I chose the Medieval and Early Modern Studies programme because of the diverse interests of its faculty members, its interdisciplinary focus, and the strength of its core modules (in palaeography and Latin). My background is in literature, but this programme gave me the opportunity to apply my interests in history and material culture to my research. Lecturers expect you to reach beyond your comfort zone and learn skills that will significantly advance your ability to perform competitive research within the field.
I chose to study at the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) because, in addition to its exciting interdisciplinary courses, it is based at the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus. Canterbury is one of the most important medieval cities in England, and its rich medieval history is palpable which makes it a wonderful place to study. MEMS students can soak up the historic atmosphere of the city and take advantage of fantastic local resources to aid their research, such as the reading room at Canterbury Cathedral.
In addition to the coursework I have really enjoyed becoming a part of the MEMS community. Built into the course is a lecture series that encourages everyone in MEMS to attend a lecture given by a visiting professor. The lectures are followed by a reception and are a fantastic way to hear about new research, expand your knowledge and catch up with other members of MEMS.
I have really enjoyed the optional modules offered in the programme, as they allow you to spend 12 weeks homing in on a very finite moment or topic in medieval or early modern history. Class sizes are typically quite small, so we can discuss topics and reading assignments freely. There is a wide variety of optional modules offered, so you can choose modules based on your own interests or choose something new that sounds fascinating and different – it can be a very hard decision! The two modules I took were highly engaging, literature-focused modules that fed directly into my research interests and helped me refine my ideas for my dissertation.
Postgraduate study is much more self-directed. There are fewer contact hours, and assessments are not as scaffolded. Lecturers expect you to take control of your research and develop your ideas according to your own interests. As a result, you have significantly more freedom to explore your area of interest and more time to go into great depth in your research.
Besides having an additional degree to add to my CV, the course has helped me to develop exceptional research and writing skills, which are applicable in many workplace environments. Additionally, during the course you are encouraged to take advantage of volunteer research and writing opportunities sponsored by Canterbury Cathedral (including the ‘Picture This’ project and ‘Canterbury Journeys’) where you can gain writing experience outside of the classroom. These opportunities allow you to conduct research in a professional environment, and the results are either published online or displayed at the Cathedral. These experiences provide great opportunities for public scholarship in addition to supplementing the professional section of a CV.
I plan to continue my studies and have been completing applications for PhD funding for universities in England (including Kent!). The MEMS faculty have been so helpful throughout this process, both guiding me in the structuring of my proposal and helping me narrow down my research goals.
The MEMS MA is very rewarding but very rigorous. In order to excel in the programme I would advise coming prepared with a good knowledge of the key events and figures of European medieval history, so that you can focus on taking in the nuanced information the modules provide rather than trying to remember the basics. Be prepared to do a lot of reading and don’t be afraid to ask loads of questions!