My Life, Student Life

Graduating from Coventry University – A Girl with a Masters of Arts

A Student on MA Profesional Creative Writing at Coventry University

Two years. Two years of blood, sweat and tears have formed my Masters of Arts at Coventry University. It has been hell, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it! All of my hard work cemented into a Merit in Professional Creative Writing, and received the award of the Course Tutor’s Prize for Highest Attainment in the year!

Professional Creative Writing caught my eye from the beginning, writing in the creative worlds of fiction. The modules consisted of both traditional and modern writing, listing such modules: Genre Fiction, The Novel and Creative Non-Fiction, Working as a Professional Writer, Emerging Writing Specialisms, Writing for Stage and Screen and Creative Dissertation. I was worried at the start but knew with Coventry University’s reputation for upholding student satisfaction, and their ongoing support, I knew I would be in good hands. The university also put a strong focus in the professional side of the writing industry which I appreciated. The degree also allowed me to pick up the ongoing projects I have been working on myself, and develop them further with feedback and giving them much-needed structure. This helped encourage me to write more chapters of my current work, while also exploring different genres and areas. New territory was scary at first, but now I have new projects to work on and hopefully new works to publish in the not-so-distant future. I loved how much creative freedom we had. 

From my very first visit to Coventry University, I had already established the idea that I wanted to do the course part-time, over the duration of two years. Other universities that I had visited encouraged me to do the writing course full-time, but I saw the amount of stress my friend was under, when she had done her masters at Coventry in one year. So I knew I wanted to do it part-time and give myself a chance to work on each module separately, and this would also help with my stress levels during my studies. 

I will forever be grateful to the course director, as from the very first day he was supportive and patient with everything related to my disability and his enthusiasm of me joining the course showed through. The course director also said it was a good idea to do the course part-time as it would allow me to work on my creative writing craft in the summer between the two years, and start working on my dissertation. This approach really worked for me and I am glad he suggested it. He was open in his approach and eased me into the course by allowing me to attend classes to get a taste before I started the course myself, however, because of Covid-19 this didn’t happen. Unfortunately because of the pandemic, the course was delayed for a few months and other parts of the degree, such as a writers retreat, was cancelled. The writers’ retreat were to include planned excursions that were arranged every year in various locations to enable students to get inspiration and complete research for their creative work, taking place in either the UK or abroad. 

After being delayed a few months, I started the course in January 2021. The first semester and majority of the second semester took place online. I felt like because it was online I was missing out on a few things, however the classes were still very interactive and my first year I had a lovely inclusive group. We all got on really well and gave each other feedback on our projects, while working in smaller groups to brainstorm. I was very grateful to these classes being online in a way because it took out the initial worries of meeting new people but also gave me a chance to be myself. As a Master’s degree class size is usually between 20-30 people, I found the smaller class all the more fun, as the Tutor’s made it personal to your own writing which I found useful and helped us to get straight into it. Then the classes turned to being half online, and half on campus and it was nice to get onto campus with the support of the tutors and positive interactions with my peer group, and this made me feel like I was part of the community that the course had created. 

The second year was more challenging as the University course team directors decided to cancel the Professional Creative Writing course, in favour of creating a more up-to-date course which had meant there would be no incoming students. This meant that only two of us who were doing the course part-time would be continuing on in the second year studying. I missed the social interaction that we had in our first year, but it did mean that we got more tailored feedback on our works as it was more of a one-to-one class. Just like before, the modules were very fun and we were able to work on current projects while learning new territories in the industry. My creative dissertation was the toughest module of them all, and I will forever be immensely grateful to the disability dyslexia supervisor that helped me out. It was her support that contributed to the success in graduating with a merit in my Masters of Arts qualifications. It was hell on earth, but I am so glad I stuck it out and now have the qualification of a Masters of Arts and the course tutor prize to prove all my effort was worth it.

