Things Ive learnt about learning

This summer I graduated with a Masters in Strategic Communication. Have I mentioned that before?

It was hard work. As it should be. Three years of pretty intensive study that – at times – took over my life. I did it part-time, while working in a demanding full-time job, which meant that sometimes my entire weekends were spent cut off from the rest of the world, sitting in front of a computer screen, juggling a pile of text books and notebooks, trying to remember how to write an essay. But I did it. And while I can confidently say that I’ll never be writing an essay again – I’m done with academia – I don’t think I’ll ever be done with learning. Doing that Masters has vastly expanded my professional knowledge and skills. Yes it was academic and theoretical, but those theories underpin the professional practice and I’ve been able to apply many of them in my work already.

What I’ve learnt, though, is much more than Strategic Communication.

I’ve developed advanced planning and prioritisation skills. I’d forgotten how to write a college essay. It’s been 20-odd years since I last had to and I’ve spent most of my career writing in simple, plain, active language, the complete antithesis to academic English. The process is the same as it ever was: a beginning/introduction, a middle/hypotheses, and an end/conclusion and each of those needed careful planning. I needed to understand what my point was going to be, present the evidence to back it up, then reach a valid conclusion. There are no marks for a stream of consciousness ramble and no room for cutting corners – it needed proper planning.

I made some (I hope) lifelong friends and contacts and already that’s been incredibly valuable. I studied each of the six modules with a diverse and ever-changing group of communications professionals from different industries and backgrounds. We shared ideas and experiences, discussed and debated theories, and had each other’s backs throughout. We only ever met for three days at a time but we stayed in touch through a WhatsApp group, supporting and advising each other, and sharing pictures of holidays and pets.
And I’ve learnt that I can challenge myself and win. At the very beginning of the course, hearing from the course leader about the sheer volume of study and reading that we were expected to do, I panicked and almost quit on the spot. I was talked round by one of my fellow students, who encouraged me to put things into perspective. Just one of the myriad examples of how brilliant other people have been.

Would I recommend post-graduate education? I’m not sure. I’ve got a real sense of personal achievement from having done a Masters and I loved the fun, celebratory feel of our graduation ceremony. But I think it depends on your personal circumstances and reasons for wanting to do it. I would definitely encourage anyone to understand exactly what’s involved before you sign up.

Learning I would definitely recommend. You have to keep learning. And you do. You don’t have to go to college or sit in a training room, you can learn from doing, from being, and from other people. Every day.

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