll either write my own poetry for my dissertation or will do vampires as a critical essay."
Will your degree help with your future plans? What was your motivation for doing the MA?
"My stepdaughters have started going to university and it reminded me that I’d always wanted to return to study when I was in my 40s.
I originally studied in Cape Town, South Africa, and I didn't get an honours degree, so I would have to get a masters as a stepping stone to a PhD. I had thought about doing a PhD as a means to enter academia. I don't know if I would do that anymore.
I think a large part of your life between your undergraduate degree and then later in your 40s is spent just sort of lurching from one crisis to the next, like getting a house, savings, kids, whatever. And then finally, in your 40s, hopefully you're at a point where you can go 'Ok, it’s time to return the focus to me and what I want for my foreseeable future.'"
I felt like I just really needed to exercise my brain again and have something interesting to talk about.
What does success look like to you?
"I would love to do an MPhil next, which is at Cambridge for one year. I would love to get the marks to get myself into that programme. Otherwise, getting accepted into a PhD programme would be amazing.
At subject level, success is the joy of feeling a connection with a subject area and being able to write with purpose and feel confident enough to discuss what you've learned with other people.
At my age, and having done something that's quite different, I think you do feel quite insecure. Being able to feel confident enough to talk about a particular subject is so empowering.
So success for me is feeling immersed in something and feeling grateful for what you're doing, because that means that you've chosen the right thing."
Study Applied English