Building to Graduation

The build up to graduation was bizarre. I had finished in December 2022 and didn’t hear anything from the University for a while, but eventually got word of my overall grade and an invitation to attend the graduation spring ceremony in March 2023 at Coventry Cathedral. I was asked to register for my graduation date, and saw that the time set for the ceremony was 10:30 am, which I was disappointed about, it being in the morning. I wanted to make a day of it and soak up my last day on campus at Coventry. When I previously graduated from De Montfort University, the afternoon time slot allowed me to have the whole morning to get ready, and then plenty of time to get onto campus, and leisurely get everything done. Unfortunately for this graduation, it would be the exact opposite. I couldn’t do anything about the time, so I just had to do some creative thinking in order to do everything on time whilst still enjoying the day.

 I was able to get two tickets for guests to attend my graduation ceremony, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to acquire any further tickets in advance. This was disappointing to find out, as I wanted to invite my friend who had been with me through everything, and had really helped me during my masters with late night creative brainstorming sessions. She was understanding however, and we spent time celebrating together at a different time. I was saddened that my mum wasn’t going to be at another one of my graduation ceremonies, but I was really really happy that my dad and brother, especially since my brother has recently returned home from Thailand, would be my two guests attending. However, I will admit that I was somewhat glad I couldn’t get any further tickets because it cut out a lot of drama of who could come and who couldn’t, and it allowed me to just focus on the day with the two people I care most about. 

After registering for the graduation, there was again a period of silence as the date was looming. It was only when I enquired to the university’s email that I received an automatic reply that contained all the information that I needed to know. The timing was crazy, as it stated that I needed to order my gown with a deadline, and it happened to be that day!  Luckily I got the information when I did, and ordered my gown straight away. I ordered my cap and gown and photo package, which included a single graduation photograph and a few family ones as well. I didn’t have the opportunity for family shots at my DMU graduation, so I was eager to have them done with my Coventry graduation. The only issue we had is my dad had nearly ordered three times the amount of photographs as the website wasn’t very clear. The ceremony was going to be held at Coventry Cathedral, which wasn’t a place I was familiar with. I was concerned about the venue in accordance with everywhere else on campus, as well as what the access would be. Knowing the access was imperative, and fortunately the cathedrals website had information on their accessibility. 

The weekend before the ceremony, we hosted a graduation party. It was an amazing time as I had all my family from Wales come up and this meant the world to me. Plus my brother was home in the UK, and my godmother joined us. She has been there for me throughout the two years of my Masters as well as always going above and beyond for me my whole life. My best friend was also there and she’s been the one to help me with all the brainstorming. It really meant a lot to me to have all these people celebrating my huge achievement. It was surreal to me that I was going to graduate with a Masters of Arts after two years of hard work, and I was excited for the ceremony to finally happen. 

Graduation Day

On the day of the graduation ceremony, I had to get up really early in order to get ready and make the most of the big day. As per instructions from the university, students had to be there two and a half hours before the ceremony to collect tickets and my cap and gown. Myself, dad and brother were all disgusted and chose not to drive on the day in fear of getting stuck in traffic and being late, so we decided to take the train instead. We were ready and out of the house in time, but unfortunately we missed our original train by one minute, which meant we had to catch a later one. Luckily it still got us into Coventry for around the same time, so we still had plenty of time to collect tickets and my certificate ahead of the ceremony. However the building we had to collect my cap and gown from wasn’t one of the buildings I was familiar with, and it was slightly off campus which meant that we had to go the long way around for accessibility. It was even more difficult because it was raining horribly that day, and made it near impossible to see and navigate from place to place, and no one was outside because of the rain to direct us.The three of us relied on signage and had to manage the buildings which didn’t have straight access and we had to go around to the back through the fire escapes quite a lot just to get inside. Once we were inside, some of the staff were really helpful in helping us through doors and guiding us towards the lifts, which were a tight squeeze for just the two of us, as my brother had to use the stairs sometimes instead.

As we got to the building to retrieve my certificate, there were several staff members who directed us to the counters for registration, and one of the women there spoke to my dad and asked him what my surname was. I couldn’t believe that she didn’t speak to me directly. Afterall, I was graduating with a Master of Arts, and yet this woman still asked my dad what my surname was. With any situation this would have been insulting, but in this situation on the day of my graduation, it was a joke. Luckily my dad squashed it and quickly said to ask me instead, and then I answered for myself very pointedly. She then pointed me in the direction to pick up my tickets and certificate. I then moved to a different part of the building to retrieve my cap and gown, and this was a much more enjoyable experience as the two women were chatty and patient with us. My dad and brother along with them helped get me into my cap and gown and I appreciated the women taking the extra time with me as they were very busy and on a strict time schedule, but this made all the difference to my day. Underneath my gown, I chose to wear the same dress that I wore on my DMU graduation, as The faculty of Arts and Humanities at Coventry were blue and gold and coincided perfectly with it, and a lot of people have said that blue really suits me. 

After getting my cap and gown on, we had to carefully get back across campus for me to be able to use the one bathroom that has a hoist and have a bathroom break before the ceremony started. My worry was that we would run out of time to get into my cap and gown, get the photos done and then get onto the toilet before being seated for the ceremony all before 10:30. It was lucky that one of the members of staff told us we could take our graduation photographs after the ceremony, as this was much more ideal, and I was able to draw out the experience more. Another worry of mine was that I hadn’t used the toilet with a hoist on campus in a long time but had called the day before to the disability services at the university who would check for me that the hoist was in working order. Thankfully it was working, so we used the toilet no problem. We then moved from this building towards the Coventry Cathedral. 

The rain had been consistent all day with downpours, which resulted in taking photographs very difficult to take, and the wind didn’t help either. They weren’t the most flattering of photos, but I was pleased that we were able to get some photographs on campus and as well around the Cathedral. The cathedral itself was accessible with a ramp alongside the building, and I quickly went to try and find shelter, but it was quite open and I proceeded to get very wet. It was like organised chaos, as there were lots of students and family members gathering around waiting to go in but the security at the door kept us, checking our tickets and seat numbers before letting us in. At first they were reluctant to let my dad in with me, as the guests had to go through a separate door, but then when I told them it would be for a short time, we soon realised that we had arrived 45 minutes early which meant we still had time to kill. In the end though, they did let my dad in and I was shown to my seat with a team checking my seat number in accordance to the row I was to be sat in. I did find it annoying that they didn’t sit me within the line of my seat number, but instead sat me to the side in the corner of the cathedral. I could still see everything, but would have liked to have sat with everyone else and know what to have got up. Students from bigger courses were socialising, and this made me feel sad as there were only two of us in my course and we didn’t have the chance to socialise with people from our first year of studies. 

The staff members were very understanding and patient when I voiced my worries on not going up on time as I wasn’t part of the row itself, as I was unsure I would know where to go and what to do. Though as we had time to kill before the ceremony, they allowed me to do a trial run of what to do exactly and when I went off with the procession. I was really grateful to have this time because it was very nerve racking, and I wanted to be perfectly aware of where I was supposed to go so I wouldn’t rush or make a mistake. Being in the cathedral, it was quite big and the sound inside wasn’t too great so I struggled to hear much, but I made sure to soak it all in and waited to be lined up in the procession. Right on cue, the members of staff helped me line up and everyone was patient around me, with staff continuing to check in with us every so often. I could tell they’d done this a million times before, and I do not envy their job a single bit but I was impressed overall. The cathedral was all flat access, and the stage where I was to shake hands with the Dean had a small incline but it was nothing more than what I was expecting, and it meant I could be independent on stage so it meant all the more to me.

After the ceremony, I met back with my dad and brother, and we made haste for the Hub on campus where all the students were gathering for an afterparty. The weather put a slight down on the day, but I was able to see my dyslexia supervisor who had helped me through the two years of my degree which was so wonderful to have. I was also able to introduce her to my dad, who could finally put a face to the name, and it really meant a lot to me when he thanked her for all her support over the years. We were then able to take photographs around the campus and this allowed me to take everything in. My dad was also able to get a lot of photographs, and despite looking cold, I was pleased to have these pictures done in my cap and gown with the small tassels above the hat which I thought made it all the more official. 

So after graduating with my master’s degree, I want to give a big finger up to all those people, particularly the health specialists, who told my mum and dad that I would never get my GCSEs, nevermind to go to University and to pass.

To all of you who have a disability and are currently attending or considering University, keep going and go for it. Believe in yourself and show people that there is ability beyond disability. I cannot describe exactly how it feels to have graduated with a Masters of Arts, but I am thrilled every time I look at my certificates and the photographs from that day. 

PS; No, I will not continue on to do a PhD!


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